I confess that, until now, there have been writing books that I have learned from, enjoyed, and even recommended to others, but there has never been one I loved, one that I could truly say is my favorite.
Francine Prose’s book Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them has changed all that. What is it about this book that puts it over and above all the other excellent tomes on writing? I think the first is that it appeals to me from the very premise—that writers, at least good ones, are first and foremost readers. They love literature not only for the stories they unfold but the mastery with which the author tells them.
This book reads like an old-fashioned college literature class, one without a political or philosophical agenda. Prose maintains that literature should be read closely, examining words, sentences, paragraphs that all come together to make the whole work the masterpiece that it is. She doesn’t delve into larger things like plot and structure, instead choosing to focus on the things that truly make a book memorable and fresh—the language. When used correctly, it conveys the uniqueness of a story, a place, a character. It’s all about the words and how they are strung together into sentences, paragraphs, dialogue, and narration.
To my fellow readers and writers, I recommend you run out and buy this book. It will transform your thought processes, the way you think about reading and writing. It will deepen your admiration and understanding of your favorite authors and allow you to see the intricate detail they bring to their storytelling. And it will inspire you to do the same.