11 Good Reasons to Watch “The Art of Reading” if You’re a Writer

How many of you are familiar with The Teaching Company’s “Great Courses”? The Teaching Company is an organization that prides itself on getting award-winning professors on video to lecture on subjects ranging from the best in music to mathematics. I just finished watching the “Art of Reading” with professor Timothy Spurgin on DVD. This course was not just for readers to read well but to give readers a greater understanding of how fiction can be enjoyed and be even more fun than it already is.

I learned how to ask the important questions while reading about where the plot was going and whether or not the characters are growing and how. Timothy Spurgin encouraged the reader to skim and look ahead by pre-reading. He wants us to see how the work is broken up in chapters, scenes, summaries, and dialogue. He wants us to begin our questioning after reading the first half of the first chapter.

The course gave excellent examples of exemplary novels and short stories. Books and short stories I can’t wait to read.

While I learned a great deal about how to be a more artful reader, I also learned these eleven tips on writing. I learned to look for…

1 – How authors approached the task of writing.

2 – If authors begin with big themes and big ideas or,

3 – If authors begin with characters, situations and images.

4 –If the author’s personality is relevant to his/her works.

5 –If authors start with a message or moral when the novel has a message.

6 –Why an author would use a first person narrator, third person narrator or free indirect discourse.

7-Why authors like to use scene and summary inside chapters to create suspense.

8- How to create subtext and why that’s important.

9- What makes for good, convincing, delightful dialogue and how that differs from boring, flat dialogue.

10-How to create dialogue that’s different so that every character had his own way of speaking, and

11- How body language is crucial to what the characters are thinking and feeling.

What writing tips can you think of from reading novels or short stories?

Here are the links to “The Great Courses”

United States and other countries      www.thegreatcourses.com

United Kingdom                               www.thegreatcourses.co.uk

Australia                                          www.thegreatcourses.com.au

You are the light of the world and precious to me.


About ClaraBowmanJahn

Journal writer. Author of "Annie's Special Day" And coauthor of Edmund Pickle Chin, A Donkey Rescue Story." Proud mother and grandmother of wonderful kids. Wife of brilliant husband. Servant of two cats. Member of Pennwriters and SCBWI.
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12 Responses to 11 Good Reasons to Watch “The Art of Reading” if You’re a Writer

  1. If only these lectures weren’t so expensive and hard to get. I’ve listened to a good many of the audio lectures from TTC, but the cost adds up fast.

    I’ll keep my eyes open for a used copy.

    Thanks for the “heads up”!


    • We get their catalog with the sales notifications. This one cost thirty nine dollars for 24 lectures and a guide book. I got it for a Christmas present. I’ve also seen courses by the Teaching Company in out local library, though those seem to be the really big ones on Religion, Philosophy and Ancient Rome. Here’s their phone number if that’s easier than a web address for obtaining a catalog. I’m not trying to sell you anything but am just trying to help you.:) .
      Good Luck 🙂


  2. Whoops, meant to include The Great Courses phone number in the comment above. Here it is —
    1-800-832-2412. 🙂 happy watching or listening. Some people like to play the CDs while they exercise
    or drive. I like to watch the DVD’s on my TV. Either way, they’re good.


  3. SuziCate says:

    Thanks for the link, will check it out.


  4. clarbojahn says:

    If you like quality education on tape you won’t be disappointed.


  5. Aligaeta says:

    I’d be interested in seeing a list of a few of the novels and short stories Timothy Spurgin suggests for “artful reading”. What’s on your list? Thanks for the interesting topic.


    • clarbojahn says:

      Here is a partial list of what Timothy Spurgin talked about as examples: old favs like Edgar Allen Poe and Nathanial Hawthorne, Charlotte Bronte, Willa Cather, Arthur Conan Doyle, Anton Chekhov, Coetsee, Joseph Conrad, William Faulkner, Scott Fitzgerald, Dickens, Thomas Hardy, Hemingway and others. Also spoke of Jane Austin and Leo Tolstoy. The ones I hadn’t heard of were “Holes” by Louis Sachar , Short story writer Alice Munro,and Italo Calvino. among others. And a new one called “White Teeth” by Zadie Smith, . You will see book reviews here in my blog shortly. If not reviews then synopsis’s. Thanks for stopping by


      • Aligaeta says:

        “Holes” by Louis Sachar, is a YA book, both of my daughters enjoyed it. I caught part of the movie. As I was an English major I have read and studies much of the authors on the list. Thank you.

        I look forward to see what you write about these works.


  6. clarbojahn says:

    Ha ha, To an English major not much. Oh the pressure.


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