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Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them Paperback – 1 May 2007

4.3 out of 5 stars 60 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: HarperPerennial; 1st Harper Perennial Ed edition (1 May 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780060777050
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060777050
  • ASIN: 0060777052
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 1.8 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 172,271 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Francine Prose is the author of sixteen novels, including "A Changed Man", winner of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and "Blue Angel", a finalist for the National Book Award. Her most recent works of nonfiction include the highly acclaimed "Anne Frank: The Book, the Life, the Afterlife", and the "New York Times" bestseller "Reading Like a Writer". A former president of PEN American Center and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, as well as the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Prose is a highly regarded critic and essayist, and has taught literature and writing for more than twenty years at major universities. She is a distinguished writer in residence at Bard College, and she lives in New York City.

Review

"Makes a case for the rewards of reading." -- Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel

"Witty...Insightful." -- Washington Post Book World

"Readable and illuminating.few.advice volumes offer as much insight into writing as you will find in Francine Prose's latest book" -- Capital Times

"a jewel of a companion.engrossing...and...daringly insightful." -- Los Angeles Times

"The passages are.subtle and brilliant in their capture of human complexity.Prose is.a skilled.analyst of what makes them so." -- San Francisco Chronicle

Witty...Insightful. --Washington Post Book World

"Prose's guide to reading and writing belongs on every writer's bookshelf alongside E.M. Forster's Aspects of the Novel."--Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Sensible, valuable and highly readable, Reading Like a Writer deserves perusal -- both in and out of the classroom."--Kansas City Star

"Makes a case for the rewards of reading."--Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel

"Prose's little guide will motivate 'people who love books'...Like the great works of fiction, it's a wise and voluble companion."--New York Times Book Review

"Celebrates the pleasures of close reading and explores the power of well-wrought language...refreshing"--Time Out New York

"An absolutely necessary addition to the personal library of anyone who is a writer or dreams of writing."--National Public Radio

"Reading Like A Writer is different from the rest of the pack...[Prose's] wise book serves as an ispirational reminder."--Washington Times

"The passages are...subtle and brilliant in their capture of human complexity...Prose is...a skilled...analyst of what makes them so."--San Francisco Chronicle

"Witty...Insightful."--Washington Post Book World

"a jewel of a companion...engrossing...and...daringly insightful."--Los Angeles Times

"Readable and illuminating...few...advice volumes offer as much insight into writing as you will find in Francine Prose's latest book"--Capital Times

"Prose knows when to be funny, how to wield examples, and when to stop."--More magazine

Prose s little guide will motivate people who love books Like the great works of fiction, it s a wise and voluble companion. --New York Times Book Review"

Witty...Insightful. --Washington Post Book World"

a jewel of a companion engrossing...and...daringly insightful. --Los Angeles Times"

The passages are subtle and brilliant in their capture of human complexity Prose is a skilled analyst of what makes them so. --San Francisco Chronicle"

Reading Like A Writer is different from the rest of the pack [Prose s] wise book serves as an ispirational reminder. --Washington Times"

Sensible, valuable and highly readable, Reading Like a Writer deserves perusal both in and out of the classroom. --Kansas City Star"

Celebrates the pleasures of close reading and explores the power of well-wrought language refreshing --Time Out New York"

An absolutely necessary addition to the personal library of anyone who is a writer or dreams of writing. --National Public Radio"

Makes a case for the rewards of reading. --Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel"

Prose knows when to be funny, how to wield examples, and when to stop. --More magazine"

Readable and illuminating few advice volumes offer as much insight into writing as you will find in Francine Prose s latest book --Capital Times"

Prose s guide to reading and writing belongs on every writer s bookshelf alongside E.M. Forster s Aspects of the Novel. --Publishers Weekly (starred review)"


Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This book is a plea to slow down.

Francine Prose (I'll call her 'Francine' with apologies - there's an obvious problem with calling her 'Prose') is a novelist and she teaches creative writing. Her aim here is not to bottle her classwork but to offer a complementary course in close reading. A writing workshop, she feels, "can be useful. A good teacher can show you how to edit your work." And the right class can create a community "that will help and sustain you." But the best way to learn how to write is to read great books.

Slowly.

Slow reading, says Francine, helps us learn "the seemingly obvious but oddly underappreciated fact that language is the medium we use in much the same way a composer uses notes."

So this most definitely isn't a `how to' book. A manual, she says, usually tells you how *not* to write; in contrast, "reading a masterpiece can inspire us by showing us how a writer does something brilliantly."

In eight chapters, she shows us precisely that. Looking at words, paragraphs, narration, character, dialogue, details and gesture, she offers close readings of texts from a dizzyingly wide range of writers, many of them new to this reviewer.

If you're younger than me, you may find Francine's project old-fashioned. Close reading was born with the New Criticism favoured by her high school teacher; a mode of reading that fell seriously out of favour during the late 70s and 80s, "when literary academia split into warring camps of deconstructionists, Marxists, feminists and so forth". Francine remains resolutely unideological. Whatever rules or general advice she offers in her writing class, she finds that close reading undercuts with particular exceptions.
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Format: Paperback
Won't teach you how to write, but it may serve to heighten your awareness of techniques that can be employed to bring credibility to a piece of work. I particularly liked points in the books where she highlights differences between clichéd language and more original language, and emphasises the importance of word economy: how to say only what needs to be said.

I found certain chapters - `Close Reading', `Words', `Narration', `Character', `Dialogue' and `Gesture' - both interesting and informative, and I believe they considerably sharpen the tools needed to critically analyse other's work if we are to improve our own writing and yet avoid overt imitation or, worse, plagiarism.

You do, however, get the impression in two of those interesting and informative chapters - `Character' and `Dialogue' - that, although very good points are made, much of what is included is unnecessary: too often much of these chapters seem to merely serve to summarise lengthy sections of stories she particularly likes, but not provide anything more to a valid point that was made succinctly enough in one or two paragraphs. I wish to avoid being too critical here, though, as the points in these chapters are generally well-made and maybe the length of some of the examples used here is necessary for emphasis; to avoid these points being neglected as incidental digressions.

Here, though, I must mention the two chapters - `Sentences' and `Paragraphs' - that I believe are essentially pointless as they are too analytical of specific examples and bring out little in general that a practising writer may use to inspire their own technique.
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Format: Hardcover
You certainly are a person who enjoys reading. The beauty of this book is that its author teaches us how to read carefully, deliberately and slowly in order to digest and extract the ideas behind the words, and also to identify the style of an specific writer. By doing so Francine Prose gives us the tool that we may require to become a better writer. Basically is a process of learning by example, and Prose goes all the way to select and bring us a lot of examples, both from classical and contemporary authors.

As you advance through the chapters you will find examples covering the fundamentals of writing, including aspects related to narrative, plot development, characters creation, as well as the basics of sentence and paragraph structure.

Even if you have no intention at all of becoming a writer you will love this book, since it also teaches us how to have a better appreciation of what we read.
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Format: Paperback
The title struck a chord because when I read a good book I'm forever stopping and thinking, `How did she do that?' or `Where did that construction come from?' - and whereas I've always thought of this as a bad idea because it tends to interrupt the flow, Francine Prose actively encourages the habit and indeed demonstrates how to indulge it in forensic detail.

I found Reading Like a Writer quite fascinating. It takes the reader on a crash course in close reading, starting at the level of single words and sentences, then paragraphs, dialogue etc. to explore the writer's intentions with a particular inflection or form of words, and demonstrating that what we enjoy as rhythmic, lucid prose which engages us and carries the narrative along, is the result of careful choices, often so subtle as to be near-invisible. Every point is illustrated by example, and if the list of writers is subjective I would say that's inevitable, perhaps crucial - it's certainly wide enough, and there are several writers whose work I'm keen to explore now that I've been introduced to them.

The author clearly enjoys breaking the `rules' - we share a suspicion of the writing-course mantra `Show, don't tell' - and the final chapter on Chekov, rule-breaker par excellence, shows that we are in good company.
I would recommend the book to anyone interested in good prose, whether to read it or write it.
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