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Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People…
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Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who… (original 2006; edition 2006)

by Francine Prose

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2,389662,612 (3.75)168
Member:Lcwilson45
Title:Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them
Authors:Francine Prose
Info:HarperCollins (2006), Hardcover, 288 pages
Collections:writing, Your library
Rating:****
Tags:non-fiction, writing, reading, first edition

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Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them by Francine Prose (2006)

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Rush, rush, rush. When it comes to reading and the enjoyment of literature, the maxim we're taught is to read more and to read faster. Rejecting that rushed approach, Francine Prose in Reading Like a Writer argues that it's better to slow down and pay attention. To linger and savor, not just mindlessly consume.

I read a lot and I'll be the first to admit that sometimes the only way to read the massive amount of new literary work being published every month, the classics on my bucket list, and the literary darlings from previous years is to read fast. But I try to make amends. If I've read too quickly, I'll often re-read. Favorites get read a few times. There are even some books I'll re-read every year religiously (why buy books if not to re-read them and enjoy them again and again?). Usually I'll find that I gain some new insight with each re-reading. Or that life experience and age filters it differently; something that moved me in a certain way at twenty-two moves me in another way in my mid-thirties. But I try not to skim because even judicious skimming ultimately makes the reading experience a hollow one. Like stuffing your face at the buffet bar and not really tasting anything.

Prose warns against skimming and rightfully so. “Skimming will not allow you to extract one fraction of what a writer’s words can teach us about how to use the language.” Very true. (Um, so why did our professors in college assign massive, difficult tomes to be read in a week's time? Skimming was, ironically, a survival skill we learned as English undergrads.) As fiction readers, our interface with the books we read is mainly through the plot (what happens) and through the characters (who's involved), but we often miss the more subtle cues of storytelling by glossing over the words, sentences, and paragraphs. Bottom-line, you miss a lot by reading quickly or not reading mindfully. Because even if you're just in it for the story, Prose's point is that the story—all the psychological truths and crucial revelations—also exists in the microcosms: the words used, the sentence structure, or the gestures of the characters as they speak. The story is in the details.

We forget that writers often labor painstakingly over a sentence or paragraph for days. Books are the result of multiple drafts. Good writing is never accidental; it's earnestly deliberate. There are effects and subtexts the writer wants to convey—even if we're not consciously aware of them—through the way something is written. In other words, it's not just what is said or written but *how*. Prose advocates for this kind of scrutiny and close reading. Books deserve more than our fleeting attention. She wants us to look at writing in the way we might walk up to a painting to peer at each brushstroke.

The idea of close reading might turn a lot of people off but to Prose's credit she makes the process a delightful one. (I wish I had read this as an undergrad!) Taking passages from various works, Prose breaks down what each writer does and achieves, closely examining the language used and how it expresses mood, character, and themes. You'll never look at these works the same way again.

Overall, Reading Like a Writer is must-read for any serious reader (and writer). ( )
1 vote gendeg | Oct 11, 2014 |
more a memoir than a book on writing

worth reading only after you "shared" the same readings that the author lists within a) an appendix b) the book itself

otherwise, it is just rambling and asking you to take for granted what the author decided to be relevant: a faith-based reading :) ( )
  aleph123 | Sep 28, 2014 |
Good introduction to the subject and other unfamiliar authors. ( )
  charlie68 | Aug 5, 2014 |
Everyone should read this book. Francine Prose is a writer for the New York Review Of Books, where her book reviews are not to be missed. This book captures what readers should be looking for in books, as readers and writers, and it heightens both your appreciation for what you read as well as providing advice for what you write.
Many many examples of writing are included to illustrate points and that heightens the pleasure of reading this book - I now have a longer list of "to be read" selections that I might not otherwise have chosen.
Highly recommended! ( )
1 vote Dabble58 | May 26, 2014 |
Sometimes you just need to get back to basics. That is the suggestion of author Francine Prose as she reflects on creative writing workshops and concludes that they are no substitute for careful, considerate reading of classic novels. With gusto, she jumps into a discussion of technique, and chapter by chapter she works her way through the many tools at an author’s disposal. Quoting liberally from authors as varied as Philip Roth, Jane Austen and Anton Chekov, Prose analyzes each selection and dissects what makes its sentences so effective and the narrative so compelling.

If you want to boil down the book to its essential message, it’s pretty straightforward and basic: read great writers, select your words with care, and craft your sentences instead of merely tossing words upon a page. And let’s be honest – most of us know this instinctively. The trick is learning how to shape those sentences and which details are necessary and which should be discarded. With her clear examples, Prose gave me new ways to consider writing and reading. For every principle she introduced, she would provide some good examples of that kind of writing. I do wish she’d included some unsuccessful writing samples to further illustrate her points.

It’s been a couple of years since I’ve had an English professor to critique my writing, and I’m sure it’s gotten sloppier. This book served as a refresher course, and in that capacity it works very well. I recommend it as a source of inspiration, a reminder to pay attention not just to what a writer says, but how he or she expresses it. ( )
1 vote makaiju | Apr 6, 2014 |
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This book is dedicated to my teachers:
Monroe Engel, Alberta Magzanian, and Phil Schwartz.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
In this book — subtitled "A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them," — Prose shares how she developed her writing craft through writing and reading. She uses examples from literature to demonstrate how fictional elements, such as character and dialogue, can be mastered.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0060777052, Paperback)

Long before there were creative-writing workshops and degrees, how did aspiring writers learn to write? By reading the work of their predecessors and contemporaries, says Francine Prose.

In Reading Like a Writer, Prose invites you to sit by her side and take a guided tour of the tools and the tricks of the masters. She reads the work of the very best writers—Dostoyevsky, Flaubert, Kafka, Austen, Dickens, Woolf, Chekhov—and discovers why their work has endured. She takes pleasure in the long and magnificent sentences of Philip Roth and the breathtaking paragraphs of Isaac Babel; she is deeply moved by the brilliant characterization in George Eliot's Middlemarch. She looks to John Le Carré for a lesson in how to advance plot through dialogue, to Flannery O'Connor for the cunning use of the telling detail, and to James Joyce and Katherine Mansfield for clever examples of how to employ gesture to create character. She cautions readers to slow down and pay attention to words, the raw material out of which literature is crafted.

Written with passion, humor, and wisdom, Reading Like a Writer will inspire readers to return to literature with a fresh eye and an eager heart.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:42:27 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

An insider's report on how professionals read and write instructs aspiring writers on the methods employed by such literary figures as Kafka, Austen, and Dickens, in a resource that draws on key examples to demonstrate the essentials of good plot and character development.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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