I missed this week's Booking Through Thursday but since it seemed made for me, I decided to post on it anyway. The question was:
Writing guides, grammar books, punctuation how-tos . . . do you read them? Not read them? How many writing books, grammar books, dictionaries–if any–do you have in your library?I think I've only got one "writing book" on my shelves, Philosophical Writing: An Introduction, which was a set book for my Master's course. I don't think I would have bought it otherwise, but I did read it, and you never know, it may come in handy one day, if only for swatting wasps.
As for the others, there are too many to list, but my copy of The Chicago Manual of Style is my treasure. I can't tell you how often that gets taken down. It's regarded the The Book in this household, and when I gave a copy to my elder son last Christmas he was delighted. It sits beside Fowler's Modern Usage, Roget's Thesaurus (a fourteenth birthday present from my parents - we're a funny family, I suppose) and a line of dictionaries: for work there are the Oxford English and Harrap's New English/French, for fun there are various dictionaries of slang, quotations and symbolism, pocket Italian and Latin dictionaries, books on grammar . . . I use online versions too, with a subscription to Merriam-Webster, and shortcuts to Chambers and several others. And they are only the tip of the iceberg of the books I regard as essential aids to writing, the stack of encyclopaedias and other reference books I couldn't live without - on science, mythology, heraldry, history. If I could only rescue one from a fire it would be Chicago, which is daft, because it's online now, but I know the layout and can find what I want in it, and anyway, it's there, just where I need it.
When I was first married and we were poor and had to make our own entertainment, we used to play games with the dictionary - usually just "I'll pick a word and you guess what it means" but occasionally a version of Call My Bluff, where you actually invent definitions - very good for the vocabulary, and great for playing with children, too.