Member Reviews

Powerful essay, and I love the Introduction and Afterwords just as much. It certainly brings a new sense of clarity on how one shall read a book, and I believe it will offer new insights for each time if rereading it. It serves like a mind cleansing tool to the readers.

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How Should One Read a Book?
By Virginia Woolf

A delight to be able to check in with Virginia Woolf on the proper and correct way to read a book. Her observations release everything a dutiful reader may have clenched, having taken on this hefty title. It was a surprise and gift to read the author’s thoughts on my passion for reading. It blew my mind, in a happy way!

The bonus that accompanies this short book is the afterward by Sheila Heti, who also weighs in with her thoughts on this topic, which are also mind broadening, and an absolute treat.

A Sincere Thanks to Laurence King Publishing and NetGalley for providing an ARC to read and review.

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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."

Maybe I'm not the right reader or just not in the right mood, but I didn't enojy this really short book as much as I wanted. Virginia's essay is half of the book, the other half is introduction & afterwood by Sheila Heti. Overall it's about importance of understanding and perception of reading, and how significant are proof readers (hint: book is not made only by an author).
But if you love Virginia Woolf or Sheila Heti's writing, or just books about books, give it a go, it has only 65 pages.

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“If …the author felt that there was another kind of criticism, in 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?” – p.49

I adored this essay and also the contributions of author Sheila Heti. It was fascinating as a would-be writer (currently studying writing in university) to read the ‘Other Readers’ section and to hear about the giving and receiving of feedback and drafts. I believe some excellent points were made on writer’s groups and the importance of honestly in criticism, specifically constructive criticism.

The writing style of both authors while different in tone and texture, flowed onto each other well while still standout as separate pieces. I enjoyed the beautiful classic writing on the part of Ms Woolf and the more modern contemporary style writing on the part of Ms Heti.
Thoroughly enjoyable and quick read. Perfect for university student studying writing or English literature, or anyone looking for their next Virginia Woolf read.

“The greater part of any library is nothing but the record of such fleeting moments in the lives of men, women, and donkeys.” p. 36

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This essay answers its titular question with a response of almost vague mysticism. There's no practical insight here, but a series of fascinating musings on the process of reading, forming opinions, being changed by what you read, and so on.

Woolf aims to reclaim books from critics and false dichotomies, without eradicating the need for them. Her desire is to place ownership of reading and judging in the hands of the reader experiencing and evaluating the novel in a kind of transcendental way.

Writer Shelia Heti adds her voice as well, in an introduction which goes into Woolf's idea that a novel takes some kind of shape in the mind once it has been read and the dust has settled. One might do well to read the introduction afterwards, rather than having your expectations shaped before approaching the essay itself.

Heti also contributes a conclusion which any burgeoning writer would benefit from reading, speaking about a very specific form of readership: someone reading a draft of book before it has completed, of whom genuine feedback is expected. This notion of collaborative work in any piece of art is intriguing and, though definitely an application of Woolf's ideas, makes an oddly niche note to end on.

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Despite what this sounds like, it is not a regular advice book. Rather it is a meditation on how much should we as readers allow the voices of the literary critics color our experience with a book. It is about supporting the independence which according to Woolf every reader should possess in selecting and thinking about our books. Being a writer, she makes the case for books being read with compassion and understanding. Then goes on to illustrate what that may look like for the different categories of books like poetry, letter, and novels, and how we while maintaining our independence of judgement and not being affected by any critic can still become more discerning readers.

Sheila Heiti's Introduction and Afterword supplement this essay well.Particularly the Afterword which talks about the Other Readers, who read a book when it is still developing. While this essay does get a bit repetitive in the middle, I learned to look at books in a very different way than I am used to from it. This is a gem of a book, and I recommend every reader to go through it because of its interesting insights to the reading process.

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This book as made up of a short essay (Originally a speech) by Virginia Woolf , about reading, with a preface and afterword by Sheila Heti.

Heti writes about the importance between friends criticising work and critiques. I really enjoyed this part, I found it really insightful and helped to understand the many steps and different hands books pass through until they are deemed finished.

Virginia Woolf's main message is to read more so that you can understand more about what is is that you're reading. Also how important it is to think for yourself when reading and not have others think for you.

This was a nice short read that was enjoyable.

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Virginia Woolf is considered as one of the acclaimed authors of the era gone by. But I haven't read any of her other works and this essay was my first one by the author and I totally loved it. Though the essay is quite an old one, the additions by Sheila Heti make it even better! The way in which Virginia Woolf describes the process of reading is quite interesting. The additional extracts were none the less, interesting. How Sheila describes the process of reading writer friends' works is really amazing!

I really loved the Following Extract from the book:
"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"

Overall a great piece to read for Avid Readers!

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I really enjoyed this brief essay and it did summarize beautifully our love of reading. I’ve always been a reader and I love hearing from other readers and in this case Virginia Wolff our love of words and thoughts. Thank you Netgalley for this beautiful read.

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Virginia Woolf reminded me why I love literature so much, how it shaped my life and who I am. I love what Sheila Heti said in the introduction about how books change over time. It illustrates so much the nature of reading and what Virginia Woolf explores in her essay. How reading is a personal experience but at the same time a multiplicity of conversations with what came before, what is now and what is in between. Woolf reminds us to leave our pre-conceived ideas behind, especially the ones imposed on us, and make our reading experience our own. Additionally, Virginia Woolf says to better read, you need to ‘make your own experiment with the dangers and difficulties of words’. Interestingly, not the other way around. I also really liked what Heti said in ‘Other readers’ (afterword) about writers being readers and the sharing of unfinished work between writers. Affirming what Virginia Woolf has said; write and you will be a better reader; share your writing and you will be even better.

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I’ve never really “got” Virginia Woolf. I read Mrs Dalloway around about the time The Hours, that Nicole Kidman movie, came out and wasn’t that impressed with it - it’s about a lot of rather dull upper-middle class people having tea and a soldier suffering from PTSD. The praise for Woolf seems to be more of her stream-of-consciousness style rather than the substance of what she wrote.

So it goes with her essay How Should One Read a Book? which is as underwhelmingly insubstantial as anything I’ve read by her before. She poses a rather pointless question and provides an obvious answer: for enjoyment, basically. There isn’t a lot here that I disagree with but everything Woolf talks about is so self-evident to anyone who’s ever thought passingly about reading that it seems bizarre that any of it needed to be articulated at all.

For example:

- A great writer transports the reader to another world with their words and characters, as well as introduces new experiences and new ways of thinking by seeing through others’ eyes.

- Thinking about a book after you’ve finished reading it is different from the experience of reading it because so many details are missing and what’s left behind are scraps of the whole.

- We should read with an open mind and read widely - not just the acknowledged classics (and Woolf quotes all the bland, safe choices, eg. Shakespeare, Austen, Hardy) but also the ones that don’t stand the test of time, the books Woolf rather snobbishly labels “rubbish-reading”, if only to see different perspectives from different times and pick up occasional forgotten syntax from back then.

- Though professional book critics have their place, ordinary readers should not let them make up their minds for them - if you like a book, then that’s all that matters. Similarly, writers should bear ordinary readers in mind rather than let critics’ views colour their perception of a book’s response.

Is any of this blowing anyone’s mind?? I always try to keep in mind the context but I’ve got to think that even in 1926, when this essay first appeared as a speech Woolf gave, this stuff can’t have been the least bit remarkable to hear.

Sheila Heti contributes an intro and outro to the essay, probably to beef up the slight book, and doesn’t really offer up much beyond saying that she sends her friends drafts of her novels and that reading drafts is different from reading finished books. So there’s that I guess: how one should read a draft is with kindness more than anything. Great…

Reading, for Virginia Woolf, was heavenly, as it is for me and I’m certain for many others, you included, but reading her specifically is not. If you’re after a lot of elementary observations confirming your bias for reading, look no further than this tedious essay!

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Thank you for the opportunity to review this copy of "How Should One Read a Book?" I was given the chance to read and review this edition in exchange for an honest review.

"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 reason, to come to your own conclusions."

It's kind of funny to think of this quote when sitting down to write a book review. More often than not, my take on books are continuously positive; I try to find the good in the work, while there may be something wrong with execution or mechanics. Virginia Woolf was one of the pioneers of modern literature, especially in terms of women's lit. Her thoughts on the matter have such significant weight -- both in terms of her thoughts on her craft, but also in the legacy she left behind. As a community centered on reading as a practice and profession, the opportunity for insight on how one could expand critical thinking skills. Cultivating the necessary approaches toward books, including those we do not enjoy. Learning how to remove oneself and preconceived expectations in order to enjoy what the author has provided, rather than what we think the story should tell.

All in all, this is a cute cover + a great delivery by Woolf, and a decent additional afterword. A great possible gift for a literary fan, or an addition to a home library for the avid literary collector.

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This was an engrossing read and very inspiring. I highly recommend if you want a book that will remind you why you love reading in the first place, or a glorified guide on how to be a book blogger. I love her writing, so this was such a pleasure to read!

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Let's start with the reason I picked up the book, Virginia Woolf's essay. It was brief but to the point and really does more asking than answering when it comes to the titular question. In fact, if I find fault with Woolf at all it would be to point out the question at the heart of the essay is not "how should one read a book" but rather "how should one judge a book". Otherwise, it is an excellent short sharp piece of work.

HOWEVER. The publishers apparently decided that Woolf's essay was too short, at least to be published by itself (and they're probably right on that count). So they included an introduction and an afterword by Sheila Heti. I have never heard of Heti, never read anything by her before, and will definitely not read anything by her again. The introduction was disjointed, irrelevant, and blessedly short. The afterword was at least as long as Woolf's essay, obnoxiously pretentious, not in conversation with the body of the work, and mentioned Woolf exactly once, in passing, near the end.

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Full disclosure: I received an advance copy of How Should One Read a Book? by Virginia Woolf from Laurence King Publishing via NetGalley in exchange for possibly writing a review.

This is a standalone printing of Virginia Woolf's essay, How Should One Read a Book. This is an ode to books and the joy that reading brings. I've always enjoyed Virginia Woolf's writing, so it is not a surprise I would love her celebration of reading, one of my favorite things. If you like reading too (and if you are reading this, I'm guessing you do), pick this up and take a moment to revel in great writing.

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This book contains Virginia Woolf's 1926 lecture with a great introduction and afterword by Sheila Heti.
Although the lecture itself is only around 20 pages long, it's a wonderfully insightful piece with many thought-provoking points. I enjoyed every moment, and although the whole book took me a little over 15 minutes to read, it is one I will reread over and over again.

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In “How One Should Read a Book” Virginia Wolf talks about how reading a book is a personal experience for everyone. Woolf regards reading as a thing of liberty and freedom, where you can escape and for not beIng influenced by what everyone else think. I believe Woolf’s attitude to reading greatly influenced her writing as she wrote the way she wanted to, that is not influenced by fashions etc. and never censored her thoughts. She also wanted to change the way we see certain literature, do we see fiction as mere amusement and poetry as false? She describes poetry and biography extensively and uses examples from other writers. This book is teaching us the proper way to read a book, in the words of Woolf. However, she believes that even if we read something over and over again we will never be able to truly criticise or understand it, because literature is so deep and profound.
Overall, a thoughtful read.

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Fascinating insight from one of our best writers. Everyone who enjoys reading, or who is interested in how writers write, should get this book.

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One of the things that pulled me towards this book immediately was the title, the second was Virginia herself. I am a HUGE sucker for books about books or books about reading and writing and I love how this book approached both.

I will admit, this is the first published essay I've ever read and I really enjoyed reading it. I have read a few other pieces by Woolf but this one will sit comfortably in my top 5 for a long time. One thought that stood out to me is how Virginia mentions that after-life of a book once you read it and even though life continues as normal after you're done, you always ultimately return to the memory of it, how the "book lives in the mind". I loved that.

"And it's a special pleasure to know that my reading can change a book, not only that a book can change me"

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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As a primary school librarian we wouldn’t stock this title only because it is above the expected understanding of reading for that age range.
Saying that, I plan to buy a copy for myself and for other book lovers.

It speaks volumes about how we are readers, how a book stays with us, and what we can take away from books.
I admit to not being overly familiar with Woolfe and her thoughts, theories and writing so I will actively seek to learn more. I found this essay fascinating and relevant.

Thank you for the chance to read it.

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