Thursday, July 31, 2008

What's Your Favorite Book?

I am asked this question a lot. Sometimes it's disguised as an educational tool as in, "What book has influenced you most?" Or "What book would want with you on a desert island?"

Depending on the time of day and what my particular hunger level is (low blood sugar has a HUGE effect on my choice of books), I will answer "A Conspiracy of Dunces" or "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" or if I think I'm really smart that day, "Foucault's Pendulum." This is usually enough to spark a discussion about other books, other favorites, authors I'd forgotten about - and serves to completely take the focus off me and whatever my choice happened to be at that moment.

In the past week, though, I realized I DO have a favorite book and it's not anything I have ever mentioned at any reading or school visit.

It's Roget's thesaurus. That's right - the book that lists words and their synonyms (and antonyms). I use it every single day when I'm writing. I refer to it all the time and rely upon it to make my writing stronger. I feel very passionate about word choice: the English language is filled to the brim with words and to not use them - and use them properly - is a crime!

Why use the exact same word to describe a cloud as you would a person? Those times that you're writing and you think, "this is kind of the word I want but not exactly" are the perfect occasions to get out the thesaurus and pick the right one. Many times I'll search for the word I want and in the searching discover another word I love, one that is perfect for a different sentence so I'll go back and replace it with the new, better word.

Having a thesaurus by your side is like owning a closet full of shoes: sure, you could always wear those black pumps, but the silvery gladiator sandals would really spice things up!