Nerd herd, unite! If your idea of a riveting good debate is on the subject of the Oxford comma, then we have a reading list for you. You can apply what you learn to everyday writing, reading, and speaking, but these aren't your average grammar textbooks — you just might enjoy the read.
By Lynne Truss
This New York Times No. 1 bestseller is probably the most accessible grammar book out there. Truss takes real-life and imagined examples of lackadaisical grammar and demonstrates the sometimes-hilarious, sometimes-horrifying outcomes of such grammar snafus. From overzealous and “unnecessary” quotation marks to knowing when you should use a semicolon versus a colon, the book manages to make grammar memorable, fun, and relevant.
By Patricia T. O’Conner
You just know a grammar book written by the former editor of the New York Times Book Review is going to be worth its salt. Now in its fourth edition, this modern grammar tome takes sharp aim at classic grammar rules and considers how language is used currently, effectively canceling dated standards like use of the word "whom." Best of all, O'Conner answers grammar questions you didn’t even know were questions, ensuring your writing is always up to date and perfectly polished.
By Roy Peter Clark
Another author with impressive credentials, Clark is a writing teacher with 40+ years of experience at The Poynter Institute, a school for journalism and democracy. With a lifelong mission to make better writers, this book contains dozens of short chapters filled with examples to help you untangle common grammar quandaries. Thanks to easy-to-reference summaries at the end of each section, you'll be left with no questions after reading this guide.
By Bill Bryson
Grammar is but one subset of language studies. There’s also spelling, etymology, sentence structure, pronunciation, and more — all of which are tackled in this expansive history of English’s unlikely origins and evolution over the centuries. If you want a comprehensive yet entertaining understanding of where grammar fits in English and all its complexities, this is a great resource to help you build a foundation.
By Benjamin Dreyer
Maybe it's a little bold to claim your own version of English, but if anyone can get away with it, it's Benjamin Dreyer. He's the copy chief at the book publisher Random House, overseeing the punctuation and grammar choices for tens of thousands of books a year. Giving pertinent guidance with a dash of wit — such as, "Likely you don't need much advice from me on how to use em dashes, because you all seem to use an awful lot of them." — this 2019 book would be a welcome gift for your favorite wordsmith.
Bonus for the Kids: The Girl’s Like Spaghetti: Why, You Can’t Manage Without Apostrophes!
By Lynne Truss
Yes, Truss makes the list twice. She took her best-selling adult grammar read and adapted it into a series of kid-friendly titles, showing good grammar is for any age. Packed with fun illustrations to demonstrate hilarious grammar mishaps — for example, the giant kids’ playground vs. the giant kid’s playground — each book is an easy-to-digest introduction of grammar to the next generation of shipshape writers.