Francine Prose’s Reading Like a Writer deserves all the praise it’s received and then some. It could be named Reading Like a Good Reader—the kind of reader nearly every serious writer would love to have and too few actually do.
Reading this book is like having a knowledgeable senior professor as your guide in a seminar; it feels relaxed yet intense, and the feeling of being with an expert never departs. The book list at the back is useful too—I now look forward to picking up several of Henry Green’s books, although I’d never heard of him. There are too many writers like Henry Green who are too good for me to have never heard about them, and that is in part why I write this: to share the finds that make me say, “Hey! How have I reached this age and yet not known about this master?”
Or, at the very least, how have I not heard about this idea, since there are so many books and so little time. To the extent Prose’s book can be summarized, her advice to authors would probably be to read widely and deeply, and that they should pay attention to both the way others convey ideas and the details of the external world.
That’s sound advice that can be generalized to any person, in any profession, anywhere. The problem is in implementing the advice, and that is what Reading Like a Writer tries to help the reader—and aspiring writer—do.