The Book: Sheridan Baker, THE PRACTICAL STYLIST, Fourth Edition. Harper & Row trade paperback, 1977. Good condition; pages and cover are slightly age-browned, text is lightly marked, owner's signature and doodles are on front flyleaf.
First Read: 1980
Owned Since: 1980
I thought I remembered using this as a textbook in an earlier English class, but the doodles on the front flyleaf refer to my junior year teacher, Mr. Babcock. I will always be grateful to Mr. Babcock for introducing us to Moby Dick in a way that made us feel the power of the story, instead of getting bogged down in the minutiae of whaling. He was also the best teacher of poetry I ever had; he once made me read Robert Frost's poem "Bereft" aloud twice because I got the meter wrong the first time around. It was enough to make me remember those lines to this day.
Anyway, this book is a manual for writing clear expository prose. Mr. Babcock did not agree with all of it. Inside the front cover is a checklist of 21 items with a big "NO" beside #10, "Sentences show some variety?" Next to that I wrote, "No, unless called for." Mr. Babcock despised the elegant variation, and I carry that cause forward. You can't go wrong by keeping things simple.
I'm not sure why I kept this book. I probably haven't opened it in 20 years. Some books are like security blankets, and I would miss this one if I lost it.