How to read and why

by Harold Bloom

Paper Book, 2001

Status

Checked out
Due Aug 19, 2021

Publication

New York : Touchstone Books, 2001.

Description

"Information is endlessly available to us; where shall wisdom be found?" is the crucial question with which renowned literary critic Harold Bloom commences this impassioned book on the pleasures and benefits of reading well. For more than forty years, Bloom has transformed college students into lifelong readers with his unrivaled love for literature. Now, at a time when faster and easier electronic media threaten to eclipse the practice of reading, Bloom draws on his experience as critic, teacher, and prolific reader to plumb the great books for their sustaining wisdom. Shedding all polemic, Bloom addresses the solitary reader, who, he urges, should read for the purest of all reasons: to discover and augment the self. Always dazzling in his ability to draw connections between texts across continents and centuries, Bloom instructs readers in how to immerse themselves in the different literary forms. Probing discussions of the works of beloved writers such as William Shakespeare, Ernest Hemingway, Jane Austen, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Charles Dickens, and William Faulkner highlight the varied challenges and delights found in short stories, poems, novels, and plays. Bloom not only provides illuminating guidance on how to read a text but also illustrates what such reading can bring--aesthetic pleasure, increased individuality and self-knowledge, and the lifetime companionship of the most engaging and complex literary characters. Bloom's engaging prose and brilliant insights will send you hurrying back to old favorites and entice you to discover new ones. His ultimate faith in the restorative power of literature resonates on every page of this infinitely rewarding and important book.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member ellamcc
Harold Bloom's "How To Read and Why" irks me, starting with the title. So why buy, then read it? I think the purchase had to do with Camille Paglia, and I'm forcing myself to read any books that I've owned more than five years unread to clear out my library and get more books. This one was released to another reader after I finished. I find Harold Bloom incredibly pompous, nearly obnoxious (note the title of the book.) Yet he's also really smart, more well-read than I will ever dream of being and puts forth his strong opinions with so much rigor that he certainly deserves to be heard. The man has no use for mediocrity or many other things. He points us to all of the romantics because at least they'll give us a pulse. I agree with him there. I know how to read and why, or I thought I did until I picked up this book. Mr. Bloom would hate me and my personal reading ethic. I don't hate him, but we belong in two completely separate reading worlds. I could go on and on, but I'll leave it with this: I'm glad I read the book finally. I'm also glad to be able to pass it on to someone else. If nothing else, the list of works we "should" read is a good start to a fine reading list (and I may read or reread quite a few of them because of his discussion.) I may disagree with what I perceive as his elitism, but Mr. Bloom does exercise one's critical thinking skill, and I can't argue on his level, so perhaps I shouldn't bother. I'll just keep reading because I like to do so.… (more)
LibraryThing member BrianDewey
Bloom, Harold. How to Read and Why. Scribner, New York, 2000. I have mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, Bloom's high-minded prose has reminded me why I don't like people who have been to graduate school in English. Second, Bloom really does nothing in this book to inspire a love of literature as a whole or any particular works. He gushes endlessly about the superiority of Shakespeare, for example, without sharing any of his thoughts that makes him revere Shakespeare above all others. Basically, Bloom doesn't understand the fiction writer's premise of show, don't tell. (Another reason to avoid English graduate students.) However, this book has inspired me to seek out some good classic literature. And when I have read the same works as Bloom, it is nice to be able to read the corresponding sections of this book and have the type of mental exchange that I wish I could have with Coetzee's Disgrace. And I find that the more time I spend in the company of this book, the more comprehendable the literature-babble becomes. I think I hone my skills of throwing out the bullshit and reading only the true insights. Now that's an important skill when learning how and why to read.… (more)
LibraryThing member tyroeternal
I found this book to be quite enjoyable. Bloom does an excellent job of making a list of what to read, how to read it, and why each selection is worthwhile. His selections are well thought out and backed up with a solid combination of knowledge and passion. The opinions expressed are well thought out, and encourage a critical reading so as to firmly agree or specifically disagree. Love or hate them, his selections will quickly polarize you and draw your own opinions out.

For the reasons listed above, I think this book merits a read to anyone who is curious about where or why to begin reading seriously. Whether in agreement or not, his suggestions will provide a good place to get started, and help in develop a critical eye toward reading and reviewing. I enjoyed the combination of familiar and unfamiliar authors, and quickly found my to-read list growing.
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LibraryThing member dazzyj
This entire book was coloured for me by the fact that soon after starting to read it, its title and cover blurb felt like a swindle. It does not tell you very much about how to read, or why. When it does, it is platitudinous (read novels for aesthetic pleasure, and wisdom...) Instead of being a guide on how to extract the most benefit from literature, it turns out to be a collection of Bloom's favourite works and his autumnal musings on them. These alternate between Brodies-Notes style plodding analysis, and pretentious opacity. It is partially redeemed by the author's obvious passionate love for all these books, but only partially.… (more)
LibraryThing member Tuirgin
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 lively and passionate professor who is able to draw out just enough of the subtleties of the works discussed to be an inspiration to the student. On this level, the book succeeds wonderfully, and will no doubt lead to more thorough works, such as Bloom's Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human.… (more)
LibraryThing member SaraPrindiville
This was a fantastic book to read at this point in my reading career. He discusses authors with which I am familiar, some I've heard of but haven't read and some I've never heard of at all. he has some great insights and makes me want to keep reading voraciously.
LibraryThing member desultory
That title is really offputting, and he is getting a bit repetitive, but his enthusiasm is still infectious. (And he still writes beautifully.)

I had never read much in the way of short stories - always avoided them. After absorbing the opening section of this book, I had read collections by Turgenev, Chekhov, Hemingway and Flannery O'Connor. How can that be a bad thing?… (more)
LibraryThing member jpsnow
Interesting criticism for those one has already read. The rest is, well, I guess what you would expect from reading the criticism first. But aside from having some insightful commentary, I don't see any more a theme from his selections than any other arbitrary list. Relative to his other works, underwhelming.
LibraryThing member edwinbcn
When I bought this book, How to read and why by Harold Bloom, I mistook the author for Allan Bloom, whose The closing of the American mind I had so much enjoyed reading many years ago.

Discovering the confusion over authorship was not what subsequently upset me, upset being an understatement. Like many other reviewers, I am simply angry about the deceptive title. How to read and why purports to be a book which might give some guidance on HOW to approach world-class literature, and discuss WHY literacy is of value. However, these questions are barely dealt with, other than an 8.5-page section consisting of the most obvious platitudes why reading is important.

Instead, the book consists of listings of all novels, story collections, poems, etc which the author deems essential reading. Some of his choices are questionable, and apparently made only upon his eminent authority as an expert.
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LibraryThing member neurodrew
I picked up this volume at the used book store, spontaneously. Harold Bloom writes very well, and has a very conservative approach to literature. I enjoyed his brief tour and recommendations about reading; I am intererested in acquiring some Maupassant and Turgenev short stories after this book, and I bought Flannery O'Connor, a Cormac McCarthy book, and Hemingway short stories. He also recommended Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49, Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man, Jane Austen's Emma, Henry James Portrait of a Lady, and a re-read of Crime and Punishment and Great Expectations. I don't know when, if ever, I will get to these, but I enjoyed the idea of a list of literary greats to aspire to.… (more)
LibraryThing member araridan
The only part that I found interesting in this book was regarding the categorization of short stories into either the vein of chekhovian-hemingway or kafkan-borgesian..
LibraryThing member Marse
"How to Read and Why" should be called "In Praise of Books I Love." It is not a manual for becoming a better reader, or a gloss of important works and themes, or a defense of the Western Canon. It's a loving letter to readers from a man who has spent his whole life studying, rereading, and lecturing on the world's finest literature, and is still in awe of and profoundly moved by these works. He not only convinces you that these works are worth reading (even many times), but also why you should reread them, even if you have already read them many times. I'm embarrassed to say that about half of them I've never read even once, but I'm eager to start (re)reading them all.… (more)
LibraryThing member Reverend30
I'm not a huge fan of Bloom, but I enjoyed this, I think because I already had familiarity with most of the books he wrote about. Bloom does a great job of connecting literature to life, and reminding us of the joy we need to take in reading.
LibraryThing member amanda4242
As erudite and unapologetically snobby as I expected. I probably would have been better off reading the books Bloom discusses, but that may have been his point.
LibraryThing member Wilwarin
It was interesting to read about some of the authors, though I skipped the chapters about poems and plays. I think there's more interesting literature criticism and "books about books" out there. He got me interested to read some of the books but I didn't like how he compared everything to Shakespeare and he seemed a little bit stuck on the "fine arts" concept. Bloom have other titles that seems more interesting, so I'll give him another change.

This books just gets a two star because he did manage to wake up the interest for books I've intended to read for years but never gotten around too, but just two stars because of what I've written above.
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LibraryThing member James.Igoe
Professor Bloom is sometimes pooh-poohed for his support of the Western Canon, but for those not immersed in the humanities, the book is likely to be a signpost to a deeper understanding of literature. Bloom's explanation of Borges illuminated the latter author's fantastic twists, and I was impressed enough to decide to reach much of Bloom's other favorites, including Pynchon, McDonald, Morrison, and West.… (more)
LibraryThing member daniela.soares
This book is an excellent guide to reading some classic books. But there is a complete guide, just point to some key aspects, without taking the pleasure of discovery inherent to the act of reading.
LibraryThing member labrick
Although I got some good ideas for books to read, I found myself skimming through chunks of this book. It's a collection of reviews as opposed to a treatise on reading. This is an erroneous preconception that I take credit for. Much of the material I had already read, and have my own opinion on; although some of his insight was a reminder, much like the other reviews here would be of this book. With the Internet up and working, a person should be able to find reviews and lists of books that are catered to their tastes--much like LT--instead of skimming through a book like this.… (more)

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