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

Cover of "How to Read Literature Like a P...
Cover via Amazon

Step into the classroom with Professor Foster and learn to read between the lines of the next story, play, or poem you pick up.

I wish I had this book while an undergrad. I should have thought to buy it sooner. Usually I would see it in the store but would bypass it because I thought it would be boring. Obviously, it’s a professor who wrote it and professors are usually boring when they discuss literature and whatnot, especially when they write about it, so this book would also be boring, I reasoned. I was so wrong.

I took a few literature classes by professors who were so excited about the books they discussed, I couldn’t help getting caught up in their excitement and wanting to read the text as they do. They made it seem fun – intellectual fun. So I went out and bought How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster and threw it on my bedroom floor and left it there for a couple months.

One day, I stumbled on it as I was rushing into my room. I then decided to read it. Ha! I thought. This dude is freaking hilarious. Books like this should always be funny or a bit silly at least. It’s the best way to learn something that has the potential to bore a student to death.

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