Reading Like a Writer
It’s time once again for another update in my year-long experiment of living (actually reading) fictionally. Except in this case after five fiction books in a row, I decided to tackle one book on the art of writing. More specifically, Francine Prose’s excellent Reading Like a Writer. Prose (whose name almost automatically makes her qualified to pen such a book) is the author of numerous novels herself, and this nonfiction work is an attempt by her to distill some of the knowledge about understanding fiction she has gained over the years. I found it to be a very helpful book, and one that will stick with me for some time. I would recommend this one for any of you out there who are trying to become a better writer because it certainly gave me a ton of new insights. I came away from this book with a new appreciation for many writers, including the Russian playwright and author Anton Chekhov, whom Prose uses in a final chapter to illustrate how a writer can attempt to become a completely dispassionate observer. While I’m not entirely convinced I can set aside my emotions in such an extreme manner, I definitely want to read more of this guy’s work.
As usual, I want to dive into a few major lessons on writing that I was able to take away from this book, but obviously this will be a bit different from the others.
There is a lot more to be said about this book that I am not going to cover here, but I would highly recommend it for anyone who loves reading and would like to become a writer themselves. I know it is going to assist me immensely as I tackle the second-half of my reading list for this experiment. (Prose also includes a hefty list of reading recommendations at the end of the book, many of which I hope to get to someday.)
And speaking of my reading list for the second-half of the year...thanks to all of you for the excellent book suggestions! Unfortunately I was not able to include all of them for this year, but don’t fret; I am strongly considering pushing this experiment into next year, so much has it helped me as a writer thus far. I also hope to be able to pursue a few other experiments regarding short stories and some other stuff this year. But without further ado, here are the titles I will be tackling through December:
A Thousand Acres - Jane Smiley
Fight Club - Chuck Palahniuk
The Sound and the Fury - William Faulkner
Exodus - Leon Uris
Neuromancer - William Gibson
Bird by Bird - Anne Lamott
Again, thank you very much for all the recommendations. I hope to be able to fit many more fiction books in my life over the next few years, and it helps to be connected to so many readers! I will return to this space shortly for my next essay, as well as branching out into the territory of the short story, continuing the path to publication, and offering more info on my next novel.
Stay tuned, and as always, thanks for reading!
It’s been almost a year since I lost my previous office job, spent a month in the wilderness of unemployment, and found a much better position working at a used book store. In that time I have come to know some important lessons about life and writing that I’d like to share. I did something similar at the end of last year, but this list is a more thorough compilation. In the interest of keeping the list manageable, I’ve attempted to keep it as pithy as possible. And if any of you out there have your own lessons to add, feel free to do so in the comments. Thanks for reading!
John Abraham is a published author and freelance journalist who lives in the Twin Cities with his wife Mary and their cat. He is writing a speculative dystopian novel and is seeking representation and a publisher.