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I am a total dork for books about books and writing about writing. I never fail to find something that I want to share with our writers or that informs my editing work. It's why we have included such a big resources section on our website, and based on the number of hits that page receives, you too are dorks for writing about writing.
Writing is such a personal experience that these books should really be of no use. But when someone pulls back their own curtains and reveals a bit of their madness (or shows that it's really just work, not madness), there's usually something to be gained. If you're feeling stuck, sometimes seeing that glimpse of process unsticks like no writing prompt, workshop, or nagging editor can.
Just to prove its usefulness, my addiction to this strange genre has saved the NY Times Book Review for me. Each week, I dutifully read (cough..skim..cough) the Book Review. It's a moral obligation. It allows me to lament the dearth of printed book reviews in the country, the shuttering of culture sections in prominent newspapers, and to find hope in online publications....But despite the many fine writers who contribute to it, reading the Review brings me little pleasure. Often, the same books are reviewed in Vogue--and this is no slight against Vogue, another of my many guilty pleasures. But it suggests less risk is being taken at the Review. Little is being discovered that hasn't already swept through other literary outlets or been hailed by Oprah. But since the addition of By the Book, I find myself looking forward to opening the NYTBR again. I can even forgive them for including Arnold Schwarzenegger. But just barely.
If you too share my addiction, but especially if you haven't had the pleasure yet, here are a few gateways:
"By the Book" archive: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/03/books/review/by-the-book-archive.html
The now classic "Writers on Writing" by Elmore Leonard: http://www.nytimes.com/2001/07/16/arts/writers-writing-easy-adverbs-exclamation-points-especially-hooptedoodle.html
...Which The Guardian turned over to other novelists: