The Art of X-Ray Reading shows you how to read like a writer and “learn their best moves’. It is similar to books such as Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them by Francine Prose, How to Read Like a Writer: 10 Lessons to Elevate Your Reading and Writing Practice by Erin M. Pushman, How to Write Like Tolstoy: A Journey into the Minds of Our Greatest Writers by Richard Cohen, and in the same vein as ideas expressed in Austin Kleon’s popular quick read Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative.

Writing lessons in The Art of X-Ray Reading are presented across twenty-five chapters. Each chapter focuses on authors from a variety of writing periods, styles, and genres. The text is rich with extracts and insights from some of the most creative and pioneering works of literature. Clark examines the sacred language in works by James Joyce, the wordplay in Vladimir Nabokov’s lyrical Lolita, echoes of other people’s art in Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch, and the fiery words in the erotic reveries of Zora Neale Hurston’s main character in Their Eyes Were Watching God. This book is for the well-read writer who is familiar with the style and narratives of classic works of fiction by celebrated authors. If you want to examine the bones of a great read, then this is your metaphorical radiographer.

A Sample of Lessons

  • Words have denotations (literal meanings) and also connotations (associative meanings). In The Great Gatsby, the colour green is green, but it is also the colour of Daisy’s light. The colour green is associated with driving (green means go), the colour of money, nausea, envy, and greed.
  • Readers love texts within texts. Use texts as evidence in every possible form: public records, obituaries, graffiti, journals, cereal boxes, tweets, text messages and blog posts. Jennifer Egan experiments with a variety of modern communication methods (including PowerPoint slides) in the Pulitzer Prize winning novel A Visit from the Goon Squad.
  • Foreshadow. The coffin, turned lifeboat, is foreshadowed in the second sentence of Herman Melville’s novel Moby-Dick.

About Roy Peter Clark
Roy Peter Clark is a senior scholar and vice president at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies (a well-known Journalism school and research organisation in Florida). Clark has published seven books on the writing craft, as well as authoring and editing several books on Journalism. Having taught writing for more than thirty years to students and organisations, he is often referred to as ‘America’s favourite Writing Coach’.

His first book, Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer, was published in 2006 (another five writing tools were added to a tenth-anniversary edition in 2016). His other books on the craft of writing include The Glamour of Grammar: A Guide to the Magic and Mystery of Practical English; Help! For Writers: 210 Solutions to the Problems Every Writer Faces; How to Write Short: Word Craft for Fast Times; Murder Your Darlings: And Other Gentle Writing Advice from Aristotle to Zinsser; The Art of X-Ray Reading: How the Secrets of 25 Great Works of Literature Will Improve Your Writing; and Tell It Like It Is: A Guide to Clear and Honest Writing.

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