Besides a dictionary and thesaurus, there are many books a writer can avail himself of.
On the shelf at my computer desk are: “Dictionary of Problem Words and Expressions,” “Which Word When,” “All about Words,” and “Fowler’s Modern English Usage.” The titles are self explanatory. Not only do they clarify all those questions you have about words and grammar, they tell you things you never knew-and should know. Your writing will be better for it.
And don’t forget “The Elements of Style” and Aristotle’s “Poetics.” They are both thin and take up little room.
Carl Jung’s “Man And His Symbols” and Edith Hamilton’s “Mythology” to give your fiction deep underlying meaning that impress critics. They love metaphoric symbolism; in fact that is all they like.
“Games People Play” by Eric Berne is great for creating characters. You can read and understand what and why certain types do what they do. It will make your characters come alive with realism.
Richard Mitchell’s “The Gift of Fire,” just because.
“The Elements of Editing” by Arthur Plotnik. Mostly for Journalists, but you can learn a lot from it.
The classic “The Art of Creative Writing” by Lajos Egri and “Writing the Natural Way” by Gabriele Lusser Rico for clustering, image, metaphor, creative tension, and other fun things.
A book on character naming is also a must.
It also helps to have “A Whack on the Side of the Head” to get your juices flowing.
Keep in mind I said these are books you should have on your shelf near where you write. You need not read them, in fact it is best to find used copies that have been well thumbed through. When your friends come over they will be impressed by the seriousness you are taking towards your writing. And making a good impression is what counts.
I have had these books since my college days at Princeton with F. Scott Fitzgerald. He wasn’t impressed. He didn’t need them. I do. And if you’re not F. Scott Fitzgerald-and you’re not-then you should consider these books. They can fill your shelf.