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Writing Books Worth Reading

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First off, I am not a writer by trade or for pleasure. I don’t write for fun in my spare time, I don’t participate in National Novel Writing Month in November, and I certainly don’t have million word treatises hanging around my hard drive. That being said, I sincerely believe in the value of the written word, for how can I not? As a lover, consumer and purveyor of words, I dearly believe that the concisely conveyed thought is its own reward. 

We should all strive to communicate without becoming verbose, as writing is a vital medium for our everyday lives. Thomas Hobbes praised writing as the best way to order one’s thoughts, which is another reason we should work towards brevity. Writing and thinking clearly reinforce each other. If you can clearly lay out your thoughts in writing, then both your ordering of your thoughts and your writing benefits from that. Another way of thinking about this is that if our writing is incomprehensible, then maybe our thoughts need more reordering before they are ready for the public forum.

Speaking of the public forum, Plato bemoaned writing as a destruction of Man’s natural memory, which it is. Why memorize an oral tradition when we can write it down and spread it farther and faster than any storyteller? That being said, Plato never had access to the volume of written material that we do. For those of us awash in the written word, from emails to books, it behoves us to write well. To that end, here are the three best books on writing for folks who don’t need to write for a living, and maybe even for those who do!

Writing to Persuade: How to Bring People Over to Your Side Cover Image
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ISBN: 9781631493058
Published: Liveright - June 11th, 2019

Trish Hall is a fascinating person all on her own, but her book is something to behold. A slim volume, Trish packs it full of the invaluable advice she has garnered as editor of the NYT’s op-eds. I got a chance to meet with Trish when we hosted her for a few events in the DFW area, and she is just wonderful. She lays out her arguments succinctly in this slim little paperback volume. One part brief memoir, one part tips and tricks, and one part clear recommendations for the craft of writing a persuasive argument, WRITING TO PERSUADE is well worth a read. This is both the most straightforward and easiest read in this list. As I was always taught, if you find one piece of useful information in a book, it was more than worth your time.

Dreyer's English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style Cover Image
ISBN: 9780812985719
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Random House Trade Paperbacks - August 4th, 2020

Benjamin Dreyer is Copy Chief for Random House, the largest general interest paperback publisher in the world. As such, he has had some thoughts on writing, and they manage to entertain as well as elucidate the art of crafting a sentence into a masterpiece. Writing with panache, Dreyer succeeds in making a guide to writing style interesting, which is a goal all on its own. I’m certain I have broken half a dozen rules of his in this very sentence, but nevertheless, I persevere. Read Dreyer’s English, and if you like it, there’s even a game developed around it, called STET, that we carry.

Farnsworth's Classical English Style Cover Image
ISBN: 9781567926651
Availability: NOT IN STOCK - Usually arrives in 7 - 14 business days
Published: David R. Godine Publisher - April 21st, 2020

This is a bit like a classic private school English class in a book. No, wait, it’s not that bad! Ward Farnsworth, Dean of UT School Of Law, wrote this series of books on classical writing that are fascinating and invaluable to the writer who wants to develop their writing beyond the merely functional. Throughout his series, he takes memorable speeches, plays and writings then analyses the effective strategies that each writer used. This book is ideal for anyone who wonders where speech writers get their best lines from, or wonders why no speeches today are worth being quoted in a century. The book has an eclectic style which only serves to reinforce the rhetorical flourishes in each piece of writing. His other works in the series focus on metaphors and rhetoric, respectively.