Friday, August 1, 2008

Why a big part of my personal library is reference books...

I has lots of lovely books. I not only love to write them I love to read them as well. Books are the bees knees. I try to select carefully because if i bought everything that took my fancy we would be buried by books right now. I wants some new ones right now but my bedside stack is close to critical mass so i'm avoiding book shops. Luckily I have three fabulous children so I can, on the pretext of getting them something good to read, safely buy more books without endangering the teetering pile in my own bedroom. I will talk more over the next week or so about the books I am hankering after but the books I want to mention today are reference books.

As my writing has grown more serious and career-like I have been adding to my library of reference books. The obvious starter pack is a good dictionary and thesaurus. But I also have a book of quotations, a dictionary of phrase and fable, a biographical dictionary, a classical mythology dictionary, a book of baby names (I think i need a new one of those - one is not enough), and a children's time lines in world history. There are other history books on specific periods like the Vikings. The internet is a godsend for researching but especially when you are not entirely sure what you are looking for a reference book can make all the difference. I know my collection is not yet complete.

Of course the other kind of reference book is the writing guide or the ones that help you once you've finished your manuscript and i have quite a few of those as well. The Writer's Way by Julia Cameron is a popular guide but i also have several by Natalie Goldberg, books on writing by John Marsden and Stephen King and other books on particular genre and getting published and one or two on style, the most famous of which is The Elements of Style by Strunk and White. I also have the local reference books like the Christchurch City Libraries bible on Childrens Publishers in NZ, The BPANZ book on NZ Publishers and The NZ Writer's Handbook.

They have all proved themselves useful over the years, even if its been to disagree with their advice. Every career has its text books, and training manuals. Writing is no different. And on the days when you don't feel like writing or the words just aren't coming, picking up a reference book or a writing guide is a smart way to spend the day. Any person good at their job never stops learning how to do better at it.


The Scarlet Tree said...

I love my reference books, I am dangerous in a book shop! Just holding a nice book and looking at the title and index sometimes spurs on ideas for me. I am also a real sucker for the ABC and BBC collections of DVD's on history and such...

OH and Im not sure where I can across you blog now? But am really enjoying your posts....!

Melinda said...

History DVD's sound like a brilliant idea. I find visual images very inspiring. And it's good to know i'm not just talking to myself when i blog - its great to know you enjoy reading them.