Member Reviews

An interesting and enjoyable short essay by Woolf about the benefits of reading. I also enjoyed the afterword. It will make a great stocking filler this Christmas in this small-format hardback edition.

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This was an awesome read! I can't believe I've never read this essay before but it was so awesome to read this perspective!
Thank you so much to netgalley and the publishers for providing me with an ARC for an honest review!

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Quick Book Review: How Should One Read a Book? - Virginia Woolf 📖

(*I was approved for an eARC of this book on NetGalley, but all views are my own.*)

How Should One Read a Book is a short essay (that I believe was originally a speech Woolf gave) about how and why we read, and how one should go about reading.

For the first time as a standalone book, this essay is being published by Laurence King Publishing Ltd, along with an introduction and afterword by Sheila Heti. I will say now, Heti’s introduction and afterword were my favourite parts of this book. I’ve never read anything by her before, but this has really made me want to! 🖋

Woof’s essay itself is as much for writers as it is for readers. She talks a lot about the process of trying to write and drawing inspiration from what we read. She talks about there being different ways to read different genres and the fact that not everything should be approached in the same way. I think this is pretty much recommended reading for an aspiring writer.


One thing that this essay does reinforce through Woolf talking about her inspirations is just how white ‘classic’ literature is (this isn’t a fact she states or anything she goes into discussion on, it’s just something I picked up through the names she mentions and really wanted to talk about). This is obviously very well-known and her mentioning the same names over and over again just reiterates this sad truth. It’s upsetting to think of how many great works just never came to be, or were unpublished, or ignored and didn’t get the attention they deserved because their authors weren’t white.

Book Riot has a great list on their website of ‘100 Must-Read Classics by People of Color’ that is really worth checking out if you want to diversify your ‘classics’ reading. I will certainly be doing this myself.

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I think I was drawn to this book just to tick the “I’ve read a Virginia Woolf book” box. To be honest, the title alone does not really inspire awe and intrigue, but thankfully the accompanying blurb set the tone for an insightful read.

The combination of Sheila Heti’s foreword/afterword and Virginia’s Essay really give a new perspective to writing and the importance and close relationship with the authors chosen readers, prior to completion. There really are some interesting perceptions, including a books shadow-shape;

“so the real book is not the physical book, but it’s residual shadow-shape”.

The concept of incompetent critics;

“when books pass in review like the procession of animals in a shooting gallery, 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”.

And a forthright take on poor books

“Are they not criminals, books that have wasted our time and sympathy; are they not the most insidious enemies of society, corrupters, defilers, the writers of false books, faked books, books that fill the air with decay and disease? Let us then be severe in our judgments; let us compare each book with the greatest of its kind.”

The real intensity though, is around the relationship between the author or artist, and their target audience, particularly prior to publication.

“all art is initially made for other artists, and in response to their understanding and sensitivity.”

Thank you NetGalley and Laurence King Publishing Ltd for a review copy.

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A very short book, with an essay written by Virginia Woolf, and afterword written engagingly by Sheila Heti.

Easy and quick to read, yet very thought-provoking - how should you read a book? What should you bring to it? How should you absorb and internalise it? Should you take other people's opinions of the book into account - in fact, should you take the author's opinion and intentions to meaning into account, or can you surmise and decide your own?.

Reading this short book will make you pay more attention to what you are reading. Everyone who considers themselves a reader would do well to give this a read.

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Considered, insightful and endlessly empathetic to both reader and writer this essay pulls off the same trick that Woolf does so well in her writing - opening up the world to us all with a careful focus on the myriad lives and stories that move through it. Just wonderful.

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A delightful little read all about the brilliance of books. Woolf's essay will inspire both readers and writers alike, offering a wealth of insights on how to approach an author's work.

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This was so lovely to read and actually helped with my publishing dissertation!

Heti's afterword really brought the whole thing together and reflected on the text really well. I look forward to buying myself a physical copy of the book to keep!

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Confession: I’ve only ever read one other work by Virginia Woolf, but that alone was enough to assure me I MUST read more.

How Should One Read A Book was first delivered as a lecture, which explains why this essay is very short - I wanted more of it! Beautifully written and with such eloquence and authority, Woolf discusses the reader-writer relationship whilst highlighting our approaches to literature depending on genre. She seamlessly moves from her ideas on reading novels to biographies to poetry, interweaving it all with the main theme about the joy of reading. English graduates may recognise this as a mini crash course in critical theory, but with a bit more passion and fun!

The introduction and afterword by Sheila Heiti is equally as exquisite and gave me another way of thinking about my own journey with books and writing.

This is a wonderfully thoughtful read for all book lovers! Thank you for this ARC.

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A lovely essay by Virginia Woolf, sandwiched between intro and epilogue by Sheila Heti. Woolf discusses the importance of readers who read to love and discover, over critics who read for different motivations entirely. I like the idea of a book returning to the reader later as a “shadow-shape” and that its shape is determined not only by the author’s intention but also by the contours of the reader’s life at the time.

Thanks to netgalley and the publisher for an ARC.

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I enjoyed reading this book, it gave me some interesting ideas. Read it to help me prepare for my masters in literature. Highly recommend!

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A short essay by Virginia Wolf, dedicated to all book lovers, or those who would like to be.

Un breve saggio di Virginia Wolf, dedicato a tutti gli amanti dei libri, o a chi vorrebbe esserlo.


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I struggle with Virginia Woolf's language a bit, but I appreciated the sentiment of this short essay. I particularly enjoyed the preface and postscript that explored how writers and readers interact with each other over a book or any kind of piece of writing.

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This essay was such a treat. If I had a paper copy, I would have already started highlighting and taking notes on the margins. It is, of course, a fascinating look into VIrginia Woolf's perspective regarding the role of the reader. Furthermore, it got me thinking about our role—my role—as a reader in today's world. How do we choose what we read, and how is our perception of what we read influenced from the outside, rather than letting it be a personal experience. These are such different times from when Woolf wrote this essay. We consume books in multiple ways, and some of us reserve certain types of consumption for certain types of reading: audio, e-book, hardcover, paperback, each play a role in our experience as readers. We also have different forms of criticism now: beyond the traditional literary critic, we have Instagram for visual judgment of covers, blogs by people from varied backgrounds and interests, ARC reviewers*, etc. I wonder what Virginia Woolf would think of all this, and would she estimate that we are better off, or worse, as readers today?

*I received an ARC (!) in exchange for an honest review.

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I had never read any of Virgina Woolf books prior to read this, its a very short read but It was very inspiring and question how I read my own books .

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“If by our means books were to become stronger, richer, and more varied, that would be an end worth reaching.” - Virginia Woolf

In this slim volume, Virginia Woolf and Sheila Heti (who writes the introduction and afterword) consider how readers should approach books. Their delightful prose and thoughtful conclusions inspire the reader to reflect upon their own reading practices. Both Woolf and Heti approach this topic as writers and – one would guess – thinking of how they want their own work read. At some points I was in complete agreement with them, at others I wasn’t so sure. They engaged me in a debate and spurred me to think deeply about the topic from multiple perspectives. This, in my opinion, is more valuable than reading an essay that neatly aligns with my views. For this, as well as the elegance of their writing, I recommend this book.

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A wonderful edition of a classic and often under-read Virginia Woolf essay. The essays by Sheila Heti give some great context to the book, and help to guide the reader through some of the ideas that Woolf presents. Great for a high school or college student/ classroom, and a wonderful book for adults who want to confront their reading habits and approach their views of literature critically.

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Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC for review.

Truly wow. This Essay by Virginia Woolf with a foreword and afterword by Sheila Heti is a much read for any lover of literature. Taken from a speech at an all-girls school in 1926, is still so relevant today, explaining how we should read a novel and how we connect to the writing and its author. Woolf's writing is timeless. A must-read for any lover of words.

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An interesting speech given by Virginia Woolf to some students, edited into an essay. A quick half hour read, lovely for free, not sure I'd feel the same after paying the £7 price tag...

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Absolutely loved this from the legendary Virginia Woolf. Still extremely applicable to the present day. I recommend this with my whole heart and am so grateful to the publisher and all involved for reviving this from the past for us to enjoy!

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