January 6, 2012 11:48 pm

The exploration of reading

Zadie Smith et al weigh the creative, immersive, vital activity in ‘Stop What You’re Doing And Read This!’

 Stop What You’re Doing And Read This!, by Zadie Smith et al, Vintage, RRP£4.99, 181 pages

 

Stop What You’re Doing And Read This! collects 10 pithy essays that explore reading as a creative, immersive, vital act, which offers potency far beyond passive entertainment or information gathering.

An ebullient memoir from Michael Rosen, the former children’s laureate, captures his father reading Great Expectations aloud, and looks at how Dickens’ storytelling came to reflect obscure, hard-to-grasp truths about Rosen’s own life. Meanwhile, Jane Davis subtly echoes this with her experience of shared reading, and its transformative impact on individual lives.

For the young and itinerant Jeanette Winterson, books gave “a way of being at home”, while Tim Parks, in an inspiring and impassioned broadside, declares that “the excitement of reading is the precarious one of being alive now”.

As far as it goes, this advocacy for intense reading is punchy and sharp; but the final essay, weighing the impact of digital media on reading habits, suggests an area whose further probing would have given this slim volume more impact.

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