How to Read Literature Like a Professor 2003 book by Thomas C. Foster How to Read Literature like a Professor A Lively and Entertaining Guide to Reading Between the Lines. AuthorThomas FosterLanguageEnglishGenreLiterary CriticismPublisherHarper Publication date 2003Media typePrintPages314 pp (first edition, paperback) (first edition, paperback) How to Read Literature Like a Professor is a by Thomas C.
- Foster that was published in 2003.
- The author suggests interpretations of themes, concepts, and symbols commonly found in literature.
- The book brands itself as “A Lively and Entertaining Guide to Reading Between the Lines,” and is commonly used throughout advanced English courses in the United States.
The book also includes sample interpretations of ‘s short story, “”. The author’s simple, methodical take on literary interpretation has fallen under the scrutiny of literary experts, such as the English professor and biographer Alan Jacobs, who questions the value of the book’s premise and criticizes the idea that “reading is best done by highly trained, professionally accredited experts.”
- 1 Why did Foster wrote How to Read Literature Like a Professor?
- 2 How do academics read books?
- 3 How hard is it to read 100 books in a year?
- 4 What is the main idea of chapter 4 of How to Read Literature Like a Professor?
- 5 How do you read like a Phd student?
- 6 Can you finish a book in 2 hours?
- 7 How do scholars read so much?
How long will it take to read How to Read Literature Like a Professor?
How to Read Literature Like a Professor: A Lively and Entertaining Guide to Reading Between the Lines, Revised Edition. The average reader will spend 5 hours and 36 minutes reading this book at 250 WPM (words per minute).
Why did Foster wrote How to Read Literature Like a Professor?
“How To Read Literature Like A Professor” by Thomas Foster Book Review: How To Read Literature Like A Professor by Thomas C. Foster By the time students reach high school or college, they’ve taken several years of English courses and are able to speak, write, and read the language with ease. The book serves as an entertaining guide that introduces readers to literary basics, including symbols, themes, and settings–that provides readers with the tools to better understand literature. Foster notes that no literature is completely original; the truth is that all literature grows out of other literature.
- Authors are inspired by these famous works, and often draw on these texts for inspiration for their own stories, sometimes consciously and other times subconsciously.
- Foster advises readers to look for glimpses of familiar stories and ask what the two texts have in common.
- To find an example of inspiration from a famous work one can look at Ernest Hemingway’s novel, The Old Man and The Sea (1952),
Hemingway writes about an old and poor fisherman that hasn’t had much luck but remains a good and pure man. The man goes on a three-day fishing trip during which he puts up with a great deal of suffering and injuries while attempting to hook a large fish.
When he returns to port, he goes to bed and lays his arms out in the position of crucifixion. The next morning, people see his great fish and start to believe in the fisherman’s skill once again. Hemingway has a more subtle narrative, but it’s clear to see that the fisherman is a Christ-like figure. Foster points out that almost all text in literature can have a deeper meaning.
Take seasons and weather for example. More often than not, if an author tells readers it is a warm summer day, she is saying that to help convey a specific message. Foster writes that spring is associated with youth and childhood, summer with romance and adulthood, fall with decline and middle age, and winter with resentment and old age.
- This is especially important to look for in short works such as poems and short stories to gain a better understanding of the author’s work.
- However, Foster notes that sometimes readers have to be careful of a certain event because it may have more than one meaning.
- Rain in a story can be either a rebirth through baptism or destruction through floods.
Snow can blanket the forest and make it beautiful, but it can also create blizzards that make the world a cold and deadly place. Towards the end of the book, Professor Foster encourages readers to use what they learned and put their knowledge to the test by analyzing a short story.
- Foster’s book serves as a wonderful nonfiction literary guide that aids readers and students in their engagement with literature.
- In the famous poem Divine Comedy, Dante has Virgil to guide him through his journey; for readers of literature, we have Thomas Foster.
- If you’d like to get the book, click the button below!
: “How To Read Literature Like A Professor” by Thomas Foster
How can I be good at analyzing literature?
When analyzing a novel or short story, you’ll need to consider elements such as the context, setting, characters, plot, literary devices, and themes. Remember that a literary analysis isn’t merely a summary or review, but rather an interpretation of the work and an argument about it based on the text.
How do academics read books?
Your reading speed is generally limited by your thinking speed. If ideas or information requires lots of understanding then it is necessary to read slowly. Choosing a reading technique must depend upon why you are reading:
To enjoy the language or the narrative. As a source of information and/or ideas. To discover the scope of a subject – before a lecture, seminar or research project. To compare theories or approaches by different authors or researchers. For a particular piece of work e.g. essay, dissertation.
It is important to keep your aims in mind. Most reading will require a mixture of techniques e.g. scanning to find the critical passages followed by reflective reading. Scanning Good for searching for particular information or to see if a passage is relevant:
Look up a word or subject in the index or look for the chapter most likely to contain the required information. Use a pencil and run it down the page to keep your eyes focusing on the search for key words
Skim reading Good to quickly gain an overview, familiarise yourself with a chapter or an article or to understand the structure for later note-taking
Don’t read every word. Do read summaries, heading and subheadings. Look at tables, diagrams, illustrations, etc. Read first sentences of paragraphs to see what they are about. If the material is useful or interesting, decide whether just some sections are relevant or whether you need to read it all.
Reflective or critical reading Good for building your understanding and knowledge.
Think about the questions you want to answer. Read actively in the search for answers. Look for an indication of the chapter’s structure or any other “map” provided by the author. Follow through an argument by looking for its structure:
main point subpoints reasons, qualifications, evidence, examples.
Look for “signposts” –sentences or phrases to indicate the structure e.g. “There are three main reasons, First. Secondly. Thirdly.” or to emphasise the main ideas e.g. “Most importantly.” “To summarise.” Connecting words may indicate separate steps in the argument e.g. “but”, “on the other hand”, “furthermore”, “however”. After you have read a chunk, make brief notes remembering to record the page number as well as the complete reference (Author, title, date, journal/publisher, etc) At the end of the chapter or article put the book aside and go over your notes, to ensure that they adequately reflect the main points. Ask yourself – how has this added to your knowledge? Will it help you to make out an argument for your essay? Do you agree with the arguments, research methods, evidence.? Add any of your own ideas – indicating that they are YOUR ideas use or different colours.
Rapid reading Good for scanning and skim-reading, but remember that it is usually more important to understand what you read than to read quickly. Reading at speed is unlikely to work for reflective, critical reading. If you are concerned that you are really slow:
Check that you are not mouthing the words – it will slow you down Do not stare at individual words – let your eyes run along a line stopping at every third word. Practise and then lengthen the run until you are stopping only four times per line, then three times, etc. The more you read, the faster you will become as you grow more familiar with specialist vocabulary, academic language and reading about theories and ideas. So keep practising
If you still have concerns about your reading speed, book an individual advice session with a Study Adviser.
How hard is it to read 100 books in a year?
1. Keep track of what you read. – The numbers are stark. If you want to read a hundred books in a year, you have to read an average of two books a week for fifty weeks, with just a couple weeks left over for wiggle room. That’s a pretty relentless pace. So self-accountability is important.
- To keep yourself on track, I suggest writing down each book you read, along with the date you finish it.
- A book journal is a really good place to do this – that way you can make notes about your impressions of the book as well.
- There are all kinds of tools online that can help you organize your reading.
Me, I used an Excel spreadsheet all year – no good reason, I don’t really recommend it, and I will probably look for a better option next year. Whatever you use, the point is that you absolutely must maintain a cold, hard record of what you read, in un-fudgeable detail.
How long does it take an average reader to read 120 pages?
Answer: the average reader takes about 3.3 hours to read 120 pages, You might take more or less time than 3.3 hours to read 120 pages, depending on your reading speed and the difficulty of your text. The average person’s reading speed is around 300 words per minute (WPM).
- A single-spaced page usually has around 500 words, though it can vary with page-size and the type of document.
- Documents that contain 120 pages can include books and novels.
- The typical reading speed for a fluent adult reading for enjoyment is about 300 words per minute.
- Reading speed usually slows down when reading technical material such as instruction manuals and scientific research papers.
Students or professionals who have a lot of reading may need to read at speeds of 450 words per minute or more in order to consume content faster and increase their productivty. The table below shows the estimated time to read a given number of pages.
|Number of pages||🐢 Slow (150 wpm)||🙋 Average (300 wpm)||🐰 Fast (450 wpm)||🚀 Speed reader (600 wpm)|
|1 page||3.3 minutes||1.7 minutes||1.1 minutes||50 seconds|
|2 pages||6.7 minutes||3.3 minutes||2.2 minutes||1.7 minutes|
|3 pages||10 minutes||5 minutes||3.3 minutes||2.5 minutes|
|4 pages||13.3 minutes||6.7 minutes||4.4 minutes||3.3 minutes|
|5 pages||16.7 minutes||8.3 minutes||5.6 minutes||4.2 minutes|
|10 pages||33.3 minutes||16.7 minutes||11.1 minutes||8.3 minutes|
|25 pages||1.4 hours||41.7 minutes||27.8 minutes||20.8 minutes|
|50 pages||2.8 hours||1.4 hours||55.6 minutes||41.7 minutes|
|100 pages||5.6 hours||2.8 hours||1.9 hours||1.4 hours|
|250 pages||13.9 hours||6.9 hours||4.6 hours||3.5 hours|
|500 pages||1.2 days||13.9 hours||9.3 hours||6.9 hours|
|750 pages||1.7 days||20.8 hours||13.9 hours||10.4 hours|
|1000 pages||2.3 days||1.2 days||18.5 hours||13.9 hours|
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How much can I read in 2 hours?
Conclusion – To conclude, the answers to the questions “how many pages can you read in an hour” and “how long does it take to read 100 pages” can vary greatly depending on a number of factors, but the short answer is that the average person can read around 40 pages in 1 hour, and reading 100 pages can be achieved in about 2 hours and 45 minutes.
How does a literature professor read differently from a lay reader?
How does a literature professor read differently from a lay reader? The lay reader focuses on the story and characters while english professors are attentive to other elements in the novel. Lay readers respond first, and sometimes only, to the emotional response.
Why does irony trumps everything?
Foster begins this chapter with an emphatic claim: “Irony trumps everything,” including all that has been described in the book so far. Samuel Beckett, known as the “poet of stasis,” created works of literature in which little happens and which do not seem to contain any message or “point.” His most famous play, Waiting for Godot, takes place in what Northrop Frye calls “the ironic mode,” meaning that the characters appear to have less free will than the audience feels they themselves do.
The audience also has a better understanding of the situation the characters find themselves in, yet are forced to watch as they remain trapped due to their lack of agency and awareness. “Irony trumps everything” is a useful phrase to remember, although it is not initially completely clear what it means.
In “trumping everything,” irony doesn’t eliminate other layers of meaning. Rather, irony relies on these other layers of meaning—whether symbolic, archetypical, intertextual, or otherwise—and then subverts them by converting them into the ironic mode.
Irony greatly expands the range of interpretations that can be applied to any symbol. For example, rain—which ordinarily has a fairly predictable set of associated meanings—can take on an entirely different type of significance when employed ironically. Many people argue that our time is particularly suited to irony, as people in the 20th and 21st centuries have tended to claim that all creative options have already been explored and exhausted.
In order to create something new, we must therefore rely on irony. Writers like Beckett and Hemingway lived at a time dominated by irony, where old belief systems (including belief in science) were crumbling under the weight of war and suffering. One way to understand irony is to think of cases in which a signifier or sign (such as a billboard encouraging people to wear seatbelts) ends up taking on an unexpected significance (like accidentally crushing a driver and killing him) while still retaining its original, fixed meaning.
The sign still contains a message of road safety, but this message has been made ironic by the fact that it has accidentally killed someone. The example of the road safety sign is one of the clearest ways of explaining what irony means. However, irony is not always this simple. It is rare for the ironic object in question to literally be a sign—usually we have to figure out the original significance first, before understanding how that original meaning is changed by the author’s use of irony.
Irony mainly consists of “a deflection from expectation.” Irony can also work when the reader or audience knows something that a character doesn’t, thereby creating multiple layers of (contradictory) meaning around events that take place within the narrative.
- As these points indicate, irony can be verbal, structural, and/or dramatic, depending on what level of the text (plot arc, speech, event) the ironic point is being made.
- When engaged in a surface-level reading, it is hard to see when our expectations are being deflected, because we are likely to “go with the flow” of the story and simply let our expectations be controlled by the author.
Deeper reading, however, requires us to step back and analyze how the author anticipates and manipulates the reader’s response to the text. Irony can also be used to undermine the moral value or authority of belief systems, institutions, and individuals, from physicians to Christianity.
- Irony makes interpretation complicated, as it can lead scholars to argue in a counterintuitive (and sometimes illogical!) way.
- For example, the main character in Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange is a nihilistic, selfish sadist, about as far from Jesus as it’s possible to get.
- On the other hand, he is ultimately subjected to a cruel punishment and robbed of his free will by the government hoping to make an example out of him—the exact fate of Christ.
It is thus possible to assert that in this particular sense, Alex is a Christ figure, albeit a highly ironic one. The character of Alex in A Clockwork Orange makes for an ironic Jesus figure in several ways. Whereas Jesus symbolizes goodness and hope, Alex symbolizes moral perversity and a dark future.
The irony here is also structural, as at the beginning of the novel Alex is an evil villain who triumphs over the other characters, yet by the end he suffers and is made vulnerable by his cruel punishment at the hands of the state. Some writers use irony more than others, which is just as well considering irony does not work in every context.
(Salman Rushdie’s use of irony in The Satanic Verses, for example, almost got him killed!) When it does work, however, irony adds richness to a text, creating new, more complicated and more compelling layers of meaning. Whether or not irony “works” is largely dependent on the reaction of the reader.
What is the main idea of chapter 12 in How to Read Literature Like a Professor?
Foster says that if you’re wondering whether something in a piece of literature is a symbol, it’s pretty safe to say that yes, it is. What’s rarely clear is the exact symbolic meaning. In fact, symbols that only have one specific meaning aren’t technically symbols at all, but allegories.
George Orwell’s Animal Farm (1945) is a good example of an allegory; it’s clear that Orwell hopes to convey one specific message about the nature of political power and revolution, a message that message is hidden behind the novel’s farmyard setting. An allegory is a text (or image) that has a hidden meaning beyond the story being told on the surface.
Although this is similar to a symbol, the important distinction is that allegories have a single meaning that the reader (or viewer) is supposed to discover. Allegories are not designed to produce multiple interpretations that people will argue over, but rather to lead the reader through clues to find the one “true” meaning.
- Symbols, on the other hand, remain open to multiple possible interpretations. In E.M.
- Forster’s A Passage to India (1924), an alleged assault takes place inside a cave.
- What does the cave symbolize? Early humans lived in caves, and it’s possible the cave points to a sense of primitivism.
- But caves are also dark, and thus the cave could represent the (sometimes frightening) mystery of our inner consciousness.
If the cave is empty, it might symbolize the Void, the eerie sense of nothingness that has the tendency to fill people with a sense of existential dread. The cave is also in India, and the woman who thinks she was assaulted within it is white, suggesting that the cave might have racial connotations.
- Ultimately, whichever reading of the cave most appeals to us is likely the result of the individual background we have as readers.
- As Foster argues throughout the book, contrasting interpretations of literature are not a negative thing.
- Rather, they are productive and stimulating, and can make literature seem richer, more sophisticated, and more challenging.
It would be possible to argue that the cave in A Passage to India betrays several of the meanings Foster lists at once; however, generally literary criticism seeks to identify a single interpretation that the critic finds most interesting, resonant, or convincing.
- Even when it seems likely that a given symbol will have a fixed, consistent meaning, this is in fact rarely the case.
- Mark Twain, Hart Crane, and T.S.
- Eliot are all male Midwestern authors who, despite coming from different generations, were at one point all alive at the same time.
- All three feature rivers in their writing—and yet in each case, the river takes on a completely different meaning.
This is not to say that there is never any overlap or intertextual resonance, but that a river in one work can have a totally distinct and contradictory meaning from the same river in another. Here Foster identifies one method of deducing meaning from a work of literature—considering historical context and intertextual connections—while showing that this method can be limited.
- After all, relying on historical connections alone might have us believe that Twain, Crane, and Eliot were interested in exploring the same ideas or themes in their work, when in fact this is not the case.
- Foster admits that his favored method of literary analysis tends to emphasize the historical context in which a piece of literature was written—this is called a historicist reading.
However, this is only one method, and should not be taken as definitive; indeed, the clashes between contrasting interpretations are a positive quality of literary analysis, and Foster encourages readers to take pleasure in disagreement. While it may seem logical to always take into account the historical context of a work of literature, there is in fact a strong backlash against this interpretive technique.
Most famously, the New Criticism movement argued that texts should be considered simply as they are, independent of any context. Readers often assume that only objects can be symbols, but actually, so can actions and events. The poet Robert Frost is “probably the champion of symbolic action,” centering poems around the symbolism of acts such as mowing a field with a scythe (“Mowing” (1913)).
In this instance, the particular act of mowing stands for labor more generally, or solitary action, or perhaps something else entirely. As the example of Frost’s poem “Moving” shows, the symbolic meaning of a symbol doesn’t have to be wildly different from its surface-level meaning.
- Indeed, the act of mowing and concepts such as solitary action or labor are clearly deeply connected.
- Foster advises readers to avoid making definitive statements about symbolic meaning, but also to trust their existing knowledge of literature as well as their instincts when it comes to figuring out what a given part of a text might symbolize.
Although readers shouldn’t invent meaning out of thin air, the act of reading is nonetheless an active, imaginative exercise, and we shouldn’t be afraid to be creative in our experiments with interpretation. In this passage, Foster suggests that engaging in successful literary criticism requires having a certain disposition—confident, but not arrogant.
What is the main idea of chapter 4 of How to Read Literature Like a Professor?
Chapter 4 Summary: “Now, Where Have I Seen Her Before?” – In this chapter, the reader learns about the importance of patterns in literary analysis. The trick to identifying any of the elements lies in finding a pattern, which is based on other stories readers may know.
- Foster asserts that nothing in literature is original because it’s based on everything in human existence.
- Much of literature references other literature, but the idea cuts across genres so that “oems can learn from plays, songs from novels” (28).
- In other words, there is just one big story.
- As a result, everything readers have previously encountered can be brought to bear on what they are currently reading.
Connections between texts are referred to as intertextuality, Foster notes that students often say they have trouble making connections, and this difficulty stems from not having read enough; nobody has read everything and reading and analyzing gets easier over time as readers read more.
Why is analyzing literature difficult?
On difficulties that are part of the process – Photo by Anne Nygård on Unsplash There are many ways in which literary texts can be difficult to read: from linguistic features such as complex syntax or vocabulary to problems of interpretation. Most of the difficulties arise from the fact that literature generally differs from everyday speech, which is aimed at conveying information as quickly as possible.
- This difference may surprise, confuse, and even irritate the reader.
- Rightly so, because violent obscurantism is more often than not a sign of poor writing.
- The literary text often has no intention of informing us as quickly and easily as possible and leaves us confused by various ambiguities.
- But, the information is sometimes contained in the very difference between the ordinary and literary ways of speaking.
Literature deals with things that are rarely talked about in everyday life. Things that in themselves are not as clear as the stuff we convey in pragmatic speech. These are often experiences that are fundamentally human and thus complex. Literature is always inevitably tied to human experience, even though Roland Barthes 50 years ago famously proclaimed “The Death of the Author”.
Barthes was right in that we don’t need to care whose experiences we are reading about. The only thing that matters is what we get out of them. Classic criticism has never paid any attention to the reader; for it, the writer is the only person in literature we know that to give writing its future, it is necessary to overthrow the myth: the birth of the reader must be at the cost of the death of the Author.
— Roland Barthes One might say that people do use everyday speech to talk about even the most complex human experiences. While this is true, literature has proven to be much more successful in doing it. Thus, the difficulty of literature can be a consequence of communicating complex experiences,
What are the three important skills in analyzing literature?
Analyzing Literature Introduction In this lesson, we will be focusing on using textual evidence, analyzing elements of story grammar, and recognizing diverse cultural perspectives. Gaining a better understanding of these three skills will help get you get on the path to mastering your literary responses.
How do you read like a Phd student?
2. Critical Literacy – Critical literacy comes from a strong foundation of knowledge the ability to actively read, analyze and critique new information. Active reading is the crux of your dissertation, so you need to spend time in your doctoral program practicing these skills.
- To begin reading with critical literacy you should skim a text to get a thorough understanding of the topic.
- Read the titles and headings, understand where the authors are coming from, read the summaries and conclusions and decide what big questions you expect the article to answer.
- While you keep those questions in mind, jot down the main concepts that you come across in the reading.
If your main questions are not answered, that is something you can include in your critique of the article. Unanswered questions may also help you to find additional research or to formulate your own hypotheses about the topic. When you are finished reading the article and reviewing the information, give yourself time to process the information.
Can you finish a book in 2 hours?
Why pace your reading? – Setting your pace is essential to reading a book in two hours or less. If you don’t pace yourself, then you’ll end up sending 1 hour and 45 minutes absorbing a few chapters but blaze through the rest of the book. The result: An imbalance understanding of the book.
How do scholars read so much?
How do academics read so many books?
|Scientia imperii decus et tutamen est|
First, let’s interrogate the truth apparently proposed or implied in the titular question. Would it not be more accurate to state: it is believed that academics read lots of books. Is this true? For many undergraduates the notion that their Professor has read more than fifty books secures her a place in the same league as Wittgenstein or Dr Johnson.
- Far out! Strange! A living geek-book.
- So, the revered state of being widely read is a relative judgment.
- But let’s grant that academics do ‘read’ rather a lot; perhaps more than average, perhaps excessively,
- For teachers in the arts, and in the social sciences, academic books are their primary tools and resources.
Text is a living laboratory. Surely they spend every moment of their lives reading, That is to say, they might entertaining the possibility of reading in those great vistas of time the yawn like chasms between teaching, assessing, writing, and generally administering.
- In part, it is true that academics delve into books, gingerly excavating their contents, rather than ploughing through them word by word (pencil in hand).
- In most cases, skimming is superior to delving.
- Academics are capable of attentive close reading; they are also into the business of Further Reading,
But they have their gaps, their silences, their weak points. Mastery of the secondary literature, even in our chosen specialist field, is always slipping away from us. So many new books are waving to us on the horizon of the sea of erudition, But there’s often the sense of a deluge of print.
- Bearing in mind that every career depends on publication, it follows that the quantity published has been increasing rapidly since the 1960s when one article on kinship ties in Beowulf was enough to secure a life journey through academia.
- Every year, for instance, several hundred ‘new’ articles are written on gothic monsters.
This is the Frankenstein industry, a monster of academia’s making, a grotesque outpouring supplied daily with books cobbled together from the dead remnants of their recent predecessors. For serious academics, the detailed dissection of books is an honour afforded only to the books that are absolutely crucial to their work, or that they have been asked to formally review.
This is where close reading flexes its muscles and surgically inspects the inner workings of the textual body. Nonetheless, it would generally be more true to say that academics BUY lots of books, rather than reading them, in the strict sense of a sensitive and appreciative cover-to-cover engagement.
Academics also BORROW lots of books (as you will recognise if you have any academic friends visiting.) For academics it is not an uncommon experience for the piles of academic books to WAIT on their desks, on their chairs, on their kitchen floor, beside the bed, in the lavatory, in the garden shed, left on the bus, bulging in a recycled bag, &c,
just waiting for that UTOPIAN moment when all students vanish from view, when term is over, when that article is finished for the Journal of Unread Studies, when the last meeting is over, when the Head of Department stops talking when the head of exam administration stops calling, when they’ve watched the last episode of The Wire and the last essay is marked, and the children are fed,
(I’m not including doctoral students in this category. Obviously they have sufficient time to wade through the complete works of Aquinas or John Dewey in order to research and craft an exemplary footnote.) SO, rather than reading a book from cover to cover, which is frankly a little OLD-FASHIONED,
memorise the title – some are self-explanatory, witty and memorable. Knowing what books to recommend with accurate reference is the sign of absolute professionalism.
digest the summary (publisher’s blurb on the back of the book). At this stage you are able to discuss the book in some detail and you will be able to position it in relation to the main intellectual currents of our time.
skim through the acknowledgements (how much money did they ‘secure’ from the Leverhulme Trust in 2001); how many research libraries did they visit; who read the final drafts and offered help.
leaf through the index and check the most cited authorities (Habermas, Deleuze, Zizek, Lacan, Spivak, Foucault, hooks,). Now you are really getting into the detail and to progress to expert status you need to notice who has been oddly missed out. What? a book on diversity in education and no bell hooks? scandal! check out any reviews to gain a diversity of insights and critical opinions
explore the footnotes (actually these are now typically the annoying endnotes that will have you dizzy with see-sawing from back to front) are where you really dig deep into the reading. This is a great opportunity to investigate the scholarly use of primary and secondary sources. In fact, I have met academics who spend most of their time working through the footnotes, spotting gaps, missing links, inaccuracies and occasional triumphs of erudition. A whole reputation can fall in a footnote.
By now you will be really hooked, so be cautious. It’s time to risk a critical examination of the Preface, or even the Introduction, where you will often discover a convenient summary of the treasures still locked up in the main body of the book.
Locate the most significant chapter by reading the chapter titles. Getting stuck in the wrong chapter could be a disaster and hinder your progress through the Gothic ‘PILES of the UN-READ.’
Put a date in the DIARY. Schedule some quality reading time, free from distractions. As I wait for the day to arrive I sometimes risk a random page from a random book. This is SERENDIPITY and it is recommended when you have lots of miscellaneous books and writer’s block has kicked in.
READING DAY has arrived. Returning to the TARGET book, at this point I make an assessment of the elegance of the prose, the inventiveness of the ideas, the ingenuity of the argument, the weight of the evidence, and the authority of the scholarship. Is this an author who is WELL-READ ? I am now ready for the SUBLIME experience of reading a book from beginning to end.
Until the PHONE rings, Dr Ian McCormick is the author of (Quibble Academic, 2013) Further reading University Students share their on How to Read a Paper : How do academics read so many books?