Below I’ve listed a selection of books from my shelves that I refer to most often.

Reference

These are the books you need so that you don’t waste time wondering about spelling and commas when you should be writing.

  • A dictionary
  • A thesaurus
  • A book of names
  • A guide to Grammar. I like The Elements of Style, because I don’t have time for anything longer.

Practice

  • The 3 A.M. Epiphany: Uncommon Writing Exercises That Transform Your Fiction

    Not the easiest book of exercises I’ve ever played with, but one of the most satisfying. The author teaches creative writing, and has used these exercises on his students with success, which is a bonus. They are Oulipo-like in creating strict parameters to write inside, but this is half the fun – writing in a way you never normally write can be very creative.

  • The Creative Writing Coursebook: Forty Authors Share Advice and Exercises for Fiction and Poetry

    One of the best books for rambling through specific problems. Can’t quite get a handle of point of view? Unsure how to conjure up place? There’ll be something in here for you, and blessed be, there’s very little prescription – we’re all different, goose, gander, etcetera, etcetera. Some good exercises for doing with a willing writer friend too, if this is the sort of thing you can handle.

This Occupation

  • On Writing

    If you have ever needed a hand to hold while staring mournfully at your keyboard, then this book can be that hand. A mix of blog entries written for the Guardian, and essays exploring aspects of what it is to be a writer, and person. Wise, generous, compassionate. You can be a better human being after reading this book – fact.