We live in an information age, but it is increasingly difficult to know which information to trust. Fake news is rampant in mass media, stoked by foreign powers wishing to disrupt a democratic society. We need to be more perceptive, more critical, and more judicious readers. The future of our republic may depend on it.
How to Read Nonfiction Like a Professor is more careful, more attentive, more aware reading. On bookstore shelves, one book looks as authoritative as the next. Online, posts and memes don’t announce their relative veracity. It is up to readers to establish how accurate, how thorough, how fair material may be.
After laying out general principles of reading nonfiction, How to Read Nonfiction Like a Professor offers advice for specific reading strategies in various genres from histories and biographies to science and technology to social media. Throughout, the emphasis will be on understanding writers’ biases, interrogating claims, analyzing arguments, remaining wary of broad assertions and easy answers, and thinking critically about the written and spoken materials readers encounter. We can become better citizens through better reading, and the time for that is now.
Thomas C. Foster, author of How to Read Literature Like a Professor and Reading the Silver Screen, is professor emeritus of English at the University of Michigan, Flint, where he taught classes in contemporary fiction, drama, and poetry, as well as creative writing and freelance writing. He is also the author of several books on 20th-century British and Irish literature and poetry.
Table of Contents
What”s Going on Around Here? ix
Introduction: Why Critical Reading Matters 1
1 The Structure of Nonaction Information 9
2 The Ecology of the Nonfiction Biosphere 19
3 The Power of the Prologue 35
4 The Parts You Don”t Read 41
5 It May Just Be Me, But… 51
6 Source Code 63
7 All in How You Look at Things 79
Traditional Nonfiction Sources
8 Bringing the News 103
9 Living the News 119
10 From the Inside Out 141
11 Life from the Inside 159
12 That Is So Last Year 173
13 On the Stump 187
14 The Universe of Ideas/Ideas of the Universe 217
15 Reading Internet Sources 243
16 Social (Media) Disease 259
17 The Criminal Element 277
Conclusion: Looking for Certainty in an Uncertain Time 301
The Books in the Book 307