Monday, September 26, 2011

By my Desk

There are five books I keep within arm’s reach by my desk:

My dictionary– I’ve been using it since I started college, over forty years. It’s a bit warped from having gone through a flood, but still a good useful and thorough reference. It’s the Random House College Edition. Unfortunately, the print in it has gotten smaller as I've grown older!

My thesaurus, of course. Now, that is Webster's Collegiate Thesaurus, which I picked up at a flea market for 25 cents. It is thick and pretty exhaustive.  For years I used a very old, smaller book from a defunct publisher, Revell. It gives me words that a more modern thesaurus might not so I still occasionally pick it up.

Then there are my two foreign language dictionaries, French and Spanish. Spanish is, of course, ‘the loving tongue’ as the old Western song goes. I can carry on in Spanish to some degree but the dictionary is definitely useful. I only know a smattering of French, but I sometimes wish to know a word in that language... and the names of many of the characters in my novel, The Song of the Sword, are based on French words.

Finally, the Bible. A Catholic version, naturally: the New American. It’s pretty decent. The language is good enough and truer to the sources than the King James or the bible I grew up with, the Douai. I read from it occasionally or look up things. For me, it is (like the other four I've mentioned) essentially a reference book.

Should I have another book beside me? Open to suggestions!

Btw, a rhyming dictionary is nice too. Mine is on the computer rather than in a physical book but I might just invest in the paper version on of these days. My other reference books -- atlases, encyclopedias, Butler's Lives of the Saints, etc, -- are over on a shelf.

note: this is a rewritten piece from the blog I had (at a Yahoo Group, of all places) before I started writing here at the Lucky Lad. I may be reposting more such.


Anonymous said...

A writer needs all those 'tool' books. The other one I keep is a guide to English Grammar. It's comprehensive and when in doubt I can find what I'm looking for and refresh on grammatical nuances. I needed to reteach myself grammar when I wrote my manuscript.

Stephen B said...

I had my ancient copy of Strunk and White's 'Elements of Style' until I lost it in the flood I mentioned. It was a bit quirky on usage occasionally but useful none the less.

I recently downloaded a style guide from the Modern Humanities Research Association (at ). It is, naturally, British in its slant but has some good stuff in it. And it's free. Most publishers, of course, are slavish about using the Chicago Manual of Style.