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How to Read Novels Like a Professor: A Jaunty Exploration of the World's Favorite Literary Form

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Of all the literary forms, the novel is arguably the most discussed . . . and fretted over. From Miguel de Cervantes's Don Quixote to the works of Jane Austen, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and today's masters, the novel has grown with and adapted to changing societies and technologies, mixing tradition and innovation in every age throughout history. Thomas C. Fost Of all the literary forms, the novel is arguably the most discussed . . . and fretted over. From Miguel de Cervantes's Don Quixote to the works of Jane Austen, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and today's masters, the novel has grown with and adapted to changing societies and technologies, mixing tradition and innovation in every age throughout history. Thomas C. Foster—the sage and scholar who ingeniously led readers through the fascinating symbolic codes of great literature in his first book, How to Read Literature Like a Professor—now examines the grammar of the popular novel. Exploring how authors' choices about structure—point of view, narrative voice, first page, chapter construction, character emblems, and narrative (dis)continuity—create meaning and a special literary language, How to Read Novels Like a Professor shares the keys to this language with readers who want to get more insight, more understanding, and more pleasure from their reading.


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Of all the literary forms, the novel is arguably the most discussed . . . and fretted over. From Miguel de Cervantes's Don Quixote to the works of Jane Austen, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and today's masters, the novel has grown with and adapted to changing societies and technologies, mixing tradition and innovation in every age throughout history. Thomas C. Fost Of all the literary forms, the novel is arguably the most discussed . . . and fretted over. From Miguel de Cervantes's Don Quixote to the works of Jane Austen, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and today's masters, the novel has grown with and adapted to changing societies and technologies, mixing tradition and innovation in every age throughout history. Thomas C. Foster—the sage and scholar who ingeniously led readers through the fascinating symbolic codes of great literature in his first book, How to Read Literature Like a Professor—now examines the grammar of the popular novel. Exploring how authors' choices about structure—point of view, narrative voice, first page, chapter construction, character emblems, and narrative (dis)continuity—create meaning and a special literary language, How to Read Novels Like a Professor shares the keys to this language with readers who want to get more insight, more understanding, and more pleasure from their reading.

30 review for How to Read Novels Like a Professor: A Jaunty Exploration of the World's Favorite Literary Form

  1. 4 out of 5

    K.D. Absolutely

    I learned a lot from this book. There are just too many insights that I gained from this that I will have a textbook of my own if I try to list them down and put my own thoughts. It’s just that it will not sell because I am not Thomas C. Foster who has been teaching literature and writing at University of Michigan-Flint. My writing is lame compared to his lively conversational style and the number of novels that I've read, especially classics, is not as many as those he has read. Not to mention I learned a lot from this book. There are just too many insights that I gained from this that I will have a textbook of my own if I try to list them down and put my own thoughts. It’s just that it will not sell because I am not Thomas C. Foster who has been teaching literature and writing at University of Michigan-Flint. My writing is lame compared to his lively conversational style and the number of novels that I've read, especially classics, is not as many as those he has read. Not to mention of course, that I read mine not how a professor would read but as a mere reader. This later point is obvious. In this book, he cited many examples to the extent that this book seems to be a book list of those that he enjoyed and hence recommends to his students or in this case, readers. When he discussed those books, of course he mentioned spoilers. Fortunately, I did not care. Two reasons: I read maybe half of the books that he mentioned or made references to and for those I have not read, it perked up my interest to read them. Examples of these are John Fowles’ The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1969) and Tess of the D’Urbervilles Thomas Hardy. He used both of these books as examples in most of the chapters and topics that I had this urge while reading of stopping and switch to them. That’s how much interesting this book was. Thank God I’ve read the other books already One Hundred Years of Solitude, Under the Net (1954), The Sea, The Sea (1978), A Clockwork Orange (1962) and At Swim-Two-Birds. What I’m trying to say is that if you have not been reading lots of these classic works, I suggest that you don’t read this book yet. It might spoil your fun. But if you generally don’t care about spoilers, i.e., because you can instead focus on the writing and not on the plot (like me), then go and give this book a chance. I made lots of notes while reading this book. That’s why it took me awhile to finish this. But if I have to list down the 3 main points that I learned, here are they:1. Reading is a joint effort between the writer and the reader. Both have expectations that are defined on the first page of the book. A book is nothing without its reader. The reader brings with him, when he reads, his own life experiences to the exercise. Oftentimes, these life experiences contribute to the flavor of the book. Flavor, like food, that will determine whether the reader likes the book or not. 2. There is no such a thing as original story. There is only one story and all the rest are inspired by the previous works. Nobody can claim originality. So, I should stop saying that this and that writer or book is not original. 3. If a writer wants to win a Nobel Prize for Literature, he has to write something with political or historical theme. Of course, it goes without saying that the writer should be good. In line with the first realization above, a good novel gives its readers the eighteen things or “beauties” on their first page: 1) Style – short or long sentences, simple or complex, rushed or leisurely. Think Hemingway and his short declarative sentences. 2) Tone – (how the voice sound) elegiac, matter-of-fact, ironic. Think of Jane Austen and “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a man in possession of fortune must be in search of a wife.” 3) Mood – (how it feels about what’s its telling) – regret, guilt, anger of the narrator like Nick Carraway in The Great Gatsby. 4) Diction – what kinds of words does the novel use: common or rare, friendly or challenging, whole or fractured, on purpose or accidental. Think of Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange. 5) Point of View – who relative to the story and its characters. Think of Italo Calvino’s If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller that uses the rare 2nd person narration. 6) Narrative Presence – the other who: disembodied or possessed by a personage, inside or outside the story. Think of Henry Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms with its first person narrator Fredrik Henry. 7) Narrative Attitude – narrator’s feeling about the people and action in the novel. Austen’s narrators: generally amused, slightly aloof, a little superior compared to Dicken’s tend to be earnest, involved, direct (if third-person); naïve, earnest, involved, direct (if first person). 8) Time Frame – contemporaneously or a long time ago. Think of Garcia Marquez’s magical opening saying “many years later.” It says, first of all, that this novel will cover a great deal of time, enough for a small child holding his father’s hand to rise to power and fall from it. But it also says something else magical: “once upon a time.” This is a kind of fairy tale, it says, about an exotic place and time, neither of which exists anymore (nowhere can be that backward, he hints), that were special in their own time. Any novelist who isn’t jealous about those three words alone isn’t very serious craft. (p.28-29). 9) Time Management – fast or slow, told in or near the now of the story or long after. Think Julian Barnes’s The Sense of an Ending when the old protagonist recalled the time when he was young narrated in the first part of the book. 10) Place – more than mere setting. Place is a sense of things, a mode of thought, a way of seeing. 11) Motiff – stuff that happens again and again. Rain in Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms. Flowers in Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway. Miracles and the colonel’s narrow escape in Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude. It can be an image, action, language pattern, anything that happens again and again. 12) Theme – it is about, well, aboutness. Story is what gets a novel going and what we focus on, but theme is one that makes the reading worthwhile. It is the idea content of the novel. 13) Irony – verbal, dramatic, comic, situational. 14) Rhythm – prose and narrative. It is related to diction but diction has to do with the words a writer uses, rhythm with how they’re deployed in sentences. 15) Pace – fast or slow. 16) Expectations – what the writer is expecting from the reader. George Eliot: time and patience. Thomas Pynchon: hip and savvy who’s unafraid of the wacky and unconventional. Wodehouse: relaxed, jaunty companion. 17) Character – protagonist means “first agent.” 18) Instructions on How to Read the Novel – how the novelist wants to be read. In relation to narrator, I also learned its different types:1) Third Party Omniscient or simply Omniscient – “Godlike” - very popular during the 19th century 2) Third Person Limited – outsider to the action; one sided view of the action 3) Third Person Objective – limited view much like the same as us in our everyday living 4) Stream of Consciousness – extractor that goes into characters’ heads to pull out their narration of their existence. There is a big chapter on this that I had to read twice because I thought I knew the meaning of this prior to reading this book. However, after my first reading, I developed a headache and got confused. Now I know that this is about “getting to the character’s thought without any mediator or filtering.” I thought that stream-of-consciousness is always first person but it can be, and in most cases, third person narration. 5) Second Person – very rare 6) First Person Central - main character makes his own excuses. Huck Finn or David Copperfield for example. 7) First Person Secondary – sidekickSo, how to read a novel like a professor? Pay attention to the 18 beauties above and the narrative style. They are not everything I learned from this book yet (so don't you think that those are spoilers and suggest that I click the spoiler tag) but I guess knowing these will make me go a long way already. I mean, I'd like to share them with you so you don't need to click the link just to show them up. This book is an essay and an earlier comment says that this feels like a textbook. I say, it feels like a lecture what with a conversational style of Foster's writing. I don't care. I really liked this. In fact, I wish I had a literature professor like Foster when I was in college!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Thomas

    I love reading books about books. How to Read Novels Like a Professor has excited me and made me more enthusiastic to start my next novel. For those who do not have much experience in learning about what constitutes a novel - for example, I'm only a high school student - Foster's book would be a great place to begin. He provides a fantastic list of rules (which you can find in this review) and uses a wide array of examples from novels published decades apart. However, because I have already read I love reading books about books. How to Read Novels Like a Professor has excited me and made me more enthusiastic to start my next novel. For those who do not have much experience in learning about what constitutes a novel - for example, I'm only a high school student - Foster's book would be a great place to begin. He provides a fantastic list of rules (which you can find in this review) and uses a wide array of examples from novels published decades apart. However, because I have already read his book How to Read Literature Like a Professor, I felt that I already knew and was rereading some of the sections in this book. It makes sense because literature and novels are bound to share some qualities, but the idea of intertextuality as well as there being only "one story" did not impress me. Intellectually they do, but I would have enjoyed reading about them more if I hadn't already done so in one of Foster's other works. Overall, this is a well-written guide that many will find useful. Perhaps I'll reference it sometime later on in my senior year or while I'm in college. Foster's engaged tone and occasional humorous remark makes the information he's relaying easy to digest, and much better than reading a textbook on the same subjects. *review cross-posted on my blog, the quiet voice.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Judith E

    This is the second book about literature I have read by the witty and knowledgeable Dr. Foster. He smartly breaks down fiction styles, such as the traditionally organized novel, meta-fiction (which is not as new as many think), magical realism, and others. He stresses the way the story is told is as important as the story. The voice of the narrator, the sentence style, and the reader’s life experiences all contribute to what the reader takes away from the writing. There is a treasure trove of ac This is the second book about literature I have read by the witty and knowledgeable Dr. Foster. He smartly breaks down fiction styles, such as the traditionally organized novel, meta-fiction (which is not as new as many think), magical realism, and others. He stresses the way the story is told is as important as the story. The voice of the narrator, the sentence style, and the reader’s life experiences all contribute to what the reader takes away from the writing. There is a treasure trove of accomplished fiction from Dickens to John Fowles to Kingsolver that is used for references and examples. Dr. Foster’s lifetime of reading, writing, and teaching gives the novice an inside look at the real genius of writers and novels. If you are interested in the novel’s evolution and composition, then this is a good introduction.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Judy

    Thomas Foster is a professor of English at the University of Michigan, but he writes about literature in a lively conversational style. I learned much about literary terms, styles and trends. The information was explained clearly and truly has made me a smarter reader. He begins with his own version of the history of the novel. Then by using plenty of examples, he makes sense of the dense and mysterious terminology of literary writing; words like unreliable narrator, meta-fiction, post-nmodern, Thomas Foster is a professor of English at the University of Michigan, but he writes about literature in a lively conversational style. I learned much about literary terms, styles and trends. The information was explained clearly and truly has made me a smarter reader. He begins with his own version of the history of the novel. Then by using plenty of examples, he makes sense of the dense and mysterious terminology of literary writing; words like unreliable narrator, meta-fiction, post-nmodern, stream of consciousness became concepts which I then began to see being employed in the novels I was reading. It was eye-opening and mind-expanding. Anyone who is learning to write fiction or who attends reading group discussions will find short, helpful chapters that can inform the construction of stories or make you look impressively smart at book club. Most of all, I feel the time I spent with this book has enhanced my already vast enjoyment of reading as many novels as I can.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

    I am still on the fence about this book. Having read his prior guide, How to Read Literature Like a Professor: A Lively and Entertaining Guide to Reading Between the Lines, I was looking very forward to this work as well. Having finished, I am not exactly sure where I stand. To be honest, I was looking forward to something a bit more similar to his first book. This guide has a roughly similar idea, but it really did not do anything for me as far as learning how to read a novel. It was more of a I am still on the fence about this book. Having read his prior guide, How to Read Literature Like a Professor: A Lively and Entertaining Guide to Reading Between the Lines, I was looking very forward to this work as well. Having finished, I am not exactly sure where I stand. To be honest, I was looking forward to something a bit more similar to his first book. This guide has a roughly similar idea, but it really did not do anything for me as far as learning how to read a novel. It was more of a study in novel history, styles, and techniques. It did offer some wonderful insight in why authors do what they do, the choices they make, and experiments they take. The problem is that Foster did not offer much in how to interpret this. It was like a study in the various ways writers craft their technique and how it differs between them (and time). Which leads me to the next thing... This book, perhaps, should have been titled, "How to Craft Novels Like a Writer," or some other similar idea. There is a lot in here for an aspiring writer, examples of theme, and so forth. I got much more out of this book on a writing level than on a reading level. he even references his creative writing classes several times as examples. All of the examples used to try and illustrate how to 'read' a passage was much better used as a writing guideline/example. So, in other words, the book makes a great guide for aspiring writers and for those who want some history and aspects of the novel as a form of literature. If you are looking for something as straightforward as his first book, this does not come close. I know some people had an issue with his 'cookie-cutter' approach in his first work, but that is exactly why it is now being used in the classroom by many teachers. It offered some very straightforward approaches in how to look at, scrutinize, and analyze literature. It is also not as exciting or as humorous as his first work either; this book comes off a bit more dry at parts. I found myself skimming and skipping through a few areas. Don't get me wrong, this is a good book and it offered some really great information, but when compared to How to Read Literature Like a Professor: A Lively and Entertaining Guide to Reading Between the Lines, it is average at best. Three stars on a reading level, four, if not five, on a study in writing and technique.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Sohaib

    I love this book. It radiates with perkiness; it nudges with persistence for more active literary reading. And we know most of us could use a little push when it comes to that. The style is conversational. You don’t read. You listen to Foster and only sometimes give a little “Aha,” a question, a comment or a smirk. Now down to the facts. I will sketch some of the highlights here. Foster advises to read with one’s ears. What does that mean? Intertextuality: the dialogic nature of novels, i.e. the I love this book. It radiates with perkiness; it nudges with persistence for more active literary reading. And we know most of us could use a little push when it comes to that. The style is conversational. You don’t read. You listen to Foster and only sometimes give a little “Aha,” a question, a comment or a smirk. Now down to the facts. I will sketch some of the highlights here. Foster advises to read with one’s ears. What does that mean? Intertextuality: the dialogic nature of novels, i.e. the way novels can give somewhat explicit shout-outs to one another regardless of the novelist’s intention. Novels\novelists can’t help but influence one another. Here is an observation of mine: two years ago, you read Wuthering Heights and noticed how the actual story is embedded within the narrative; Lockwood is telling us what Nelly has told him. A week ago, you read Heart of Darkness and noticed how the first narrator is narrating what Marlow tells everyone on boat. So the first narrator, the one telling us the story, is one of the listeners. Same thing here: a narrative is engrafted within a narrative. Did Conrad read WH before he wrote HOD? I don’t know. But he uses the same move. And you can bet others have used it too. Foster talks about more literary terms like metafiction and reader response (not stylistically though, only indirectly he emphasizes readers’ role in the transaction). This book is a magnificent primer into the genre. If you’re planning to take a course on the novel anytime soon, then this is your book. It covers the novel’s development from the Victorian era to modernism and postmodernism. But it lacks perspective on contemporary trends like post-postmodernism (or alter-modernism), dystopian, apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction. So if you’re concerned about these … shortcomings are predictable in every introduction; hence the reading list in the end. Here is a summary of the three literary trends: Victorian writers went for the emotional hook. They wanted their readers to invest emotionally in characters so they would keep hanging for years. Understandable since novelists serialized their writing in monthly installments and wanted to keep selling. They used clean endings and linear narratives: the real crowd pleasers. Like Potter or popular fiction. Public taste and monetary concerns dictated upon the Victorians how to write and why to write this way. The modernists broke from these conventions. They wrote in anything but linearity. Their narratives often branched out in all kinds of direction. The stream of consciousness was the epitome of this berserk burgeoning, from which, understandably, no ending can come clean, if you can call it an ending even! With their antiheros and their focus on the aesthetics of writing rather than the emotional gambit, the modernists flourished; and, Dickens was thrown out of the building, or the tree house. (Think I’m exaggerating with this tree metaphor? Just read Woolf, Joyce or Proust) Postmodernists harnessed the literary device of metafiction: the way a novel draws attention to its own fictitiousness. This Foster foregrounds and elaborates on. Yet he, for some reason, does not specify the differences between postmodernism and modernism, and for that, I recommend reading Peter Barry’s Beginning Theory’s chapter on postmodernism, or, if you’re up for it, read “Theorizing Postmodernism” in David Richter’s behemoth: The Critical Tradition. But that I’m sure will give anyone a headache.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

    My favorite thing about this book is the number of books that i'd never heard of before that i can now add to my To Read list: The Third Policeman; In the Forest; Snow by Orhan Pamuk; The Mezzanine (though i've read 3 other Nicholson Bakers and liked them); and Water Music (though i've read one other T. Coreghesan Boyle and did not much like it), among others. And then there are the many books that i had heard of but never thought i might want to read: Madame Bovary; Tess of the D'Urbervilles; T My favorite thing about this book is the number of books that i'd never heard of before that i can now add to my To Read list: The Third Policeman; In the Forest; Snow by Orhan Pamuk; The Mezzanine (though i've read 3 other Nicholson Bakers and liked them); and Water Music (though i've read one other T. Coreghesan Boyle and did not much like it), among others. And then there are the many books that i had heard of but never thought i might want to read: Madame Bovary; Tess of the D'Urbervilles; Tristram Shandy; The French Lieutenant's Woman; and The Good Soldier, among others. Prof. Foster's voice is pitch-perfect for my taste. I grew so sick of literary criticism in my one semester of graduate school that i never wanted to read it again. This is nothing like the self-serving, insular, cliquey drivel churned out by journals day in and day out. Foster's commentary can be read by anybody who likes to read. And i'm willing to predict that anybody who fits that description will finish the book with at least a couple new novels to try. I was going to provide a reductio ad absurdum of this book by listing every single "Foster Law" (e.g., "The Law of Look Who's Talking: The narrator of a fictional work is an imaginative and linguistic construct, every bit as much as the characters or events"), but i'll let you discover these gems for yourself. Suffice to say that if you listed all of them and thought about them before, during, and after reading, you'd have a Theory of Novels.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance

    I love books. You know that about me. But what probably you don’t know is that there are some books that I don’t like, some books I actually hate. Yes, it’s true. I hate textbooks. I loathe textbooks. I hate the pompous, condescending tone of textbooks. I hate the know-it-all attitude of textbooks. I hate the way textbooks act like they don’t have to try to be well-written; textbooks know people will be read them anyway because people are forced to read them. I hate textbooks. So I will say, sadl I love books. You know that about me. But what probably you don’t know is that there are some books that I don’t like, some books I actually hate. Yes, it’s true. I hate textbooks. I loathe textbooks. I hate the pompous, condescending tone of textbooks. I hate the know-it-all attitude of textbooks. I hate the way textbooks act like they don’t have to try to be well-written; textbooks know people will be read them anyway because people are forced to read them. I hate textbooks. So I will say, sadly, that I found this book to be a textbook. There is, sadly, nothing jaunty about this book. I liked How to Read Literature Like a Professor, this author’s previous book. But maybe Foster used up all his jauntiness in that book. In any case, I was bored to death reading this book and that’s a shame.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Marne

    Wow, was this a bad choice for me. I thought I should learn more about how to read - you know, look for themes, symbols, etc. No, I think I'm fine just dumbly reading books. Sheese. This was a textbook. Don't believe the cover. It's not "jaunty" at all. Wow, was this a bad choice for me. I thought I should learn more about how to read - you know, look for themes, symbols, etc. No, I think I'm fine just dumbly reading books. Sheese. This was a textbook. Don't believe the cover. It's not "jaunty" at all.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    A book about novels and how to read them by a literature professor. For the most part, he didn't speak over my head, and he joked around a lot, also a plus. Mostly, he discussed American and British novels, but he glosses over Latin-American, French, Russian, and others as well. I enjoyed it. I believe his first was "How to Read Literature Like a Professor". I know I'll want to read that one as well. A book about novels and how to read them by a literature professor. For the most part, he didn't speak over my head, and he joked around a lot, also a plus. Mostly, he discussed American and British novels, but he glosses over Latin-American, French, Russian, and others as well. I enjoyed it. I believe his first was "How to Read Literature Like a Professor". I know I'll want to read that one as well.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jake Gest

    Thomas C. Foster’s love of books, or the written word in general for that matter, seems insatiable. His book How to Read Novels Like a Professor displays this compassion, and spreads his love a reading, like a horrible plague to anyone foolish enough to open the book. I admit, to a person who is not a veracious reader like our friend Foster, the book may seem intimidating. Turning to any random page one is likely to find four or five different novels mentioned, many of them being picked apart in Thomas C. Foster’s love of books, or the written word in general for that matter, seems insatiable. His book How to Read Novels Like a Professor displays this compassion, and spreads his love a reading, like a horrible plague to anyone foolish enough to open the book. I admit, to a person who is not a veracious reader like our friend Foster, the book may seem intimidating. Turning to any random page one is likely to find four or five different novels mentioned, many of them being picked apart in amazing detail. Foster’s saving grace however, is his very honest adoration of these works paired with his willingness to call them out on the faults they do have. Never have I seen such a wonderful analysis of writing as a whole, and never have I seen one with examples like the ones he has. I am surprised that the book was not marketed as much to the writer as the reader. The book has its moments. The chapter on stream of consciousness arguably took me twice as long to read than any other, and left me with a headache. I will admit that this has more to do with my loathing of the literary form, and his inclusion of specific examples of stream of consciousness, than anything he had to say about the topic. I did notice that some of his later chapters recycled some ideas he presented much earlier in the work… oh well I suppose. Overall, the work is worth any amount of time and effort involved in reading it. If anything, it will make ones reading list grow by multitudes. I would argue, if one takes any of his ideas to heart, it would change your experience of the written word henceforth. Original Post: http://gestclarinetist.wordpress.com/2010/06/23/how-to-read-novels-like-a-professor-thomas-c-foster/

  12. 4 out of 5

    Alyssa

    Unlike some reviewers on here, I greatly appreciated this book. Some people expected much more of the author than necessary (but that usually happens). The most important thing I got from reading this book is that there are so many ways to read a novel - many factors both subconsciously and consciously drove the writer to create that text, while the reader also subconsciously and consciously derives meaning from the text. I didn't see that he "loved" Joyce so much as respected him (who really en Unlike some reviewers on here, I greatly appreciated this book. Some people expected much more of the author than necessary (but that usually happens). The most important thing I got from reading this book is that there are so many ways to read a novel - many factors both subconsciously and consciously drove the writer to create that text, while the reader also subconsciously and consciously derives meaning from the text. I didn't see that he "loved" Joyce so much as respected him (who really enjoys reading Ulysses, anyway? I can't read it past page twenty but I have a great respect for Joyce) and I feel like he hit the nail on the head when he says that novels are just a small part of a larger narrative which will never fully be explainable (the narrative of "being human"). I also love that he tells the reader that not everyone will like certain novels or writers, but that is how it should be. A lot of student writers or readers tend to religiously praise past works and their authors simply because it is taught in a classroom. I would recommend this to anyone who sees reading/writing more as a philosophical journey than a two-way road of "right" and "wrong." It was well worth my time.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    This is an informative and entertaining book. My reviews probably won’t become more erudite, but my reading might, at least I hope it will help appreciate reading novels better. And I’m definitely going to read The French Lieutenant's Woman and To the Lighthouse. And I’m sorry, but I am still going to resist reading Ulysses. This is an informative and entertaining book. My reviews probably won’t become more erudite, but my reading might, at least I hope it will help appreciate reading novels better. And I’m definitely going to read The French Lieutenant's Woman and To the Lighthouse. And I’m sorry, but I am still going to resist reading Ulysses.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Anna W

    Nice follow-up to "How to Read Literature Like a Professor". I was worried this would be too repetitive of that book, but there was plenty of new material here to fill a second book. I also appreciated that this book went into a bit more detail about literary history and movements. As with the first book, this was super fun and readable and added a quite a few books to my TBR. Nice follow-up to "How to Read Literature Like a Professor". I was worried this would be too repetitive of that book, but there was plenty of new material here to fill a second book. I also appreciated that this book went into a bit more detail about literary history and movements. As with the first book, this was super fun and readable and added a quite a few books to my TBR.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Stephen Hoogerhyde

    This is a follow-up to his previous book, How to Read Literature Like a Professor. It's interesting, and certainly makes references to an abundance of novels and novelists, a good number with whom I am not familiar. But the book gets more technical than his first book, and goes down some rabbit trails, hence illustrating the Law of Sequels: the sequel is almost never as good as its predecessor. (you'll have to read the book to get that inside joke) Focuses too much on obscure Irish writers, altho This is a follow-up to his previous book, How to Read Literature Like a Professor. It's interesting, and certainly makes references to an abundance of novels and novelists, a good number with whom I am not familiar. But the book gets more technical than his first book, and goes down some rabbit trails, hence illustrating the Law of Sequels: the sequel is almost never as good as its predecessor. (you'll have to read the book to get that inside joke) Focuses too much on obscure Irish writers, although that is his area of specialty, so it's understandable. What was puzzling to me was his almost complete disregard of Philip Roth (one reference that I remember), Graham Greene, Joyce Carol Oates, and John Irving, prolific and well-read novelists all. His first book made me want to read a number of novels that I had not read (or had not read in years). This book made me want to avoid a number of novels. Both, in their own way, helpful.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Briana

    Initial Thoughts: I have mixed feelings about this book. I can see, on one level, why some people think it's simplistic, but I also think that's reductive. Of course, professors don't really look at books and just see the point of view or the other books that were influences on the author or what the style of the prose is. But those things *are* the background information a scholar has to start with in order to begin processing and interpreting a book. You can't write about, say, motherhood in a Initial Thoughts: I have mixed feelings about this book. I can see, on one level, why some people think it's simplistic, but I also think that's reductive. Of course, professors don't really look at books and just see the point of view or the other books that were influences on the author or what the style of the prose is. But those things *are* the background information a scholar has to start with in order to begin processing and interpreting a book. You can't write about, say, motherhood in a novel withotu thinking about who is narrating the book and how that may influence what is said about motherhood, for instance. I also think there's some tension in the book because the author teaches both literature and creating writing, and some of the approaches are definitely more of what I would expect a creative writer to notice and think about, rather than a literature scholar. (Finally, I have som reservations about some misinterpretations about both LotR and Harry Potter. For instance, the author claims that Harry is the only person who goes to Hogwarts not knowing about magic, which is BLATANTLY incorrect (see Muggleborns). It's clear that modern fantasy is not his area of expertise and maybe these were thrown in as examples more relatable than Joyce or Faulkner, but seeing clear misreadings of two different books did have me worried about some of the other examples in the book.)

  17. 4 out of 5

    SpookySoto

    Rating:2.5/5 It's ok I read this book to be able to read more critically, and this offers advice on how to do it. It was very interesting at first but towards the middle and end it became very boring. My biggest problem was the examples used, it limited to a few classic works I'm not familiar with, so it was difficult to fully grasp his teachings. I like the fact he put a short story at the end to serve as a practice for everything he talked about throughout the book. I wish it had a broader scope Rating:2.5/5 It's ok I read this book to be able to read more critically, and this offers advice on how to do it. It was very interesting at first but towards the middle and end it became very boring. My biggest problem was the examples used, it limited to a few classic works I'm not familiar with, so it was difficult to fully grasp his teachings. I like the fact he put a short story at the end to serve as a practice for everything he talked about throughout the book. I wish it had a broader scope regarding the novels and works discussed, and to not be limited to Usa and British works. I'd have loved to see him use modern literature and literature of around the world.

  18. 4 out of 5

    C.G. Fewston

    How to Read Novels Like a Professor (2008) by Thomas C. Foster is the sequel to How to Read Literature Like a Professor, and the novels discussed is this follow-up book range from John Gardner's famous eponymous villain and novel Grendel, Nabokov's Lolita, Twain's Huck Finn, John Fowles's The French Lieutenant's Woman, Gabriel Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude, Rushdie's Best of the Bookers Midnight's Children, Cervantes's Don Quixote, and Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises. Since I hav How to Read Novels Like a Professor (2008) by Thomas C. Foster is the sequel to How to Read Literature Like a Professor, and the novels discussed is this follow-up book range from John Gardner's famous eponymous villain and novel Grendel, Nabokov's Lolita, Twain's Huck Finn, John Fowles's The French Lieutenant's Woman, Gabriel Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude, Rushdie's Best of the Bookers Midnight's Children, Cervantes's Don Quixote, and Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises. Since I have read most of the novels Foster discusses or alludes to, I found this book to be a helpful companion to my own reflections and a very quick and enjoyable read. With that said, many people reading this book without having read a majority of the novels discussed therein (as in the list above) would likely find Foster's analyses and the literary references a bit tough to get through, but nevertheless illuminating, as it stands to reason. And if it pleases the court, Foster's voice does ring true and sincere. Even when explaining complex ideas or otherwise boring facts, Foster spins a web of enthusiasm and humility around his words. In the introduction, as an example of Foster's voice, he adds a brief and useful history lesson on what contemporary readers call a Novel. ''What we call a novel,'' writes Foster, ''would nearly everywhere in non-Anglophone Europe be a roman. That term derives from romanz, the universal term for lengthy narratives in verse prior to the age of print. The word 'novel,' by contrast, comes from the Italian term novella, meaning new and small. English removed the diminutive, stuck with the 'new' part, and a term was born. Fictional narratives of book length would come to be known as novels'' (p 5). The voice presented through the remaining pages are just as smooth and easy to read, and it seems that Foster always has his readers in mind, regardless of their level of literacy. And Foster goes on to explain, later in the book, what these novels are actually about: ''Novels aren't about heroes. They're about us. The novel is a literary form that arose at the same time as the middle class in Europe, those people of small business and property who were neither peasant nor aristocrat, and it has always treated of the middle class. Both lyric and epic poetry grew out of a time that was elitist, a time that believed in the innate right of royalty to rule and the rest of us to amount to not very much'' (p 232-233). Foster is certainly in good company since it was Tolstoy in What is Art? that made direct mention to elitist art forms coming in to decline and the more practical and successful implementation of peasant art in content and in forms. What I liked at times was that Foster kept from the bathos often found among books on literature and did not romanticize a scholarly approach to the romantic notion of literature as an art form. Foster explains: ''We have a desire to divorce art from commerce, to decry the influence of money on movies or corporate underwriters on museums, but the fact of the matter is that most art is influenced to some degree by business issues'' (p 9). One example that is widely known, Foster himself cites it, is the alternate ending to the famed Dickens's novel Great Expectations suggested by the editor. Like Foster, I too have a predilection for the discarded ending (note: no spoilers; you have to read the true ending for yourself). In Chapter 10, ''Clarissa's Flowers'' Foster discusses how objects and images and places are of vital importance to understanding characters and certain ideas associated with those characters. Foster uses examples such as Gatsby and his shirts, rather than the well-known green light on the opposing shore, ''the licorice-flavored Blackjack chewed by the title character in Tim O'Brien's Going After Cacciato'' [an excellent novel], and even Sherlock Holmes and his lesser known deerstalker and seven per cent solution of cocaine (p 120-123). These are but a few examples found in this chapter alone and Foster never becomes esoteric in the examples he uses; even if a person has never read the book being discussed, Foster is clear and precise in the examples he uses and in his explanations and arguments. Foster nears the end of his book by writing, ''Books lead to books, ideas to ideas. You can wear out a hundred hammocks and never reach the end. And that's the good news'' (p 307). I warmheartedly agree, and that is why How to Read Novels Like a Professor is a strong recommend, and it does not matter if you a freshman in high school, a sophomore in university, or a litterateur who wants to be reminded about the romantic or scholarly notion of why it is people love to read. Also, check out my websites: www.cgfewston.net www.cgfewston.me

  19. 4 out of 5

    Rishonda

    The book is called How to Read Novels like a PROFESSOR, and it certainly lived up to that title. Perhaps it would be improved by a reading list at the beginning of the work, so we'd know this book is for people who are more familiar with academically successful novels, not commercial ones. Thomas Foster really has a delightful voice, he manages to take what is essentially a stuffy, boring subject and approach it with humor and charm. But since I haven't read about 90 percent of the books he make The book is called How to Read Novels like a PROFESSOR, and it certainly lived up to that title. Perhaps it would be improved by a reading list at the beginning of the work, so we'd know this book is for people who are more familiar with academically successful novels, not commercial ones. Thomas Foster really has a delightful voice, he manages to take what is essentially a stuffy, boring subject and approach it with humor and charm. But since I haven't read about 90 percent of the books he makes references too, this book didn't always keep my interest, and I found myself putting it down several times, sometimes for months. The book is written as a collection of short "essays," each discussing a theme or aspect of the novel. But it's not the basics, like "character," "theme," or "tone," but rather topics like "all fiction is made-up" (of course it is) and "author inspiration can come from anywhere." I also think Foster spent too much time on postmodern work, and novels like Finnegan's Wake or The French Lieutenants Woman, which, even at the time of publication, were already several decades old. This is an excellent book for an English major or even an English professor, but if you're looking for a deeper understanding of more commercially viable works, look elsewhere.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Veta

    Note to future me: THIS BOOK IS AWESOME. PLEASE TREAT YOURSELF AND RE-READ THIS BEAUTY I guess this wasn't what I expected from a book on literary critcism. Was I utterly wrong in supposing that it would be contrite with canon pathways to understanding the "true" novels, or that it would be unbelievably dry? I don't think I've ever been more surprised to be wrong. This book was bloody hilarious and completely enjoyable. The fact that it had to end was a depressing realisation. Foster's tone was wh Note to future me: THIS BOOK IS AWESOME. PLEASE TREAT YOURSELF AND RE-READ THIS BEAUTY I guess this wasn't what I expected from a book on literary critcism. Was I utterly wrong in supposing that it would be contrite with canon pathways to understanding the "true" novels, or that it would be unbelievably dry? I don't think I've ever been more surprised to be wrong. This book was bloody hilarious and completely enjoyable. The fact that it had to end was a depressing realisation. Foster's tone was what made this. He was so jocular. I find it hard to discover a fault with his delivery on this topic. It was as if I was having a conversation with this guy over a bottle of wine about the highs and lows of novel reading, and just what it means to readers. I recommend this book to literally anyone who considers themselves a lover of reading. It simply and beautifully explains why reading is as entertaining as it is. He doesn't impose a canon, which is just brilliant. He doesn't imply ignorance if you've yet to read one of the well-knowns. It's entirely non-judgmental and it's wonderful.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    It took me awhile to get through this one, not that it wasn't interesting. It was. But, then again, I find almost anything about books and reading interesting to some degree. It just wasn't as readable as I'd hoped. There is great information here, some great examples. There was a lot about the Victorian era novel which was interesting. And I agreed with his ideas about how critical the reader is in giving meaning to what they read in a novel. But, there was a lot of repetition and the examples It took me awhile to get through this one, not that it wasn't interesting. It was. But, then again, I find almost anything about books and reading interesting to some degree. It just wasn't as readable as I'd hoped. There is great information here, some great examples. There was a lot about the Victorian era novel which was interesting. And I agreed with his ideas about how critical the reader is in giving meaning to what they read in a novel. But, there was a lot of repetition and the examples were at times obscure (to me) which made it less impactful than I think it could have been otherwise. I'm glad I read it but it could have been a more concise book than it ultimately was ...

  22. 5 out of 5

    Dianne

    Brilliant. This book was so much fun to read. If the title sounds dry to you, don't pay any attention to it; Foster is easy to read, funny and fascinating. If you love novels, but like me have had no literary education, this is the book you want to read. It's loaded with helpful information that will show you how to get more out of the novels you're reading. It's one I'll read again and again. Brilliant. This book was so much fun to read. If the title sounds dry to you, don't pay any attention to it; Foster is easy to read, funny and fascinating. If you love novels, but like me have had no literary education, this is the book you want to read. It's loaded with helpful information that will show you how to get more out of the novels you're reading. It's one I'll read again and again.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Mees

    I didn't learn anything new from this book (it would be a little disappointing if I had, since I spent years taking classes on (American) literature in college), but it was an engaging list and it fleshed out my "to read" list, too. I didn't learn anything new from this book (it would be a little disappointing if I had, since I spent years taking classes on (American) literature in college), but it was an engaging list and it fleshed out my "to read" list, too.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Courtney

    More like 4.5 stars. But I mean I had to read it for school so naturally it's not going to get 5 stars. More like 4.5 stars. But I mean I had to read it for school so naturally it's not going to get 5 stars.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Dave

    The subtitle calls this book "jaunty," which is not always my favorite type of thing. But it *is* rather pleasantly jaunty,with lots of dumb jokes and a breezy style that makes both the basics of the novel and post-structuralism easy to take. Foster loves the moderns (esp. Hemingway and Faulkner) and those books he thought were really cool in the 60s (Fowles, Barth, Garcia-Marquez). He has read a few things from the last 20 years, but really this is how to read novels like a baby boomer professo The subtitle calls this book "jaunty," which is not always my favorite type of thing. But it *is* rather pleasantly jaunty,with lots of dumb jokes and a breezy style that makes both the basics of the novel and post-structuralism easy to take. Foster loves the moderns (esp. Hemingway and Faulkner) and those books he thought were really cool in the 60s (Fowles, Barth, Garcia-Marquez). He has read a few things from the last 20 years, but really this is how to read novels like a baby boomer professor who thinks closure is outmoded. Not that there's anything wrong with that. But if you were hoping to learn about a whole bunch of new writers, you'll be disappointed. Still, I am now very curious about Edna O'Brien, and might give some of the others another go. BTW, some advice to the author: if you are not a mystery enthusiast, don't talk as if you know it all. Ross Macdonald is not a golden-age mystery writer; Nero Wolfe weighed a seventh of a ton, not a fifth.

  26. 4 out of 5

    ButIDigress

    As a reader, I blast through novels, only caring about what happens next in the story and missing the subtleties of language and sentence structure that authors spend so much time crafting. I’ve never been a language and grammar person. The story plays in my head as my eyes glaze over typos. How to Read Novels Like a Professor gives the history of the novel and breaks down it’s many styles. I appreciated the excerpts followed by Foster’s funny explanations. Hopefully I can slow my reading down a As a reader, I blast through novels, only caring about what happens next in the story and missing the subtleties of language and sentence structure that authors spend so much time crafting. I’ve never been a language and grammar person. The story plays in my head as my eyes glaze over typos. How to Read Novels Like a Professor gives the history of the novel and breaks down it’s many styles. I appreciated the excerpts followed by Foster’s funny explanations. Hopefully I can slow my reading down a bit and spend more time thinking about what authors are saying beyond the basic story.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Vicki

    I decided to read this because I'm teaching a non-majors, intro to fiction class for the first time in...well...decades. Thought it might be a good refresher for how to talk to non-readers about the how's and why's of reading fiction. It was that ...and more. Entertaining, thoughtful, with excellent examples both predictable and delightfully unexpected. The word "jaunty" in the subtitle is quite accurate. Not for those who live primarily in the world of theory, so, yes, either old-fashioned or t I decided to read this because I'm teaching a non-majors, intro to fiction class for the first time in...well...decades. Thought it might be a good refresher for how to talk to non-readers about the how's and why's of reading fiction. It was that ...and more. Entertaining, thoughtful, with excellent examples both predictable and delightfully unexpected. The word "jaunty" in the subtitle is quite accurate. Not for those who live primarily in the world of theory, so, yes, either old-fashioned or timeless.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Gregory Rothbard

    Great introduction to literary criticism... It's for the average reader but the insights were very helpful. This book is a good place to map your reading to dig deeper without cutting your lines of thought. Great introduction to literary criticism... It's for the average reader but the insights were very helpful. This book is a good place to map your reading to dig deeper without cutting your lines of thought.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Rachelle

    Had to read to AP Lit summer homework.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Anna

    I love books about books and reading and this one was all the better for the humorous tone it had.

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