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How to Read a Novel A User's Guide

John Sutherland

St. Martin's Griffin

0312359896

9780312359898

Trade Paperback

272 Pages

$18.99

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John Sutherland, Chairman of the 2005 Booker Prize Committee, traces the history of what it used to mean to be well-read and explains what it still means today while reminding readers how the delicate charms of fiction can be at once wonderful and inspired and infuriating. This is a book about novels, but it is also a book in which one of the most intimate tête-à-têtes is described—one in which a reader meets a novel. Sutherland aims to help readers choose the right books for them, recognize a misleading title or cover, look beyond the politics of book reviewers, learn to read and appreciate the value of epigraphs, forewords, afterwords—to understand themes only hinted at in the main text, and find real aspects of the author hidden in the narrative structure.

REVIEWS

Praise for How to Read a Novel

"According to the oft-cited survey 'Reading at Risk,' which was published by the National Endowment for the Arts in 2004 . . . the number of American adults who spend their free time reading literary fiction is rapidly sinking . . . How to Read a Novel sets out to remind readers . . . how much enlightening fun it can be to take one apart, starting with its dedication, font and copyright date."—Maureen Corrigan, The Washington Post
 
"There may not be time to read everything, but at least there is some hope of doing it well."—Los Angeles Times
 
"Sutherland, a columnist for the London Guardian, has written a quick and lively view of the novel that mixes practical wisdom and theory. He gives a 'four-minute' history of fiction using exemplary texts; provides their titles, publication dates, author photographs, fonts, and epigraphs; and discusses first sentences, style, and truth vs. fiction. In fact, he gives you everything you need to know to become a successful and happy novel reader. Sutherland has the ability to lightly discuss both classic and modern novelists (e.g., D.H. Lawrence, Zadie Smith) and can also do a fast deep reading . . . He explains the importance of the novel in exploring forbidden themes; the nature of prizes, reviews, and best sellers; and the practical side of publication. His brief mention of the nature and influences of different types of libraries is illuminating. The major piece of wisdom to be gained? It's probably that you can get what you need for yourself, your life, and your happiness from the novel, what D.H. Lawrence called the 'one bright book of life.' Highly recommended for literature collections."—Gene Shaw, New York Public Library, Library Journal
 
"With the literary forest growing by 10,000 novels per year, readers have long needed the kind of map Sutherland provides here. Some of the guidance he offers is cautionary: warnings against the snares in deceptive covers, misleading reviews, and best-selling groupthink. But Sutherland equips readers for the tasks of actually selecting a novel, understanding its text, and tracing the connections linking fiction to the real world around it. Readers thus learn how to negotiate the boundaries between various fictional genres, how to tease interpretive insights out of a book's dedication, and how to recognize the allusions tying one fictional narrative to others. But readers will thank Sutherland most for heightening their appreciation for a literary form through which bold writers confront bigotry, expose corruption, and illuminate history. It is truly an exceptional tutorial that opens a path into the politics in le Carre's taut plotting, the artistry of Flaubert's subtle portraiture, and the metaphysics of Dostoevsky's probing psychology."—Bryce Christensen, Booklist

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JOHN SUTHERLAND is a professor at University College London who has published and edited numerous books.  He writes for The Guardian, The New York Times Book Review, and London Review of Books. He was the 2005 Man Book Prize committee chairman. He lives in London, England.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • John Sutherland

  • John Sutherland is a professor at University College London who has published and edited numerous books.  He writes for The Guardian, The New York Times Book Review, and London Review of Books. He was the 2005 Man Book Prize committee chairman. He lives in London, England.
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