The Art of Reading (Damon Young, MUP)
What’s the difference between a writer and a reader? In an ideal world, you would be both. After all, they say everyone has a story to tell. Damon Young’s story is about his lifelong love affair with books and the rich inner worlds created by reading. Following his previous books How to Think about Exercise and Philosophy in the Garden, this is perhaps his most idiosyncratic work to date as reading is, of course, innately personal. From the blunt aphorisms of Aesop’s Fables to the Gotham mythos of Batman, he explores the effect that books have had on him both as a bookish child and a scholarly adult. Each chapter is devoted to a different literary virtue—patience, curiosity, courage, pride, temperance and justice. Some skip along more easily than others; pride, for example, gets a little bogged down in academic philosophising with some of the explorations taking a leaden tone. Overall though, it’s an excellent argument for why reading is desirable for its own sake. Not every book is life-changing, but it does offer an experience away from the everyday. Young is interested in this portal to perception, and in the indispensability of reading in developing imaginative independence.
Hilary Simmons is a former assistant editor at Books+Publishing and a freelance writer, copywriter and editor