The Gift

Lewis Hyde

The original subtitle of this book defined it as “Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property,” which hints at the real message better than the revision: that real art, no matter the price, is always a gift from the artist to the audience.

The Elements of Editing

Arthur Plotnik

“The editor, not the author, best understands the readership,” Plotnik says. “Authors know their subject. Editors specialize in knowing the audience.”

Bird by Bird

Anne Lamott

Personal musings on the life of the writer. Lamott is primarily a novelist, but I find her writing advice to be just as relevant to nonfiction.

The Form of the Book

Jan Tschichold

A collection of essays written between 1949 and 1974, the year of Tschichold’s death.

Orality and Literacy

Walter J. Ong

Perhaps the only book I’ve discovered that carefully and thoroughly addresses the differences between oral and literate cultures.

Small Is Beautiful

E. F. Schumacher

Schumacher brilliantly interrogates modern economics and proposes an alternative: a Buddhist economics that takes as its imperative the quality of human life, not the quantity of profit.

A History of Reading

Alberto Manguel

Manguel’s lifelong dedication to reading plays itself out in a work that follows reading from clay tablets to present day.

Collected Fictions

Jorge Luis Borges

Short, surreal little tales that experiment with the form of the story and often take the library as their subject.

The Creative Habit

Twyla Tharp

Tharp’s treatise on creativity applies as well to writing or design as it does to dance.

Gravity’s Rainbow

Thomas Pynchon

Pynchon’s famously difficult masterpiece. I destroyed three copies in a (failed) effort to grasp it completely.

The Comedy of Survival

Joseph Meeker

Meeker argues that the destructive aspects of western civilization are founded on the tragic mode, while the comic mode offers a path for redemption.