10 of the Best Books about Literature

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Interesting Literature

10 great books for literature-lovers, from surveys of English literature to treasure-troves of trivia

Christopher Booker, The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories. A monumental, weighty tome that shows how all fictional narratives from folk tales to novels and films follow essentially seven basic plot forms, such as ‘overcoming the monster’ (Beowulf, Jaws). Riddled with typos, but if you can put up with them, this book is illuminating and entertaining.

Gary Dexter, Title Deeds: The Hidden Stories behind 50 Books. An engaging book full of fascinating information about some of the world’s classic books, and the stories behind how they came to be called what they’re called.

Gary Dexter, Why Not Catch-21? This is an earlier book on the same theme as Title Deeds and just as much fun.

B. Ifor Evans, A Short History of English Literature. Now sadly out of print, this delightful little Pelican paperback…

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Foster’s Laws on Reading

Cover of "How to Read Novels Like a Profe...
Available on Amazon and at you local bookstore. (Cover via Amazon.)

I love to read books on writing but I love even more to read books on books. For the past few months I’ve read Thomas C. Foster’s How to Read Novels Like a Professor, Kevin Smokler’s Practical Classics: 50 Reasons to Reread 50 Books You Haven’t Touched Since High School, and attempted to read How Novels Work by John Mullan.

If you’re familiar with my posts, then it’s no surprise that I read Foster’s How to Read Novels Like a Professor. His first book, How to Read Literature Like a Professor, was a delightful read and I closed its covers having digested various tips to enrich my reading. How to Read Novels Like a Professor was just as enjoyable. Foster’s quips on the novels he discusses were entertaining. And what a lot of novels he covers! He hardly discriminates, including both contemporary classics like Harry Potter and those of old like Don Quixote. You will end this book with a long list of books to include in a reading challenge, such as the Classics Club’s reading challenge.

Foster’s book is not only for readers and students (student-readers). I highly recommend this book to writers as well. Reading relates to writing so as Foster discusses how to read better he essentially discusses how to write as well. He covers plot, character, dialogue, and all the obvious parts of a story and then some, such as the history of the novel. He discusses how its form came about and how the novel has changed over time. Reading his book is like taking his class. I’ve never taken his classes before (he is a professor of English at University of Michigan, Flint) but because of the wealth of topics covered and how he conveys them, it’s like taking a class with a very friendly professor who knows how to relate potential boring information while keeping the pupil’s interests high.

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“Judging a Book by Its Lover: A Field Guide to the Hearts and Minds of Readers Everywhere” by Lauren Leto

Judging a Book by Its Lover
Available on Amazon and at your local bookstore.

Here’s another hilarious book on books.

I came across this one on Goodreads.com. It was up for grabs on the Giveaways section. I liked the title so I entered the drawing but, as fortune would have it, I did not win the free book. Upset, I decided to forget about about reading it but while snooping around Barnes & Noble for a copy of the Steve Jobs autobiography, I stumbled upon Judging a Book by Its Lover and decided to buy it.

I enjoyed reading this book. Leto is funny. I read it while on the plane, which was a bit distracting since I’m always staring out the window at the clouds, almost blinding myself by the sun. This was a quick read and by the time the plane landed, I was a few pages from its end. The flight was about 4 hours long.

Judging a Book by Its Lover is a book of essays on books and book-lovers and types of book-lovers. My favorite chapters were “What Your Child Will Grow Up to Be if You Read Them…” and “How to Fake It.” I might just use some of the tips listed in “How to Fake It” for fun. Many readers have faked reading a book, though they might never admit to it. I faked reading the Lord of the Rings series for quite sometime before I knuckled down and began reading it. Back then, if I found myself in a conversation about the books, I would just use my knowledge of the movies to carry me through.

The references to books and authors will keep you giggling throughout. Sometimes it will wear you down, though, as sections drag on. But if you stick with it, you are sure to enjoy the book.

Quote from book: “People aren’t fully formed yet in middle school, they’re just globs of hormones and wandering personality traits gained through osmosis from pop culture, with senses of humor consisting entirely of canned lines from funny movies.”