May 5, 2005

The Elements of Style
William Strunk and E.B. White
The Art of Fiction
David Lodge
The Thin Man
Dashiell Hammett
Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary
Webster's Thesaurus

The 5 Books Every Writer Needs -- I once groused to the writer and actor George Savino that I possessed too many books -- more books, even, than fit into my many bookcases. "I know why we keep books," George said quietly. "It's so we can display them as Knowledge Trophies." Since George's bulls-eye observation I have done a better job of giving away finished books and while I still have a long way to go I also now pass along the advice when I am invited into college classes to discuss writing. "There are only five books every writer needs to keep," I announce somewhat dramatically, but it always grabs the students' attention. "A handy dictionary. A good thesaurus. 'The Elements of Style' by Strunk and White because it's the best grammar and style book you'll ever read. 'The Art of Fiction' by David Lodge because it's the best book on form you'll ever read. And a touchstone book -- a book that'll remind you why in the hell you fell in love with writing. Lately, for me, 'The Thin Man' does the trick. No story starts faster. No story is more tightly written."


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