Lorraine's Reviews > Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them

Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose
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's review
Feb 08, 2009

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bookshelves: nonfiction
Read in February, 2009

Don't read this book the way I did -- cover to cover out of general interest. The structure of the chapters are all the same: topic is presented, briefly discussed, then many good examples by famous authors are presented, often through long quotations. As a reader, this was tedious.

Instead, I think this book could be useful to a novice writer as a reference when they are struggling with a particular concept. In such situation, they can read the corresponding chapter to get some pointers and be exposed to a variety of strong examples. For a writer, this might be helpful.

The author sets up her exposition as if she is going to share some very important guidelines for writers. Aside from the fact that she acknowledges (in the final chapters) that anytime she gives a Do or Don't to her students she finds an effective example to prove her wrong, she doesn't give guidelines. She gives examples. Take out the quotations from this book and you have an extended newspaper feature article. Boiled right down, her thesis is "read good writing" and proceeds to give you examples of what you should be reading. At least, she does organize the samples to say "this is a good example of ____." I wish she would have closed her examples better; they're almost all intro heavy and exit light (or non-existant). Articulating what specifically was so good about the passage was not a strength. Though perhaps that is her point -- you can't nail down what makes writing good. Yet she has a whole book trying to tell you what good writing is.

In summary, this is a decent reference book for consultations as needed, but not a read-through kind of book.

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