Tag Archives: books about books

Middlemarch in Six!” Nick Hornby’s The Polysyllabic Spree

This is the first in what I plan as a regular series of re-posts from my archives. It seems appropriate to lead off with a review that was not only one of my earliest posts (it first went up on the blog in January 2007) but one that lays out some of my reasons for […]

Anne Fadiman, Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader

Anne Fadiman’s Ex Libris is another Book About Books for my ongoing reading project–the longest-running one on this blog. As I’ve noted before, I began reading this kind of book as a deliberate exploration of the genre (what do people say?) and now I am also always curious about voice (how do they say it?). Fadiman has lots […]

Lynne Sharon Schwartz, Ruined by Reading: A Life in Books

In the early days of Novel Readings, one of the things I was trying to figure out was how non-academics wrote about books, or (a slight variation) how academics wrote about books for non-academic audiences. So I read a lot of what I very ingeniously (OK, very literally) called “Books About Books“: Nick Hornby’s The Polysyllabic Spree, Jane […]

Jane Smiley, 13 Ways of Looking at the Novel

From the Novel Readings Archive One of the reasons I began blogging in the first place was to experiment with writing about books in a non-academic way. One of the first blogging projects I took up, therefore (because research is an academic habit that is hard to give up), was reviewing examples of non-academic writing […]

James Wood, How Fiction Works

(Cross-posted to The Valve. Thank you to the regular Valve folks for the invitation to do some guest posting!) The dust jacket describes How Fiction Works as Wood’s “first full-length book of criticism.” Anyone led by this blurb to expect sustained analysis supported by extensive research and illustration will be disappointed, as in fact How […]

Francine Prose, Reading Like a Writer

This book has a simple premise–that the best way for aspiring writers to learn their craft is to read (closely, attentively, alertly, appreciatively) the work of other novelists. Prose proceeds to elaborate on what she sees as the pedagogical benefit of close reading by moving through a sequence of chapters addressing specific aspects of novel-writing, […]

Denis Donoghue, The Practice of Reading

The Practice of Reading lies somewhere in between standard academic literary criticism and the more populist ‘books about books’ that I’ve been reading for my ‘writing for readers’ project. I suppose its main audience is an academic one, but its project and contents are quite miscellaneous and so it contributes more by modelling Donoghue’s idea […]

John Sutherland, How to Read a Novel

How to Read a Novel is an eccentric, miscellaneous, diverting, informative and annoying book. Its basic premise is that we can all use some help deciding which of the overwhelmingly many books around us we should read…but at the same time, Sutherland shies away from offering any specific guidance, rather providing readers with tools they […]

Alberto Manguel, A Reading Diary

I haven’t entirely stopped reading ‘books about books,’ but this one sets me back almost as far as Book Savvy did, if for quite different reasons. Manguel is clearly a serious reader and intellectual in a way that the author of Book Savvy, alas, did not seem to be. But here is another case in […]

Cynthia Lee Katona, Book Savvy

According to its jacket blurb, Book Savvy is “an effective guide for the burgeoning book-club community as well as a tool for literature teachers struggling to spark the interest of their students.” I certainly hope book clubs and teachers will choose better guides than this volume. For one thing, it is superficial, even shallow, in […]

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