"And Abraham set seven ewe lambs of the flock by themselves. Then Abimelech asked Abraham, "What is the meaning of these seven ewe lambs which you have set by themselves?" -- Genesis 21:28-29 (NKJV)
Literature professors have a reputation second only to French professors for being rather snooty about those who don't share their expertise and devotion to the Holy Grail of their specialties. Professor Thomas C. Foster is the happy exception, taking great glee in revealing the secrets (it's all connected to everything else) and showing simple ways to grasp more of the intended (and unintended) meanings of literary prose. He makes the subject fun, something I remember very little of from my college classes . . . which were usually pompous, dull, and discouraging.
If you can read at the eighth grade level, you can get quite a lot of benefit from this book. You also don't have to have read very much. Professor Foster provides the information you need to grasp more of the references and to look for more.
I was particularly grateful for his list of rewarding literary books to read. The ones I have read were all superb, and I assume the ones I have still to read will be, too. I was also encouraged to realize that my love of Greek myths would be helpful if I take the time to refresh my memory about those lovely tales that I enjoyed so much as a youngster.
As a writer, I'm grateful to his suggestion that drawing from kiddie lit is the best way to knit together references that will be relatively universal.
The book culminates in a case study where you have a chance to try your wings and compare answers.
Someone who has studied literature will find this book too elementary to be very useful, but if someone teaches literature I think this book can be a great blessing for showing how to make literature much more accessible.
This is really the best book about literature that I've ever read. Thomas Foster writes in such a funny and witty way that you hardly notice that you're actually reading a book about literature. I also loved the structure of this book; it is as if he was having a conversation with you, as if you were his student. It's just perfect. Besides the wittiness he also managed to put the most important topics on "How to read literature like a professor" into this book. And I must say, since I read this book I often catch myself thinking "Well, what did Thomas Foster say about this?" or "Oh yes, I read something about this in Thomas Foster's book!" Therefore I can highly recommend this book to everyone who is interested in literature and who is searching for an understandable guide on how to read more carefully and on how to interpret the different "signs" that we might come across while reading.
PS: He also added a bibliography where he lists all the literature he is referring to in his book and an additional list for "advanced" readers. I think this is really helpful.