How do I get better at reading literature? Looking for books, lectures, and your perspective.
My apologies in advance for my very vague, very muddle-headed question. And sorry about being wordy too, I'm not very adept at expressing myself...
Essentially, I want to know how to get more out of the books I read.
I have always loved reading, every since I was a child. What I've noticed though, is that while I'm a fairly fast reader, and I retain most of the factual information (plot, characters, etc.), I find it difficult to draw larger conclusions based on what I've read.
In college, I studied a technical subject, but I had the chance to take a few literature classes for fun. I was always amazed at what my (comp lit/english major) classmates were getting out of the books we read for class. It seemed like they were able to draw inferences about the author's viewpoints, societal values, human nature, etc., based on a few paragraphs. What they were saying made sense to me, but I would never think to draw those conclusions myself.
This is partially because I tend to be wary of "generalizations". So what if this character did this thing in this book? How can I be sure that this is generalizable to people at large and not because of the idiosyncrasies of the author/character? In what kind of texts can you read beyond the words on the page, so to speak? And in what kind of texts do you need to just take the words at face value? Sometimes people will say things like, "oh, it makes sense that the character will do something like this, he is clearly a ___ type and based on his actions we can infer that he/the author believes _____" or "this is out of character and so makes this character unbelievable". Then I always think to myself, how can you possibly draw a conclusion like that? People are irrational and I myself do things without reasons all the time. Just because of this one thing a character does, you can attribute an entire belief system to him/her? And what do you mean out of character? As if we all have a "character" we somehow stick to for the entirety of our lives. Who in real life do you know is "believable?"
I guess I'm looking for any insight you may offer on this. When I was younger I always thought it was because you need life experiences/wisdom from age for seeing these kind of things. (Like, ahhh, I know what this character must be feeling, I felt the same way when ___ happened to me.) I'm a bit older how (early 20's, I know, still decades to go before I even get to the periphery of wisdom), but I feel like my ability to do this has not improved at all. (I am kind of a klutz and a scatterbrain, and on top of that not very perceptive at all, so perhaps that is the problem.)
For the english/comp lit/experience book readers out there, was there a class you took or a book you read that helped you with this? Should I start by reading a certain genre of books? (I'm most familiar with Russian literature.) When I took the lit classes, I found the teacher's in depth analysis very helpful. I'm looking for books, lectures, and any other resources that may be able to do the same.
I've read this AskMefi thread
, but I'm more looking for suggestions specific to books.