On the 2010 Authors website we're each supposed to make a list of top 10s. It can be top 10 anything, but all the good topics have been taken (chocolate, movies, etc.). I flirted with the idea of doing Top 10 Reality Shows of all-time since I'm one of the preeminent scholars on this subject, but admitting to loving Paradise Island above all might just lower my credibility with these literary folks. My time to post a list has come, so I chose:
Top Ten — Favorite books on/about writing. I know! Titillating!
1. Making a Literary Life by Carolyn See - This great book comes with a bonus: an embarrassing back-story in which I give the book to someone, it ends our budding friendship, I write about it on my blog, she finds the post and makes a comment on the blog entry, and I respond. If you like awk-ward, you’ll love this post.
2. The Elements of Style Illustrated – This is the Strunk & White classic, updated with amazing paintings by Maira Kalman, the illustrator responsible for quirky kids books like Sayonara, Mrs. Kackleman and Max Makes a Million. A great gift book for writer friends.
3. Red Herrings and White Elephants: The Origins of the Phrases We Use Every Day by Albert Jack – I absolutely love books about the origins of clichés. This is because I am a dork.
4. On Writing by Stephen King - Though I’m not a big fan of his fiction, this book is fantastic. It’s entertaining and informative and his anecdotes are great—King has had a very interesting career and he has really worked for all the success he’s had. (But I still say shame on him for criticizing Stephenie Meyer; that’s what critics are for. Shouldn’t there be a code of honor among writers?)
5. Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market by Alice Pope - In addition to being the ultimate reference on the market, there are really great interviews and articles by authors, illustrators, and publishing people and lots of great how-to stuff.
6. Dictionary of Problem Words and Expressions by Harry Shaw - This is an old book with a groovy 70s cover, but it’s one of those I keep on my desk for spontaneous learning. Like if I’m stuck on something I’ll open it up to a random page, learn the difference between, say, a dais and a lectern, and close it again. Sometimes the information even sticks; i.e. one of those things is a raised platform.
7. Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss – This is the funniest book on punctuation you will ever read. And we all know how high that bar is!
8. The Best American Short Stories of xxxx (insert any year between 1915 and 2008 here) – I always look forward to this collection. Edited by a different writer each year—2008 is Salman Rushdie—this is a survey of great writing. It’s interesting to go back and read stories from past years; you definitely see subtle changes in theme and style attributed to both the editor who picks the stories and trends. Good stuff.
9. Scholastic Children's Dictionary - I’ve stolen this one from my daughter. In addition to being a pretty decent little dictionary, the back matter includes reference info on random bits you may or may not have learned in middle school (Braille and American Sign Language alphabets, international flags, info on presidents, etc.)
10. The Forest for the Trees: An Editor's Advice to Writers by Betsy Lerner – Betsy was a poet, then an agent’s assistant, then an editor, and now she’s an agent married to a publisher. This book includes lots of comforting info on why writers are neurotic. In addition to having a varied perspective on the publishing industry, she is also an incredible writer. I enjoyed this book as much for the information as I did for her writing.
If you could only recommend ONE book to writers, what would it be?
3 weeks ago