What We Talk About When We Talk About Books: The History and Future of Reading, Leah Price 2019

What an interesting book.  Price, formerly a Professor of English at Harvard and now the founder of the Initiative for the Book at Rutgers, has written a history of reading, not from the standpoint of a literary critic who is focused on the content, but as a book historian who is focused on the delivery vehicle whether it be a clay tablet, a vellum scroll, the codex on our contemporary bookshelves, or the e-reader that we book readers love to hate.  The book is filled with fascinating observations about how we read, not what we read.  The Amtrak library-quiet car, the change that Ikea made a few years ago to deepen bookshelves to accommodate coffee-table sized books, the growing movement to use books for psychotherapy, reducing prison recidivism, and for general health (bibliotherapy) all come into her purview as do the growing number of bibliofessionals, writers who attribute their careers to early childhood reading experiences.  Price makes the point that reading has always been subject to major social influences including how books are made and distributed and how they fit into the larger social infrastructure.  Perhaps her major conclusion is reassuring about the future:  “However the terms change, fiction makes the place where books are read, had, or received a comforting constant.”  She goes on to caution us readers, however, that “I’m confident that the experience of immersion in a world made of words will survive if and only if readers continue to carve out places and times to have words with one another.” In other words, make sure your local library is staffed and resourced in order to provide good books to people!  Price’s warning may also be the best justification for the time I spend reading and creating this site. Good reading to all of you!

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