“How to Read Literature Like a Professor” by Thomas Foster

This book is fun. If you enjoy fiction but wonder if you are “getting” it, or you want to upgrade to “literary” fiction or tackle some classics, you need this book. Foster describes reading as a game of “connect the dots” and offers suggestions for how to “get the picture” quicker.

Foster’s chapters tend to come in pairs. “Nice to Eat with You: Acts of Communion” is followed by “Nice to Eat You: Acts of Vampires”. Who can resist?

The chapter entitled “Its All About Sex…” is followed by “…Except Sex”.

Breezy chapters cover Shakespeare, the Bible, fairy tales and Greek mythology.

In addition to frequent references to his favorite books, Foster provides an extensive reading list. If you are tired of what you can find in mall bookstores, this is helpful.

To me, the best chapter was “Don’t Read With Your Eyes”. He means, don’t read with your OWN eyes. You’ll miss a lot if you apply 21st century attitudes to Hamlet, for example. I tend to be rather literal minded, so I need that type of reminder.

I am planning to apply the “don’t read with your own eyes” logic to the work of non-fiction that will be the subject of my next blog entry. It was written around 1970. Not exactly the Dark Ages, but attitudes change quickly and by today’s standards it raises many red flags.

Foster wrote a second, equally lively, volume entitled How to Read Novels Like a Professor, and amazon.com carries a “for kids” edition. Foster deserves lots credit for enhancing people’s reading experiences at a time when so many distractions are available.


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