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A Writer’s Reference Books

Edith on retreat in Vermont, on a glorious summer morning.

Daddy, aka Allan Maxwell, JR, at the dinner table. 1923-1985. I still miss his gentle humor, keen sense of justice, and his devotion to finding the facts even during dinner.

We all know Mr. Google is our friend, much of the time. But for reference books, nothing beats sitting down and leafing through some real pages made out of paper. My dear departed father was famous for leaping up from the family dinner table when one of his four children asked a question. He’d let his food cool while he brought back the appropriate reference book from our extensive shelves laden with multiple encyclopedias and dictionaries. He’d find the answer and read it out loud.

I have a shelf full of writing reference volumes, not counting my American Heritage Dictionary. I need to get back to my WIP this morning, so I’m not going to list them all out, but I think you can see them pretty clearly. I have books on poison. On revision and manuscript submission. On what police officers know and do.

I have books on the craft of writing mysteries (including Hallie Ephron‘s Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel), general fiction, and memoir. Books on forensic linguistics. More about police procedure.

And I have the Emotion Thesaurus, the Dictionary of Idioms, and several valuable sources of historical information for the late 1800s.

That’s not all the reference books, of course, but it’s the core. I couldn’t write without them! If there are any you can read the title or author for, just ask.

Readers: Your favorite reference books for whatever you do?

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