Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Top Five Must-Have Books for any Writer

Image: Freedigitalphotos.com/Surachai
1. Dictionary. Words, words, words! Never doubt the power of words--and words are most powerful when used correctly. Every writer should have a dictionary on hand, even if you're an excellent speller, because there are always new words to learn. And no matter how smart you are, no matter how long you've been writing, every once in a while you will find yourself asking: "Does this word really mean what I think it means?"

2. Thesaurus. A thesaurus allows you to look up words by their meaning, rather than their spelling.  This book is tremendously helpful when you know the meaning of what you want to say, but aren't sure you've found the perfect word. Words are grouped by synonym, so you can easily find less common words to work with.

If you like poetry, I would also recommend picking up a Rhyming Dictionary. It's kind of like a thesaurus, but instead of grouping words by definition, it groups them by sound. Especially helpful when you're looking for a rhyme for "orange."

3. Encyclopedia. The encyclopedia is a fabulous resource for a writer, because the encyclopedia's goal is to provide a little bit of information about as many things as possible. The content is ordered alphabetically by subject, and you can look up everything from biographies of notable world figures, to the history of a particular animal species, or a description of how a technological invention actually works, and much more. There are almost always photos that go along with these short articles, too.

4. Almanac. All kinds of interesting facts and tidbits are contained in this book. Flip through an almanac sometime, and you'll see what I mean. You never know when you will get a story answer. Almanacs are especially useful if you write about historical time periods--you can easily look up the birth and death dates of historical figures, and what they were known for, in addition to plenty of pop culture trivia, like which movies were popular in a given year, or what were the most popular baby names, or what was the market price of different products, or when major brand name companies came into existence. And so much more!

5. Craft Books. Okay, this is not just one book, but a type of book. There are hundreds of books that have been written about how to write well. (Some of them are better written than others.) Here are a few I recommend:
  • What's Your Story? A Young Person's Guide to Writing Fiction by Marion Dane Bauer
  • The I Love to Write Book by Mary-Lane Kamberg
  • The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers by John Gardner
  • Spilling Ink: A Young Writer's Handbook by Ellen Potter, Anne Mazer and Matt Phelan

***By the way...in this day and age, you can find a lot of these resources online, too. It's nice to have a physical book ou can flip through, because you never know what you will find, but definitely also check out online dictionaries, thesauri, and encyclopedias. (Wikipedia does not count, friends! You also need to look for sites that contain published, edited content.)

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