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How to Read a Novel: A User's Guide by John…
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How to Read a Novel: A User's Guide

by John Sutherland

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Showing 1-5 of 22 (next | show all)
Well written, but not particularly helpful or insightful for someone who is already a reader. Some of the essays touched on interesting ideas, but they were too short to really develop them meaningfully. Rather shallow for its 200-300 pages, but not altogether terrible is the verdict here. ( )
  bulgarianrose | Mar 13, 2018 |
Very slight. This reads like a mildly diverting essay one might find in the Sunday supplements puffed into book length to meet some publisher’s demand. And no, it isn’t, as the title avers, a book about how to read novel. Rather it is a book about how to choose a novel to read. Perhaps the reading bit comes later. Of course there are plenty of anecdotal and spurious tales to tell about the book trade. Sutherland is good at that. Also good at the cutting aside. Point scoring is such fun. But there is not much of real worth here.

Not recommended. ( )
  RandyMetcalfe | Jul 6, 2017 |
This was just a long literary excursion. The advice was so general as to be unhelpful. I was looking for a book that suggested strategies on how to approach a novel that one has picked up and wants to read. ( )
  SusanKrzywicki | Jun 29, 2016 |
A good book for the times you need a book to take with you, when you go to the bathroom to escape your family. ( )
  Gregorio_Roth | Dec 5, 2014 |
I'm not sure that this book really does what it says on the tin, as it doesn't tell you how to read a novel at all! What it does do is to give the reader suggestions on how to get the most out of their novel reading. While the author John Sutherland was a Professor of English this is a book aimed more at the general reader than students of literature but most thoughtful readers would get something out of it. It's a wide ranging book dealing with a diverse range of topics, including: the mechanics of choosing your novel; what can be gleaned from reviews and prize lists; getting clues from the title, chapter headings and epigraph; and the physical aspects of the novel. One of those books which is full of interesting snippets of information such as this comment on margins:

But from the first printed books onward, generous white margins were left as they had been in the codex's manuscript predecessor. It would have been easy for compositors, then and now, to print flush against all four page edges. Instead, some 10 per cent of the page surface is left temptingly white. For what? Marginalia of course. Commentary. Nota benes. The four-sided, flush, verso-recto-balanced margin, standard in very novel, is a hangover from the age of manuscript, when they were there for the 'commentator' - a contributor who would add in marginalia, running heads, footnotes, corrections, embellishments. Now they are great white empty spaces - the result of cultural inertia.

I knew that 'marginalia' were things written in margins but it has honestly never occurred to me that that's what the margins were for, or now that we don't do that we didn't need margins.

One thing I should mention is that this book was published in 2006 and so predates the explosion in ereaders. Things have moved on so much in those eight years that even though the book looks at digital reading as well as physical books, it can't help but sound a little dated. But notwithstanding that, still an interesting read for all book lovers. ( )
  SandDune | May 11, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 22 (next | show all)
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I recall one evening walking to the underground with A. S. Byatt, after a day's teaching. We were both then lecturers in the same English Department. Why, I asked, did she publish so much higher journalism ...?
Quotations
A clever engagement with a novel is, in my opinion, one of the more noble functions of human intelligence. ... It is, I would maintain, almost as difficult to read a novel well as to write one well.
Reading, done well, is an act of self-definition.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0312359888, Hardcover)

"Do we still know how to read a novel?" John Sutherland, Chairman of the 2005 Booker Prize Committee, asks. His disheartened answer is an unequivocal, "No." But Sutherland has not given up hope. With acerbic wit and intellect, he traces the history of what it used to mean to be well-read and tells readers what it still means today. Using this delightful book as a means to an end, he reminds readers how the delicate charms of fiction can be at once wonderful and inspired and infuriating.
            On one level this is a book about novels: how they work, what they're about, what makes them good or bad, and how to talk about them. At a deeper level, this is a book in which one of the most intimate tête-à-têtes is described--one in which a reader meets a novel. Will a great love affair begin? Will the rendezvous end in disappointment? Who can say? In order for the relationship to take its appropriate course all the details must be clearly acknowledged and understood for their complexities: plot, point of view, character, style, pace, first and last sentences, and even beauty.
            Still, Sutherland knows a true understanding of fiction is more than a flirtation with text and style--it is a business. Taking his readers on a trip to the bookshop, he helps them judge a book by its cover based on design and color, wondering aloud what genre might be best, even going so far as to analyze one of the latest American bestsellers to further help the buying reader choose the novel that is right for him or her.
            In a book that is as wry and humorous as it is learned and opinionated, John Sutherland tells you everything you always wanted to know about how to read fiction better than you do now (but, were afraid to ask).

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:38 -0400)

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In this book, Dr. Brookfield offers valuable advice to teachers, both new and veterans, who grapple daily with challenges, thrills, and failures in the often chaotic environment of the classroom.

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