Books Promiscuously Read: Reading as a Way of Life

Heather Cass White. Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, $25 (176p) ISBN 978-0-374-11526-5
White, a professor of English at the University of Alabama, theorizes in her discerning debut that reading without any particular aim is the surest way to achieve imaginative freedom. “Our reading is best when it is promiscuous,” she writes, and urges that reading should “drift all over the place” as books do. The core of White’s argument unfolds over three chapters that cover the fundamentals of reading promiscuously. In “Play,” White asserts that reading is a game that can deliver a “perennial surprise,” which becomes “the most joyful part.” “Transgression” is an analysis of reading as an act of rebellion and defiance: “To read is to step outside the carefully patrolled boundaries of one’s assigned sphere.” “Insight” offers a look at reading as soul-work, in which readers can move between the worlds of the page, other experiences, and back to reality. Along the way, she offers close readings of Walt Whitman (on the self and other) and Jane Austen (on “social skirmishes”), among others. White’s prose style tends toward the academic, and given the sometimes abstract subject matter, can be difficult follow. Such density, however, doesn’t conceal White’s triumphant conviction that reading should stay “wild.” Literary-minded readers will appreciate this fresh approach. (July)
Reviewed on : 03/03/2021
Release date: 07/06/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 176 pages - 978-1-250-84910-6
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