A Writer’s Bookshelf

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No-one knows it all, and as a writer I use several sources of research for my articles and ebooks. Aside from the resources I use to research particular topics, there are also several essential books I need related to the craft of writing. Here are the books on my bookshelf which I couldn’t do without.


My top pick for this is the Collins English Dictionary. It’s an easy to read, clear format. I used to use the Oxford English Dictionary. I switched to the Collins because I was already using their French and Spanish dictionaries, so when it was time to update, it seemed a good idea to complete the set. Another good option (especially if you’re American) is the Merriam Webster Dictionary. I sometimes use the online version of MW if I need to check something when I’m not at my desk.


Many people rave about Roget’s Thesaurus. I find that hard to use, so my favorite is the Merriam-Webster thesaurus. That’s because it is easy to find the words for which I want to find synonyms. Again, MW online is a good option when on the move.


Every now and then you need to use a word, punctuation mark or expression, and you’re not quite sure how to use it correctly. When this happens, I have two main sources. I’ve been using the Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors since I started in journalism, and it’s never let me down. For a more fun approach to usage, there’s also a more recent book by R L Trask called Mind The Gaffe. Published by Penguin, it’s a guide to some common errors in English.

Finally, although I don’t use it every day, I also keep a copy of the Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology handy. It’s always useful to be able to find the origin of a word or expression. Just call me a word nerd. 🙂

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9 thoughts on “A Writer’s Bookshelf”

  1. At a time when the Internet provides all the information contained in these books, it’s a bit difficult to use them regularly. 🙂

  2. I often write in places where I don’t have access to the internet, so having good resources is important.

    What’s on my writing shelf? A dictionary, thesaurus, Spanish-English dictionary (I’m writing a book with Hispanic characters in it right now), a baby name book, and an old white pages.

    Those last two might sound odd, but I used them, believe it or not. Often I’m looking for a character name and I just can’t think of anything, and those two are GREAT resources not only for first names but for last names for characters. I couldn’t write without them, I don’t think.

  3. Thanks, Syed, Mitali.

    @ Akhil: yes, a lot of the info is out on the net, but sometimes you don’t have access and it’s good to have these offline resources too.

    @ Susabelle: those are unique resources for finding character names; thanks for the tip. 🙂

  4. owning a Merriam Webster’s Dictionary myself, I find it easy to find what I’m looking for. And even though most of my writing is done in my laptop, I find myself searching for word difinitions by book even though my current main source is on the web: dictionary.com.

    I should really look up the puncuation book by Oxford you suggested.

  5. @ Joshua: Sometimes it’s just as easy to pick up a book and look for the right word, so I wouldn’t be without a dictionary either.

  6. Writing has and still is one of my biggest problems. I’m a software developer and hardly have any need to write official documents, the only documents I write are emails and code documentations.

    In the last months of years, I’ve started blogging in the hope to improve my writing.

    I think subscribing to this blog will help.

  7. That’s true. A serious writer would have all those books, and definitely more. I also think it’s necessary for a good writer to have a wide selection of classics, and books in the field of writing he is interested in. Making regular trips to the library is also important. 🙂

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