Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Some of My Favorite Writer's Reference Books

I've never been much on how-to books. Maybe that's because I like to find my own way, a stubborn quality that might be wise (or might not be). Either way, I get frustrated reading how-to manuals when what I want to do is write. I tend to think that the best textbooks on how to write are really other works of whatever type you're planning to write yourself. Read enough books in your field and you'll begin to get the idea.

On the other hand, I do like inspirational books, tales of success, or failure and then success that help us remember that even the best seldom succeed the first time out of the starting gate. And...I like good reference books. Although I do a lot of my research online these days, I still keep grammar and usage books on hand as well as a few other items. Here, then, are a few of the books that have made it to my Writer's Keeper Shelves.

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott (very inspiring).

Walking on Alligators: a Book of Meditations for Writers by Susan Shaughnessy (for those days when you need a lift)
The War of Art: Break Through the Block and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield (the best book on dealing with writer's block--or plain old procrastination--that I've read)

The Visual Dictionary by Jean-Claude Corbeil (for when you know what something looks like but you don't know what it's called, especially when you're discussing a part of something. Note: the image above is from the old version I have, which is out of print. However, if you search for the author's name, he has numerous versions, some multi-lingual. There are also versions by other authors. I can't speak to those, as I haven't seen them, but I would assume that they offer similar content). 

I also recommend The Chicago Manual of Style (either print or the online version...which is excellent, as you can submit questions). 

Although I still have usage guides, dictionaries, thesauruses and naming guides on my shelves, more and more I turn to the Internet for that information, so I won't make recommendations there. And, of course, there are new and inspiring books being written all the time. If you have favorites not included here, I'd love it if you would leave a comment below.

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