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I’ve been thinking about some of my favorite reference books this week. Since I’ve moved into a new apartment (yay me!), I’m in the process of reassembling and sorting my personal library. This includes, of course, my reference shelf.

I’ve got a handful of standards that I always have available. My dictionary and thesaurus are chief among these. Every once in a while, though, a specific project demands something unique. Currently, I’m borrowing The Empire of Death from V. When you’re working on a story about a village of coffin makers and gravediggers, such a thing is an indispensable aid. Additionally, I’ve recently acquired copies of 45 Master Characters and The Writer’s Guide to Character Traits, both of which are great fun when developing well-rounded characters.

Other times, I have to rely on the suggestions of others to track down new ideas. I found an article today in which several famous authors talked about their favorite reference books. Both Cassandra Clare and Neil Gaiman had the same choice, Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. This meant that I had to leave my desk at work and journey downstairs to the print reference collection to track down a copy. Ours is a few years out of date, but I’m planning to purchase a more recent copy for personal use.

Some of the best references are available online, and I strive to make use of them as well. One of the latest is the Digital Public Library of America, a bold project to freely share access to a wealth of information. I also love TV Tropes, but it will ruin your life. Seriously.

What about you, dear readers? Any favorite books/sites that you use frequently? Let me know.


  1. I like to use coats of arms in a lot of my writing, so I purchased a book of heraldry to learn more about them, and that has helped me a lot. I’ve also found reference guides to names (baby name books, my dad was very concerned when I bought one, and some online places that give origins and meanings of both surnames and foreign names) indispensable, since I choose names for my characters carefully.

    • Oh yeah. Name guides are indispensable. A heraldry guide is an an awesome idea too, actually. I’ll have to consider tracking one down.

  2. Reference books are indispensible for writers (I own several thousands — lost count after 2,000). I recently wrote a post that might interest you: Best Books for Writers. Hope it is helpful: Cheers, Alex

    • Thanks, Alex! Sounds like you’ve got a pretty good list of tools at your disposal. Thank you for sharing!

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