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
   

Popular posts from this blog

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,&…

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: Che by Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colon

I'm back with another graphic novel!  And this one isn't about zombies - it's about Ernesto Guevara de la Serna, better known as Che Guevara.  This beautiful, color-illustrated comic book is a biography of the revolutionary figure, from the famous motorcycle trip he took through Argentina partway through medical school, to his success as an Argentinean communist fighting for Fidel Castro in Cuba, to his capture by government soldiers while aiding rebels in Bolivia, and subsequent execution without trial.
     A good fourteen pages of the novel are spent describing in brief the history of every country in South America.  I admit that I found this section boring at first.  But honestly I benefited from it, first of all because in high school I learned very little about South American history.  World Wars I and II got a lot of attention in my history classes, but the revolutions of Latin American countries did not.  So this book gave me a crash course.  Second of all, t…