Books To Be Read Immediately – Francine Prose

Francine Prose’s best-selling book ‘Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them’ is a highly readable and engaging look at literature, highlighting a few tools and tricks, drawn from major literary works, to assist any budding writer. A course that I’ve enrolled in for the duration of 2022 asked that we read this book before classes commence in February, being the enthusiastic student I’ve done my homework.

The book covers subjects such as reading, word choices, sentence structure, paragraphs, narration, character, dialogue and more, Francine Prose uses examples of well-known books to highlight her point. It is not only Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Emily Bronte etc. William Gaddis even rates a mention!!!

Preaching “close reading” and the pleasures of spending long times with great books, it comes with an appendix, “Books To Be Read Immediately”. One hundred and nineteen titles!!! “Immediately” would take some time.

As I know you all love a list, here are those 119 books:

Akutagawa, Ryunosuke. M. Kuwata and Tashaki Kojima (translators), Rashomon and Other Stories

Alcott, Louisa May, Little Women

Anonymous, Dorothy L. Sayers (translator), The Song of Roland

Austen, Jane, Pride and Prejudice

Austen, Jane, Sense and Sensibility

Babel, Isaac. Walter Morrison (translator), The Collected Stories

Baldwin, James, Vintage Baldwin

Balzac, Honoré de. Kathleen Raine (translator), Cousin Bette

Barthelme, Donald, Sixty Stories

Baxter, Charles, Believers: A Novella and Stories

Beckett, Samuel, The Complete Short Prose, 1929-1989

Bowen, Elizabeth, The House in Paris

Bowles, Jane, Two Serious Ladies

Bowles, Paul, Paul Bowles: Collected Stories and Later Writings

Brodkey, Harold, Stories in an Almost Classical Mode

Brontë, Emily, Wuthering Heights

Calvino, Italo, Cosmicomics

Carver, Raymond, Where I’m Calling From: Selected Stories

Carver, Raymond, Cathedral

Cervantes, Miguel De. Tobias Smollett (translator) Don Quixote

Chandler, Raymond, The Big Sleep

Cheever, John, The Stories of John Cheever

Chekhov, Anton. Constance Garnett (translator), A Life in Letters

Chekhov, Anton. Constance Garnett (translator), Tales of Anton Chekhov: Volumes 1-13

Diaz, Junot, Drown

Dickens, Charles, Bleak House

Dickens, Charles, Dombey and Son

Dostoyevsky, Fyodor. Constance Garnett (translator), Crime and Punishment

Dybek, Stuart, I Sailed with Magellan

Eisenberg, Deborah, The Stories (So Far) of Deborah Eisenberg

Eliot, George, Middlemarch

Elkin, Stanley, Searches and Seizures

Fitzgerald, F. Scott, The Great Gatsby

Fitzgerald, F. Scott, Tender Is the Night

Flaubert, Gustave. Geoffrey Wall (translator), Madame Bovary

Flaubert, Gustave. Robert Baldick (translator), A Sentimental Education

Fox, Paula. Jonathan Franzen (introduction), Desperate Characters

Franzen, Jonathan, The Corrections

Gallant, Mavis, Paris Stories

Gaddis, William, The Recognitions

Gates, David, The Wonders of the Invisible World: Stories

Gibbon, Edward, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

Gogol, Nikolai. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky (translators), Dead Souls: A Novel

Green, Henry, Doting

Green, Henry, Loving

Hartley, L. P., The Go-Between

Hemingway, Ernest, A Moveable Feast

Hemingway, Ernest, The Sun Also Rises

Herbert, Zbigniew. Czeslaw Milosz and Peter Dale Scott (translators), Selected Poems

James, Henry, The Portrait of a Lady

James, Henry, The Turn of the Screw

Jarrell, Randall, Pictures from an Institution

Johnson, Denis, Angles

Johnson, Denis, Jesus’ Son

Johnson, Diane, Le Divorce

Johnson, Diane, Persian Nights

Johnson, Samuel, The Life of Savage

Joyce, James, Dubliners

Kafka, Franz. Malcolm Pasley (translator), The Judgement and In the Penal Colony and Metamorphosis and Other Stories

Kafka, Franz. Willa and Edmund Muir (translators), The Trial

Le Carré, John, A Perfect Spy

Mandelstam, Nadezdha, Hope Against Hope: A Memoir

Mansfield, Katherine, Collected Stories of Katherine Mansfield

Marquez, Gabriel Garcia. Gregory Rabassa (translator), One Hundred Years of Solitude

Marquez, Gabriel Garcia. Gregory Rabassa (translator), The Autumn of the Patriarch

Marques, Gabriel Garcia, Love in the Time of Cholera

McInerney, Jay, Bright Lights, Big City

Melville, Herman, Bartleby the Scrivener and Benito Cereno

Melville, Herman, Moby Dick

Milton, John, Paradise Lost

Munro, Alice, Selected Stories

Nabokov, Vladimir, Lectures on Russian Literature

Nabokov, Vladimir, Lolita

O’Brien, Tim, The Things They Carried

O’Connor, Flannery, A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories

O’Connor, Flannery, Collected Stories

O’Connor, Flannery, Wise Blood

Packer, ZZ, Drinking Coffee Elsewhere

Paustovsky, Konstantin. Joseph Barnes (translator), Years of Hope: The Story of a Life

Price, Richard, Freedomland

Proust, Marcel. Lydia Davis (translator), Swann’s Way

Pynchon, Thomas, Gravity’s Rainbow

Richardson, Samuel, Pamela: Or Virtue Rewarded

Roth, Philip, American Pastoral

Roth, Philip, Philip Roth: Novels and Stories 1959-1962

Rulfo, Juan. Margaret Sayers Peden (translator), Pedro Paramo

Salinger, J. D., Franny and Zooey

Shakespeare, William, King Lear

Shteyngard, Gary, The Russian Debutante’s Handbook

Sophocles. Sir George Young (translator), Oedipus Rex

Spencer, Scott, A Ship Made of Paper

St. Aubyn, Edward, Mother’s Milk

St. Aubyn, Edward, Some Hope: A Trilogy

Stead, Christina, The Man Who Loved Children

Steegmuller, Francis, Flaubert and Madame Bovary: A Double Portrait

Stein, Gertrude, The Autobiography of Alice B. Tocklas

Stendhal. Roger Gard (translator), The Red and the Black

Stout, Rex, Plot It Yourself

Stunk, William and E. B. White. Maira Kalman (illustrator), The Elements of Style, Illustrated

Taylor, Peter, A Summons to Memphis

Tolstaya, Tatyana, Sleepwalker in a Fog

Tolstoy, Leo. Constance Garnett (translator), Anna Karenina

Tolstoy, Leo. Aylmer Maude (translator), The Death of Ivan Ilych and Other Stories

Tolstoy, Leo. David McDuff (translator), The Kreutzer Sonata and Other Stories

Tolstoy, Leo. Rosemary Edmonds (translator), Resurrection

Tolstoy, Leo. Constance Garnett (translator), War and Peace

Trevor, William, The Children of Dynmouth

Trevor, William, The Collected Stories

Trevor, William, Fools of Fortune

Turgenev, Ivan Sergeevich. Isaiah Berlin (translator), First Love

Twain, Mark, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Von Kleist, Heinrich. Martin Greenberg (translator) and Thomas Mann (preface), The Marquise of O— and Other Stories

Wagner, Bruce, I’m Losing You

West, Rebecca, The Birds Fall Down

West, Rebecca, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon: A Journey Through Yugoslavia

Williams, Joy, Escapes

Woods, James, Broken Estate: Essays on Literature and Belief

Woolf, Virginia, On Being Ill

Yates, Richard, Revolutionary Road

I hope this list spurs you onto picking up something that you haven’t read before or reminds you to revisit a wonderful classic that you’ve been meaning to reread. There are quite a few titles on my shelves and I’ve every intention of revisiting them – oh the innocence of planning!!!

6 thoughts on “Books To Be Read Immediately – Francine Prose

  1. I’ve had this book for years and I have not read it, and I doubt I ever will. I bought it under the impression that craft writing books were for me but they just get me defensive. The list includes some titles I’ve read, a few I might but many more I won’t. I think there is more to intentional reading than having someone else dictate what any reader/writer’s intentions should be. And what’s with all the Tolstoy?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve to read it as part of a year long course I’ve been accepted into and similar to you I thought I’d get all defensive, however that hasn’t transpired (it has with the Australian version). I’ve enjoyed the examples as they’re generally from books I’d not read. The Tolstoy I’ve no idea, he’s not heavily referenced in the text.


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