What are some good books on English Composition?
April 8, 2012 11:31 AM   Subscribe

Here's my question. I am a returning non-traditional student, and would like to know of some really good books on English Composition, Language, Literature, and Research that would help me in my studies. Thanks.
posted by Lillian7 to Education (13 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
the Elements of Style, Strunk & White. It's fallen somewhat out of fashion but I think it's essential for learning how to write plain, clear, concise prose.
posted by Ideefixe at 11:46 AM on April 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

Mike Rose's Lives on the Boundaries uses storytelling to get across his philosophy regarding education for non-traditional students. It's a classic. Rose teaches composition and literature and he used to run the Writing Center at UCLA. He was a non-traditional student himself.
posted by Jagz-Mario at 11:56 AM on April 8, 2012

And this is a free textbook written by teachers of writing, with students as the intended audience. It's called Writing Spaces and all the essays are free to download. (Full disclosure: one of the essays was written by me. I'll tell you which one if you memail me.)
posted by Jagz-Mario at 12:21 PM on April 8, 2012

You absolutely need to buy A Glossary of Literary Terms by Abrams. If you're going to be taking lit classes, this will be your bible.
posted by lobbyist at 12:39 PM on April 8, 2012

Check out Line by Line: How to Edit Your own Writing by Claire Kehrwald Cook. It transformed my papers when I was an undergraduate.

Also, check out The English Studies Book: An Introduction to Language, Literature and Culture by Rob Pope.
posted by koinonia at 12:51 PM on April 8, 2012

For writing/research matters, check out The Craft of Research by Wayne Booth, et al.
posted by 5Q7 at 1:50 PM on April 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

Forget Strunk & White; the few useful bits of information (which you can get many other places) are drowned in a sea of bad or inadequate advice. For English usage, the only book you can rely on is Merriam-Webster's Concise Dictionary of English Usage; it's accurate, sensible, and cheap.
posted by languagehat at 1:55 PM on April 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

A pocket style MLA manual. (I can't remember the one I had) but it was invaluable!
posted by misspony at 3:54 PM on April 8, 2012

Oh! Oh! Oh! "How to read literature like a professor" by Thomas C. Foster. You must must must get it!
posted by misspony at 4:00 PM on April 8, 2012

I enjoy reading Garner's Modern American Usage and/or A Dictionary of Modern American Usage which I haven't read] which talk, in slightly different format, about words and phrases that cause people trouble in English, in the US. Readable and interesting.
posted by jessamyn at 5:47 PM on April 8, 2012

The Sense of Structure: Writing from the Reader's Perspective is an excellent guide to making your papers make sense to others....in fact, everything by George Gopen is a safe bet.

The Craft of Argument is also fantastic. If you get the edition with the readings included, you'll get the most out of the book.

2nding misspony on the Foster book. You might also get something out of this site:
posted by Prof Iterole at 2:08 AM on April 9, 2012

The Brief Penguin Handbook is my go-to style/mechanics/etc. manual for students.

Purdue's Online Writing Lab is also an extremely helpful (and free!) writing resource.

Finally, I'd strongly suggested that you find out if your institution has a Writing Centre available for students. While reading writing manuals, handbooks, and guides is a great way to develop your writing skills, writing studies research shows that getting feedback from other writers is the single greatest determinant of writing improvement; this is exactly the kind of help you can receive through a one-on-one or group writing tutorial at a writing centre. Although I haven't looked up any of the research particular to second-language learners, I suspect that those types of sessions would be even more useful, especially for getting assistance with things like prepositions, articles, and the other aspects of English that are just...ridiculous to learn.

A good writing centre will also have handouts, worksheets, and other aids that can be helpful for working through particular aspects of composition, from structure and argument to grammar, punctuation, and citation/format styles.
posted by experiencing a significant gravitas shortfall at 2:38 PM on April 10, 2012

Thanks a lot. I'll have to check these out.
posted by Lillian7 at 2:56 PM on April 12, 2012

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