“I often tell my students that reading is an activity of the imagination, and the imagination in question is not the writer’s alone.”

This quote takes place in "Chapter 5: When in Doubt, It’s From Shakespeare..." after Foster has discussed the power of drawing on Shakespeare references to create new texts. Just as authors draw on Shakespeare’s imagination to flesh out their characters, add authority and context to their metaphors, and be in dialogue with a literary genius, so too do readers bring their imaginations to the process of reading. As Foster often mentions in the book, he believes there is a single story, one that has always been written and will continue to be written. In a sense, the reader brings their own imagination to that single story and creates their own personal story from all the literature and history and art they interact with in their lifetimes. By spotlighting the role of the reader’s imagination, Foster empowers readers to get messy with text and bring their own slant on the meaning that lies beneath the surface.

“Characters are products of writers’ imaginations—and readers’ imaginations. Two powerful forces come together to make a literary character. The writer invents him, using such elements of memory and observation and invention as she needs, and the reader—not readers collectively this time but each individual reader in private—reinvents him, using those same element of his memory, his observation, and his invention.”

This quote takes place in "Chapter 10: Never Stand Next to the Hero", as Foster is discussing the true nature of character, reminding readers that characters aren’t people but instead the product of authors’ imaginations. Here, he also illustrates that characters are the result of an alchemy between the writer’s imagination and the reader’s imagination. This alchemy allows readers to form emotional connections to characters, care deeply what happens to them, and even imagine futures that aren’t written on the page. Because reading itself is an imaginative act, the reader brings their own personality to their understanding of the character. This act is different than interacting with a living person and instead creates the opportunity for the reader to understand the symbolic nature of the character. In doing, readers often learn about themselves and what it means to be human in an entirely unique way.

“Stop apologizing! It doesn’t help, and it sells the speaker short. Be intelligent, be bold, be assertive, be self-confident in your reading. It is your opinion (but not “just”) and you might be wrong, although that’s less likely than most students think. So here’s my final piece of advice: Own the books you read.”

This quote takes place in the Postscript, as Foster is encouraging his readers to take ownership of what they read. Here, Foster tells his readers not to apologize for their interpretations. In the same way that any creative act takes bravery, boldness, and confidence, owning the imaginative act of reading takes a degree of courage. Taking ownership of the books one reads means honoring the imaginative act of reading. Because Foster believes so fervently in the magic that happens when a writer’s imagination interacts with a reader’s imagination, he also believes in the power of each reader to assert their individual interpretations. Foster also hints here at how difficult it is to be wrong when creatively engaging with a text. Though some interpretations are off-base or not supported by the text, more often than not, a reader’s intuition can guide them to the deeper truth within a work of literature.