I’ve been meaning to read Greenwell’s essay since it came and this pushed me to do it. Wow—it hit on so many questions I’ve been asking myself about cancel culture and art. It’s going to be pulling at my brain for some time as I haven’t fully understood it yet.Sorry I was out of town for the April book club (I couldn’t open the article you wrote about it) but looking forward to Mrs. Caliban. The description immediately reminded me of The Shape of Water, which I loved so I’m looking forward to diving in, so to speak.

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I have read zero of the books on reading you recommend, though I've take a stab at some of them (at some point I realized that Prose and Smiley are Not For Me just as much as Roth is--which is to say I may revisit them if so moved, but after years of reading books for library work, I am now enjoying the freedom to read just as my inclination leads me).

I was thus struck by the absence of the three books that I think taught me the most about reading and am now curious about what your other readers would recommend. My picks, in the order I encountered them:

1. Louis Untermeyer's Doorways to Poetry is a dated volume my grandmother gave me in junior high. (She bet me $5 I couldn't read the entirety of "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" aloud to her. I did, of course.) I believe I got far more from it than I did from any poetry unit in school.

2. David Lodge's The Art of Fiction. I'm pretty sure my grandmother recommended this one to me as well, and then I stole her copy, which I still have. (Honorable mention here to Fay Weldon's Letters to Alice on First Reading Jane Austen.)

3. CS Lewis's On Stories, a posthumous collection edited by Walter Hooper that I picked up from the remainder table at the at Union Square Barnes & Noble in NYC and that I've been thinking about--and quoting from--ever since I read it on the train back to college that night.

All of these are irrevocably white and overwhelmingly male, a problem I've been trying to rectify in recent years--but then I've also been doing my best to acknowledge that WASP is my cultural heritage, for worse but occasionally for good.

I'd throw in another honorable mention to an hour-long conversation about the opening sentence of The Sun Also Rises with two college friends when we were ostensibly doing our job of keeping the campus safe, but it's not a book and much of its contents is lost the dark and the fog, except that it's the one thing that gave me some appreciation of Hemingway.

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Thanks for today's column. Lots of inspiration!

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As a reader but not a (literary) writer, I love what you present here. That we can always improve in any endeavour is of course clear, but I had never considered how working on being a better writer parallels with becoming a better reader. Even with a couple of English literature degrees to my name, I found How to Read Literature Like a Professor very useful (and actually fun). And Smiley can do no wrong in my book (see what I did there?). I wrote a literary analysis paper using 13 Ways as a framework back in my undergraduate days (that book must be old!). It's hard for me to turn off my "academic" mind when reading for pleasure and keep myself from over analyzing a text, which after reading this post I can see is not unlike a writer revising and revising ad infinitum.

Somehow this conversation reminds me of Paul Valery's quote "A poem is never finished, only abandoned." Because I'm not a poem or fiction writer, I kind of understand this but haven't experienced it. I'm now thinking it applies to my experience of reading and my ongoing work to allow myself to experience and delight in a text without having to find endless ways to analyze it, contextualize it, etc.

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