Wednesday 17 November 2010

Prose Savoring VS. Page Turning (joint-post with Karen Gowen)

Karen Gowen, (author of Farm Girl, Uncut Diamonds, and soon to be released, House of Diamonds), and I were recently discussing the difference between 'page-turners', and books we read slowly to savor their prose. We both thought it would make in interesting post and decided to do a joint one on this subject. So when you finish reading here, make sure you pop over to Karen's blog to check out what she has to say on the matter too.
Now, I think both types of books are pretty much masterpieces in their own right. The page-turners are so entertaining that you can't put them down. You have just got to know what happens! The story is so good that you forget about everything. The dishes and laundry pile up, you stay up late and lose sleep over them. But when they're over, do you remember much of them other than, 'OMG, I couldn't put it down'?
Books that I savor, however, do not (well, very rarely) have that page-turning quality to me. I have never got that sense of 'OMG, I want to know what happens next!', but what did make me excited about reading them day after day was the extraordinary way in which the author strung their words together, with such rhythm, grace and soul; beauty and cadence. I could very well pick these books up again and again - marvelling at the phrases I underlined the first time round because I never wanted to forget them.
But sometimes, just sometimes, I come across an author who can do both. So far in my life I can only think of two. See below.
So here's my list of authors that I particularly like in each category:

Page-turning authors:
Marian Keyes
Jodi Picoult
Nick Hornby
Alice Sebold
Audrey Niffenegger

Prose-savoring authors:
Marilynne Robinson
Milan Kundera
Nikki Gemmell
Virginia Woolf
Mary Shelley

Margaret Atwood
Rebecca Miller

So what are your top five in each category? Do you have another category to add? And after you tell me, make sure you go and tell Karen too!!!


  1. Hmm. Great topic! Kind of like writing versus story.

    I'm too tired to think of five for each right now but I will say that the best writer I have read recently is Cormac McCarthy, while the best storyteller is Suzanne Collins. At least for books I've read this year.

  2. I havent read a prose type book in a really long time. When I was in highschool, I went through the whole literary section of my bookstore, I'd snub my nose at commercial fiction and I didn't even read harry potter until I'd graduated. Now, however, I can barely remember all the books I read back then. Sylvia Plath, FS Fitzgerald, the Bronté sisters, Austin, Herman Hess and anything Shakespeare. I still have a bookshelf in my parents home but on my own bookshelf, there's not a prose to be found:( It's all new YA, chicklit and romance. Thanks for giving us the two who you feel achieves both! I'll have to look into those! OH- Wait a sec, I think a good one that touches on both might be Susanna Clarke (Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norel)

  3. I'd have to really think about a top five for each. But I think you've nailed your savory list. Truly. One other one for me would be Jane Austen. I know that I'm pathetically devoted when it comes to her, but her writing has always struck a cord with me. Strummed them strings...(just for you) <3

  4. An excellent topic for reading, loved it very much. I noticed you wrote Mary Shelley, the area where I live most of the land was owned by her son Percy Florence Shelley who also bought Boscombe Manor a few yards along the road. It has now been turned into a medical centre. Mary Shelley and her family are buried at Bournemoth's St Peter's Church.


  5. One of my all time favorite authors is Nora Roberts and while she doesn't write in prose, her style of writing is smartly done. I read her stuff just as much for the story and I do for her writing style. I love the way she puts words together. She uses a little to say a lot. I think that is brilliant.

  6. I'm addicted to page turners.

  7. I would agree on Margaret Atwood. Just finished The Handmaid's Tale. What a book! Let's see...for authors who can do both, I would say books like The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged did it for me.

  8. Page-turning authors: Ted Dekker, Frank Peretti, Gordon Korman, Margaret Peterson Haddix, Alexandre Dumas, and more, I'm sure. :)

    Prose-saving authors: Megan Whalen Turner (I knew this as soon as I heard your description), C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkein, Lilli Thal, Michael Coleman. And more. I'm sure. :)

  9. Fabulous topic for discussion! I would add Toni Morrison to the prose-savoring category. Her work takes my breath away.

    Can you believe I haven't read any Jodi Picoult yet?? It drives my sister, Noelle crazy. She's always telling me to pick up ANY of her books and see why she's Noelle's favorite author.

  10. I have to be in a very particular state of mind to read the prose heavy if it isn't also a page-turner--and I agree--they don't go together all that often. I do have an example, though my friend Rayna is going to kill me because she hates this woman's representation of India, but the most 'beautifully' written prose to me, that was also a painful page-turner--you ached and had to know what would happen-- is The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy.

  11. Great post! I do tend to like books that have awesome prose and a swift-moving plot, though I'm having trouble coming up with authors that do both! I think maybe the book Sophie's Choice is like that, a really crazy, moving, epic plot and beautiful ways of crafting a sentence. I don't know much about Rebecca Miller, I definitely have to check her out!

  12. I'm currently reading a book called Death of the Heart by Elizabeth Bowen it's so good but so worth digesting. I'm reading it very slowly.


  13. I lean more toward the page turners, but every once in a while I find lovely prose that doesn't put me to sleep.
    That's a great list of authors to check out. Thanks for the suggestions. :)

  14. I like your list, will definitely check out the ones I haven't read. This was fun doing a joint post!

  15. Oh, man, will I seem shallow if I say I don't really enjoy prose? I'd rather be entertained by the page-turning authors.

    And mine is Suzanne Collins in that arena. And Mary E. Pearson in the both category.

  16. I remember my page-turners. It is so great when the two come together.

  17. How fun!! What a fantastic topic! Sorry it took me so long to stop by, but it was definitely worth the wait!

  18. Great post...You've sent me to my bookshelf to grab my favorites and categorize!

    Page-turning authors:
    Rosamunde Pilcher (September)
    Sarah-Kate Lynch (By Bread Alone)
    Jennifer Weiner (Good in Bed)

    Prose-savoring authors:
    Sue Miller (Family Pictures)
    Doris Lessing (The Fifth Child)
    Lisa Genova (Still Alice)
    Lisa See (Shanghai Girls; Peony in Love; Snowflower and the Secret Fan)
    Kiran Desai (The Inheritance of Loss)

    Chris Cleave (Little Bee)
    Elizabeth Berg (Home Safe)

  19. Virginia Woolf is definitely in my prose-savouring category -- aong with Rose Tremain. For page turners, I like Emily Giffin and er, um, why does my mind always go blank when people ask me questions like these? I'm useless!

  20. Gosh, I love The Razor's Edge by Sommerset Maugham for beautiful prose.

  21. I came over from Karen's blog. This month I've been buried in edits and haven't been blogging as much. I love a good page turner. I read slower than some and tend to remember every book I've ever read. Maybe not every detail. But I still remember them. Good post.
    N. R. Williams, fantasy author


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