Friday, January 8, 2010

Books for Writers (and Readers)

I recently received a link to a website entitled "75 Books Every Writer Should Read." Listed in nine categories, the seventy-five books cover a range of writing topics. I cannot personally endorse all the books listed on the webpage, but there are a few I have read or about which I have heard good comments. I have listed them below.
  • Writing Basics: The Power of Myth, by Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers. This is an engaging, readable book about myths that transcend eras and cultures. It also has videotapes of interviews between Moyers and Campbell that accompany the book and may be available at a local library.
  • Advice from Writers: On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, by Stephen King. I have not read this but have run across positive references to it before. The webpage mentions the book "divides its time between being an instructional manual for writers and a richly engaging memoir."
  • Improving Your Writing: Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within, by Natalie Goldberg. I read this book a while back. It provides encouragement to "free write," to just let go and to pull down self-restrictive barriers by writing regularly and without self-judging. Plus, the book has a cool title.
  • Grammar: Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, by Lynn Truss. This book is on my to-read list. The description as a "fun grammar and punctuation manual" is also what I have heard. The humor can be seen in the title. Are we talking about an animal that eats shoots and leaves, or are we talking about a hunter that eats, shoots, and leaves? Something like that.
  • Reference Books: The Elements of Style, by William Strunk, Jr., and E.B. White. This is a small book full of excellent advice. A classic. "It has been the standard model for proper English style for decades."
  • Writing as a Career: I am not familiar with these books, although I can mention that Donald Maass is a successful literary agent and that Terry Brooks is a successful fantasy writer.
  • Genre or Specific Format: A short list is provided on the website. The Language of Life, by Bill Moyers, is a very readable book in which the journalist interviews many contemporary poets about language and poetry. I own the book. Orson Card Scott is a successful science fiction and fantasy writer. I like the poet Judson Jerome, and at one time he lived in the Iowa City area.
  • Classics: Four books are recommended that are connected to writing and the writing life, written by authors Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, Aristotole, and Henry David Thoreau. Thoreau and Hemingway would probably be considered to most "accessible" or easy to read.
  • Creativity and Motivation: I am not familiar with the books on this list. The book Keeping a Journal You Love, by Sheila Bender, sounds interesting because it includes journal entries from fifteen poets and writers--and comments from those writers. I would add the book Letters to a Young Poet, by Ranier Maria Rilke to the motivation list--why we should write--written by a man who considering writing as not only his art but also as an avenue for evolution.
In conclusion, I would like to remind readers of an earlier post for this blog: Three Beautiful Books." All three books I mentioned in that post are inspirational joys to read. The Bat Poet was also written by a respected American poet, Randall Jarrell. I hope some of the books mentioned in this post can be of use to you. Many are probably available at your local public library.

Copyright 2010 by Thomas L. Kepler, all rights reserved


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