Saturday, February 18, 2017

Analysis of Virginia Woolf's Essay, How Should One Read a Book

In Virginia Woolf’s essay “How Should One Read a Book”, she outlines six key elements, that one should ensue to apprehend the highest highs of reading. Apart from the six, three particular elements intrigued me the most. The prominent three elements, how to follow your instincts, interpretations of reading, and expanding your repertoire, will be clearly emphasized in this essay.

After reading Virginia Woolf’s essay, “How Should One Read a Book”, I came to grasp an abundance of essential points in which Virginia Woolf emphasizes. Nevertheless, the most prominent one being that “the only advice, indeed, that one person can give another about reading is to take no advice, to follow your own instincts, to use your own reason, to come to your own conclusion”. Immediately following the reading of the essay, I came to grasp and clearly understood what Virginia Woolf was emphasizing. Her theory is that, one is not best suited to accept advice from another on how literature should or should not be read, because the best advice originates within your instincts. This component of Virginia Woolf’s essay is very appealing to me as a student and as a reader considering the years of ‘advice’ that had been administered to me.


Novelists, most frequently achieve their goal in bringing a reader into a state of mind in which they are taken into the world of that novel. Interpretations of readers derive from their personal history. The ethnicity, gender, age, and life experiences are few of the innumerable characteristics that contribute to the overall interpretations of a reader. This is another concept Virginia Woolf placed into her essay. When one manages to “banish all such preconceptions” before and when they read, is when one receives the fullest possible value from literature. If you “open our mind as widely as possible” and become the author of the novel, you will then be in “the presence of a human being unlike any other” and only then… will you be taken into the novel.


In modern day culture, people judge books upon their appearance and not the value contained within the covers. We should not “refuse to read books because they are not ‘art’?” on the contrary, we should “read them in a different way, with a different aim?” This is Virginia Woolf’s emphasis on how one should expand their repertoire, be curious and “satisfy that curiosity which possesses” them. To give “rubbish-reading” a chance, to find the “beautiful humor and pathos” contained within it. Essentially, Virginia Woolf is saying, “you should not judge a book by its cover”.


Virginia Woolf spoke about many essential components to aid a reader into wreaking the fullest value from literature. From reading her essay I have came to grasp how literature should and should not be read. Reading is a lifelong process. One shouldn’t read for the sake reading, but they should read for the love of reading.


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