Member Reviews

Virginia Woolf is brilliant, as the essay "How Should One Read a Book?" demonstrates unequivocally. What more could we ask for when it is written unabashedly for all the voracious readers? Every word is both poetry and prose, sharp and weighty with meaning. If I were to highlight lines, near every sentence deserves attention.

Woolf calls for us to be both sympathetic and severe readers, a class removed from the literary critics that treat one book after another as a succession of animals in a shooting gallery. She carries us on a voyage between great literary writers before her time, speaks of the fascinating window into human lives in biographies, and burrows into the striking clarity of poetry. In the multitudinous chaos of so many books, Woolf anchors our ability to make sense of our reading experience and appreciate its art form.

With a lovely introduction and afterword by Sheila Heti, "How Should One Read a Book?" is emphemeral but so memorable, a rare and direct conversational line from famed writer to you—the hungry, passionate reader.

Many thanks to Netgalley and Laurence King Publishing for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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I enjoyed reading about Virginia Woolf’s thoughts on the way we analyze and critique books, but I personally got a lot more out of the introduction and afterward in this edition by Sheila Heti. The way she talks about books changing through time in our memories and the shadow-shapes they make (since we each conjure a different image in our imaginations), the way that pieces of books and the time in which we read them can stick in our minds even when the characters or specific plot points don’t, and how writers edit their books through the influence of those who care about them (both with their feedback and anticipating their feedback).

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Reading, as an active engagement with a text, and with the characters, pictures, events, emotions and moods it evokes is, for Virginia Woolf, a life-transforming art; it has affinities with the art of friendship and supports an empathetic involvement with a writer.
In crisp, pointed examples drawn from several centuries and a variety of genres, she makes the case that the ideal reader brings “imagination, insight and judgment” to the act of reading.
The rewards of reading include a route to “light up the many windows of the past” and a way “to refresh and exercise our own creative powers”; the poet has the ability “to make us at once actors and spectators”. These rewards are completed by the reader's development of an ability to make informed and sensitive judgments, to contribute to “the atmosphere which writers breathe”.
Sheila Heti's introduction steps carefully between “readers” and “critics” (one irony is that we are all critics in this forum). She develops this point in the afterword stressing the artist's need for a sympathetic audience for work in progress. This theme is related back to this 1926 lecture by Virginia Woolf though the link is not an obvious one.
The imaginative energy that Virginia Woolf pours into her novels and essays is also on display here. Her wit, poetry and sheer enthusiasm for the cause are good reason for this timely reprint.

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Reading this book was very insightful. As someone who reviews books, this book was a very interesting one.
However, I couldn’t keep my full attention on the book while reading it. Once I got into the book, the book was a 100% read.

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Virginia Woolf will always be one of the greatest writers to have ever lived and written, and this extended essay by her on the importance of literature and the feeling that literature provides is no different. I've always preferred her non-fiction writing to her fiction and I can see why in this short piece. She doesn't aim to be earth-shattering with her non-fiction, merely to provoke an inner stream of consciousness that you will struggle to find the ends of and could spend hours pondering over. I say that in a complimentary way, with endless possibilities.

I did a lot of highlighting quotes on my kindle while reading this, although I note now that a lot the highlighting actually came from the introduction and afterword by Sheila Heti. I found her short chapters really interesting, particularly what she calls a 'shadow shape' that a book leaves behind in your mind (intro) as well as the importance of reading and sharing drafts with others (afterword). I really liked the section where she discusses how you pay a different kind of attention to the drafts of other people's writing than you do to finished books you buy in a book shop, knowing the difference that you can make in that drafting stage. Even just the idea of sending a draft to someone makes you realise where it is wrong, where it needs more work and where you are proud of it, without them even reading it and telling you so. That really resonated with me. If anything, this short book that I read for Virginia Woolf has actually made me want to dive into Sheila Heti's other work.

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The first thing I liked about this book was the title of the book. Being a reader from the from the deepest core of my heart, how could I ignore this book. Especially when it is Virginia Woolf who wrote this book.
How should One Read a Book is an essay in which Woolf talked about the correct way of reading a book, how could one reader connect to the writer just by reading the book. She explores the lives the of different author of Victorian London and reaches to the reader like no one esle did.
I really liked the book. It is a short read but a pretty amazing as well. Totally loved it.

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<i> "The only advice … 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... After all, what laws can be laid down about books?" </i>

Virginia Woolf's "How Should One Read a Book?' was first given as a lecture to Hayes Court Common school girls in January 1926. This edition includes an introduction and afterword by Sheila Heti.

I find it to be as relevant now as it was the day it was given. Despite being an extremely quick read, I found the essay so illuminating. Woolf's advice manages to sound gentle but persuasive at the same time, urging the reader to be both sympathetic and open to a wide range of emotion, whilst still acting as a fair judge. Normally, I find it difficult to read essays, but Woolf's prose sounded so poetic and lyrical that I forgot I was reading non-fiction.

One idea in particular stood out to me- Woolf's idea of a 'shadow-shape'. That after reading a novel, the reader will resume life, but ultimately return to the memory of the book. And in this reminiscence lies not just the narrative, or its characters but pieces of the reader's life interspersed in the recollection of this 'shadow-shape'. As Woolf writes, 'A book is a watery sculpture that lives in the mind once the reading is done'.

Sheila Heti's introduction was particularly captivating, and a wonderful way to ease into the essay. This quote in particular made me smile, as it encapsulates everything I love about reading:

<i> "Virginia Woolf compares the pleasures of reading to the pleasure of being in heaven. In fact, God, who is stuck in his heaven, envies human readers- for while his heaven is one place, books offer multiple places. The reader doesn’t grow bored like God does." </i>

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📖“ A book is a watery sculpture that lives in the mind once the reading is done “📖

The book is basically an essay written by Virginia Woolf in 1926, along with an addition of introduction and afterward by Sheila Heti.

Unlike what the title suggests , the author urges the readers not to take any advice on reading and follow their own instincts , to use their own reasons and to come to their own conclusions about a book or their reading process. A lot of emphasis is given to the importance of readers and their opinions of the books , the readers who read for their pleasure or the friends who do innumerable reads for the authors . These reviews , as the author suggests, are much more empathetic and thoughtful than the reviews of critiques and have a major part to play in any authors life.
I absolutely enjoyed this beautifully written essay. It does have a lot of references to classics and their characters, many of them where unknown to me. I felt the ending to be a bit abrupt as well. Nevertheless , it was a great experience reading this short piece, only 20 pages long , written a 100 years ago but still very relevant.

The snippet below just commemorates the love of reading for us :
”Virginia Woolf compares the pleasures of reading to the pleasure of being in heaven . In fact, god , who is stuck in his heaven , envies human readers- for while his heaven is one place , books offer multiple places. The reader doesn’t grow bored like God does”

Thanks for providing me the copy. Review is also posted on goodreads and also on my Instagram page.

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Absolutely loved reading this gem of a an essay by Woolf, published with a very interesting and engaging Introduction as well as an Afterword. Right from the opening of the essay to its closing lines, i was completely immersed. A must read for all readers. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing the ARC.

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Virginia Woolf was one of the most incredibly writers of her time. I couldn't be more blessed to be given the chance to read this book and the afterword by Sheila Heti was lovely.

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

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