What are the books that you, as a writer, cannot live without?
I asked myself that recently while trying to downsize my book collection. I took a look at the books I was using on a regular basis, and came up with this list of the essentials. Obviously, this list will vary depending on your writing goals.
Every writer should have a selection of reference books. I love my ancient, worn-out dictionary and thesaurus, but for many writers, their word-processing program does the job just fine. I also prefer to keep on hand a couple of old-fashioned reference books like a book of maps, a literature anthology, and The Joy of Cooking. For me, these have a certain authenticity you can’t get with Wikipedia.
The Fab Five
As far as I’m concerned, every writer worth their salt should have the following in their library:
Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott
On Writing by Stephen King
Page after Page by Heather Sellers
No Plot? No Problem!: A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days by Chris Baty
In addition to reading about the craft of writing, I think it’s important to read about writers’ lives. Some of my favorite memoirs are those by Natalie Goldberg, Amy Tan, and Faulkner Fox.
Sometimes I don’t need advice on craft, I just need a little shot in the arm. For inspiration, two of my favorites borrow their wisdom from the East.
Dojo Wisdom for Writers: 100 Simple Ways to Become a More Inspired, Successful and Fearless Writer by Jennifer Lawler
Wabi Sabi For Writers: Find Inspiration. Respect Imperfection. Create Peerless Beauty by Richard Powell
I love the concept of wabi sabi, a Japanese philosophy that means “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete.” It’s how I view my writer’s library, always evolving and changing, and always in need of a new book.
Let me know what I’m missing!