To Show and to Tell

The Craft of Literary Nonfiction

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About The Book

A long-awaited new book on personal writing from Phillip Lopate—celebrated essayist, the director of Columbia University’s nonfiction program, and editor of The Art of the Personal Essay.

Distinguished author Phillip Lopate, editor of the celebrated anthology The Art of the Personal Essay, is universally acclaimed as “one of our best personal essayists” (Dallas Morning News). Here, combining more than forty years of lessons from his storied career as a writer and professor, he brings us this highly anticipated nuts-and-bolts guide to writing literary nonfiction. A phenomenal master class shaped by Lopate’s informative, accessible tone and immense gift for storytelling, To Show and To Tell reads like a long walk with a favorite professor—refreshing, insightful, and encouraging in often unexpected ways.

About The Author

Photograph by Sally Gall

 Phillip Lopate is the author of more than a dozen books, including three personal essay collections, Bachelorhood, Against Joie de Vivre, Portrait of My Body, and Waterfront. He directs the graduate nonfiction program at Columbia University and lives in Brooklyn with his wife and daughter.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Free Press (February 2013)
  • Length: 240 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781451696325

Raves and Reviews

“[To Show and To Tell] gives away all his trade secrets – a thoughtful guidebook for writers of literary nonfiction.”

– New York Times Book Review

“One of the best guides to writing nonfiction I've read.”

– The Cleveland Plain Dealer

“Sophisticated… Lopate, a consummate and piquant essayist,…draws on his extensive teaching experience in this expert, anecdotal, funny, and frank guide to writing “intelligent, satisfying, engaging literary nonfiction.” Even in a how-to book, Lopate can’t help but write lithe and sparring personal essays… Never one to accept received wisdom, Lopate encourages writers to go beyond the safe, facile, and sentimental.”

– Booklist

“One of the Earls of Essay returns with a collection that illustrates both his knowledge of the genre and his considerable skill in practicing it… A useful collection of bracing thoughts and sinuous sentences.”

– Kirkus Reviews

“At last--a reliable guide to the signature genre of the age. Phillip Lopate's tour of literary nonfiction includes brilliant and helpful considerations of the essay and memoir, placing them and their vexing questions in clear cultural context. Impossible now to imagine a nonfiction course that does not include To Show and To Tell in its syllabus. This is the rule book. But it's much more than a "craft book" for writers. It's a delight in itself, a fascinating exploration for readers, for anyone wondering why personally voiced nonfiction is so popular. The range is impressive, and the voice here is immediate, fresh, witty, winningly honest. An indispensible book.”

– Patricia Hampl, author of The Florist's Daughter

“Shrewd, revealing, dexterous, skeptical, provocative, restless, wry, necessary.”

– Laura Kipnis, author of Against Love and How to Become a Scandal

“The work of a master, To Show and To Tell is beyond compare, for it embodies a poetics of literary nonfiction that takes into account all the crucial aspects, elements, and issues of the craft. Thus it's the essential text for anyone who seeks to enjoy, to understand, or to write nonfiction.”

– Carl H. Klaus, author of The Made-Up Self: Impersonation in the Personal Essay

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