Books about Words and Writing
"The Craft of Interviewing" by John Brady (Writer's Digest Books). Covers the ways and means to get the raw material for any story. It's good for beginners.
"The Talk Book" by Gerald Goodman and Glenn Esterly (Ballantine). On the use of reflective listening and disclosure.
"Creative Interviewing" by Ken Metzler (Prentice Hall). Possibly the best book on interviewing. It provides strategies and tips for the beginner and the veteran.
"Interviews That Work" by Shirley Biagi (Wadsworth). A good guide for beginners. Plenty of tips.
"The Elements of Style" by William Strunk and E.B. White (MacMillan). White's essay on style at the end of the book is probably the best thing a young writer can read. Get in the habit of reading the book every six months.
"On Writing Well" by William Zinsser (Harper & Row). It is probably the best book on nonfiction writing.
"Simple and Direct" by Jacques Barzun (Harper & Row). Barzun comes across as old-fashioned, but it will do you good to get a conservative view.
"Writing for Your Readers" by Don Murray (Globe Pequot, 1992). Murray, a former writing coach for the Boston Globe, gathers good advice on organization, leads, style and editing.
"Write to Learn" by Don Murray (HBJ College Publishers). A college text, but worth it. Murray explains the writing process in a clear, simple way.
"Writing Well" by Donald Hall (Little Brown). Hall is a poet, essayist, editor and author of children's books. His approach is simple: Writing is a craft and if you want to be a writer, you must work at it. This book is another college text, with a lot of emphasis on essay and formal structure.
"Writer to Writer: Readings on the Craft of Writing" edited by Floyd C. Watkins and Karl F. Knight (Houghton Mifflin). An eclectic collection of essays in which famous and obscure authors advise, cajole and commiserate about mastering the craft. Nobody says it's easy.
"The Writer's Art" by James J. Kilpatrick (Andrews & McMeel). Chatty and informative. Kilpatrick rolls on a little too much for some tastes, but he has good advice on observation and description.
"The Writer's Friend" by Martin L. Gibson (Iowa State Press).
"Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life" by Anne Lamott (Pantheon).
"Writing Down the Bones" by Natalie Goldberg (Shambhala).
"Writing the Natural Way" by Gabriele Lusser Rico (Tarcher/St. Martin's Press).
"How I Wrote the Story" Christopher Scanlan (ed.) (Providence Journal Company)
"Words' Worth" by Terri Brooks (St. Martin's Press).
"The Suspended Sentence: A Guide for Writers" by Roscoe C. Born (Scribners)
"Newsthinking: The Secrets of Great Newswriting" by Bob Baker (Writer's Digest Books).
"Beyond the Inverted Pyramid" by The Missouri Group: George Kennedy, Daryl R. Moen and Don Ranly (St. Martin's Press).
"Max Perkins" by A. Scott Berg (Dutton). This biography of the man who edited Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Thomas Wolfe and James Jones has advice for editors and writers.
"The Associated Press Guide to Writing" by Rene Cappon (Associated Press). See the chapter on clichés for an idea of the kind of sins we commit every day.
"The Art and Craft of Feature Writing" by William E. Bluncell (NAL-Dutton). Top editor at the Wall Street Journal gives you the lowdown on how the Journal staff comes up with those marvelous front- page features.
"Writing for Story" by Jon Franklin (Atheneum). Franklin, a former Baltimore Sun science writer, won two Pulitzer prizes for his feature writing. He advises feature writers to get back to old-fashioned storytelling. His chapter on how to organize material is worth the price of the book. He also includes two examples of his writing so you see a master at work.
"The Art of Fiction" by John Gardner (Vintage). Gardner, a poet and novelist, taught fiction writing for many years before his death. This book is based on his notes from those classes. Try the exercises and you will learn a thing or two about the power of observation.
"Writing Creative Nonfiction" by Theodore A. Rees Cheney (Ten Speed Press).
"Stalking the Feature Story" by William Ruehlmann (Vintage) The importance of vision, focus. color and people, with lots of examples.
"Starting from Scratch: A Different Kind of Writers' Manual" by Rita Mae Brown (Bantam).
"Writer in the Newsroom" by Donald M. Murray (The Poynter Papers: No.7).
"The American Conversation and the Language of Journalism" by Roy Peter Clark (The Poynter Papers: No.5).
"The Complete Book of Feature Writing" Leonard Witt (ed.) (Writer's Digest Books).
"A Field Guide to Writing Fiction" by A. B. Guthrie Jr. (Harpercollins).
"Writing in General and the Short Story in Particular" by Rust Hills (Bantam).
"Writing Fiction" by Janet Burroway (Harpercollins).
"The Art and Craft of Novel Writing" by Oakley Hall (Story Press).
"The Elements of Storytelling" by Peter Rubie (Wiley).
"Technique in Fiction" by Robie Macauley and George Lanning (St. Martin's Press).
"The Literary Journalists" Norman Sims (ed.) (Ballantine).
"Literary Journalism: A New Collection of the Best American Nonfiction" Edited by Norman Sims and Mark Kramer (Ballantine).
"Best Newspaper Writing" Edited by Christopher Scanlan, Karen Brown, Don Fry, Roy Peter Clark. Annually since 1979. (The Poynter Institute).
EDITING YOURSELF AND OTHERS
"Coaching Writers: The Essential Guide for Editors and Reporters" by Roy Peter Clark and Don Fry (St. Martin). Clark and Fry are leaders of the good-writing movement at newspapers. They offer tips on how editors and reporters can work together. They also give examples of how writers benefit from knowing how the writing process works.
"The Craft of Revision" by Donald M. Murray (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich).
"Getting the Word Right" by Theodore A. Rees Cheney (Writer's Digest Books).
"Editing for Today's Newsroom" by Carl Sessions Stepp (Lawrence Erlbaurn Associates).
"HTK" by John B. Bremner (Palindrome Press). This thin paperback covers the main principles of headline writing.
"Headlines and Deadlines" by Robert E. Garst and Theodore M. Bemstein (Columbia University Press).
"The Solid Gold Copy Editor" by Carl Riblet Jr. (Kendall/Hunt Publishing Co.). A solid textbook on how to edit copy and write headlines. It takes a conservative, hard-line approach geared to vertical layout, but once you work your way through the exercises you will have mastered the fundamentals and can easily adapt to freer forms.
GRAMMAR AND USAGE
"The Careful Writer'" by Theodore Bernstein (Atheneum, 1965). The best guide for the newspaper writer. Bernstein's book, now a little dated, is based on his many years as the in-house critic at the New York Times. See his section on "One idea to a sentence." Also, see his earlier book, "Watch Your Language," for good advice on writing leads.
"Words on Words" by John B. Bremner (Columbia University Press). Excellent stuff and good reading. Bremner picks up where Bernstein left off. It's authoritative and entertaining.
"When Words Collide: A Journalist's Guide to Grammar and Style" by Lauren Kessier and Duncan McDonald (Wadsworth Publishing Co.). An easy-to-use desk reference for those nagging questions (who or whom, that or which) that pop up while you're in the throes of creation, plus punctuation, capitalization and the basics of writing clearly.
"Modem English Usage" by Henry Fowler, revised by Sir Ernest Gowers (Oxford University Press). This is the classic for purists. If you want to be a language maven, this is one you have to own.
"Modem American Usage" by Wilson Follett, edited by Jacques Barzun (Hill & Wang). Barzun completed Follett's work after the author died. Barzun is a conservative on many points of usage, but you may find him persuasive. Read the section on journalese.
"The Transitive Vampire" by Karen Elizabeth Gordon (Times Books). A good-humored look at how sentences work and why. Despite the light touch, it gives you the basics of grammar in a clear, concise way.