cover image The Art of Reading

The Art of Reading

Damon Young. Scribe, $14.95 trade paper (176p) ISBN 978-1-947534-02-5

Philosopher Young (Philosophy in the Garden) investigates the act of reading with essays on six virtues he sees exemplified by it—namely curiosity, patience, courage, pride, temperance, and justice—in this brisk and delightful collection. Its short length belies a book heavy with insight, creativity, and wit. To Young’s credit, he treats all types of reading, from scholarly meditation to frivolous binge reading, with seriousness and respect. His literary examples include both highbrow works, such as Jorge Luis Borges’s “The Library of Babel” and Blaise Pascal’s Pensées, and beach reads, such as Star Trek novelizations and The Da Vinci Code. The essays vary in their tightness and persuasiveness—some hew quite closely to their featured virtue and give analyses that feel acute and surprising, while others have less well-defined theses—but all uniformly entertain. Young sometimes uses scholarly language (“If curiosity like Borges’s resists the inertia of being, Heidegger’s was a characteristic rejection of stubborn facts altogether”) that requires close attention and even rereading, but his thoughts are lucid and accessible, repaying the reader’s work. Moreover, the closing bibliographic essay will inspire reading lists for months to come. This literary study is serious but also witty and fun—a tough balance to strike, but Young nails it. (Apr.)