Book Review: How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster

March 17, 2022

About:

How to Read Literature Like a Professor: A Lively and Entertaining Guide to Reading Between the Lines by Thomas C. Foster is an amusing book which allows the layman reader into the mind of a literature professor. Mr. Foster is an English professor (as the title implies) at the University of Michigan.

  • 336 pages
  • Publisher ‏ : Harper Perennial
  • Language ‏ : English
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : 9780062301673

Book Review: How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster
My rating for How to Read Literature Like a Professor  – 5

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Thoughts:

I always wondered what a bored literature professor saw in books things which I either couldn’t, wouldn’t, or simply didn’t care to. How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster was recommended to me on a literature forum I visit, so I took the plunge.

I have read several articles on the subject, but never thought I’d read a whole book. The reason is that I found them to be self-congratulatory, stuffy, high-browed, but mostly taking themselves too seriously, and frankly they were condescending.

This book, however, is a joy to read, the author makes his points simply, yet poignantly in a surprisingly conversational tone.  Prof. Foster gives many examples, summering up the story, as well as printing samples. The author than goes to explain what he is looking for, reading between the lines. However, he also makes the point that the story has to make sense at face value as well.

One of the reasons to read the classics (besides the fact that most of them are very good), is because they are often referenced in other forms of literature (even subconsciously). The Bible, Homer’s The Odyssey, and Shakespeare of course lead the way, but many others are also included.

Most importantly, Prof. Foster has cemented something I always suspected. The writers generally get too much credit. The reader doesn’t need to unravel what the author meant, but their own interpretation is just as good (and sometimes even better).

Overall, this book is certainly going to enrich my reading experiences. There is also a great list of works which he recommends reading, some I read, some I’m never going to, but many will be added to my already too long “to be read” list.

What I learned:

  • Always look for corresponding work in between the lines
  • Everything is a symbol
  • Find the patterns and motifs
  • There’s only one story
  • A quest is always about self-knowledge
  • A meal/drink is a communion
  • Underwater is rebirth
  • Weather is never “just” weather
  • The paranormal is never about the paranormal
  • You can’t get away from politics
  • When going “down south” expect something crazy to happen
  • No work is wholly original
  • The story has to makes sense at face value
  • Writers love to allude to Shakespeare because it makes them seem smarter than quoting cartoons

Zohar — Man of la Book
Dis­claimer: I got bought book
*Ama­zon links point to an affil­i­ate account, the money is usually spent on books

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How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster
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Wrap Up

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

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