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A reader for writers
on February 28, 2014
People who are learning to write need to read a lot of good writing. This conveniently compact textbook presents over 500 pages of some of the best modern nonfiction, 50 essays by authors both renowned and lesser known. Their themes include childhood and family, class, community, cultural diversity, death, the envronment, ethics, food, globalization, history, immigration, law, media, memory, myth, popular culture, psychology, science and technology, social custom, violence, work, and much more.
Among the famous authors represented are those who have entered the canon of great literature: George Orwell, E.B. White, Maya Angelou, Martin Luther King, David Foster Wallace, Jessica Mitford, and others. Many of these authors are still active: Annie Dillard, Barbara Kingsolver, Richard Rodriguez, Amy Tan, Anna Quindlen, Guillermo del Toro, Michael Pollan, and so on. There are humorists like Russell Baker, David Sedaris, Sarah Vowell, and Dave Barry; travel writers like William Least Heat-Moon; and social commentators like Thomas Sowell.
In addition to essays, the book offers in-depth advice on how to read, evaluate, and respond to writing critically. In Part One, the authors help students analyze genre, language, meaning, audience, purpose, evidence, structure, and other aspects of nonfiction, make inferences, and synthesize their thoughts and research. Practice in drafting, revising, editing, paraphrasing, summarizing, quoting, and collaborating with others should give student responses lively, coherent, grammatical form. There are also detailed suggestions for avoiding plagiarism and citing sources.
Part Two, constituting the bulk of the book, breaks down the task of writing into ten methods: narration, description, example, comparison and contrast, process analysis, division, classification, cause and effect, definition, and persuasion. Student are guided though using these methods in a variety of appropriate contexts. After each sample reading, abundant questions for consideration, discussion, and writing are presented.
Part Three, entitled "Mixing the Methods," demonstrates to students how various authors have used more than one method in their essays. A thematic table of contents, a glossary of useful terms, and an index round out the book. As an English instructor of more than 30 years' experience, I recommend it highly.