While searching for literature reading lists online I came across the Warwick University reading list for The Practise of Fiction and here are the reference books every writer needs in his arsenal to take on writing fiction:
Your own copy of the Oxford English Dictionary is essential. The list talks about the twenty volume Oxford English Dictionary as being the best reference tool but if you don’t have all those they say the desktop version is good enough for everyday use. I personally have the Concise Oxford English Dictionary which continues to serve me very well. Don’t see myself buying a 20 volume dictionary set but if that’s for you, get it.
“The Concise Oxford English Dictionary is the most popular dictionary of its kind around the world and is noted for its clear, concise definitions as well as its comprehensive and authoritative coverage of the vocabulary of the English-speaking world. Authoritative and up to date, this eleventh edition of the Concise Oxford English Dictionary contains over 240,000 words, phrases, and definitions, including 900 new words. It offers rich vocabulary coverage, with full treatment of World English, rare, historical, and archaic terms, as well as scientific and technical vocabulary, and provides hundreds of helpful notes on grammar and usage.”
Another essential tool is a thesaurus. The Roget’s Thesaurus is the best unless you are American in which case an American thesaurus would be best.
“Roget’s Thesaurus is the world’s most trusted wordfinder and is the essential companion for anyone who wants to improve their command, creative use and enjoyment of the language. It remains, definitively, a writer’s best friend.”
The recommended book on English Usage is the 1996 New Fowler’s edited by R. W. Burchfield.
“First published in 1926, A Dictionary of Modern English Usage is one of the most celebrated reference books of the twentieth century. Commonly known as “Fowler,” after its inimitable author, H.W. Fowler, it has sold more than a million copies and maintained a devoted following over seven decades, in large part because of its charming blend of information and good humor, delivered in the voice of a genial if somewhat idiosyncratic schoolmaster.”
A good book on grammar is also essential and the Oxford English Grammar by Sidney Greenbaum comes recommended.
“Written by one of the world’s leading grammarians, The Oxford English Grammar is an authoritative review of and topic reference for English grammar.”
The Elements of Style by W Strunk and E B White is well known and a must for every writer.
“You know the authors’ names. You recognize the title. You’ve probably used this book yourself. This is The Elements of Style, the classic style manual, now in a fourth edition. A new Foreword by Roger Angell reminds readers that the advice of Strunk & White is as valuable today as when it was first offered.This book’s unique tone, wit and charm have conveyed the principles of English style to millions of readers. Use the fourth edition of “the little book” to make a big impact with writing.”
Line by Line by Claire Kherwald Cook is the recommended reference book on editing.
“The essential guide for all writers. With over 700 examples of original and edited sentences, this book provides information about editing techniques, grammar, and usage for every writer from the student to the published author.”