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How to Read Literature Like A Professor by Thomas C. Foster

I start my first day back at school (with students) tomorrow.  I’m excited to get back into the routine, but also lamenting the end of vacation in a pretty major way.  To get me back into the swing of teaching, it seemed fitting to review the book on my summer reading list that got me most excited to start teaching literature again!

Here’s the thing I’ve always loved about going to an English literature class in college (and keep in mind, despite being an English teacher, I was not an English major): You’re assigned a book (probably of pretty high literary acclaim and caliber).  You read it and think, wow, that’s really good.  Then you go to class, and through the professor and your classmates’ insight, you see what’s going on below the surface level of the plot.  And, 99 times out of 100, it is SO MUCH BETTER than you thought.

Here’s the thing I loved about How To Read Literature Like A Professor: The same level of insight, at a significantly reduced price tag.  Also, through Foster’s numerous and well explained examples to illustrate each point he makes, my reading list has grown substantially.  While this confirms that I will unquestionably die before I have a chance to read every book that I really want to, I don’t think that is such a bad thing.

Foster’s book is amazing – if you’re looking to analyze your literature.  If you prefer surface level plot, don’t waste your time.  But, if you want to go deeper into what you’re reading, I highly recommend this book.  It’s engaging and easy to read, written in manageable chapter lengths if you want to go slowly, and gives numerous illustrative examples for each point – so you really understand what you’re reading and could easily apply it to any number of books you happen to have on hand.  A few of the things Foster covers: every trip is a quest (think Hero’s Journey), when in doubt as to an allusion, it’s likely from Shakespeare or the Bible, the deeper meaning of rain in most literature, commonly used literary symbols, and the importance of understanding context.  The great thing about this work is its major applicability – I picked it up to help me better analyze and explain the higher level literature that I read with my classes.  And this will help with that!  But it will also help me to better enjoy the books I read for pleasure, and will definitely come in handy during my informal book club discussions with friends.

Bottom line – sometimes it’s fun to read for plot alone, and that’s totally ok.  But when you’re ready to dig a little deeper (and you control how deep you want to go!), grab this book first.  You will be glad you did!  I give the work 4 stars and know I will be coming back to it again, and again, and again during my reading (and teaching) career. ★★★★



One response »

  1. Thanks for the suggestion – think I might have to browse for this book online since I’ll be starting my second year at university soon! 🙂


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