The Good News and Bad News About Reading Like a Professor

Not long ago, I came across a book entitled How to Read Literature Like a Professor. As someone who minored in English (and only didn’t major because I was told again and again that I wouldn’t be able to find a job otherwise), I can definitely see the allure of such an idea. What voracious reader wouldn’t want to get every possible detail out of classics such as To Kill a Mockingbird and 1984?

Well, as someone who learned how to do just that, let me tell you: There’s good news and bad news.

The Good News

You’ll gain a much deeper understanding of every book that you read. You won’t just read about favorite characters in an exciting plot: You’ll understand every nuance; you’ll consider things like development, allusions, themes, and symbols. A book won’t just be a story–it will be an experience.

The Bad News

You can’t turn it off. Seriously. Think back to when you were a kid at Easter: Did your parents ever hide an egg full of treats a little too well? And even after mom and dad said, “Oh well,” did you keep searching because, of course, that chocolate was going to be yours! That’s exactly what it’s like: Once you know there is more hidden within every book, you can’t stop looking for it. Your brain is constantly on the hunt for and analyzing the aforementioned development, allusions, etc.

So… do you want to read like a professor? Maybe. Because there is some more good news to follow the bad news: While you might not be able to turn off your inner professor, it is possible to find books that are so engaging they temporarily knock him out. In short: If you find a REALLY good book, you can be a critical thinker while still having fun with a story you can’t put down.

Here are a few books that did that for me:

(1) Across the Universe by Beth Revis


The first in a sci-fi series that had just as much mystery and romance as it did space travel and speculative science. With a stunning grasp on human nature, this book was a page-turner at a time when I couldn’t stop reading like I was in class.

(2) The Help by Kathryn Stockett


This book was a hot topic when it came out–and with good reason! While this isn’t normally my style of book (I tend to lean more towards sci-fi or adventure), I devoured this book. I remember staying up late and literally laughing out loud at… a certain part. (I won’t say more because… spoilers.)

(3) Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Dicks


Unique, heartfelt, engaging…. I’d never read a book quite like this one. It chronicles the adventures of one boy’s imaginary friend and how that friend helps him out of a dangerous situation. I don’t want to say too much, but I can guarantee this: You’ll be captivated from beginning to tend.

How about you? What books have gotten you out of reading slumps? Share in the comments!

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