Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “How to Read Literature” as Want to Read:
How to Read Literature
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

How to Read Literature

3.66  ·  Rating details ·  1,539 ratings  ·  261 reviews
A literary master’s entertaining guide to reading with deeper insight, better understanding, and greater pleasure
“Part of the fun of the book is the way in which Eagleton prompts, provokes and at times infuriates. . . . An ideal introductory guide to critical analysis, and a thoroughly enjoyable reminder of Eagleton’s own skill and subtlety as a reader.”—Felicity James,
Paperback, 232 pages
Published September 24th 2019 by Yale University Press (first published May 21st 2013)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about How to Read Literature, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about How to Read Literature

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.66  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,539 ratings  ·  261 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of How to Read Literature
Bill Kerwin
Mar 12, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

At first glance, this is a straightforward book. Written by a clear-thinking critic in pellucid prose, it is entitled How to Read Literature and consists of five chapters headed “Openings,” “Character,” “Narrative,” Interpretations,” and “Value.” Tell me, what could be more straightforward than this? Yet, when I attempt to summarize its thesis and articulate its worth, I find it difficult to begin.

When in doubt, I suppose one should begin with beginnings, so let's start with the first opening di
Apr 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I wasn’t expecting to like this book nearly as much as I have. I studied literature in my undergraduate degree and been interested in literary criticism ever since. I recently read, but didn’t review, Northrop Frye’s Anatomy of Criticism – which I found interesting, if a little ‘scientific’ in its approach, and the review has now slept too long for me to wake it without a bit more effort than I’m happy to expend. I knew before I started reading this that Eagleton is a Marxist, the only other boo ...more
Nandakishore Varma
I have always liked to read books on literary theory - to know the gears and cogs that mesh and grind within the machine known as "literature". We all know that the written word immediately does not become literature; nor do most of the stories and poems we read. We also know that stories we really enjoy (most genre fiction, for example) do not really classify as literature - and stories which bore us to tears (many medieval works) and those which leave us totally befuddled (Finnegan's Wake imme ...more
Aug 02, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A readable introduction to approaching literature in a more structured, insightful way. Definitely one for beginners, it's funny and evaluative but at the more basic end of the literary criticism scale. It covers a good range of titles, many of which I haven't read (on the TBR they go) and the thematic organisation (Openings/Character/Narrative/Interpretation/Value) is used effectively as a means of explaining how literature works. This is not a dull step by step manual, instead Eagleton breaks ...more
Oct 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Like clog dancing, the art of analysing works of literature is almost dead on its feet."

Terry Eagleton is never better than when grumpy. And here, the old curmudgeon takes on an entertaining and erudite ramble through books. Less of a how-to guide and more of an opinion-piece, this book is Eagleton attempting to introduce rigour into our reading.
The book is organised in typically idiosyncratic sections: Openings, Character, Narrative, Interpretation and Value. (Why Openings but not Closings, f
Sajjad thaier

We are such stuff
As dreams are made on;

No it is not a self help book, it’s a very serious book.

Eagleton’s book is about literature, it’s about all the little things that we have read before but just didn’t pay enough attention to.

The trees are coming into leaf Like something almost being said . . .

This book is essential to any literary fan or anyone who enjoy the company of a good novel. Because books are like humans, more you know them more fun they be.
So read this book. It will help you to
The first chapter (Openings) and the last part of the final chapter (Values), where Eagleton analyses fragments of prose and poetry are fabulous, like a live session with an inspiring professor. But as for the middle - I am not sure I can imagine who this book was written for; am under impression that the person interested enough to read that already realizes, at least to some degree, what Eagleton says. There are some remarks on differences between modernist and Victorian writing worth getting ...more
Apr 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary-theory
‪It was my first reading of Eagleton and I can say it's smooth, simple and well-written, with a very plain language that is quite easy to follow. The references are mostly to English literature, except in few really famous cases like Don Quixote, Divine Comedy and Brecht's, in a large span of time from Shakespeare to Beckett and Joyce. Now something to note here: lots of work are skillfully spoiled in a set of a couple of lines! However the way the works are used as references do not need for yo ...more
Literary Ames {Against GR Censorship}
'Good poems and novels are those that transcend their age and speak meaningfully to us all. They deal in permanent, imperishable features of human existence - in joy, suffering, grief, death and sexual passion, rather than in the local and incidental.'

Literary criticism: where philosophy and psychology meet.

Speaking of philosophy, this very much reminded me of my Philosophy of Art and Literature module at university, which is not to say that this can't be read by a novice or a teenag
Apr 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A treasury of common sense--Eagleton one way or another addresses almost every school of criticism and describes its successes and failures. His wit is quick and pointed, and most of the time it hits home. He levels it even at his own preferences, which seem to be Marxist and Freudian criticism. He is very widely and deeply read, but he is not too proud even to discuss Harry Potter. "We may also note the remarkable number of words which begin like Voldemort with V and which have negative connota ...more
The Lazy Reader
This man can make a guide to steel manufacturing interesting.

Humor is trotted out in full display to make this lucid, readable introduction to literary criticism extremely enjoyable. In my opinion, it is worth it to pick this one up if only for the radical literary interpretation of the nursery rhyme 'Ba Ba. Black Sheep.'
Ted Burke
I've been a long time reader of Eagleton for the plain reason that he has a wonderful prose style and that , as a Marxist in the mode of Raymond Williams, he remains skeptical of using art as a springboard for philosophical speculation and insists that we have to appreciate how authors use their imaginations and techniques to elicit the subtle effects on their readership. He does not dodge the political in art, but he does insist that readers remember that literature is about the human experienc ...more
Jul 13, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Having slogged through How To Read Literature, I gained some insights, but the journey was barely worth the effort.

So what are the burdens along the way?

First, the longer analyses of some classics (e.g., 20 pages on Great Expectations) are slow, boring, and over analyzed--to be fair, in part because I don't recall those classics very well. Second, there's the tone. A review in The New York Times said it best: " frequently get the most queasy of literary sensations: that of encountering a
Samson Martirosyan
It felt like talking to a nerdy literary critic and it felt awesome)
Oct 27, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-write-think
Eagleton's dry British wit kept me mostly entertained. He pulls the reader's leg a lot, or, takes the mickey, I suppose it is.

Rather abrupt ending though, with no real review or conclusion. I was expecting him to cover more elements of literature overall, as that's what it seemed he set out to do.

Unfortunately, it feels like Eagleton got bored while writing the manuscript and only turned half of it in-- and they decided to publish it anyway.

By no means is this essential reading or thorough in an
Anna W
3.5 stars. Overall an enjoyable if academic little book about critical reading of literature. Nice range of works covered, including literature, poetry and drama. I liked that the book was broken down by "aspects" of a work (opening, character, narrative). As a somewhat minor point, it often felt like conclusions were missing; chapters and actually the book itself seemed to end in the middle of a point. But that aside, this was a nice little overview, especially for someone like myself who reads ...more
Simon Robs
More like: some thoughts/ways to read literature.
Through the five chapters openings, characters, narrative, interpretation and value the writer highlights points beginners should pay attention to while reading.
This book must not be mistaken as an instructional book for reading literature,there is no steps to follow, instead it's more like "what to expect from" or "what you might come upon while reading" literature.
The writer gives an in-depth explanation of a piece of literature, mostly focusing on novels, plays and poetry, in accordance with
Fiza Pathan
Aug 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book taught me so much about how to write literary criticism that I can't thank it enough. Terry Eagleton has managed to really bring out the essence of how to interpret & analyze literature in this witty book. As I am not a an English Literature graduate or post-graduate, this book was an excellent introduction for me to comprehend how literature works. It taught me through various examples how to frame my literary critiques & how not to go overboard with my interpretations. Indeed, this b ...more
Jasmine Lane
Jan 09, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really enjoyed the chapters on openings and narrative. What I appreciated was in addition to the theory, he also gave many examples demonstrating what he had previously written. At times, I felt like he gave TOO many examples which buried the point he he was trying to make. However, I laughed and learned while reading this book, so highly recommend.
Allison Hogue
I think Eagleton is engaging and there are some good nuggets in this book. However, most of his analysis is rooted in eurocentric literary canon.
Amin Khanbazian
Feb 05, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
How to Read Literature with a convivial language 👍
Oct 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
the best kind of book are ones which explain complicated things simply.this one is definitely one of those books.its very helpful if your looking for something to help you better understand literature.and its very insightful. i enjoyed every bit of it.
Jul 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-own
i feel like this book is really refreshing when it comes to general literature analysis.
This book uses examples to illustrate common close reading techniques. It is useful, but the examples he dissects take up most of the book, and they do get tedious at times. I'm glad I read it, but probably wouldn't have if I didn't have the time I do now thanks to the 2020 lockdown. ...more
Aug 22, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013-reads
I realize I'm in the minority when I think that reading a book on literary criticism (albeit an introduction) sounds like a pleasant -- maybe fun -- way to spend a few hours. But Terry Eagleton gave us just that kind of book for anyone who's at least a semi-serious reader (even less than serious, but I can't imagine anyone else reading this). Covering a wide-range of topics, Eagleton writes with verve and panache, producing and educational as well as entertaining volume.

Over five lengthy chapter
Eustacia Tan
May 15, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
As you can see my the title, I'm in the "I'VE FORGOTTEN ALL MY LITERATURE HELPPP" sort of mood. Yeah, it pops up every now and then now that I no longer have literature as a class (I know, I'm weird).

So this book is a sort of refresher course. It's divided into five parts: "Openings", "Character", "Narrative", "Interpretation" and "Value". Of the five parts, I liked the last two the best. Why? Because it was something that I hadn't really considered before. The first three..... well, it would be
Chris Via
Aug 13, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016, of-reading
Like Eagleton's other introductory books (How to Read a Poem and Literary Theory: An Introduction), this is a great primer for the world of literary criticism in general. The central thesis revolves around an early statement: "The most common mistake students of literature make is to go straight for what the poem or novel says, setting aside the way it says it" (2). From this proposition, Eagleton harps on the fact that we are dealing with works of fiction, not real situations; these characters ...more
Momina Masood
There are moments of remarkable insight in this book but overall it didn't blow me away. I particularly loved his analysis of Dickens' Great Expectations and, of course, the nursery rhyme part was absolutely hilarious. Another good thing that Eagleton said was in the chapter of 'Characters' that how general readers, when reviewing a certain book, talk about the characters as if they were real people, thus taking away the 'literariness' of the book. Not that such passionate interest in a novel's ...more
Long Nguyen
Sep 24, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
as a non-literary type, I read this with the hope of having a deeper awareness and subsequent understanding of literature and the techniques and devices that help construct it. i was not disappointed.

highlights include an analysis of: the common phrase 'man overboard', baa baa black sheep and harry potter. he analyses much more complex texts, of course.

Eagleton's writing style was very agreeable to me. it was insightful but not condescending. and as soon as the analysis gets a bit too heavy he d
« previous 1 3 4 5 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
صالون الجمعة: كيف نقرأ الأدب | 10-2014 26 264 Oct 14, 2014 06:43PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • How Fiction Works
  • An Introduction to Literature, Criticism and Theory
  • A Little History of Literature
  • The Educated Imagination
  • Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction
  • The Naive and the Sentimental Novelist
  • Aspects of the Novel
  • The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays
  • Sur Kenti Hikayeleri
  • Ölmeye Yatmak
  • 2019 on Goodreads
  • مردی که همه چیز، همه چیز، همه چیز داشت
  • A'mâk-ı Hayal
  • All Things Shining: Reading the Western Classics to Find Meaning in a Secular Age
  • La nieve del almirante
  • Marrom e Amarelo
  • The Fun Stuff: And Other Essays
  • A History of Philosophy, Vol. 3: Late Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy, Okham, Francis Bacon, and the Beginning of the Modern World
See similar books…
Widely regarded as England's most influential living literary critic & theorist, Dr Eagleton currently serves as Distinguished Prof. of English Literature at the Univ. of Lancaster & as Visiting Prof. at the Nat'l Univ. of Ireland, Galway. He was Thomas Warton Prof. of English Literature at the Univ. of Oxford ('92-01) & John Edward Taylor Prof. of English Literature at the Univ. of Manchester 'ti ...more

News & Interviews

Need another excuse to treat yourself to a new book this week? We've got you covered with the buzziest new releases of the day. To create our...
14 likes · 2 comments
“If we are inspired only by literature that reflects our own interests, all reading becomes a form of narcissism.” 17 likes
“The most common mistake students of literature make is to go straight for what the poem or novel says, setting aside the way that it says it. To read like this is to set aside the ‘literariness’ of the work – the fact that it is a poem or play or novel, rather than an account of the incidence of soil erosion in Nebraska.” 13 likes
More quotes…