(Cross-posted on The (New) Legal Writer)
John McIntyre inspired this post. John was recently let go as a copy editor by the Baltimore Sun due to the newspaper’s financial death spiral. Anyway, the idea is to list 15 books important to you. Says John, “In my case, I’ve construed it to be books that I’ve looked into repeatedly, or the 15 books I would want to pack up when the severance runs out and the sheriff shows up to turn me out of the house.” With that thought in mind, here are my 15, in the order that they pop into my mind:
- The Bible. Specifically, the New American translation. I can’t imagine going through life without a Bible handy.
- Bryan A. Garner, A Dictionary of Modern Legal Usage. I need this book for my job, and there’s no other book I know of that covers the same ground.
- John Kennedy Toole, A Confederacy of Dunces. The best New Orleans-based novel ever written.
- Anthony De Mello, Awareness. This book helped me turn the corner on depression. My current happiness is a result of things I learned from it.
- Walker Percy, The Second Coming. I need at least one Walker Percy book on this list. Of all his novels, this is my favorite. The Last Gentleman is a close second.
- Flannery O’Connor, A Good Man Is Hard to Find. This collection of short stories will punch your mind in its solar plexus.
- Roy Blount Jr., Feet on the Street. A guy not from New Orleans gets New Orleans. And his outsider’s perspective enables him to get New Orleans in a way that most natives miss.
- Richard Daniels, The Heavy Guitar Bible. This book was written for would-be rock-and-rollers. In my case, it introduced me to the structure of the blues—particularly the pentatonic scale.
- Bryan A. Garner, The Winning Brief. Several years ago, the first edition of this book (and Bryan’s accompanying seminar) raised my brief-writing consciousness.
- William Strunk and E.B. White, The Elements of Style. This book does not tell you everything you need to know about writing. But I don’t know of any other book that packs so much sound advice into so few pages.
- Ruggero Aldisert, Winning on Appeal. Every appellate lawyer needs this book. I am an appellate lawyer. Therefore, ....
- Edward Good, A Grammar Book for You and I — Oops, Me! This book and one of its predecessors, Mightier Than the Sword, reveal the grammatical structure of the English language and how a writer can use that structure to maximum effect.
- George Gopen, The Sense of Structure. This book too aims to reveal the power of structure to a writer. While Ed Good talks about grammatical structure, George Gopen talks about syntactic and linguistic structure.
- Roy Peter Clark, Writing Tools. This may be the best book on writing in general that most legal writers are unaware of. Like Ed Good and George Gopen, Roy will add some tools to your writing toolbox. Or, if you’re a lawyer, he will add weapons to your writing arsenal.
- Flannery O’Connor, The Habit of Being. This is a collection of Flannery’s letters. Many of them offer simple and profound spirituality. All of them are served up by one of the south’s best all-time writers.