Today is the first of several theme days taking place during the 2011 WordCount Blogathon. All bloggers are invited to write about the same topic: “My 5 favorite book on ……”
Since I blog about writing, I’m sharing my 5 favorite books on the subject.
My picks shouldn’t surprise anyone who’s followed this blog on a regular basis. I’ve written about most of them or at least mentioned them in passing. Here they are again, along with a couple reasons why they mean so much to me:
1. On Writing Well, William Zinsser. Despite its age, On Writing Well is still relevant as a reference for what to do and what to avoid in many nonfiction forms, including newspaper and magazine articles, travel, sports and humor writing, criticism, memoir – even memos, newsletters and yes, blog posts. His advice to write tight and bright is especially relevant in a world of shrinking word counts and online readers who can’t be bothered to scroll past a story’s opening screen.
2. AP Stylebook, Associated Press. Today, you can choose between the spiral-bound print version, the online version or the smartphone app. Regardless of form, this is still the go-to book for questions of usage for newspaper-style journalism. Of all my favorites, this is the one I consult the most.
3. The Art and Craft of Feature Writing, William E. Blundell. I was just talking with another writer about this book last week. It’s a classic and something I’ve hung onto for years. Blundell based the book on the in-house writing classes he conducted while on staff at the Wall Street Journal, which IMHO was and is one of the best-written and edited publications in the country. The chapter “Handling Key Story Elements” one of the best, discussing topics such as leads, quotes, paraphrasing and numbers. My writer friend found a used copy online for $1.
4. The Elements of Style, William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White. Good old Strunk and White. The copy on my office bookshelf has survived since college. It’s to grammar and usage what the AP Stylebook is to spelling, punctuation and capitalization.
5. The Elements of Editing, Arthur Plotnik. There are lots of books on writing, not so many on editing. This one might not rise to the level of a Strunk and White, but it comes pretty close. If you get it, bypass dated references to typesetting and focus on chapters covering concepts that never go out of style: processing manuscripts, line editing and working with writers.