Book Review: Good Prose

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Good Prose: The Art of Nonfiction by Tracy Kidder & Richard Todd. Reviewed by Louise Hilton. 

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Tracy Kidder and his longtime editor and friend Richard Todd offer advice on writing nonfiction in this elegant little book. Letting us know right from the start how fervently they believe in the “power of story and character,” the authors affirm that “the techniques of fiction never belonged exclusively to fiction,” indeed, “no techniques of storytelling are prohibited to the nonfiction writer, only the attempt to pass off inventions as facts.”

Kidder and Todd are formidable talents but present their advice in an accessible and encouraging way. Drawing on their long careers in the field, they urge aspiring writers to believe in the intelligence of the reader and to focus, above all, on the human side of the story: “We think that every piece of writing – whether story or argument or rumination, book or essay or letter home – requires the freshness and precision that convey a distinct human presence.”

Good Prose is the culmination of Kidder and Todd’s decades-long friendship and experience in publishing. The result? Excellent prose. It belongs on every writer’s shelf alongside Strunk & White’s Elements of Style and Stephen King’s On Writing.

*An edited version of this review appeared in The Advocate (Baton Rouge, La.).

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