Reference Books: What are your favorites?
Inspired by Meredith’s post about Great Books to Read Aloud With Your Kids, I started thinking which print books are must-haves around my office. Yes, I know, with the Internet, I can always find the information I need without cracking open a book, but I think reference books are important for two reasons–one, the internet doesn’t always work and two, it’s often faster to just go straight to the “source” instead of figuring out which of 80.000,000 results you’re going to rely on for your answer.
Besides that, I often like to work with the router unplugged to avoid the distractions of Twitter and Facebook completely, and when I go online to do research, it’s much more tempting to follow a rabbit hole than it is when I simply open up a book and look up the answer. So, those are my reasons for having a print reference library (I’d love to hear yours!), but what five books are on my most-turned-to list?
- The AP Stylebook. I’ve mentioned my magazine background, and it was my very first internship where I learned the importance of a really good stylebook. They used AP, and I’ve stuck with it ever since. If you do any writing during the day, a book like this can help keep your writing style consistent so you’re not referring to Website in one paragraph and web site in another. (Though, I’ll admit, online, there are reasons to write it both ways, and I use email instead of the AP prescribed e-mail… So, in other words, use a stylebook, but don’t wed yourself to it.)
- The Oxford American Dictionary (full set). I have all 20 volumes on my bookshelf, but really, any good dictionary will do. When I was a kid, I used to read the dictionary when I ran out of books, so I splurged. (Weird, I know. But, it was illustrated, if that makes this revelation any better.)
- The Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus. I seldom use this one, but every so often, I absolutely must have a good synonym for a word, and I’m always glad I can turn to a print thesaurus instead of a web search.
- Flip Dictionary. Billed as the book, “For when you know what you want to say, but can’t think of the word,” I find this resource to be far more useful than my thesaurus. I think it’s in the way the words and concepts are linked, so you’ll want to find the resource that suits your thinking style best (though, really, I don’t think you can go wrong by having both a reverse dictionary and a thesaurus on your shelf). This is the style of resource that I find is most lacking online.
- The Elements of Style. The fifty-year-old classic continues to be a must-have writing resource. Jim Lehrer said, “Only something to actually write about trumps the list of what is required to put words together in some kind of coherent way.” Assuming you have something to write about ;-), this book will help you assemble your thoughts coherently.
So, those are my five top favorites. What are yours? Or are you an internet-only kind of researcher?
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