The books that have most influenced me as a blogger, here listed from oldest to newest (those with links have posts of their own):
Thucydides: History (written by -395) – write the truth as clearly as possible. The truth plainly stated is far more valuable than lies decorated. Writing should be a glass window onto the truth and yet, somehow, also an X-ray machine.
Winston Churchill: Second World War (1953) – in particular his account of the fall of France in 1940. I knew how it was going to end, of course, but the way he wrote it it still came as a shock. It seems he did that by avoiding any build-up or warning, but instead just laid down one grim fact after another.
Winston Churchill: History of the English-Speaking Peoples (1958) – in particular his account of the Spanish Armada. I used to be a Wikipedian and a reader of newspapers, where a neutral point of view is prized. Churchill showed me that a strong point of view, even one the reader will not agree with, makes writing shorter and more forceful.
Golden Book Encyclopedia (1959) – When I was seven I copied articles from this, complete with the pictures (as best I could). Then I got the idea that I could write articles of my own based on original research. I remember doing one on earthworms. The unwitting model for this blog.
Isaac Asimov: Photosynthesis (1968) – When I was 12 I was in the hospital for a month. When I was well again, my science teacher made me do a report on photosynthesis. I went to the school library and found this book. Asimov showed me that writing should be pretty much like talking, that most long words just get in the way. The opposite of what I learned at school and university:
Jamaica Kincaid: A Small Place (1988) – When I was at university I was taught to speak about injustice in long Marxist words – like it was something hard to understand and hard to explain. But Kincaid talks about it in simple words. Because she sees it straight, because her mind cuts through all the long-winded lies.
Francis-Noel Thomas and Mark Turner: Clear and Simple as the Truth (1994) – classic prose style as a model of writing.
Jeffrey Veen: HotWired Style (1997) – where most of my ideas about web design come from.
Stephen King: On Writing (2000) – He says to write 1,000 words a day. I cut that in half and made it 500, both because it was something I could manage, for the most part, and because I thought it was a good length for a blog post: not too long, not too short.
Rael Domfest, et al: Google Hacks (2006) – tips on web design and, especially, search engine optimization: how to get the pages of your website high in search engine listings. I have built that into the design of my posts.
– Abagond, 2017.
- If you like this blog you might also like… – books that are like this blog in terms of content.
- How to write a blog post (or at least how I do it)
- Books that have influenced me most as a person