Cover Image: How Should One Read a Book?

How Should One Read a Book?

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Member Reviews

First written in 1926 as a lecture, Virginia Woolf’s essay How Should One Read a Book? remains as relevant today as it would have been then. Interestingly, one of the first points she gives is that all readers should be independent, to not listen to advice from others, but to come to their own conclusions. So the whole essay, essentially, is advice for you to follow or ignore as your tastes dictate,

Obviously, some of the language seems dated now, and the authors she mentions would all be lumped into one ‘Classics’ genre given all that has been written in the last hundred years. Having said all that, How Should One Read a Book? is a piece of work to be enjoyed by everyone.
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Amazing! Refective! Poignant! all the words describing the genius who is Virginia Wolf. I was captivated by her prose and drawn in by how she articulated the ideas expressed and the language she chose to use to get her thoughts across.
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I have not read any Virginia Woolf yet (although I own a couple of her books on my TBR), so I was curious about this essay from 1926 being published as a short book. I'm very conflicted about what I've read. Anyone who reads this is probably a lover of books and will find some lines relatable, if often seeming to state the obvious.

On the other hand, she's kind of a snob. She speaks of authors, generally only last name, as if everyone should know, of course, this one is "rubbish" and this one is "great". And by inserting numerous quotes without crediting them, those of us who are not immersed in literature for a career are likely to come away, as I did, feeling un-read (and unlikely to have any idea who to read to change that.)

I didn't feel the "introduction" by Sheila Heti added anything to the book. Her afterword can be summed up as: writers write for the people who read their drafts (often other writers.) Um, okay, thanks for sharing?

I can see that many people will (and do) love this, but it wasn't for me. Thanks to netgalley and the publisher for a digital review copy.
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An absolute gem. Woolf discusses the process of reading with lyricism, honesty, humour and tenderness at the same time, unfailingly engaging her reader.

The afterword, albeit a change of scenery, both in terms of topic and writing style, offers interesting insight into what goes into a first book draft and how its first readers can influence it.

Would definitely recommend and would happily revisit in the future.
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This book contains Virginia Woolf's text flanked by an introduction and afterword which take up most of the pages. For me the main text is definitely the main star. It makes you consider your role as a reader. What part plays our own life, background and mood when we judge or comment on a book?

The following quote was like a huge wink at us, GoodReaders, not professional critics, but amateurs, enthusiasts, people who want to give their reading experience something extra.

"...when books pass in review like the procession of animals in a shooting galley, and the critic has only one second in which to load and aim and shoot and may well be pardoned if he mistakes rabbits for tigers, eagles for barndoor fowls, or misses altogether and wastes his shot upon some peaceful cow grazing in a further field. If behind the erratic gunfire of the press the author felt that there was another kind of criticism, the opinion of people reading for the love of reading, slowly and unprofessionally, and judging with great sympathy and yet with great severity, might this not improve the quality of his work?"
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This is a second essay I've read by Virginia Woolf, the first one being A Room of One's Own, and my impression of them stays the same: I can see that at the time these ideas were important, possibly new and, in any case, relevant, great if you're looking at the history of ideas, but they don't really add anything new to the discussion anymore. There's nothing wrong with this essay as far as I can judge, it's completely fine. But on the other hand, it didn't really make me view something in a different light or take up a new perspective, it wasn't anything I haven't already read somewhere.
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Thank you so much to net galley for sending me a copy of this. I really enjoyed hearing wolffs perspective. I would definitely read more!
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How should one read a book – Virginia Woolf
In 1926 Virginia Woolf wrote an essay entitled, "How Should One Read a Book?" to deliver as a lecture at a private girls' school in Kent. This lecture appeared in a revised form in The Yale Review, October 1926, and along with other essays it first appeared in book form in Woolf's The Common Reader: Second Series in 1932. It has now been published as a stand alone volume and includes a very helpful introduction about Woolf’s essay, and an illuminating afterword about the creative process and relationship between author and reader from the writer Sheila Heti
Woolf was one of the most significant modernist writers of the 20th Century and this essay is her celebration of reading and writing literature, it argues for making up your own mind about which books to read and how much you have enjoyed them. 
Woolf asks, ‘Where are we to begin? How are we to bring order into this multitudinous chaos and so get the deepest and widest pleasure from what we read?’
It is a short but thought provoking read with some commentary on the role of the too quick to judge critics and how they can disrupt and get in the way of the bond between writer and reader. It argues for reading widely and making up your own mind. Good advice to the young female students she would have addressed it to when first aired, but still good advice for readers of all ages today.
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It's always a joy reading Virginia Woolf and I loved this essay. Even if it's nearly 100 years old it's full of food for thought.
The afterword added a contemporary touch and I highly appreciated it.
Excellent.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine
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“...the one who reads for interest and who then buys multiple copies to give to friends, to multiply their own pleasure. These people are like the breeze, blowing and scattering seeds.”

How Should One Read A Book? 

This little book consists of an essay by Virginia Woolf that was first delivered as a lecture in 1926. A revised version was then published in The Yale Review. It has an introduction and afterword by Sheila Heti. 

It explores why we read, what we get from reading and how we should read and think about the works that we are reading. As a book lover for many many years there were many quotes that I connected with, especially the feelings you have after you finish a book. 

I’ll be honest, the introduction was my favourite part of this and I felt and agreed with almost every sentence. This quote is one of my favourites: “A book is a watery sculpture that lives in  the mind once the reading is done. When I think back on the books I have loved, I rarely remember the names of the characters, the plot or most of the scenes. It is not even the tone or mood I remember, but some residue remains - and that unlikely word is appropriate here - of a unique shape.” Just YES!! I often feel bad for now quickly I forget details of books and I would struggle to recall things just days afterwards, but I always remember how a book made me feel whilst I was reading it, whether I kept thinking about it during the day or whether it kept me up at night. 

I also loved the exploration of the fact that different readers experience books differently. A great book to one person might merely be an ok book to another, but that’s what I love about them! We take from books what we need at that very moment and put a different emphasis on parts that we need to connect with at a given time. I just love reading and this book put a lot of that into words for me. Admittedly, some parts (sorry to say but in the main essay itself!) were a little slow, but overall I’m glad I read this little gem. 

3.5⭐️

Thank you to @netgalley and @laurencekingpub for the e-arc.
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I really enjoyed reading this collection from Netgalley, a few short essays including one from the infamous Virginia Woolf on how should one read a book. A quick easy read that I managed to get through in one sitting. The essays really resonate with how I feel as a lover of books and all things literature. How they have an impact on myself as a reader. Not my usual pick for Netgalley, but I enjoyed studying Virginia's work at university so glad I had a look at this one
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Woolf's views on literature are nothing short of inspiring. This piece comes in handy for everyone who wants to reconsider their practices on the literary art, being guided by one of the most amazing and inventive authors of all time. Heti's afterword was also a great addition to this edition!
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In , readers will find the original well-loved essay by Virginia Woolf-- with the modern perspective by Sheila Heti in the afterward, a structure that provides more points of relatability to the reader. I recommend it for avide Woolf fans and those new to her work.
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It’s a quick, quotable read that will resonate with avid readers and bookstagrammers. 

Since Woolf originally wrote this in the 1920s, I really liked the addition of Sheila Heti’s modern perspective.
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I always love an essay or non-fiction read by Virginia Woolf and this was no different. I enjoyed reading this 1925 essay because I had never heard about it and yet related to it in so many ways, as an avid reader, a student of literature and a writer.

Woolf talks to us about our prejudices when it comes to different genres, about approaching books with an open mind, and appreciating time we spend with the books and with ourselves. The introduction by Sheila Heti did a great job giving a taste of the subject and get my imagination running.

I highly recommend as well because it is a short read that I believe avid readers will enjoy.
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This book opened my eyes. I enjoyed this book so much, and I really appreciated having the opportunity to read this timeless Virginia Woolf classic! I also really like Sheila Heti's perspectives, and they aided me in writing this review. I've never read one of Sheila Heti's books before, but after seeing her writing style, I would love to read one sometime soon! 
I enjoyed how even though this book is focused in the literary world, and speaking about the different experiences of authors, we still see her ability to write different settings shine through. For example, when she describes how your atmosphere can set the feel of your reading experience, she describes the outside view from your imaginary window. She speaks about the working woman and the mewling donkey. I have always loved Viriginia Woolf's writing, and this book helped me love her writing process and thought process even more! I always find her essays to show her intelligence and writing proficiencies more than her most acclaimed novels. And so, this essay was a cherry on top of the ever growing ice-cream sundae. 
The book taught me to appreciate the book for itself, and to review books with both sympathy and severity, when I can. I now understand that though reviews can play an important part in an author's opinion of their book, they should be proud of having their book published in the first place, and having a full story that their loved ones can enjoy! 

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for giving me the opportunity to review this e-galley.
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I'd read and admired Woolf's essay before but really enjoyed Heti's framing essays. The idea of a feeling a book leaves you with is very pertinent to my reading experience & I loved the arguments trying to decide what makes a good book.
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This is really a lecture that Woolf originally delivered to a girls' school. It is a brilliant taste of Virginia Woolf's style and the joy of reading literature which is still as relevant today as ever.
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Such a pleasure reading this essay from Virginia Woolf. Great intro and afterward too. I enjoyed it thoroughly. 
Thanks a lot to NG and the publisher for this copy.
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This book focuses on the lecture that Woolf gave to Hayes Court Common’s female students in Kent in 1926  This lecture truly speaks to any reader, as it captures the love of reading.
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