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The Art of Reading

3.32  ·  Rating details ·  274 ratings  ·  70 reviews
We are not born readers, we learn to turn words into worlds. But why is fine writing lauded while excellent reading is ignored?

In The Art of Reading, philosopher Damon Young reveals the pleasures of this intimate pursuit through a rich sample of literature: from Virginia Woolf's diaries to Batman comics. He writes with honesty and humour about the blunders and revelations
Paperback, 166 pages
Published March 28th 2016 by Melbourne University Press
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Average rating 3.32  · 
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Simon Robs
Oct 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Epilogue, sort of :

So how's 'bout a nice example of reader, in this case a professional (scholar/writer/journalist) doing due diligence and/or detecting, just as amateur lit/sleuth (I'm thinking Fio. here) can too when tuned to artful reading, ferreting out a possible linkage from an American classic. I say Watson, come have a look at this!
(read the last paragraph in particular as it relates to artful reading.)

Leah Rachel von Essen
Philosophy and critical analysis of the reader-writer relationship often don't drift too far apart, and I imagine Young saw them as similar. For me, the more philosophical approach of this text was slightly disappointing as I wrote my thesis on the reader-writer relationship in literature and was hoping this would be along those lines, but I was willing to go with it. I enjoyed some of Young's points about the way we approach reading. He saw our approach through the lens of several virtues of re ...more
Jennifer (JC-S)
Feb 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
‘To my right is a small stained pine bookcase. It contains, among other things, my childhood.’

In this thoughtful book, Damon Young, Honorary Fellow in Philosophy at the University of Melbourne, looks at the power of readers to transform words into worlds. Yes, it should be obvious that writing is only the first step of the process: without readers, writing is meaningless. But why does reading become pleasurable for some of us, and not for others? How can two people read the same book, and form e
Samir Rawas Sarayji
There's much to like here - literature, philosophy and Young's personal perspectives. I especially like his writing style and his ability to discuss complex ideas or observations in an accessible style. Despite the range of topics and ideas discussed, I never once felt Young was pretentious.
However, there are also some aspects that I didn't enjoy. I picked up this book in the literature section of the library on a whim and had no idea of Young's background as a philosopher, so when the book star
Apr 13, 2016 rated it liked it
This is Alain de Botton territory. I found it rather underwhelming.
Aug 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Anna by: International Book Festival
I saw Damon Young speak at an International Book Festival event on the importance of libraries last summer. He was an articulate and interesting speaker, so obviously I wanted to get his book out of the library. As I was clearly not the only person with that idea, it’s taken nearly six months to get hold of it. In structure and content, the book is similar to Alberto Manguel’s reflections on reading, although Young has his own distinctive style. I liked said style, albeit not as much as my belov ...more
Diane Challenor
So much of this book was above my head. Some of the time, I found myself skimming over pages, until I reached parts that had meaning for me. That said, I'm sure other readers, with a much wider and more in-depth reading experience than I, will enjoy the book. The author's knowledge brings together a reading experience that many of us will never come close to and will only be able to admire from a distance. I finished the book because I knew I would glean a few gems that would satisfy my curiosit ...more
Jul 07, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Young, a philosopher by trade, wants to explore what good reading is. He has structured the book around Aristotle's taxonomy of the virtues. Young uses this taxonomy to explore how these virtues need to be cultivated by the reader if they want to read well – read with curiosity, patience, courage and temperance and so on – and also, I suppose, how reading might help us cultivate such virtues as well.

He draws on a wide range of literature to furnish this tour – everything from Borges to Batman, H
Sep 11, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This was a pretentious, overly self-indulgent take on reading. He spends the majority of the book quoting famous philosophers, authors, and literary critics without any real, personal insight or thought from himself.

Sentences are flowered with useless, archaic terminology, such as:
"Commenters devote days to communal harrumph, rather than studying the best of their adversaries' ideas."

Although I do agree with one thing he said (even though he didn't say it and yet again, he's quoting someone else
Apr 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
I've done two posts about this book on my blog, a Sensational Snippet and a reflection on the chapter about Patience. ...more
Alex Tongue
Apr 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
A lovely little book! Finished it over lunch and couldn't wait to reflect on it.

When I was a boy, I read all the dang time. I didn't have many friends, and I was really shy about making new ones (which may shock people who know me well). I spent a lot of time alone as a child. I'd disappear for hours, lost in my bookshelf. Probably around 4th grade, my mom figured out that sending me to my room with all my books wasn't really a punishment, so one time she took out all the books from my room and
Jan 21, 2020 rated it it was ok
I believe there is value in this book, of course and recognize the author's intellect for sure. However, what made me put it down was that it was more of a philosophy of reading than a study of literature as I was hoping for. That's more subjective but objectively the reason I couldn't give this a higher rating was because, despite the author's nice prose, the wording was a bit of a chore to interpret.

For example the sentence: "Each [Batman/superhero] story is its own version of an adaptation th
(2.5) “Without a reader, the text is a stream of sensations: dark and light shapes. … Reading is always a meeting of two liberties: the artist’s and the audience’s.” I was hoping for more personal anecdote rather than philosophy and literary theory. I found this dense and a bit dull compared to the other book I’ve read from Young, How to Think about Exercise. ...more
Mugren Ohaly
Oct 27, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2017
I don’t know what to make of this. Most of it is just passages written by various people that are meant to prove the author’s point which is never explicitly revealed. Also, I got the feeling that the author was smug and probably laughs at his own humor which is childish and not at all creative.
Tasnia Ahmad
Jan 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An incredible read! Non- fiction has never been so touching, I would recommend to all and state, without doubt this a favourite of mine! 😊
Sep 05, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book seemed interesting but I found it dull. I got to page 30 and gave up.
Aidan Reid
Sep 16, 2018 rated it it was ok
Started brightly but in the end was just too dense.
Y.S. Stephen
Jun 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Writing a book has many gains. You have the title of an "author", people respect you somewhat and that opens doors of opportunity.

Aside from personal benefits, there is no celebrity status attached to reading. It does not matter how voracious or well-read you are. No one cares. According to Damon Young, author of The Art of Reading:

"Despite civilisation’s glut of signs, the virtues of reading are rarely celebrated. Reading well is treated as a rudimentary skill, not a lifelong ambition; not a
Sep 14, 2017 rated it liked it
This isn't really the type of book I normally read but I read an interview with him in a magazine and it sounded interesting but this isn't the book I wanted. I would have liked far more about his personal reading experiences and less highbrow philosophy. I would enjoy a coffee with Damon but would be rolling my eyes every time he started talking philosophy. ...more
Jan 02, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: ardent bibliophiles
Recommended to Kate by: 418.4 YO
“He laid his hand under her left armpit, whereupon his vitals and her vitals yearned for coition.” —RB

The universe is never spied as a naked fact.

“Haste is universal because everyone is in flight from himself.” —FN
2.5 stars - I may have ended up skimming it a little towards the end... which is probably a tad ironic given its chapters on patience etc when reading... But it was a neat little book, and it holds plenty of recommendations for philosophers' works on reading and literature. ...more
I finally finished this tiny book because it was due at the library and I couldn't renew it any more. (I think the librarians must get nervous after you've had a volume in your possession for nine weeks?). If that doesn't tell you something about my opinion of this book, well... Keep reading, I guess?

Before I get into my review, though, I should clarify something: this is a philosophical work, and philosophy is not my best genre. It's a little like hip-hop (stay with me), which I try REALLY HARD
Feb 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 4-stars
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for an honest review

First, I need to babble about the cover of this book for a bit. Look how cute it is! It's simple but effective and just screams 'reader'. I'm not a huge fan of green, but this is probably one of my most favourite book covers in recent times. Two enthusiastic thumbs up to the cover designer.

And now for the inside.

I won't lie, I did get a little bit lost in some parts and that prompts me to say that this is a book that needs mor
Although my original review (see below in Dutch: 'can't be read, all those names all the time, al that bullshit about Batman, fuck it, done') is still accurate, I'm gonna add some more. In English.

This is an awful book to read and - not knowing the author - the only impression I get is that the 'good reader' (this is the Dutch title) pertains to the author himself, as some sort of great treasurer of obscure literature, grand philosopher of pulp, and name-dropper extraordinaire.

It does not enco
Joyful Mimi
Oct 06, 2018 rated it liked it
I basically liked and enjoyed this book especially his delineation of what is necessary for the “art” of reading: curiosity, patience, courage, pride, temperance, justice. However, even though it was a short book, it was too drawn out, in my opinion. He could have said things more succinctly. He seemed to be taking himself and this subject much too seriously. An essay probably would have been sufficient.
Oct 23, 2020 rated it liked it
3.5 stars.
Browsing through the philosophy section in the library, I picked this one out probably almost entirely for its beautiful cover, and the minimalism it promised. And I though it would be something of a guide, a self-help book even, about how to start reading, and how to fall in love with it. I have been trying, you see, all year, to get into books again, after reminiscing woefully on my childhood bibliophilia. For I had become a screen addict, and found it hard to concentrate, and find
Patrick Walsh
The shelving suggestion on the back cover of The Art of Reading categorizes this book as a gift book or as belonging to the category of literature. The second category is completely appropriate. The first is puzzling. Gift books, in my experience, tend to be light reading; there is seldom a need to have a dictionary handy when reading them as there is this gift book. Two of the cover blurbs use the word "erudite," and that describes not only the content of the book but could also be used to qual ...more
Apr 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“The Art of Reading” surprised me, and pleasantly so. I thought the first chapter set the tone very well and primed me to think of writing and reading as inherently biased acts, reflecting the thoughts of both parties in an act of cocreation. So, when Damon Young proceeded to make bold statements and call-out other authors (Dan Smith comes to mind), it all felt very consistent. I especially appreciated when Young lampshaded the fact that he was juxtaposing superhero stories with academic philoso ...more
A college reading level book on different aspects of the philosophy of reading, it was, at alternating times, both intensely interesting and interminably dense. Although the first half was more engaging, I got the feeling that the latter half was aimed at a more erudite audience. Likely this is due to two things: the materials being compared in these sections (how many people have really read ALL of J.Joyce''s Ulysses?), and the section on where he talks about pleasure reading done for escapism ...more
Laura Ngoc Lan Tran
Apr 02, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I think this book is exquisitely written and very comprehensive on the handful of qualities that Young thought to be included in the art and philosophy of reading.

This book is meant for reflection-- I see myself reflecting on the books I have read and have yet to read as Young narrates his own journey in reading. He helped me realise and awaken some of my own thoughts and feelings about certain books that I previously couldn't quite put my finger on. I became a more conscious, curious, courageo
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I'm a philosopher and writer. I'm the author of several popular nonfiction books, published in Australia and overseas in English and translation into twelve languages.

My books include Distraction (2008), Philosophy in the Garden (2013), How to Think About Exercise (2014), The Art of Reading (2016), and On Getting Off: Philosophy and Sex (2020). I've written for outlets including The Age, The Austr

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