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

3.64  ·  Rating details ·  1,534 ratings  ·  233 reviews
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
Paperback, 312 pages
Published July 1st 2008 by Harper
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3.64  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,534 ratings  ·  233 reviews

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K.D. Absolutely
Dec 22, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, essays
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 ...more
بثينة الإبراهيم
لا تحظى الكتب التي تبدأ بـ كيف..؟ بسمعة طيبة، لأنها عادة تكون دليلًا فقيرًا ومرشدًا ضحلًا لفعل الأشياء أو تعلمها بطريقة سطحية رديئة، مثل فكرة تعلم اللغة في خمسة أيام-والغريب أنها تلقى رواجًا- غير أن هذا الكتاب مختلف، سلس ينقسم إلى 22 فصلًا وخاتمة، يعرض فيها موضوعات مهمة في قراءة أي رواية، وأسلوب الكاتب مرح أيضًا...
مما جاء فيه (من ترجمتي):

"إن قراءة الروايات تشبه أكل الفشار قليلًا؛ إذ لا يمكنك التوقف ما دمت بدأت. لنقل إنك تتذكر أنك قرأت القصة القصيرة "حادث على جسر أول كريك" للكاتب أمبروز بيرس حين
Dec 27, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Jul 29, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: readers and writers

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,
Aug 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anybody looking for novel suggestions
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 ...more
Barbora Romanovská
Naprosto fantastická kniha z pera amerického literárního kritika. Velmi poutavou a osvěžující formou napsaná kniha o románové tvorbě, ve které se věnuje zejména vývoji románu jako literární formy a autorskému stylu. Jak číst romány jako profesor je také jedním velkým doporučením knih, které byste neměli v životě minout. Autor veškerá ponaučení doprovází řadou ukázek a odkazů, čímž provazuje jednotlivé kapitoly knih do propracovaného celku.

Ve stručnosti řečeno je to právě ta kniha, do které byst
Sep 03, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: own
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.

Jake Gest
Jun 05, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
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
Jan 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
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.
Stephen Hoogerhyde
Aug 22, 2018 rated it liked it
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
Anna W
Dec 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
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.
C.G. Fewston
Dec 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Dec 08, 2011 rated it liked it
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 ...more
Oct 19, 2015 rated it liked it
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
Jan 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: eua, teoria-e-critica
Faz algum tempo que eu ganhei esse livro da própria editora. A princípio desconsiderei e deixei de lado, um pouco até por preconceito com o título bobinho (uma tradução de How to Read Novels like a Professor, título bobinho também no original, nos moldes tão caros aos manuais americanos, como fazer isso e aquilo...)

Um dia, deixando o preconceito de lado, e para não descartar o livro sem ter nem dado uma chance, resolvi pegar pra ler. O que tenho a dizer agora é que ele é mesmo um manual basicão

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
Aug 04, 2009 rated it liked it
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 ...more
Jul 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014
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.
Jul 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015, non-fiction
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.
Jul 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
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.
Jan 16, 2019 rated it liked it
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 ...more
Aug 09, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2017-reads, own
Had to read to AP Lit summer homework.
Feb 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
U této knihy lituji, že se mi nedostala do ruky již během střední školy.
Hned zkraje nabízí autor 18 bodů, dle kterých je možno román od začátku rozebírat a napříč celou knihou se k nim buď vrací, nebo představuje další různé zákonitosti, pravidla, či jiná zjištění a to vše za bohatého doprovodu ukázek z knih spisovatelů - hlavně 19 a 20 století.
Mimo jiné poukazuje na to, že hlubší porozumění textu vyžaduje určitou praxi, trpělivost a snahu. Umění "užít" si náročnější literaturu nám není ihned vr
Oct 04, 2013 rated it did not like it
This is a horrible book. There's really no deep insight. The author pretends to be philosopher. He just listed his own opinions. It tells you about the simplest parts of book that anyone should be able to identify after tenth even ninth grade. His concepts are really simple he just tries to sound smart and philosophical by throwing them through a thesaurus. He breaks his own ideologies IN HIS OWN BOOK. Half the chapters all he did was list names of books most people haven't even read, especially ...more
L.E. Fidler
Thomas C. Foster loves Ulysses. Very, very much. And that might be the chief point upon which we disagree. He gives a good overview of the key elements educators (professors) see/read for in a novel: point-of-view, character, first pages, setting, etc. His pace is quick, energetic, and easily digestible.

except for that pesky Joyce.

I get it. Lots of scholars, smart folk, pretentious folk, nice folk, simple folk, complicated folk, etc. love Ulysses. Or love to try to read Ulysses. But for each pe
Sherwood Smith
If you've been reading literature your entire life (and also reading literature about literature) then you will probably find, like me, nothing new here. But I happen to enjoy reading books about books; it feels like a conversation. Especially when, as in this case, our opinions widely diverge.

Foster thinks Hardy the greatest writer of the nineteenth century, and rhapsodizes about what exquisite pain it is to read Tess. Um, yes, Pain, got that, exquisite, only in the figurative sense. Tess is a
May 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
Foster creates a conversation with his reader, guiding us to understand the approaches that distinguish classics from others. He emphasizes repeatedly how there is no magic formula, but there are certain constants. Hemingway uses short sentences; Faulkner tortuously long ones. Both force the reader to develop a meaning. I also appreciated the context he provided for various trends in fiction. Victorian novels were shaped by the serialized nature of publishing, such that chapters needed to hae a ...more
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Thomas C. Foster is Professor of English at the University of Michigan, Flint, where he teaches classes in contemporary fiction, drama, and poetry as well as creative writing and composition. Foster has been teaching literature and writing since 1975, the last twenty-one years at the University of Michigan-Flint. He lives in East Lansing, Michigan.

In addition to How to Read Novels Like a Professor
“The novels we read allow us to encounter possible persons, versions of ourselves hat we would never see, never permit ourselves to see, never permit ourselves to become, in places we can never go and might not care to, while assuring that we get to return home again” 13 likes
“When it's over, we may feel wooed, adored, appreciated, or abused, but it will have been an affair to remember.” 7 likes
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