Tag s | Book Review

My Most Frequently Used Reference Book

by Steve Laube

After pulling down this book from my shelf twice this past week I realized there is no other reference book I use more frequently.

The book?

The Synonym Finder by J.I. Rodale.SynonymFinder

I prefer it over Roget’s Thesaurus because it is laid out logically – in alphabetical order.

There are multiple occasions where I need an alternative word to the one I’m trying to use. So I look it up and there are dozens of synonyms listed for that word. And over one million of them in the whole book. (1,361 pages)

Hysteria. – 1. outburst, eruption, explosion, flare-up; fit, seizure, convulsion, spasm, paroxysm.
2. delirium, frenzy, madness, craze, furor, fury, Slang screaming-meemies.

Perfect for when a publisher moves the publication date of your book by three months and forgets to tell you. And you planned your entire travel and speaking schedule for Fall around the original release date. (This happened last week.)

Perfect for when the publisher sends you a horrible design for your book cover that has you erupting in an explosion of madness and screaming-meemies.

When brainstorming on new titles for a client’s book, out comes The Synonym Finder.

One suggestion, if you add this to your library? Buy the hardback. My copy has lasted over 20 years and should last another twenty barring some disaster.

Your turn:
What reference book do you use most frequently?

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Stories in Hiding Places

Since I blog on Tuesdays and the next April 15 to fall on a Tuesday is not for another eleven years, I felt like I couldn’t pass up this opportunity. Corrie ten Boom was born on this date in 1892 and died on this date in 1983.  If Evangelicals were …

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Why Did I Keep Reading?

As I believe I’ve mentioned on this blog, along with Christian books, I try to keep abreast of general market books. But I admit, I don’t always finish reading the books I begin reading. So what makes me stick with a book from cover to cover? Here’s just one example for nonfiction:

Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune  by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell, Jr. 

Why did I stay with this book while abandoning other books that may have been just as worthwhile or perhaps even better? Here’s why:

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A New Book by C.S. Lewis!

by Steve Laube

If you want the perfect gift for the bibliophile in your life consider this new book from C. S. Lewis called Image and Imagination (under $20 in paperback). To quote the description from the Cambridge University Press site:

This selection from the writings of C. S. Lewis gathers together forty book reviews, never before reprinted, as well as four major essays which have been unavailable for many decades. A fifth essay, ‘Image and Imagination’, is published for the first time.

Included are his reviews of Tolkien’s Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

But the crowning jewel is the 20 page essay “Image and Imagination.” This unpublished piece was found handwritten in a ruled notebook used by Lewis for his early drafts. Walter Hooper, who compiled this book, suggests that the essay was originally intended for but never sent to T.S. Eliot’s journal The Criterion in 1931. It is a rather dense exploration of ideas which, like much of Lewis’ academic work, demands much concentration of the reader.

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What Did You Read This Summer?

by Steve Laube

In 1957 H.L. Mencken coined a new word to describe a group of people which he called the bibliobibuli, which means “People who read too much.” (From the Greek “biblio”, meaning books, and the Latin “bibulous”, from “bibere”, to drink.)

But how much is too much? And who decides that? I happen to believe that there is always room for more. I was once asked what I did for a living. I answered, “I read.” They followed up with the question, “What do you do for fun?” I smiled and said, “I read.” It is both a privilege and a blessing to work with so many gifted authors and to be immersed in their ideas every day.

But there are tons of books I read outside of work. When thinking about the variety of books I read these past few months it became a fun exercise so I decided to describe a few of them below. I have intentionally avoided books by clients or other prospective authors.

Non-Fiction
As mentioned in an earlier post I teach the Bible in a small class every Sunday morning of about 20 people. Last week we completed our eight month journey through the Apocrypha and the history of the Western world during the 400 years between the book of Malachi and the book of Matthew. As part of my research I was able to finish working through:

The Anchor Bible Commentaries on both 1 & 2 Maccabees by Jonathan A. Goldstein (1,200 pages of extraordinary scholarship). The World of Jesus by Dr. William H. Marty (highly recommended introductory material, especially on Rome and Herod).
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Back to School for You

by Steve Laube

I’m of the generation that remembers the day after Labor Day being the first day of school. But no more. All through August kids of all ages have been headed back to the classroom. When our daughters were in Marching Band they had rehearsals on the field twice a day, starting two weeks before school began…which put their practices into the month of July…in Phoenix….where it was 114 degrees yesterday.

But while you may be past having to go to school you should still have a learning mindset. We all need to be open to new ideas and expand our understanding of the world around us. For writers, agents, and editors it may mean going to a writers conference or it could mean some self-study by reading something about this industry. Let me suggest a few books that could do the trick.

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The Writing Book for Your Year

by Steve Laube

Note the title of this post did not say “of the year” but “for your year.” It is rare for me to recommend books on writing because there are so many good ones out there, but this one is an exception.

The spiritual foundation of the writer is critical to surviving and even thriving in the call as an artist.  Acceptable Words: Prayers for the Writer (published by Eerdmans) is a book each one of you should acquire and make a part of your reading plan.

The book description includes:  “This book offers prayers that correspond with each stage of the writer’s work — from finding inspiration to penning the first words to ‘offering it to God’ at completion. Gary Schmidt and Elizabeth Stickney, experienced writers themselves, introduce each chapter of prayers with pithy pastoral reflections that will encourage writers in their craft.” Gary has twice won the Newberry Honor Award for his children’s books and is a professor of English at Calvin College. Elizabeth, Gary’s wife, wrote a wonderful blog called “Language and Prayer” where she introduces the book and she explores the weaving of faith and writing.

Throughout the book I was inspired by material from writers such as Augustine, Dante Alighieri, William Barclay, Thomas Merton, Dwight L. Moody, Reinhold Niebuhr, C.S. Lewis, Soren Kierkegaard, and Richard Baxter. Ranging across the entire spectrum of the Faith. It is a book that should be examined slowly and without haste.

Make this the book of your year and let the words from great writers be a cool splash of water on your soul.

Below is a brief book trailer citing one example from the book.

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Book of the Month – September 2011

Merchants of Culture: The Publishing Business in the Twenty-First Century by John B. Thompson (published by Polity) is this month’s “Book of the Month.”

I took this 432 page book with me on vacation and was mesmerized by its detailed analysis of the history of publishing and bookselling. Thompson’s chapter on “The Rise of Literary Agents” was, of course, particularly interesting.

I have been a student of this industry for 30 years and thoroughly enjoy understanding its nuances. (It just dawned on me that this means I’ve read nearly 1,500 issues of “Publisher’s Weekly!”) In my opinion, this is the one book you should read if you want an overview of everything that goes into the publishing business. Did you know that the practice of allowing booksellers to return stock for full credit did not start in the U.S. until the early 30s? It was used during the Great Depression as a way to stimulate sales and to encourage booksellers to carry more inventory without risk. Eighty years later that practice still plagues the industry (see my post “Many Happy Returns“).

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Book of the Month – August 2011

by Steve Laube

The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction by Alan Jacobs (published by Oxford in June 2011) is this month’s “Book of the Month.” I recommend you pick up a copy and enjoy the experience for yourself.

It seems a little odd to read a book about reading. But for those of us who are in the “business” of creating books it is always interesting to read a wise person’s take on the very lifeblood of our profession.

Many people say they no longer read and yet ironically they are always “reading” their texts, emails, blogs or favorite social network hub. They are not necessarily reading books which means they are truly missing out on the experiences of a lifetime. Alan Jacobs, a professor of English at Wheaton College offers some simple, powerful, and much needed advice:

read at whim,

read what gives you delight,

and do so without shame.

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Book of the Month – July 2011

by Steve Laube

Small Message, Big Impact by Terri L. Sjodin is this month’s “Book of the Month.” I recommend that every veteran and aspiring writer read this book and glean from it.

The key to this book is in the subtitle: How to Put the Power of the Elevator Speech Effect to Work for You. Sjodin defines the elevator speech as:  “A brief presentation that introduces a product, service, philosophy, or an idea.  The name suggests the notion that the message should be delivered in the time span of an elevator ride, up to about three minutes.  Its general purpose is to intrigue and inspire a listener to want to hear more of the presenter’s complete proposition in the near future.”

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