Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Reading Like A Writer by Francine Prose

I was honestly surprised by just how much I got out of reading this book. It's not that I expected it to be unhelpful, but the wealth of information, and the way Prose conveys it, adds up to a terrific book. In Reading Like A Writer, Prose walks us through classic works of fiction, dissecting passages and pointing out how it is that the masters became masters. In each of the chapters she tackles a different part of writing (sentences, chapters, descriptions, dialogue, etc) and shows through example how great authors used these same story features. With all of the excerpts and detailed information, you might expect the reading to be tedious and dull, or maybe at least pedantic, but it is nothing of the sort. This book was truly a joy to read, one that I would love to actually own a copy of, as it has made me a better reader.
The book's subtitle is "A guide for people who love books and for those who want to write them". I definitely fall into the first group, though not really in the second. While reading the book, it does seem like Prose is speaking to future writers more than she is to lovers of books, but the wisdom that she passes along is no less useful. I have already noticed how my reading has improved, just over the week or two that I was reading this book. I feel that I've been able to get more out of books like Life of Pi and Year of Wonders. Reading this book also helped me to better articulate what was truly missing from The Exchange. The main rule it seems that Prose sets for new writers is that there are no rules, and look to the masters as your teachers. For readers, however, I think that this book is even more invaluable. And on a final note, I thought I should mention that I have not read most of the works that Prose quotes as she makes her explanations, but the quotes that she chooses, and the way she explains them, makes it so that anyone can understand and grasp her meaning. I highly recommend this book.


Rebecca Reid said...

I really like books that encourage me to write. I've been pretty obsessed with reading lately, though, so my writing has kind of stopped. This sounds like an inspiring book to get me writing again...at the same time I am reading!

Meg89 @ Literary Menagerie said...

Great review! There are so many "how to write/read" books published that it's hard to find the gems. Thanks for highlighting a good one!

Sandra said...

I read part of this book before it had to go back to the library. I'd love to own a copy, what I did read made me slow my reading way down and I loved the effect. This is a book worth buying I think. Thanks for reviewing it.