Writers need to read if they want to improve. We learn, we borrow, we’re influenced, and in some cases, we steal.
Whether you’re a blogging veteran or wet-behind-the-ears rookie, there are certain books that will give you the knowledge, insight, and ability to be an effective blogger.
I am always reading books, sometimes in my industry, sometimes outside (my favorites are Christopher Moore humor novels and British murder mysteries), and trying to learn some of the techniques these writers use.
I have five books that I think every blogger should own, or at least read, if they want to improve their writing and become a better blogger.
These five books vary in industry and focus. They may tell you how to blog, how to write, or how to spell. But these are the five books that I have found to be the most valuable in my own professional blogging career.
- Corporate Blogging for Dummies: My good friend, Douglas Karr (@douglaskarr), and Chantelle Flannery wrote this tome for corporate bloggers everywhere. And while the title suggests it’s for corporate bloggers, anyone who wants to be a blogger can learn from this one. It talks about why blogging is important, what tools are available, and even how to write blog posts.
- The AP Stylebook: I’ve long maintained that blogging should follow AP Style when it comes to settling confusing questions of spelling, grammar, and punctuation. After all, we’re becoming citizen journalists, so we should follow journalistic style. The AP Stylebook can answer odd and esoteric questions, like the “proper” abbreviation of state names (AP style does not use the two letter postal abbreviations), whether to capitalize job titles (you don’t, unless you’re referring to the President of the United States), and even whether to use an Oxford comma (they don’t, but I think they’re horribly wrong about this one.)
- Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing: (affiliate link) I am a regular listener of Mignon Fogarty’s (@GrammarGirl) “Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips” podcast, and recommend it to anyone who wants to improve their grammar and punctuation usage. Her book on Better Writing is also a must for anyone who wants to improve their writing mechanics, and avoid the little nagging errors that are so tiny but seem to throw everyone into a terrible tizzy. (I’m also a fan of the A Way With Words show on NPR/podcast, but they don’t have a book out. Plus, I made Grammar Girl’s “Wordsmiths” Twitter list, which I’m very proud of.)
- Ernest Hemingway’s short stories: If you want to learn how to write with punch and power, read Hemingway. Especially his short stories. Especially anything with Nick Adams (Big Two-Hearted River). It has that punchy, short dramatic style that tells you how to craft short sentences that carry a lot of impact. Hemingway cut his teeth at the Kansas City Star in 1917, learning the style that made him the most recognized writer of his day. While some of his language and ideas are definitely from the early 1900s, his writing style is still something to study and learn from.
- Roger Angell’s Once More Around the Park: Roger Angell is the baseball writer for The New Yorker, and the master of the long meandering sentence. If Hemingway is a boxer, writing short, punchy sentences, Roger Angell is the old dude doing tai chi in the park on a warm Sunday morning, moving slowly but fluidly, and never stopping until he has achieved inner peace and gotten a low-impact workout in at the same time. Angell’s descriptions of baseball games, baseball fans, and even the parks is something even the non-fan will enjoy. It’s a book I definitely recommend reading, whether you’re a baseball fan or not. While the fan will appreciate his explanation of the games and the names of the fan’s childhood, the writer will appreciate the images Angell is able to conjure up, and the ease at which he writes long, smart sentences that carry the sounds and smells of a faraway day.
What are some of your favorite books for writers and bloggers? Are there any that you recommend? Any that you would stay away from? Leave a comment and let’s hear from you.
Thanks for sharing your list.
I’m with you on reading lit to improve your writing. I think it’s most useful for me to read good essays — Patrick Campbell, Michael Ian Black, Stephen Jay Gould. Getting some interesting voices in the back of my mind makes my blogging sparkle more, even for the corporate blogs I write. (And since I blog for painters and construction companies and stuff like that, the occasional sparkle transfusion is a must.)
For the math and science aspect of the job, I like Clout: the Art and Science of Influential Web Content, by Colleen Jones.
Great recommendations, I will start looking into these books as I continue to build my personal brand. I am grateful that there are people out there like yourself that take the time to help beginning bloggers and branders. It seems like easy stuff but the more I get into it, the more I have to look for good material to aid in my journey. Anyways, once again great post! Keep up the good stuff!
There are actually more than five books about blogging and content strategy. Corporate Blogging for Dummies just happens to be my favorite. Most of them say the same basic thing, but CPfD is a very good one.
As a new blogger, when I saw the title of this post, I thought, “Wow people wrote 5 books about blogging!?”
But after seeing the list I was relieved and realized that they would be very helpful for a blogger to read. Thank you for the tips!
I’m too busy to read these books, so I’ll just own them without reading them.
Just kidding. Great list of books! The last one was new to me as well.