Signature-reads.com recently posted an article on “The 27 Best Books on Writing.” I was surprised to find how many of them I own, and I couldn’t help reflecting on the books on writing that have influenced me the most. Among them:
• Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art by Madeleine L’Engle. This book deserves its own blog post, and one day it will get it, but for now I’ll just say that I was intrigued to learn that she compared her writing to the way French peasants cook: “There are several pots on the back of the stove, and as I go by during the day’s work, I drop a carrot in one, an onion in another, a chunk of meat in another. When it comes time to prepare the meal, I take the pot which is most nearly full and bring it to the front of the stove. So it is with writing.”
• The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White. Last year I met with a new friend at a local coffee shop, and one of the first things she asked me was, “So how many copies of The Elements of Style do you own?” Only two, I told her, and I was impressed she knew about this book, which I became acquainted with in college. My journalism professor often quoted the line “Omit needless words,” and it’s one of the all-time best quotes on writing. (“Omit needless words” is good advice for life as well. I regret some of the words I did say more than the words I didn’t say, but then I have a gift for sticking my foot in my mouth.)
• Creative Writing for People Who Can’t Not Write by Kathryn Lindskoog. This book didn’t make the Signature list, but it makes mine for this line that always makes me smile: “If our water supply were as muddy as much of our pretentious prose, all flavors of Jell-O would look brown.” As someone who values good, clear writing, I adore that “Jell-O” bit.
And if you don’t mind sharing, I’d love to hear about the books on writing that have most influenced you!