Member Reviews

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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This is a beautiful package for Woolf's essay - sandwiched between a gorgeous intro and afterword by Sheila Heti. It's a wonderful read for book lovers and writers alike. I loved her thoughts and suggestions on how to read and properly digest a book, and her encouragement to read a wide range of genres (including 'rubbish-reading'). It's certainly encouraged me to finally pick up some of her other work.

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I received an ARC of this book to read through NetGalley. All opinions are my own. During her lifetime Virginia Woolf was considered by critics to be a minor writer and quite often the reviews of her books at the time they were published were quite harsh. The essay How Should One Read A Book was originally a lecture she gave in January 1926 at the Hayes Court Common School. It was later revised and published a couple of times but this is I believe the first time it has been published on it’s own and not as part of a collection. It’s an essay that celebrates reading literature, making up ones own mind about what one reads and how books change us when we read them. I feel it’s meant to be read aloud as that is how it seemed to flow best when I read it. While quite short it’s a book that I think will find a home in my library to be re-read often. Publishing Date: October 12, 2020 #HowShouldOneReadABook #VirginiaWoolf #LaurenceKingPublishing #AdultNonFiction #bookstagram #bookstagrammer

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My thanks to Laurence King Publishing for an eARC via NetGalley of ‘How Should One Read a Book?’ by Virginia Woolf, with introduction and afterword by Sheila Heti in exchange for an honest review.

Originally this was delivered as a lecture at a school in Kent in 1926 and later revised for inclusion in her essay collection, ‘The Common Reader: Second Series’ (1932). Here published for the first time as a standalone volume, Virginia Woolf celebrates the enduring importance of great literature.

While I understand that Virginia Woolf is considered one of the most important writers of the 20th Century, to date I have not read any of her work as I felt intimidated by her prose and reputation.

In this essay I felt that she made some important points about engaging with books, especially novels and the recognition that as we read different authors we are entering different worlds: that the open air and adventure found in Daniel Defoe is different to the drawing rooms and conversations of Jane Austen.

Despite the title Woolf stresses that reading is an individual experience and that no authority should “tell us how to read, what to read, what value to place upon what we read”. It may seem common sense but an important point.

As an avid reader, I am very aware of this. When I write reviews - whether love, hate or meh - they reflect my personal thoughts and feelings. Others, of course, will have different perspectives.

For me, part of the pleasure of participating in reading groups, seeking out reviews by others, or reading articles and books about literature is to appreciate different points of view.

I found Sheila Heti’s Introduction to Woolf’s essay, ‘A Shadow-Shape’, enlightening. In her Afterword, titled ‘Other Readers’, she writes about the value for authors of sharing their works in progress with others.

While a short read, this book provided much food for thought. It inspired me to overcome my reticence and I now plan to read one of Virginia Woolf’s novels.

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Well written and laid out. What a beautiful speech that was given by the famous Mrs wolf. A very quick read with some amazing references. I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.

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I read "How Should One Read A Book" many years ago and was so excited to read the Introduction and Afterwords from Sheila Heti.

This speech/writing from Virginia Woolf has spoken to me for so long. It taught me HOW to read and ENJOY a book. I've lived with the "Shadow shapes" for most of my life and I have no regrets.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for the opportunity to read and review this book.

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This should be read and read again at different times of the day and in different places. Woolf, as always, does an excellent job in guiding us to question not only ourselves but everything that we assume we know. I am unable to describe the feeling I have after reading this essay, but it is something akin to the feeling of lancing an abscess. While it isn't always painful, it leaves you with a feeling of relief and calm.

Thank you to NetGalley and Laurence King Publishing Ltd for this advanced copy, which I received in return for an honest review.

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This was…not what I expected.

And that is the biggest irony of it all—Woolf and Heti go on to implore why it's important to open a book without any set expectations and prejudices which only pave a path for impending disappointment and shitty criticism.

I'm ashamed and apologetic.

As someone who’s been reading a wide variety of things and someone who enjoys writing (even if just for the sake of getting chaos in my head out on papers), I definitely did get, the way Woolf urges the reader why it’s important to plunge in a book with an open embrace rather than getting muddied first with having judged a book by its cover, the author, reviews and critics, a certain promise the bracket of genre brings to a book.

Most commonly we come to books with blurred and divided minds, asking of fiction that it shall be true, of poetry that it shall be false, of biography that it shall be flattering, of history that it shall enforce our own prejudices. If we could banish all such preconceptions when we read, that would be an admirable beginning.

I particularly enjoyed the introduction of Heti which explains the concept of 'shadow-shapes', images of a book we unconsciously create long after we’ve read a book and how it's necessary to ‘wait for the dust of reading to settle’ before we start forming our opinions on them.

Heti, in the afterword, explains how, before a book finally reaches in the hands of the final reader, goes through the scrutiny of early-readers and correctors and how much of their unprejudiced thoughts shape a book.

The thing that irked me was how the book quickly went from "for a reader" to "by an author". The afterword, however insightful, did not work with the theme of the book. If the actual speech was longer and the book had hoped to flesh out all the minute complexities, this could've been perfect.

Considering the fact that this was Virginia's speech delivered in a girl’s school in 1926, this short gem is a pure and gentle imploration to encourage reading in an unbiased way.

Thanks to NetGalley and Laurence King Publishing Ltd. for this eARC in exchange for an honest review!

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I was first introduced to Woolf's writing when I was studying English Literature at university and we read an essay and Mrs Dalloway. I immediately loved her writing I am glad she has become such an influential person not only for her words but as a woman in those times.
This edition has both a foreword and afterword by Sheila Heti and she begins with re-calling a term used by Woolf; that a book is a 'shadow shape' that stays with you long after you have read it and I find this to be very true. You may not remember anything specific about a book but you know that it impacted you in some way and that is how you remember it.
Woolf's essay talks in depth about whether we should judge a book or simply enjoy it as a pleasure to read a story that captures our attention but in reality it is solely up to the reader how to read a book so long as you keep an open mind.
She finishes the essay by considering reading is not for intellectual gain but simply for the love of books and reading.
Her essays always make you think and she made some very good points throughout and at the end of the day, I personally read books for pleasure.

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I didn’t finish this. I found it hard to read and it didn’t engage me. While I think Woolf is a great author, this one just didn’t do it for me- maybe some of her other essays would work better.

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First published in 1925, Virginia Woolf’s essay How Should One Read a Book delves into what makes some books truly great, how we remember books and pass them on through history and the important roles of the reader and the critic. Published as a standalone essay for the first time, and with an insightful introduction and afterword by Sheila Heti, this small but thought-provoking book will make a great stocking-filler (if it isn’t too early to think about such things!)

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I will 100% be adopting this for my 12th grade students next year. I think it will provide both a great introduction to the idea and study of literature, as well as a great introduction to British writers.

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“The only advice, indeed, that one person can give another about reading is to take no advice, to follow your own instincts, to use your own conclusions.” — Virgina Woolf

In this introspective essay, “How One Should Read a Book” we are granted access into the mind and thought processes of Woolf’s timeless piece which was first delivered in 1926 to an all girls school in Kent England. It was edited again that year in October and is now being published again with an introduction and afterword by writer, Sheila Heti.

In her essay, Woolf encourages readers of all kinds to be more than casual critics. To be careful, passionate, and sympathetic friends to writers. To be writers themselves. A sentiment echoed by Heti throughout her introduction and afterword as well. She divides reading into two parts: 1. reading with an open mind and 2. judging, comparing and reviewing. By doing so, it gives you something to think and reflect upon as you read and also write.

As a lifelong reader, I especially liked her call to action. That we banish all preconceptions when reading. That we consider the work of the writer in telling his/her story as we begin our own critiques. When we ultimately decide what’s good or bad; what works or doesn’t work. Further confirming why this essay has withstood the test of time.

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me an advance digital copy in exchange for an honest review.

Publication date: 10/11/20
#NetGalley #HowOneShouldReadABook #ARC

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I thoroughly enjoyed this captivating essay, which is brimming with Woolf's trademark style of perceptive observation in her accessible, engaging and conversational tone. Here Woolf tackles the question 'How Should One Read a Book?' - a question that many readers and non-readers alike are apt to ask themselves. The topic is particularly timeless and, in combination with Woolf's approach, means that readers today are bound to identify with the experiences she explores throughout this essay.

The original essay is complimented beautifully by the words of Sheila Heti, who adds her own perceptions on reading and writing and explores deeper some of the points touched on by Woolf. Heti brings Woolf's words back into the limelight and into the hands of today's readers, as well as sharing her own experiences on this topic.

Wonderfully cosy autumnal reading - perfect for an hours solitude with a cup of coco. Would thoroughly recommend to anyone who wants to understand more about the power of books and readers, as well as those who already know the magic of reading.

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Virginia Woolf first delivered this as a lecture in 1926 before having it published in The Yale Review later that year. Essentially she’s saying that everyone can be a critic, analysing and comparing authors and their work, but that the love of reading mustn’t be lost in the process. She encourages us to ‘give yourself up to the delight of rubbish-reading’.She rather snobbishly says it has no value and ‘is negligible in the extreme’ yet it can be absorbing for a short while, provided you recognise it as such and return to the masters afterwards.

Reading is seen as a complex process. To enjoy a book to its fullest, we must ‘wait for the dust of reading to settle’ before we can really judge it, as severely as possible, and compare it with the greatest books written - ‘..even the .... least of novels has the right to be judged with the best’. And yet, we must never lose sight of the main reason we read. She finishes by saying that she imagines the scene at the gates of heaven on the Day of Judgement. ‘.the Almighty will turn to Peter and will say, not without a certain envy when he sees us coming with our books under our arms, ‘Look, these need no reward. We have nothing to give them here. They have loved reading.’. And so say all of us!

Bearing in mind this was a speech delivered to schoolgirls, it’s aimed at encouraging reading in the young rather than being a profound critique on the reading process. It’s full of ideas, however, and even after reading it over a few times (it’s very short), I am still finding new ones.

With thanks to NetGalley and Laurence King Publishing Ltd for a review copy.

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How should one read a book? is a journey into the mind of Wolf that how she folds and unfolds the concept of reading and writing. In her essay, she talks about three things- reading, writing and books. How she looks towards readers. How she wants the works to be read. It is not only about reading and moving forward but it is a journey we all made by reading, remembering and gaining something from the book. I like the way she talks about frozen and unfrozen minds. She dutifully tells us that what is feels to write and then read it by others. How some people easily judge while some takes a while to fully grasp the hidden meaning behind the words written. I really like her idea of relating it with other famous writers like Austen, Hardy, Defoe.
I really loved the afterword written by Sheili.H. It is lyrical related with her own life’s incidents and the way she describes what it actually feels to be liked and disliked. By like and dislike, I mean the world she has created.
I wanted to highlight each and every word of it.

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This small book contains three beautiful essays on books, reading and readers. Sheila Heti’s introduction is a lyrical and beautifully written essay about reading that takes off from what Woolf says in her essay. Woolf’s essay which was delivered as a speech to a girls’ school is as smart and well-written as one would expect from this master. She uses other authors to make her points and walks us through how a reader can read and experience a variety of writing. I love the concept of how a book is frozen and then unfrozen in our minds so that all our experiences come together with the author’s intent to create a shape in our heads of what the book means to us. And in the final short essay, Heti gives us insight into a writer’s process and community. All these essays point out who writing is an art, yet an art form that lives more than others and can change. A treasure for any reader to keep as a reminder of why we read, not only how we can read.

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How Should One Read a Book? – Virginia Woolf

This is a slim novel as it’s the transcribed version of a speech Woolf gave to the Hayes Court Common School girls school in 1926. Even though it’s short, I didn’t find it quick to read through – there’s something in the style of the classics writing which means that each word is carefully placed, tightly packed.

It has an introduction and an afterword by Sheila Heti, who I’m afraid to say, I wasn’t familiar with and hadn’t come across. Thanks to the internet and Wikipedia, I now know that she’s a prolific writer across a number of genres, from playwriting and short stories to a novella and editing. She seems to be happiest working in a collaborative way, from her curated short stories to the ‘crowd-sourced’ “Women in Clothes”, which sounds fascinating.

Also somewhat shamefully, I have never read Virginia Woolf. I have copies of “To The Lighthouse” and I’m sure I’ve seen snatches of “The Hours”, the early 2000 film based loosely on Mrs Dalloway, but I have never actually sat down and read what she wrote. I think, a little like not really needing to see The Godfathers because everyone knows what happens (Wedding, Fredo, horse head), I thought I knew enough about Woolf to just gather it in, through osmosis. She was in the Bloomsbury Group, did some very forward thinking stuff about women and drowned herself later on. I know, that is a reductionist view and she was much more than that. What I’m trying to get to, rather clumsily, is that I will, after reading this essay, be sure to seek out more of her writing.

She talks through the twin paths of reading – that of critically reviewing and enjoying – beautifully. Discussing the difficulty in comparing King Lear with Macbeth, poetry with novels. How do you compare like for like when it isn’t? I also loved the part where she describes how reading a book isn’t just that, it’s affected by where you are, how you feel and what’s happening with you at the time. Certain books are always fixed in my memory as being of a specific time. I read “IT” the summer of my 30th birthday, and I remember reading it at Glastonbury, in the boiling hot sun of our back garden when Andy Murray won Wimbledon and a dozen other markers. I read 14 books on holiday once, nearly 20 years ago, and the only one I can really remember is “The Memory Keeper’s Daughter”, flooded with sunlight and smelling of SPF 30. Finishing Garth Nix’s book “Clariel” in our living room, I cried with the shock of the ending – something you know is coming but still hits you like a train.

Woolf talks about the shape authors are trying to make with their writing – cathedrals or triangles. I really get what she means – for me, it’s more the song that they’re writing, the rhythm and the sound, but I understand the shape. I describe the film adaptation of “The Lovely Bones” as true to tone, if not all of the events in the novel – it sounds the same.

Of course, Woolf has her own axe to grind about critics, and I see her point there too. They have no obligation to be nice, but rather are impatient for the work to be finished, to be perfect and exactly what they are expecting, or the author has wasted their precious time. This delicate comparison with your friend, another creative, reviewing this, was lovely. She talks about how each creative piece, whether writing or art or music, is crowdsourced (that isn’t the word she uses, of course) and each novel has perhaps had forty different people reading the piece before it’s let loose. And there it hangs, a moment in time and influenced by the fingerprints of all of those who have come before. I guess that’s where Heti finds her connection, with the idea that all creative work should be, and is, open to review and influence and essentially, raised by a village.

This would be a great addition to any budding author’s bookshelf, and perhaps the budding critic, too.

Thanks to netgalley and Laurence King Publishing for the DRC.

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"To read a novel is a difficult and complex art. You must be capable not only of great fineness of perception, but of great boldness of imagination if you are going to make use of all that the novelist – the great artist – gives you."

'How Should One Read a Book?' by Virginia Woolf was first delivered as a lecture that Woolf gave to the girls of Hayes Court Common school in Kent on 30 January 1926.

Published for the first time as a standalone volume, Virginia Woolf’s short essay, How Should One Read a Book? celebrates the importance of great literature, pays homage to the reader and teaches us a thing or two about refining our competence in passing judgments on books.

Woolf eloquently discusses the "shadow-shape" of books after being read, meaning the shape the books leave in us over time while years pass by and we forget the plot and the characters and are only left with this feeling (shape) that stays with us.

I found it poignant to read Woolf's stance on our responsibility of readers as critics. The following passage can be read as directed at all of us here who review books.

"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? And if by our means books were to become stronger, richer, and more varied, that would be an end worth reaching".

If you needed permission to voice your opinions, there you have it from one of the greatest writers of the 20th century.

The book has an introduction and an afterword by Sheila Heti, where she discusses the importance of writer friends in the process of writing books and how, in that vein, all books are collectively written. Her writing beautifully accompanies Woolf's masterful piece.

This is a read you can devour in half an hour, but the words will surely reverberate in your head. Highly recommended. It's a must-read for all book lovers.

Thanks to Laurence King Publishing and NetGallety for my gifted copy.

#HowShouldOneReadABook #LaurenceKingPublishing #LaurenceKing #NetGalley

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I love Virginia Woolf's writing. Her essay is thought-provoking and will stay with me for a very long time. In fact, I might reread it soon. Her use of the language itself makes it a pleasure to read.
The introduction and the afterword are interesting, engaging.

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