Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “How to Read and Why” as Want to Read:
How to Read and Why
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

How to Read and Why

3.59  ·  Rating details ·  2,895 ratings  ·  356 reviews
In the vastly influential The Western Canon, Harold Bloom outlined what we should read to understand a greater depth of the individual self. How to Read and Why continues the argument and focusses on how we use literature in order to gain deeper self-awareness. Poems, stories, novels, plays and parables are all analyzed as forms of writing as immersion, the language of ind ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published 2001 by Fourth Estate (first published 2000)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about How to Read and Why, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Maurizio Patrignanelli Premesso che non conosco questo libro e quindi non so come tratta l'argomento, posso dire che esistono alcune regole -anche complesse- che si applican…morePremesso che non conosco questo libro e quindi non so come tratta l'argomento, posso dire che esistono alcune regole -anche complesse- che si applicano perlopiù a testi di divulgazione, saggi e manuali, quindi un approccio più di studio che di semplice lettura.
Ci sono però pochi piccoli consigli utili anche per i romanzi, in particolare in fase di scelta e di primo approccio, che si possono riassumere con "lettura esplorativa"; questa consiste essenzialmente nel consultare il libro in tutte le sue parti (copertina, risvolti, frontespizio, prefazione, introduzione, indice, indice analitico, note...) e nello scorrere le pagine leggendo qua e là porzioni di testo; questa pratica è molto utile per comprendere al meglio il libro che abbiamo in mano, la trama, lo stile dell'autore, ecc, prima di iniziare la lettura completa del testo.(less)
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.59  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,895 ratings  ·  356 reviews


More filters
 | 
Sort order
Start your review of How to Read and Why
Riku Sayuj

This book has come by some harsh criticism, especially by eminent reviewers like Terry Eagleton and fellow goodreaders. In spite of the bad reviews by goodreaders I usually take at their word, I decided to give the book a chance. With Bloom’s combination of ideas such as Shakespeare being the progenitor of all modern fiction and poetry, of the bard also being the inventor of ‘Human” in literature and with Bloom's audacious theory on all literary works being nothing more than a sort of plagiarism
...more
BlackOxford
Learning to Listen by Reading

Listening and reading are generally considered independent activities. The only way to spot imposture is to listen attentively to lots of people. And the only way to spot fakery in print is to read lots of books critically. But it strikes me that Bloom is making an implicit case for considering listening and reading as functionally equivalent. Everything he has to say about reading applies with even greater urgency and relevance to listening.

One need only substitute
...more
Trevor
May 10, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reference, literature
This is a remarkably conservative introduction to how to read and why. His selection of texts is also quite conservative and illustrative of his ideological positioning. What is most interesting is that he spends so much time criticising the very idea of reading from within an ideological position that he appears completely blind to the fact of his own ideology or even that it is an ideology. This ideology is most clearly illuminated at the end of the book when he discusses why it is good to rea ...more
Anthony
Nov 12, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Aspiring lit snobs, masochists
Shelves: abandoned
Really dull and pedantic view of literature, IMO. On the one hand, it purports to explain why one should read (I'll save you the time and money-- read for enjoyment). On the other hand, it contains many references to literature that it makes almost no sense to read it unless you have already read the copious books Prof. Bloom makes reference to. All of this begs the question: To whom is this book targeted? I humbly suggest: To no-one in particular.

As someone who posits that literature should be
...more
Allie
Dec 10, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essay, non-fiction
Mega Yale lit. critic Harold Bloom is an intelligent reader with a love for good literature, which I admire. I enjoyed his enjoyment of reading, his philosophy of reading, and message on the importance of solitary reading & reading quality lit., all of which will positively influence the way that I approach reading, and I am very grateful for it. This said, I had just a few issues:

(1) I feel that the book is more of a personal work for him; it's more like "I'm Really Old (69 when this book was p
...more
Kat
Jan 09, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I don't think Harold Bloom can so much as take a shit without referencing the act to Shakespeare in some way, shape or form.

I understand now that he is a Shakespeare scholar, but prior to picking up this book, I had no idea. I knew him to be a literary critic and scholar and therefore assumed he would be treating the topic of reading and literature to an academic analysis. Really, the book should be titled "How to Read Everything as an Offshoot of Shakespeare." On the general topic of reading he
...more
Randi Taylor-Habib
Harold Bloom is an elitist, a snob, a horrible sexist, and as an Ivy League professor, could care less. He is not here to make friends, he is here to inform us that we are incredibly under read and that we are reading for the wrong reasons.

Once he gets past his ranting in the beginning regarding the politics of education regarding not pursuing excellence, that reading is in no way improving of society as in his mind it is a "selfish act", and spending long dreary moments denouncing feminism in
...more
John
Dec 19, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People with a sound literary background
Before getting this book from the library, I had heard of Harold Bloom, but I had never read any of his books. Most of what I'd heard was positive so I was really looking forward to reading How to Read and Why.

But, alas, I was not prepared for Bloom's massive erudition, and his prologue pretty much finished me off. Consider, for example, this sample from page 23 of the Scribner edition, "Value, in literature as in life, has much to do with the idiosyncratic, with the excess by which meaning gets
...more
Michael
101229: more how to read what harold bloom reads. i agree with idea reading is ultimately private, not necessarily socially ameliorative, nor productive of greater mind or heart, but also that it is more that people read that is important rather than set texts must be read. most texts chosen i have read, some with less impact than suggested, some i have not read or remember only vaguely…

i do not read poems much, i value plays in production not text. no surprises, no texts that are not eurocentri
...more
matthew
Oct 15, 2007 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: nonagenarian bibliophiles and people who think shakespeare is the SHIT
i love harold bloom. i just read all his stuff. i had to stop reading this one, though, because, essentially, you have to've read everything that bloom's read to appreciate it, and i'm not quite yet that old. it really should be entitled "how to reread and why", 'cause the book is one ginormous spoiler. he really really really loves shakespeare, too, and he doesn't let ye forget it! i'll come back to it in some years. he's still a great writer. ...more
Anna
Aug 26, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Well, I am sure that Mr. Bloom is a lot smarter and definitely more educated than I am. Sadly that doesn't stop him from being an annoying jerk who thinks he is above everyone else, apparantely.

I am not in the habit of leaving a book half-finished, but in this case I was seriously thinking about it. The style (in the translation, at least, but probably in the original as well) was pompous just for the sake of pompousness (is that even a word...?), and the amount of repetition was simply mind-nu
...more
Riah
Apr 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Any bibliophile; Literary buffs
This is one of my absolute favorite books. It is a psychological perspective of becoming a bibliophile. Even deeper, though, it explicitly describes how we become connected to a story, a character, a moment. How does reading turn into experiencing? Why does it happen? What do author's do to make sure you love the experience or at least remember it forever? Why do we strive to gain this experience? What characters should we turn to so we can meet that need? These are the questions and answers of ...more
Gator
Aug 15, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bloom is a mathematician of literature. He sees things so clearly and makes such beautiful sense of
It all. An amazing book about books (the Cannon particularly).
Michael
Nov 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“Because, for me, the question of how to read always leads on to the motives and uses for reading, I shall never separate the ‘how’ and the ‘why’ of this book’s subject.”

Harold Bloom is the great teacher of literature that I never had; but then of course I do have his books. His publication of “The Western Canon” coincided with my personal desire to find a way in the world of literature. I remember that the discussions in the book of the specific authors that Bloom considered central to the West
...more
Mark
Jul 19, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well, to be blunt to begin, Bloom is a snob when it comes to what is worth reading, and when it comes to the works I've read that he discusses, I disagree with his interpretations on at least half of them. But who wants to only read things that agree with what they already think? I may differ with him quite a bit, but Bloom is passionate about his reading. There are more than a few of his opinions that made me look at a work differently. My opinion may not have been his, but the act of reassessi ...more
عماد العتيلي
“Read deeply, not to believe, not to accept, not to contradict, but to learn to share in that one nature that writes and reads.”

This is one of the most important books I've read this year.
...more
Emily
May 19, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010
I thought there were a lot of smart, astute observations although Bloom, possibly being the most well-read person alive today, has no qualm with telling you exactly what he thinks is good and what is garbage and what you should read and why and how you should read it. As a premise, this sounds nosy and elitist but I didn't find it off-putting. I actually found a lot of great insight in his short explications. More than any observation about a work in particular, it was Bloom's personal experienc ...more
Nikhilesh
Oct 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: every bibliophile
Shelves: on-hold, favourites
Every reader should read this book. Harold Bloom seems to have as many admirers as the detractors, for various reasons, but he makes makes sense to me when he outlines the meaning of reading and unless you dive deeper into what he is saying and apply that to the books you read you wont be able to discover for yourself what he means. So, I've decided after reading the first couple of chapters to cover the books he discusses in this book as I go along this book to really understand what he is sayi ...more
Chris
Feb 14, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: didn-t-finish
I couldn't get into this. Slow and turgid prose. It brought back nightmares from college English-having to read impenetrable, pedantic prose. You know, the types of books you would have to read and re-read and re-read to understand WTF the author was saying. Bloom worships Shakespeare too. I've never been into the Bard. You almost expect a test after reading each chapter. I made it to the poetry section and said adieu. ...more
John
Oct 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of my favorite books. A great look at reading. It could as well be named "What to read and why" but I enjoyed how it finds the connection of books to a person's life. The authors and books chosen by Bloom are definitely ones to visit at some point, old or young. This book is a tribute, in a way, to a lifetime of close reading. I wish it was available in e book format today, but an old paperback edition is something to visit again and again for reading inspiration. ...more
Adrienne
Jan 06, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
This book made me not ever want to read again. And I didn't, for about six months. This book is geared toward the top 1% of English professors. It's like reading 250 pages of the New York times. He's not interested in engaging the average reader, just impressing some etherial elite group somewhere. If you love reading, STAY AWAY from this book. ...more
Sean Gainford
Sep 02, 2009 rated it did not like it
Why Not to Read This Book

Harold Bloom definitely gets off on Shakespeare, and his decision on how good other writers are is based off the criteria of how Shakespearean they are. This book also doesn't go into how to read or why. This book is more about what to read, according to Harold Bloom. His book isn't very Shakespearean though, so I wouldn't bother reading it.
...more
Rahell Omer
Mar 21, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Boring!

Bloom has picked up some pieces of literature (Short stories, poems, Novels, and plays) and 'sort of' introduces them to you. Of course I'm not well-acquainted with any literature, leave alone English's, but this guy still didn't succeed in what the title of his book suggests.
...more
Vesa
I feel incompetent of reviewing or even rating this book, so here are some of my highlights:

“What matters more is who you are, since you cannot evade bringing yourself to the act of reading.”
“The ultimate answer to the question ‘Why read?’ is that only deep, constant reading fully established and augments an autonomous self. Until you become yourself, what benefit can you be to others?”
“Only rarely can poetry aid us in communing with others; that is a beautiful idealism, except at certain strang
...more
Ronald Wise
Jul 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Bloom's objectives in this book are grand, while a more appropriate title may have been What to Read and Why. With sections on the short story, poetry, drama, classical novels, and the modern novel, he identifies whom he considers the best contributors and their best work(s), with evolutionary speculation on how the earlier influenced the latter, plus some theoretical thoughts on the interplay between the development of Western civilization and its literature.

His use of a precise and efficient v
...more
Marcus
Mar 28, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A lot of why I liked this book is because it gave me a few books to add to my queue. This is my first exposure to Bloom and my impression is that he's sort of a charming character. He's erudite and opinionated without being condescending or abrasive. I found his passion for books and literature contagious and criticism insightful. After reading this, I've started Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49 and I'll probably read Blood Meridian after that. How to Read and Why gave me a new, or renewed, apprec ...more
Christopher Walborn
This book is not geared toward the academic, rather it is a popular book on reading quality literature. What this means is that Bloom does not spend time discussing the theory and techniques of literary scholarship and criticism, but instead models a very personal, pleasurable style of attentive reading. The length of the book precludes a thorough examination of any specific work. Instead it is a survey to whet the appetite, an aperitif. It is quite like an interesting few days spent with a live ...more
Rise
Mar 02, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I read this sometime in 2008, 2009. I just skimmed this book, reading only Bloom's take on a handful of authors and his chapter summaries. It is an uneven collection of essays. It is only when dealing with his favorite authors (Shakespeare, Cormac McCarthy, Faulkner) that his discussion becomes rapt and interesting. Bloom's answers to the two central questions (How to read? Why read?) seem forced. Bloom is not a very articulate critic in the sense that his appreciation of a writer's merits is of ...more
Jolyn
Jan 01, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
In Bloom's How To Read and Why, he doesn't clarify how or why we should read. Rather he pontificates about all those pre-admired, already fawned-over white male writers we've been told since birth we ought to read. Then he admires them and fawns over them some more. Nothing to see here, folks. Move along. ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Miss Lonelyhearts
  • The Kiss
  • How Fiction Works
  • Sketches from a Hunter's Album
  • A Reader on Reading
  • Watt
  • Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius
  • The Student
  • The Sea Change
  • Literary Theory: An Introduction
  • Anglo-Saxon FAQs
  • Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction
  • Super Human: The Bulletproof Plan to Age Backward and Maybe Even Live Forever
  • Grand Union: Stories
  • Freedom of Simplicity: Finding Harmony in a Complex World
  • Saving Grace
  • Suck Your Stomach in and Put Some Color On!: What Southern Mamas Tell Their Daughters That the Rest of Y'All Should Know Too
See similar books…
1,041 followers
Harold Bloom was an American literary critic and the Sterling Professor of Humanities at Yale University. Since the publication of his first book in 1959, Bloom has written more than forty books of literary criticism, several books discussing religion, and one novel. He edited hundreds of anthologies.

News & Interviews

  Signed up for the 2021 Goodreads Reading Challenge and looking for tips on how to discover and read more books? We’ve got your back. (And if...
175 likes · 43 comments
“Read deeply, not to believe, not to accept, not to contradict, but to learn to share in that one nature that writes and reads.” 33 likes
“We read, frequently if not unknowingly, in search of a mind more original than our own.” 31 likes
More quotes…