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Spring Book List – Writing and Literature

I call my blog The Parent Vortex, but I work on and think about more than just my parenting skills.  I’ve been reading about the craft of writing, and reading well-written literature lately.  Because writers don’t just write, they also read, read and read some more.

The Elements of Style by Strunk & White.  I can’t believe it’s taken me this many years to read this small, very important book.  Generally accepted as the final word on literary style and correctness, the Elements of Style has illuminated many things I knew instinctively but couldn’t express about what constitutes good writing, and I’ve learned a few new strategies for editing my work.  I was going to enrol in a writing class, but decided to choose the frugal (and unschooly) option of researching and practising on my own.  This book is my guide.

Keys to Great Writing by Stephen Wilburs.  Another resource in my self-directed writing class, but not quite as compelling as Strunk & White.  It might improve as I get further into it, but it’s bigger and denser and wordier than The Elements of Style, and I find myself picking it up less.  I am reminded of Strunk’s Rule #17: Omit needless words.

On Writing by Stephen King.  I’m not much of a fan of Stephen King’s novels, but this non-fiction book was a very enjoyable read.  The first part of the book is a history of King’s early life as a child, teen and young man just starting a writing career and marriage.  The second section focuses on how to go about writing, from setting up a space and schedule to editing your work.  The short third part describes the life-threatening accident he had while writing the book (a crazy dude ran into him while he was walking along the side of the road.)  I appreciate King’s advice about becoming a writer – the only way to do it is to write.  No matter how many classes you take, the only way you’ll learn the craft is by doing.

Walden by Henry David Thoreau.  Economics, nature, spirit and quiet living in the woods.  I’m reading this one slowly, but I keep coming back to it.  I have a feeling that this is a book I may read and re-read my whole life.

The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri.  Oh yes.  Unabridged.  Unadulterated.  It’s slow going, but there’s some killer imagery here.  Frozen eyeballs in the depths of hell?  Yep.  Also, I figured that since I named my daughter Beatrice, and the most famous literary reference is Dante’s character Beatrice, I should probably read it so I know what kind of baggage I’ve saddled my child with.  It’s all good so far.

Do you have any other great writing resources I should know about?  Do tell! 

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Rachael April 22, 2012, 9:30 am

    My favorite books on writing are Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, and If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland. As for the King book, I loved it. Whatever you think of his books (and some of his early stuff, like Salem’s Lot and The Shining, is excellent, if you can take it, though I don’t think I can anymore, myself!), he is truly a magnificent man, methinks.

    As for literary Beatrices, my favorite is the Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing.

    • Rachael April 24, 2012, 12:58 pm

      Hey, looky: It seems that others agree with me about Salem’s Lot and The Shining. And On Writing is deemed second only to The Stand, which I’ve never read.

      See here: http://www.vulture.com/2012/04/ranking-all-62-stephen-king-books.html#.

      Sixty-two books, though. Wow.

    • michelle April 28, 2012, 12:29 pm

      Thanks for your suggestions, I will check them out! And you know, I don’t think I’ve ever read Much Ado About Nothing either. To the library! :)

  • Katie April 24, 2012, 6:17 am

    The Divine Comedy is one of my favorite, too! Great list here… I’ll try to find Walden and read it. :)

  • stefanie April 29, 2012, 7:45 pm

    Do you read the Rumpus? I find that I’m most inspired by other good writing, and it’s always there in spades, especially that of Cheryl Strayed (Dear Sugar). Practically every Dear Sugar leaves me doing that open-handed table banging, head-shaking and weeping, “It’s just so good!” kind of appreciation.

    Also, I’m so happy to be back reading your blog after the involuntary everything lapse that comes with having a newborn. Missed your words, lady!