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Essential books for writers by Isabel Thomas

Is there an essential book for writers? Google Books suggests 3,090,000 options. Hive narrows it to 190, most with essential in the title.

When I’m writing non-fiction, my list of ‘essential’ books changes monthly and numbers in the hundreds. Lately it included On the Origin of Species, Know Your Diggers and Complete Origami – not all for the same project (yet).

This summer I’ve been writing fiction too, and the preparation is very different. Instead of maxing out my library card, I re-read authors that I love – recently a lot of Dr. Seuss, Louis Sacher and Allan Ahlberg.

But the real work of writing – the editing – is similar. And only one book is essential: The Elements of Style (Strunk and White).

 Elements of Style

Grown-ups may forgive poor editing. Children will close the book and move on.

This book will teach you to make every word work hard … to be a bit more Dr. Seussy:

“It has often been said
there’s so much to be read,
you never can cram
all those words in your head.

So the writer who breeds
more words than he needs
is making a chore
for the reader who reads.

That’s why my belief is
the briefer the brief is,
the greater the sigh
of the reader’s relief is.”
Dr. Seuss

Isabel Thomas writes non-fiction and fiction for children and teenagers, published by DK, Pearson, Collins, Curious Fox, OUP, Raintree, Laurence King, Wayland and Bloomsbury. Before becoming a writer, Isabel studied Human Sciences at Oxford University and worked in journalism and children’s publishing.
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About Isabel Thomas

Isabel Thomas studied Human Sciences at Oxford University before becoming a writer. Her books for young people include HOW TO CHANGE THE WORLD (OUP), shortlisted for the Royal Society Young People's Book Prize 2016, and SELF-DESTRUCTING SCIENCE: SPACE (Bloomsbury). Isabel lives in Cambridge, where she is zookeeper to three young sons. Website: www.isabelthomas.co.uk Twitter: @raisingchimps

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