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Roy Peter Clark, the author of “The Art of X-Ray Reading,” never misses a chance to write about writing for readers who also love to write about writing.

Clark is often described by fellow writers as “a writer who teaches and a teacher who writes.”

He has authored numerous books and has helped generations of writers to hone their crafts for decades. This book is conversational but informative.

He has been a senior scholar at the prestigious Poynter Institute in the US for some time. In 2019, I had the pleasure of earning a spot in a Poynter fellowship and when I met Clark there, he was approachable and knowledgeable — exactly how he reads on the pages of this book.

In this book, you will examine 25 classic essential works of literature. He plucks out quotes from those well-known authors’ works and offers some context and background.

The reason he does so is to allow these parts to be examined more carefully. The book highlights select passages from classic masterpieces written by authors such as Ernest Hemingway, Joan Didion, James Joyce and Sylvia Plath, among others.

Instead of putting on rose-colored glasses while reading, Clark suggests we put on our X-ray glasses. This way, we can see beneath the surface.

In what perhaps was the most relatable part for me was when Clark expressed confusion over labeling “The Great Gatsby” as one of the great American novels after first reading it as a teenager in the 1960s.

He recalls replying to his high school teacher when he ranked it near the top of modern American novels by saying: “You mean that’s the best we can do?”

Similarly, much to the horror of those around me, I could not finish reading Gatsby. I did instantly recognize it was lyrical and poetically written but had no grasp of the depth or how intricate and melodic the language usage was. I abandoned my copy and vowed to never touch it again. 

This book by Clark made me consider re-reading Gatsby.

Overall, Clark urges us to think of the story architecture and how authors build worlds with words.

Always a  generous teacher, Clark offers plenty of writing lessons throughout. One such tip is reminding us that when we repeat the same word in different parts of the same paragraph — if we do it with thoughtfulness, it becomes powerful without being redundant.

My main takeaway from the book is how Clark is able to let me learn without lecturing.

All the lessons in this book are simple yet somehow seem profound.

In other words, we should read not as a reader but as a writer.

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