is a professor of humanities at New York University. His latest books are Critical Reading Across the Curriculum (2017), co-written with Anton Borst, and You Are What You Read: A Practical Guide to Reading Well (2021). He lives in Bedford, New York.
Have you ever wondered how some people see so much in what they read – whether they’re reading novels or stories, poems or plays, essays or memoirs, or something entirely different? One of the pleasures of reading literature well is the satisfaction of being tuned in to what a literary work shows and suggests – and to how it does those things. You probably already enjoy the ways that literary works entertain you, instruct you, move you. Recognising and understanding how they accomplish these things will enable you to deepen your appreciation still further and gain even more reward.
From reading deeply, you gain experience as well as knowledge: you gain from reading literary works in all their unique particularity. You live other lives, undergo other ways of being in the world that, while differing from your own, speak, nonetheless, to your condition and that of the people around you. In the process of reading literature, we therefore enrich our understanding of other people and of the world – and of ourselves. We become, in some sense, what we read.