Another semester here at SJSU is nearly complete. You’ve stocked up on your favorite energy drinks, replenished your coffee stash, and charged your laptops in preparation of a busy finals week.
But, have you given thought to how you can continue to work on your writing skills after the frenzy of finals when you’re on the long winter recess?
If your reaction is: “What?!? You want me to do WORK over my precious time off?” it’s time to take a deep breath and consider the following information: studies have shown that there’s a significant loss of knowledge and skills over long holidays like summer break.
You’re not feeling so indignant now at my suggestion, are you? (I hope not. I’m even giving you this plan early so you don’t have to worry about procrastinating over Finals Week.) And, don’t worry, the work I’m suggesting is useful and just might even be fun.
So, here’s your winter break reading list, filled with books about writing, grammar, and style that might even inspire you to do a little writing over the break.
Eats, Shoots, and Leaves – As the Goodreads review states, “This is a book for people who love punctuation and get upset when it is mishandled.” A book about grammar that gets nearly a 4-star rating can’t be that bad, right?
When you catch an Adjective, Kill it – Let’s just put it this way, if you like Schoolhouse Rock, you’ll probably enjoy this book.
Between You and Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen – If you need to learn about grammar you might as well learn from the best. Mary Norris has spent more than three decades at The New Yorker so you’re in good hands.
The Elephants of Style: a Trunkload of Tips on the Big Issues and Grey Areas of Contemporary American English – This book is one I was assigned in college and I still find it funny.
Woe is I: the Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English – This grammar book is a best-seller. Plus, it even features a chapter on the language of the internet!
Writing / Style Titles:
It was the Best of Sentences, it was the Worst of Sentences: a Writer’s Guide to Crafting Killer Sentences – The overview says it all: “In this wickedly humorous manual, language columnist June Casagrande uses grammar and syntax to show exactly what makes some sentences great—and other sentences suck.”
Words on the Move: Why English Won’t – and Can’t – Sit Still (Like, Literally) – This book helps us understand how language evolves and offers some fun tidbits along the way. Cher from Clueless probably has a cameo somewhere.
Writing Tools: 55 Essential Strategies for Every Writer: Ever felt overwhelmed by the number of rules you need to follow in writing? Now, you can follow these 55 strategies!
Classics of the (Creative Writing) Genre:
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft – There’s a reason why Stephen King has had such a long career as a writer – he’s good at it. This part-memoir, part-writing primer will entertain a wide audience of readers and hopeful writers.
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life – At some point in your college career you’ve probably heard at least one of your instructors refer to her famous essay “Shitty First Drafts.” Guess what? That essay is found in this book!
Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within – Need a little encouragement? Let Natalie Goldberg offer you gems like this one: “I don’t think everyone wants to create the great American novel, but we all have a dream of telling our stories – of realizing what we think, feel, and see before we die. Writing is a path to meet ourselves and become intimate.”
The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity – Ask a roomful of writers to mention a book that has changed their lives and inevitably at least one will mention Julia Cameron’s classic.
Time to start checking some of these books out at the local library!