6 Books With Stunning Prose to Inspire the Writer in You

Claire Handscombe

Some of us read for plot; some of us read more for characters. But some of us -- maybe many of us, at least at times -- read for the beauty of the language, too. If that's you, all of these books from recent years should be right up your alley.

All The Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr

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This beautiful book and sucks you into the worlds of Marie-Laure, a blind girl, in Saint-Malo, and Werner, a super-talented German boy, whose link is the wonder and magic of radio and its role in World War II. The author's next book, Cloud Cuckoo Land, is out this summer.

Come to the Edge, by Christina Haag

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No matter how many times you fall in love, Christina Haag writes, it always comes at you sideways. It always catches you by surprise. That’s what it was like for me and this book. I expected, from the reviews I’d read, a maybe-slightly-better-than-average celebrity memoir. What I got was a book that pulled me in with the beauty of its language and of its heartbreaking love story and has refused to let me go. I’ve seen it described as haunting, and I’d say that’s accurate – it’s been years, and I still often think about it and recommend it endlessly.

Contents May Have Shifted, by Pam Houston

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This is a beautifully written a memoir/novel in vignettes, with a lot of travelling, a lot of nature, a lot of scary plane moments, and a lot of insight into the narrator’s emotional and relational journeys.

In Our Mad and Furious City, by Guy Gunaratne

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The story of three young men growing up in a deprived area of London is both heartbreaking and lyrical, and makes poetry out of the everyday ugliness of life.

Jazz, by Toni Morrison

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The writing is simply gorgeous, often echoing what jazz does, with its riffs, repetition, and rhythm. The characters will stay with you long after you’ve read it.

The Mothers, by Brit Bennett

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The mothers in question here are the older women in a church, through whose eyes we see a developing relationship and its ensuing fallout, and who have a wise, enticing voice. I loved this book for many reasons, one of which was that I really enjoyed reading about a very recognisable church community in mainstream literary fiction, and Brit Bennett’s writing is deft and eloquent.

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Claire Handscombe is a British writer who moved to Washington, DC, in 2012, ostensibly to study for an MFA in Creative Writing, but really, let’s be honest, because of an obsession with The West Wing. She is the host of the Brit Lit Podcast, a monthly show about news and views from UK books and publishing; the author of Unscripted, a novel about a young woman with a celebrity crush and a determined plan; and the editor of Walk With Us: How The West Wing Changed Our Lives.

Washington, DC

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