Six must-read books for translators

Translators like to read: if they didn’t, they probably wouldn’t be translators. Reading for fun is all well and good, but sometimes it’s nice to read for professional development. But what to read? We’ve put together a list (in no particular order) of six must-read books to start you off.

1. How to Succeed as a Freelance Translator

A brilliant book for anyone just getting started as a freelance translator, How to Succeed as a Freelance Translator by Corinne McKay takes you through various important topics, such as starting and growing your business, your home office setup, setting your rates and much, much more. Plus it’s also an excellent source of general translation-related tips and resources. Also available on Kindle.

2. The Entrepreneurial Linguist

A little more in-depth and much wider ranging than Corinne’s book, The Entrepreneurial Linguist by Judy and Dagmar Jenner takes many of the topics touched upon in How to Succeed as a Freelance Translator even further – making it a longer read (with more pages and smaller type) than Corinne’s book. Mainly concerned with tips and ideas to help you develop and progress your translation business, The Entrepreneurial Linguist is a must-read for anybody looking to take their personal translation business to the next level. Kindle Version.

3. Is That a Fish in Your Ear?

A somewhat lighthearted look at translation in general, Is That a Fish in Your Ear? by David Bellos isn’t anywhere near as concerned with professional development as some of the other books listed here, but it will definitely get you thinking. Starting off with a basic question – ‘What Is a Translation?’ – it touches upon a number of different (and often entertaining) issues that translators need to get to grips with – plus it’s also a book to buy for others, since it’s written for a relatively wide-ranging audience (not just for professional translators).

4. Translation as a Profession

A great read for both beginners and veterans alike, Translation as a Profession by Roger Chriss is packed with useful information, which it sets out to impart without beating around the bush – a bit like the stark design of the front cover!

5. The Translator’s Handbook

This is an oldie – first printed back in 1996 – now in its 7th revised edition.  The title implies to some (who then give the book less stars than it deserves on Amazon) that the book contains info about how to translate … which isn’t its main concern. So don’t go making that mistake. Instead, The Translator’s Handbook by Morry Sofer is more about giving an overview of the subject, professional development and, above all, useful resources.

6. Mox’s Illustrated Guide to Freelance Translation

Books on translation don’t get any more fun to read than this one. Mox is a fictitious cartoon character that all freelance translators can relate to – he’s highly educated, works too hard, hardly earns the minimum wage, and is largely misunderstood by friends, family and neighbours. Written by Alejandro Moreno-Ramos and available through his website. Genius!

Picked up any great tips from any of the above? Know of any other must-read books on translation?

8 responses

  1. Maria Wyborn Avatar
    Maria Wyborn

    Another great book for translators to read, at any phase of their careers, is “The Prosperous Translator – Advice from Fire Ant & Worker Bee”, by Chris Durban. It also has the advantage that you can read the chapter that is most relevant to you and then go back to other chapters as you need it. I strongly recommend it. Maria Wyborn.

    1. I second Maria, “The Prosperous Translator – Advice from Fire Ant & Worker Bee”, by Chris Durban is essential!

  2. I recommend “Business Success for Freelance Translators” by Alex Eames. I read it some time ago under its previous incarnation as “How to Earn $80,000+ Per Year as a Freelance Translator” and found that it covered similar ground to #5 above, but in a much more comprehensive, practical and up-to-date way.

  3. Thank you so much for including us. We really appreciate it! And yes, Chris’ book is fantastic. We’ve long given Corinne’s book as a gift, and our recent favorite is, of course, Mox.

    1. Food for Translators Avatar
      Food for Translators

      No problem. Thanks for writing such an inspiring book!

  4. Stephen Walrond Avatar
    Stephen Walrond

    Great article.

    1. Food for Translators Avatar
      Food for Translators

      Glad you liked it.

  5. Thanks for the article! I’ve just found this website and it seems very exciting.