5 Books to Help You Read Like a Writer

Want to be a better writer? Start by reading like one.

1. DIY MFA by Gabriela Pereira

Gabriela Pereira writes, “Reading for pleasure is great, but if you want to be a writer, you need to read like a writer…[R]ead in order to figure out what the writer is doing…so that you can recreate something similar in your own writing.” So in DIY MFA, she shows you how to do exactly that. The book looks at everything from Harry Potter to Pride and Prejudice, teaching writers “creative practical reading” — the practice of paying attention to literary devices in order to use them.

2. Writing Through the Classics: Pride and Prejudice edited by Lizzy Sisk

Writers are told to read like writers, something Lizzy Sisk’s Writing Through the Classics series takes quite literally, annotating classic novels with footnotes that explain the writing devices used. Exercises and prompts also guide readers through how to apply these techniques to their own fiction. In this edition of Pride and Prejudice, Sisk offers insights on plot and structure, nailing that perfect ending, and fulfilling the promises we make as writers to our readers.

3. Write Like This: Teaching Real-World Writing Through Modeling and Mentor Texts by Kelly Gallagher

High school teacher Kelly Gallagher originally wrote Write Like This for fellow writing instructors to use in the classroom, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use the book to teach yourself. Its central premise is simple: If you want to grow as a writer, you have to read good writing, then you have to make an effort to apply what you’ve read.

The text provides fiction samples with exercises on creative expression.

4. Writing Through the Classics: Great Expectations edited by Lizzy Sisk

Not to be outdone, Writing Through the Classics released the second title in its literary craft series just this month: Great Expectations. If you thought you’d already learned everything there was to learn from Charles Dickens in high school, think again. Annotating the original novel, series editor Lizzy Sisk offers exercises and prompts specific to foreshadowing, characterization, and Dickens’ many other fiction tricks.

5. Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose

The quintessential book in lists of this sort, Reading Like a Writer actually talks less about specific works of fiction than other titles on our list. Instead, novelist Francine Prose examines why we write and whether the craft of writing itself can actually be taught. She also provides commentary on fiction craft elements like narration, characterization, and dialogue, so that’s why it makes the list.

2X entrepreneur; reporter & fiction writer; Kentuckian in NYC; advocate for straight-talk & continued improvement

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