How to Read Literature Like a Professor (2003, rev. 2014)
Literature lives by a set of codes that convey meaning: when characters take journeys or eat together or walk out in rain or snow, those things suggest meanings beyond their literal message on the page. These codes developed over many centuries of storytelling, and writers learn them from years of reading and writing. You’ve learned them, too, with every story, every poem, every movie you’ve ever read or watched; you just haven’t realized it. Using humor and a light tone, this book takes readers through many of these codes and suggests ways of gleaning a fuller understanding of literary works. A New York Times bestseller with over a million copies in print, it has become a favorite of English classrooms and independent readers alike.
How to Read Literature Like a Professor – For Kids (2013)
A version of the big book for middle-grade readers, this one presents concepts and examples appropriate for grades 5-8, with examples drawn from classic and contemporary stories that appeal to young readers from ancient Greece to Narnia and Middle Earth and on to Hogwarts. Treating late-elementary and middle-school learners with respect, it shows how thinking about big ideas can also be a lot of fun.
While limiting itself to a mere twenty-five books—novels, poetry, nonfiction—it traces characteristic patterns of American thought from The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin to Walden to The Great Gatsby to Song of Solomon. Many of the standard names—Hemingway, Steinbeck, Twain, Hawthorne, Kerouac—make appearances, but there are also one or two surprises, and even a feline in a striped hat. Written with characteristic humor and wit, the book takes a slightly irreverent look at the way writers help shape the story of the country.
How to Read Novels Like a Professor (2008)
So aren’t all novels literature? Yes, but not all literature is novels, which have their own special rules by which they convey meaning. Looking at structural elements—first pages, chapter structure, point of view, voice, and tone—the book examines how novelists and readers conspire to make long-form fiction the world’s favorite literary genre. With Foster’s customary cockeyed approach, it even provides a set of tongue-in-cheek “rules” for reading novels.