Best Books on Writing

Deanna Fei, author of A Thread of Sky, recently wrote an article for Huffington Post titled “Seven Books on Writing for Every Writer.” I think all writers have favorites. Mine is on Fei’s list: Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, which I love for being so practical and unpretentious. And funny.

The other books on the list are:

The Writing Life by Annie Dillard

Dreaming by the Book by Elaine Scarry

The Art of Fiction by John Gardner

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

Story by Robert McKee

Mysteries and Manners by Flannery O’Connor

Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke

I also like William K. Zinsser’s On Writing Well, which is actually about writing nonfiction; and Betsy Lerner’s The Forest for the Trees.

What books on writing have you enjoyed and why would you recommend them? Also, what writing books do you think are over-rated?

Adventures in Reading: The Poisoner’s Handbook

I just had a thoroughly enjoyable reading experience. I stayed up all night to read The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York by Deborah Blum, a Pulitzer Prize-winning science writer. I loved the book, but what made it even better was what I was able to find on the Internet about both the book and the author.

One thing I found was an interview with the author on ScientificAmerican.com. Here’s an excerpt:

Steve: So the book is obviously all about poison and that makes it all about chemistry; it’s really a chemistry book in disguise.

Blum: It is. It’s called The Poisoner’s Handbook, but in the most subversive way, it’s about something that is near and dear to my heart, which is that I think chemistry is both beautiful and sinister.

You can listen to a podcast of the interview (and/or read the transcript) by going here.

I also found a blog called The Write Note by the author, where she writes more about poisons as well as her writing experiences. On it, she is extremely generous with her comments and comes across as friendly and accessible. She now has a blog called Speakeasy Science and a web site where you can listen to another podcast from NPR’s Science Friday as well as more information about Ms. Blum herself.

It’s not often that you can enter into the world of an author of a great book you’ve just read. I wish there were more experiences like that out there.