Reading literature is hard. I’m always banging my head against my ereader and exclaiming, “What does this mean?” A few years ago I read The Dubliners, a collection of short stories by James Joyce and was completely baffled by its most recognized story, The Dead. What in the Dickens was this story detailing a family party supposed to be about? I was completely clueless. Shortly afterwards, I came across How to Read Literature Like A Professor where Thomas C. Foster spelled out everything that was bubbling beneath the surface of that party … and it made sense to me! Since it never occurred to me to look up Sparknotes, it was as if the universe wanted me to understand The Dead once and for all.
Thomas C. Foster provides an easy-to-follow guide to recognizing the symbols that represent some of the most universal themes in literature, as well as some tips and tricks if you still can’t figure it out.
I immediately loved this book because it made me feel like less of a dimwit. The author gives each symbol its own chapter and clearly explains with a little tongue-in-cheek humour what to look for in a story. He also provides plenty of examples to give you a better idea of what he’s talking about.
Many of the novels the author references in the guide I have never heard of with the exception of The Dubliners. You can still understand his explanation, but I would love a version of this guide with references to more up-to-date books.
Although it’s no substitute for getting a degree in literature, How to Read Literature Like A Professor is a handy guide for the average reader who wants to gain a better understanding of the deeper layers in a story. This is my second reading and I will probably make this book part of my reference library.