'Roget's International Thesaurus'
Roget's International Thesaurus

This isn't a standard how-to book. It provides the tools; the reader decides which ones to use. I've owned this thesaurus—the old-fashioned kind, with thumb notches—for 35 years. Although a thesaurus is usually defined as a dictionary of synonyms, I'm not the first to point out that it's less about the similarities between words than about the distinctions between them—distinctions not just in denotation but in connotation. Case in point: Just this week I completed the final revisions of At Large and At Small, an essay collection on which I'd been working for several years. The final section was the acknowledgments. One of the people I wished to thank was a friend who had dispensed editorial counsel. Hmm. What kind of editorial counsel? Was it excellent? Yes, but that's boring. Was it skillful? Yes, but so is the work of an auto mechanic. Thesaurus time! Was it sterling? Perfect: just the right meaning, plus the associations of luster and value. Just as my friend Adam was a sterling editor, this is a sterling book.