I was asked recently to name some books I'd recommend for (aspiring) writers to read and keep on their bookshelves. As you know, I'm usually happy to provide advice to anyone who asks (and even those who don't), but this kinda threw me.
Other than a good dictionary, a style manual, and the Rodale Synonym finder, I don't think there are any books a writer HAS to have, and there's such a wide range of books out there I don't know if there is a definitive book about anything.
But I came up with a list of what I have -- books I find useful -- to share, and I figured I'd share them here as well. Your mileage may vary, of course, but here's a list of books I find (or have found) helpful.
1) The Miram-Webster Dictionary, A Writer's Reference, and Rodale Synonym finder. Seriously. I can't stress the importance.
2) Flip Dictionary: billed as "for when you know what you want to say but can't think of the word," the Flip Dictionary lets you look up the definition and gives you a word. In some ways, it is like a thesaurus, but you can also look up phrases like "sew loosely with large running stitches" and it gives you the choice of "baste" and "tack." You can also look up a general term like "cheese" and gives you a list of about forty types of cheese. You may need to then look up exactly what "Quargel" cheese is, but at least you have something more specific than "cheese."
3) Writing A Romance Novel for Dummies. Leslie Wainger is one smart lady. Read and learn.
4. ) Goal, Motivation and Conflict by Debra Dixon. If for no other reason than you're going to hear people talk about it and you'll need to know what GMC refers to. For beginning writers, I think motivation and conflict can be a hard subject to get hold of, so this is worth a read.
5) Character Naming Sourcebook by Sherrilyn Kenyon and any other baby name book. Names are important.
6) A Dictionary of Word Origins (there are several). Very important for historical writers to know if that word was around in 10th century England.
7) An Incomplete Education. Wonderfully arranged and easy to read, it gives you a great overview of a topic. Say your heroine is an Art Historian. The section on art will give you a place to begin.
Yes, I know most (all) of this information is on the internet. But sometimes Google returns far too many links on a subject (and those pages could have been written by anyone. Dog only knows if they actually know what they're talking about). I often start from a book to get an overview -- like for a heroine with an Art History degree, and once I have a better grasp of what I'm after then I go to Google.
Okay. Argue with my choices. (Yes, I know most of you would rather use an on-line dictionary, but I'm a little old-fashioned there. We'll just have to agree to disagree.) Make your own recommendations too.