Recommended Reading for Editors

This hot new track (read: listicle [still hot and new]) is for the editors out there. So, editors, grab that special style manual or manuscript and head to the dance floor (or, more appropriately, your desk)—we’re about to break it down for you with a sweet little recommended reading list. Oh, yeah.

Now, I do have a quick disclaimer for this list: One of the truths of being an effective editor is that, on top of knowing the minute mechanics of proper grammar and usage according to The Chicago Manual of Style or whichever manual you work with (and whichever house style guide applies), the editor must understand what makes writing interesting, engaging, and enjoyable—and the editor must be able to explain this to the author if necessary. As such, not all of these books will focus solely on editing; some of them are style guides and will therefore focus more on the mechanics of writing. They’re still important and still relevant. If you haven’t read them already, give them a chance.

  1. The Copyeditor’s Handbook: A Guide for Book Publishing and Corporate Communications by Amy Einsohn
    This handy handbook, written by Amy Einsohn, explains the practices of copyeditors—from general information about copyediting tasks, levels of editing, style sheets, querying, and resources to the technical bits regarding grammar, punctuation, tables and graphs, front and back matter, and even typecoding. It provides examples and exercises for more novice editors, as well as information about updates to The Chicago Manual of Style for more seasoned editors’ edification.
  2. The Subversive Copy Editor: Advice from Chicago (or, How to Negotiate Good Relationships with Your Writers, Your Colleagues, and Yourself) by Carol Fisher Saller
    As the title suggests, this particular guide gives readers advice on how to navigate difficult relationships—with a stubborn writer, with disagreeing colleagues, and with your perfectionist side. This guide is perfect for those learning to work in the editorial profession (which is different from just doing some editing). So, while it doesn’t get deep into the mechanics of writing, it is essential in its own way.
  3. Developmental Editing: A Handbook for Freelancers, Authors, and Publishers by Scott Norton
    This one is for the developmental editors out there, but it does include some helpful tips for copyeditors. This guide uses a variety of nonfiction books as case studies to inform Norton’s lessons about building narratives, shaping proposals, establishing a hook, and instituting an effective style and an engaging storyline.
  4. The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White
    This is a well-known, widely-renowned style manual. While I don’t think it’s going to revolutionize the way you think about writing style, it is absolutely, undeniably a classic and therefore is worth a shot—if for no other reason than to familiarize yourself with a cultural touchstone of the writing and editing world.
  5. What Editors Do: The Art, Craft, and Business of Book Editing (Chicago Guides to Writing, Editing, and Publishing) by Peter Ginna
    Okay, this one is really for those who are just getting into the publishing world and trying to get a grasp on how editing in book publishing works and what types of work are available. It could also make a slightly sassy, definitely passive-aggressive gift for those people in your life who keep asking what you, an editor, do and how exactly you’re making money from that. This book has essays from people in the book publishing industry who discuss what they do and how they do it, including perspectives from both large and small publishing houses, academic publishing, children’s publishing, and more. It emphasizes the continuing importance of editors and gives advice on how to enter the field.

There are many more guides out there for many different types of editors. This list is in no way meant to be comprehensive—it’s short and sweet and really just an introduction. No matter what type of editor you are or what you’re editing, these books will aid you in your quest to be the best editor you can be.

Summer Reading List Part Three: Books You Should Not Be Reading This Summer

In view of the spectacular success of my first two summer reading list blogs (we’re talking Facebook likes in the upper threes, people), I feel I would be remiss in not cramming one more in before the back to school sales end and the leaves start to change. You people seem to love when I tell you what to do!  This fills me with a sense of power I can’t help but attempt to abuse, so I figured I’d take my new powers for a test drive by telling you what not to do. Without further ado, here is my list of books not to read this summer!
Fifty Shades of Grey (the entire series)
E.L. James
If the fact that it’s poorly-spelled porn isn’t enough for you, consider these things: the innocent, virginal female/sexually dominant male thing has been done to death; the “author,” who originally wrote it under the pen-name Snowqueens Icedragon (which is actually pretty boss), has never been to the Pacific Northwest, despite setting the book here; and it contains the line “My inner goddess is doing the dance of the seven veils.” And it’s not a comedy. If you want to read something naughty, there are a lot of options available; such as Anais Nin’s The Delta of Venus and Pauline Reage’s The Story of O, many of which are far more literarily competent (and also happen make this book look like a nun’s guide to scrupulous chastity). Finally, it’s Twilight fan fiction and even the author of the Twilight series has refused to read it. Which brings us to our next book:
Twilight (the entire series)
Stephenie Meyer
Not to belabor a point, but this is yet another book series set in the Pacific Northwest and yet, much like Ms. Icedragon, Stephenie Meyer (yes, she spells her name with that insufferable “e”) had never even been here at the time of its writing. In addition to that, they’re romance novels. In addition to that, they’re poorly written romance novels. In addition to that, they’re poorly written romance novels about fairytale monsters and the teenage girls they love. Gross. Among the numerous legitimate, literary reasons you shouldn’t be reading Twilight this summer is the fact that the last book in the series was published in 2010, so you don’t even have the excuse that you’re curious as to why it’s such a popular phenomenon anymore. In the intervening four years, Twilight fandom has been absolutely steamrolled by the previous book on this list and by massive hit, The Hunger Games. Coincidentally:
The Hunger Games (the entire series)
Suzanne Collins
Let me tell you about a little test I like to perform on popular books: I take one off one of the numerous displays in whatever grocery store I happen to be in, open it to a random page, and read one paragraph. If I’m not laughing like a helium-addled hyena before line six, I will consider reading it. Needless to say, this book didn’t pass my test (I even had my boyfriend try the same test, which was totally for the sake of scientific rigor and not because I like to torment him). Despite the fact that this grindingly boring series is stuffed to the gills with worn out sci-fi tropes and is about as skillfully written as public bathroom graffiti, that’s not my major bone to pick with it.
My major issue with this book series is that it is awful, and yet ubiquitous in pop culture to the point of inducing physical nausea, and people always jump to the same defense of it: it’s getting kids to read. That is not ever, ever, ever a reason to support a book that is total garbage. If I caught my son reading this, I’d curse the day I allowed him to become literate. There is one thing that gets kids to read: parents. So do it. Don’t leave it up to whatever author is churning out the latest blockbuster soon-to-be-movie book. Opening up the world of literature to my 8-year-old son has been a hugely rewarding and magical experience for both of us. We recently started a new book together, which he requested with no prompting from me. That book is J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Silmarillion (fantasy that isn’t garbage). Surprised? You shouldn’t be. Kids are a lot smarter than adults give them credit for, so don’t encourage them to read things that will make them dumber. And don’t waste your time reading those books yourself.

Four Amazing Books You Won’t Find On Any Other Summer Reading List

By Rebekah Hunt
As the middle of summer approaches, people are getting ready to go on vacation (or are already on vacation, if they don’t go to summer school like I do). Anticipating the free time we’ve suddenly got, many of us are thinking about leisure activities like camping and going to the beach, or if you’re a huge nerd like me, reading for fun! The internet is absolutely chock-full of summer reading lists. However, I am constantly disappointed by the lightweight, pop-lit content of these lists. If we don’t want our brains to atrophy while we soak in the sunshine, we should probably read something intellectually stimulating. I’ve compiled a list of amazing, novel, bizarre, and interesting books guaranteed to keep your brain as bright as your glowing beach tan!
The Consolation of Philosophy
Boethius  (A.D. 524)
Sixth-century Roman philosopher Anicius Manlius Severinus Boëthius’ The Consolation of Philosophy is the last great Western work of the Classical Period. He wrote it while in exile awaiting execution on a trumped-up treason charge, and it was the last effort in his lifelong struggle to preserve ancient classical knowledge, particularly philosophy. It is written as an imaginary dialogue between himself and philosophy, personified as a woman.
The book argues that despite the apparent inequality of the world, there is, in Platonic fashion, a higher power and that everything else is secondary to that divine providence. While not explicitly Christian, it is considered to be the single most important and influential work in the West on Medieval and early Renaissance Christian philosophy.
The Liber Monstrorum
Possibly Aldhelm, et al. (late-seventh or early-eighth century)
The Liber Monstrorum is an Anglo-Latin catalogue of marvellous and fantastic creatures, which may be connected with the incredibly important and influential Anglo-Saxon scholar Aldhelm. It is transmitted in several manuscripts from the ninth and tenth centuries, but is often studied in connection with the far more popular Beowulf, since the Liber makes reference to some of the same people, including King Hygelac of the Geats.
This old English text is short enough to read while waiting for a bus, but offers a brilliant, thrilling, and often hilarious glimpse into the terrors that people believed walked the earth, and their ideas about things that actually did: from elephants and leopards to Minotaurs and Titans. For example, “…next to the river Euphrates they write that there is an animal which is called antelope, because with its long horns which have the shape of a saw it cuts through mighty oaks and fells them to the ground.” Amazing!
Liber Chronicarum
Hartmann Schedel (1493)
Hartmann Schedel was a German physician, humanist, historian, and one of the first cartographers to use the printing press. His Chronicarum (popularly known as the Nuremburg Chronicle, for where it was written) is an illustrated world history, in which the contents are divided into seven ages (First age: from creation to the Deluge; Second age: up to the birth of Abraham; Third age: up to King David; Fourth age: up to the Babylonian captivity; Fifth age: up to the birth of Jesus Christ; Sixth age: up to the present time; Seventh age: outlook on the end of the world and the Last Judgement). The Chronicarum’s beautiful maps were the first ever illustrations of many cities and countries, and are definitely worth looking over as an important piece of history and art.
Micromégas
Voltaire (1752)
While admittedly a short story rather than a full book, French philosopher and satirist Voltaire’s Micromégas (available as a free ebook!) is more than deserving of a place in this list. It is a significant development in the history of literature because, along with his story Plato’s Dream, it is a seminal work in the genre of science fiction. It recounts the visit to Earth of Micromégas, a being from a planet circling the star Sirius, and of his companion from the planet Saturn.
The home world of Micromégas is 21.6 million times greater in circumference than the Earth, and he stands 20,000 feet tall. He is banished from his world for writing a scientific book about insects, and takes the opportunity to travel around the Universe in a quest to develop his intellect and spirit. Micromégas and his friend wind up encountering humans, who test the philosophies of Aristotle, Descartes, Malebranche, Leibniz, and Locke against the travelers’ wisdom. I won’t spoil the ending because it’s pretty awesome, and if you’ve never laughed at jokes created before the electric light bulb, you’ve basically never lived.
Happy reading!
Image by Anne Adrian. Used with permission under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.