Book Notes: How to Read Literature Like A Professor

Book Notes: Where we read and condense books down to their main takeaways for creatives, with a look at our own notes from reading.

I know a bunch of you are wondering over the title of this Book Notes post and thinking “This is supposed to be book reviews for artists, why would we read a book about reading literature?” Let me tell you why! This book is all about recognizing references and symbolism in literature. You know what else operates with symbolism and references to other works that have come before? Art! If you read this book and substituted “reading” for “seeing” and “writing” for “painting” it would work perfectly. This book is a highly readable key to all the meanings and symbols that come up often in literature…but also in art. It teaches you to read the many levels working at once in literature/art. And once you see how that functions, you can start applying it to the choices in your own artworks.

Breaking down literature sounds like a dry subject, I know (blame your boring High School English teacher, not the entire history of literature) but once you realize how many layers literature can work simultaneously, it opens up like a flower. For example, there’s a reason why we should all have a working knowledge of the Bible (completely aside from your feelings about religion) — it’s because literature AND ART HISTORY is making Biblical references all the time…and if you miss them, you miss out on a deeper level of meaning the author/artist put into the work (either consciously or subconsciously). And this book is very entertainingly written, I promise, it’s not like a textbook at all.

 

So there’s only 1 page of notes for this book, which is a rarity for me. It’s not because there wasn’t enough worthwhile info — it’s because there’s too much! If I started copying notes on every symbol and reference, I would have simply rewritten the book. So I took notes on the parts about HOW symbolism and references work, and for the actual breakdown of symbols, you just have to read it.

If you have an interest in art history, symbolism in art, or even just getting in-jokes in art and literature, then definitely pick up this book.

Buy The Book Here: How to Read Literature Like a Professor

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Background on the “notes” part of Book Notes: When I am reading a book, I am a obsessive underliner (especially of non-fiction books). After I’m done, I copy anything I want to remember into my sketchbook. It’s kind of like making personal cliffs notes. This column started because many of the people who have seen my sketchbooks over the years wanted access to some of the pages on books they were interested in. Since I am reading books through the lens of an artist, I wanted to start sharing these notes and condensed reviews with other artists. If you like the tone of the notes, then you’ll know it’ll be worth it to pick up the book.

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