Skip to main content

Book Review: On Writing Well by William Zinsser

   
My personal kind of beat-up copy
     I read this book for the first time a few years ago in middle school, when I got it as a birthday present from  an adult who had heard I liked to write stories.  At that time I was in this phase where I believed that the more adjectives and the bigger words I used, the more authoritative I sounded.  So when William Zinsser popped out and started telling me to Simplify, simplify, simply, my first impulse was to slam the book shut. But soon I saw the value of his advice, and that is how On Writing Well changed my life and my perspective on writing.
     What really convinced me to listen to him was how well he wrote.  Zinsser has this awe-inspiringly simple voice when he writes.  Reading his book was like sitting in an English class.  It was like listening to a soft-spoken but amicable relative talk.  True to his own teachings, there was not a single unnecessary adverb or frivolous noun anywhere.  And most of all, it was fun to read.  I think anyone, not just writers, could find enjoyment in this book because he writes so well.
     His excellent writing style aside, the book proffers loads of good advice.  It starts with the basics of building a simple solid sentence and goes on to provide whole chapters on writing articles of every kind: reviews, sports writing, news, humor, travel. He tells you how to conduct an interview.  He explains the process of building a book.  He assures you that although writing is hard and lonely, it is feasible to do it well if you drop the pretenses and write as yourself.  Everything that he says about writing, I have since found to be true.
     The point of this review is that if you use writing in your life or even if you would like to, this is the book to start with.  I have gone back to it many times since middle school and it is always helpful and inspiring.
If you feel the need to add to your platform of writing knowledge, I would follow On Writing Well with  On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King and Writing Magic: Creating Stories that Fly by Gail Carson Levine.
     -Carly
   

Comments

  1. OMG! I seriously need to read this! I loved writing ever since I was a kid, it gives me such pleasure. Thank you so much for sharing this, I'm gonna give it a shot right away!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Aw your welcome, it's a great book :)

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Thank you for talking to me!! I wish you lots of good books and brownies!

Popular posts from this blog

Best Reading from my First Semester

Ok, my only excuse for this long-ass hiatus is that I started college, and what with exams, essays, friends, newfound independence, and minor dramas, I nearly forgot I had a blog until this week.
But I'm back now, and here to tell you about the best books and stories I read during my last semester.

Novels
1. Citizen: An American Epic by Claudia Ward - A multi-media masterpiece about modern racism, with a particular focus on microaggressions.
2. Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward - The story of a young girl coming of age in an impoverished area of Mississippi, on the brink of one of the great natural disasters of the last decade.
3. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison - A classic allegory of the racial justice movement in America.
4. Beloved by Toni Morrison - Possibly my favorite book ever, Beloved is based on the story of Margaret Garner, a woman who escaped slavery with her children and, when recapture seemed inevitable, killed her children to their being returned to slavery.
Shor…

Book Review: The Spanish American Short Story, edited by Seymour Menton

I love the cover of this book.  Look closely - it's a little skeleton man clasping his hands over a cup of black coffee.  I don't know what it means, but it's delightful.      Anyway, I read this collection of short stories in Spanish - El cuento hispanoamericano - for a class I am taking this semester, but it is also available in English.  According to my professor, it's a unique book in that it offers the best representation of Latin American short stories throughout modern history, with details about literary movements and authors as well.  I liked some stories better than others - "The Tree" by Maria Luisa Bombal and "The Ruby" by Ruben Dario were my favorites - but even the ones I disliked, such as "Secret Love" by Manuel Payno, were included because they were representative of a certain movement or regional style that was worth acknowledging.        My only issue with this book is that a story I just mentioned, "The Tree,&…

Book Review: The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje

Beautiful writing and intensity of feeling were the major traits of this novel.  It is set in an abandoned Italian villa after World War II.  The villa is inhabited by a Canadian nurse, Hana, and a war patient whose entire body has been burned black.  Hana has chosen to nurse him alone rather than return home.  The patient is erudite and appears to be English.  Two other men, an Italian thief and a Sikh sapper, stumble upon and move in with them eventually.
     These five characters slowly reveal the traumas of their lives to one another.  But the most captivating story of all is that of the English patient, who narrates in bits and pieces his life in the desert and the love affair that changed it.  The speaking style of the patient is tense, intimate, and precise.  For example, while at the edge of a great loss, he "feels that everything is missing from his body, feels he contains smoke.  All that is alive is the knowledge of future desire and want" (157). This descr…