Friday, December 6, 2013

Gifts for Writers

Have a writer or two on your gift list this year? (If you live near us, you probably do.) Sick of buying them fancy notebooks and pens? Do they already own (or don’t want) every book on writing all the way to William Zinsser? Here are some book ideas NOT in our writing section that would make great gifts for writers. (And also, not anthologies of their preferred genre or Writer’s Markets.)

Home Ground: They don’t have to be a nature writer to love this unique book of words from the American landscape. Not only is it a useful reference guide, the quotations and definitions put the words in a literary and historic context, giving them even more depth. One possible unique use for this book; place names in fictional universes. Who wouldn’t be intrigued by a story set in Despoblado or Tseghiizi?

The Works: Anatomy of a City: Nothing helps a writer in any project quite like a robust reference section within arms reach. Ascher’s book on the logistics of New York City is a must have in any robust reference section. Sewage. Electricity. Mail. All the little details that give stories, novels, and essays a depth of facts.

The Where, The Why, and the How: Whether you have a specific question or are looking for general inspiration this illustrated collection of information is a wonderful book and the perfect cure for both a basic question and the relentless blinking of the cursor on the blank page. Questions like “Why Do We Blush?” and “Do Immortal Creatures Exist?” can be writing prompts as well as reference material.

Novelty: A History of the New: Writers are concerned about originality, freshness, newness, that which hasn't been done. But “novelty” is just an unusual idea. Maybe it’s a good one, maybe it’s a bad one, and maybe it’s a vastly more complicated idea than we assume. For those struggling to write a “new” book, it might be useful to wrap their heads around what we actually say when we characterize something as “new.”

Far from the Tree: How the heck do people work? Seriously. In a way, all writers struggle with this question and all books offer up their own answers. Solomon’s massive, thoroughly researched, award-winning book explores the relationship between family and identity. Whether the writer in question is working on a hyper-realist family drama or not, Far from the Tree will provide useful information and perspective on the human animal we are all writing about.

The Use and Abuse of Literature: Majorie Garber has read at the store a couple of times and is one of those people who exudes brilliance even when she’s just standing there. With this book, she asks some of the most difficult and important questions about literature. What do we mean when we say “literature?” Why have people been predicting the death of literature since Plato? Is reading literature “good” for us? Whether or not your writer thinks of what they write as “literature” Garber’s insights will be enlightening to all who work with language.

The Novel: An Alternative History: According to critic Steven Moore's exhaustive study, the course of our most popular form of written expression has been a lot wilder than usually reported. Moore writes from the perspective that novelists have been experimenting with the novel long before the 20th century. One way to break out of a writing rut, no matter what you're trying to write, is to read something different and this two volume work (Volume 2 here) is filled with reading suggestions.

Any Big Old Baby Name Book: Character names are hard.

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