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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
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  • Contains 8 key ideas
Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them by Francine Prose

Reading Like a Writer (2006) shows us how to read literary masterpieces with open eyes. These blinks explain the patterns of writing that make fiction memorable, powerful and authentic, helping us slow down our reading and find more enjoyable experiences in every book.

This is a Blinkist staff pick

“When was the last time you sat down and got lost in a novel for hours? In an age of digital skim-reading, we lost our ability to indulge in great literature. These blinks will teach you how to slow down and and get a great deal of joy out of the timeless classics.”

– Jonas, German Content Editor

Key idea 1 of 8

Rediscover the art of close reading to get inside a great writer’s head.

Have you ever watched a child read? Many mouth every word they read to themselves silently. They’re incredibly thorough, and make much better close readers than we adults. Why?

Well, as we grow older, we also grow impatient. We’re able to read faster and tend to read more superficially. This leads to skim-reading, when we’re always on the hunt for quick info, a surprise or a laugh. We devour words like junk food!

Skim-reading certainly has its merits in certain situations where efficiency is the goal. But when it comes to reading literature, skimming is simply counterproductive. It causes us to miss the most important things, like a word that evokes powerful associations, or a subtext that shimmers between the lines.

Great literature, after all, has many layers of meaning. No matter how deep you dig, you’ll always discover more. By slowing down your reading, you’ll make your experience of the text far more rewarding. Paying closer attention to words will also bring you closer to the great masters who wrote them, allowing you to learn from them and improve your own writing in turn.

So how exactly do you relearn the habit of taking it slowly when reading? It can prove rather difficult without the right incentive. But, sometimes, all it takes is one clue to keep your eyes glued to the page.

The author recalls how her English teacher suggested she pay close attention to motifs of seeing and blindness while reading Sophocles’ Greek tragedy Oedipus Rex and Shakespeare’s King Lear. Soon enough, she discovered that both texts were filled with curious patterns, parallels and connections, as if the two authors had hidden them there for her to uncover. Whole new dimensions of meaning emerged in the texts, changing her reading experience entirely.

By taking a closer look at certain patterns of literary texts, you’ll learn to slow your reading down and discover what every sentence really has to offer. But how do you know which pattern to follow? We’ll have a look in the next blink.

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