The Art of the Reference

Becca Theaker is a proud member of Red Cedar Review‘s social media team. In this piece, she shares some much-needed love for the nonfiction brand literature. Enjoy.


The reference aisle of Barnes and Noble is always one of the emptiest. Maybe that’s why it’s so appealing to me. If you find a book you absolutely wish you could buy, and if you tuck it away real sneakily, your efforts are wasted. The books labeled “reference” almost always go unnoticed, untouched. I guarantee that if you’re looking for a quiet reading place, or just an area of the store that moves at a slower pace, look to these shelves.

The variety is just as big some of the paperbacks; ranging from The Breakout Novelist: How to Craft Novels That Stand Out and Sell by Donald Maass to The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run into in College by Harlan Cohen. Without a doubt, if ever seeking preparation for a milestone, the reference books will always nurture you or just keep you entertained if that’s what you need.

Reference books have guided me down every path I’ve followed in my life. I recall sitting on the ground, scanning the college reference shelf and absorbing information about college application essays. They taught me how to write to engage a reader, how to appear interesting enough on paper for a school to invest in me. I was seventeen, then, and I still pop in to visit this section every once in a while. Just to revisit my past, to reminisce on a version of myself that needed the guidance these books provided.

They come to life in a way; it’s simple to become captivated in the personality each book possesses. Endless writing books have provided the comfort and knowledge of that of a friend. Their intentions personified into an idea, a vessel of hope. Even now, as a writing student, I look to them for that extra push. For advice from an old friend.

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