(Well, I came back for a blog post! I missed sitting down and writing out my thoughts so much!)
I can't believe I've never mentioned these books. I would probably name Miss Manners as one of the top 10 most influential writers in my life. Her no-nonsense, bitingly witty, perfectly correct writing is brilliant. I was first introduced to Miss Manners through my mother, who has all of her books and would sit, reading them and laughing uproariously. Some time in early high school, I picked up one and fell in love.
Miss Manners has written a manners advice column in newspapers for years, starting, I think, some time in the 80s. People write in with some manners question or problem and then she addresses it, usually with a few biting remarks. However, I was introduced to her through the books, not the newspaper column. Miss Manners, or Judith Martin, has written many compilations of various categories of questions and her responses to them as well as essays that she has written. The topics of the books are wide-ranging from childrearing to manners in a digital age (written in the 90s, but still surprisingly applicable to us today...although maybe not the part about answering pagers).
Miss Manners advocates bringing Victorian manners back into the 21st century. Things like carrying a nice hanky with you when you go out and the proper way to introduce elders to one's contemporaries are carefully covered. However, Miss Manners is also quick to point out the errors of societal mistakes made in earlier generations. I appreciate this willingness to bring back some earlier customs and manners, but not to be too hasty to bring everything back.
I often read Miss Manners when I'm between books. They're the kind of thing that you can pick up, read 10 pages of, and then drop, at least theoretically. What actually happens is that you tell yourself that you're only going to read 5 pages and then get on your work and 2 hours later, you've read half of the book and you're completely worn out from laughing out loud.
The books are also useful. When I have completely forgotten the correct format for writing a really nice sympathy note or I have clean forgotten that rule about wearing white shoes (it's Memorial Day to Labor Day, readers), I know that I can turn to Miss Manners and she will give me the answer along with a pithy remark that makes me laugh.