Guest Post: From Milton C. Toby: Books We Read, Books We Use

If your house is anything like mine, there are books everywhere. Some shelves even have rows of paperbacks stacked behind other rows of books, which means that I can’t remember which ones are hidden, and couldn’t get to them even if I could recall their titles.

For now, though, let’s concentrate on two areas within easy reach, the reading table beside your bed and the place where you write.

Because I write mostly non-fiction, that’s what I generally read. The stack of books on my bedside table as I write this includes a mix: Cormac McCarthy’s Cities of the Plain; Mark Bowden’s The Finish: The Killing of Osama Bin Laden; Douglas Waller’s Wild Bill Donovan: The Spymaster Who Created the OSS and Modern American Espionage; and Lawrence Scanlan’s The Horse God Built: The Untold Story of Secretariat, the World’s Greatest Racehorse.

(Analogous to bedside table books are the audio books on my iPod. I just finished David McCullough’s National Book Award winner The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal 1870-1914 and cued up John Sandford’s Virgil Flowers novel Mad River.)

These are the books I read.

More telling, though, might be the books that I use every day, the ones beside my computer, lined up like soldiers waiting to be called into action:

The two-volume Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (everyone needs a good dictionary, and this is one of the best); The Oxford Desk Dictionary and Thesaurus; The Chicago Manuel of Style (the guide required by my publisher); The Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law (the style Bible for people who write for magazines); two different editions of Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style (if you’re going to rely on one general usage stylebook, this is the one); Bill Bryson’s Dictionary of Troublesome Words; and Eats, Shoots & Leaves.

Which books do you read? Which ones do you use in your writing?

Note from Ambrosia: Made me smile to know I am not the only one with rows of hidden books 🙂

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