Emma's Reviews > How to Read a Novel

How to Read a Novel by John Sutherland
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's review
Oct 19, 2015

it was ok

The only reason this book gets two stars (instead of one) is that I didn't actively dislike it. It was easy to read and mildly interesting. I wanted to keep reading. I kept hoping to actually learn "How to Read a Novel."

The book, or rather the title, is a brilliant example of marketing. As an avid reader, a lover of novels and an English teacher of 21st century teenagers, how could I NOT pick up a book that promises to teach us "how novels work, what they're about, what makes them good or bad, and how to talk about them with kindred spirits." Unfortunately, the blurb is pure fabrication. It has nothing at all to do with the book it's printed on.

How to Read a Novel is a largely useless book wrapped in the most amazingly nerdalicious wrapping in the world. If ever a book is published that actually delivers what the title and blurb claim, I will be "all upons" (to quote Strongbad, which is something everyone should do at least once in their life). John Sutherland's book would be more aptly titled, "How to pick a novel" and subtitled, "A book that lists a number of approaches to chosing reading material, but doesn't give you any practical advice at all". Of course, I don't know a single person who would actually pick that book up, let alone get excited about reading it. Whoever thought of the title of this book is a genius is commercial terms. Whoever wrote the blurb (likely Sutherland himself, as he explains in chapter 7 "that they are often written by the authors themselves") is an outright liar.

Maybe Sutherland had every intention of writing an actual useful book that does everything promised in the cover copy, but he didn't. He's not a bad writer. He's knowledgeable. He has experience in reading and judging books. But he did not write a book that deserves the title, "How to Read a Novel. A User's Guide." Incedentally, he is also rather self-important and likes to boast about the books he's read. I can't really blame him for that though. I'm the same.

In one word: Disappointing.


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Reading Progress

October 19, 2015 – Shelved
Started Reading
October 20, 2015 – Finished Reading

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