REVIEW Reading Like a Writer

In this month's Review, Claire Watts introduces Francine Prose's Reading Like a Writer, a book that shows you how to learn from everything you read.

I have to admit that I find reading instructional books about writing hard. It all seems quite straightforward as the writer sets it out on the page, but then, when it comes to applying it to my own work, I don’t know where to start. In an ideal world, you’d pick up a bit of this from this method and a bit of that from that method and come up with your own. But how many manuals do you have to read before you get to that stage? To be honest, I’d rather read a lot of really good books and learn how to do it from them.

Which is pretty much what Francine Prose’s Reading Like a Writer is all about. Remember when you had to do close reading at school? This book shows you how to develop that skill to help you in your quest to become a better writer.

Prose writes:

This book is intended partly as a response to that unavoidable question about how writers learn to do something that cannot be taught. What writers know is that, ultimately, we learn to write by practice, hard work, by repeated trial and error, success and failure, and from the books we admire. 

In chapters titled ‘Words’, ‘Sentences’, ‘Dialogue’, ‘Gesture’, etc, Prose takes us through a huge range of writers’ work - Franz Kafka, Jane Austen, Louisa May Alcott, George Eliot, Raymond Chandler to name just a handful. She digs deep into examples of skilful writing to point out answers to questions big and small. And between the examples, Francine Prose is herself an accomplished and entertaining writer. For what is essentially a how-to book, I found this a cracking read.

Header image: Sara Netherway  

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1 comment:

  1. Nice one! Useful, especially for people who work with students and provide assignment help, like I do. Helpful resource, thank you.


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