Monday 21 November 2022

Greywoode, Josephine "Why We Read"

Greywoode, Josephine (ed.) "Why We Read. 70 Writers on Non-Fiction" - 2022

It's Non-fiction November and if you haven't had a chance to participate, here is a short book that tells us a lot about non-fiction books and might instigate us to read some.

70 authors have written about the reason why we read, especially why we read non-fiction. A brilliant collection of thoughts by some great minds. I could repeat the whole book here - but I recommend you get it yourself and read what they have to say. You won't regret it.

And here are just some snippets that might entice you starting the read yourself:

"Poetry in translation is, like Guinness outside Dublin, just a shadow of the real thing." Ananyo Bhattacharya

"And whatever kind of book you are reading, you get to rest for a while in the author's mind and share their unique way of looking at things and putting them together. In a few hours you will learn, without effort, everything this other person has laboured for years to know and understand." Clare Carlisle

"The pictures are better. No fancy computer-enhanced video can compete with reading, and re-reading, the actual text. Imagination is the key to enjoying good literature." Paul Davies

"And sometimes I read as a way of keeping a grip on the world, a grip on myself in the world, a tiny speck, in the rushing darkness that I am. Hold fast. Reading for my life, I guess." Nicci Gerrard

"Education: This is not just the obvious help that reading gives to the formal process of learning at school or university. Reading is a wonderful gift for life-long learning. I read to learn more about more, to educate myself further, to extend my knowledge. That is something that never ends." Ian Kershaw

"Consider this: reading is a strange, modern behaviour that we never evolved to do. Of the 300,000 or so years in which our species has existed, humans started reading only about 5,000 years ago. That's barely 1 per cent of our existence. What is more, until the Industrial Revolution, just a handful of humans had to privilege of reading. From an evolutionary perspective, reading is nearly as novel and strange as driving cars or using credit cards." Daniel Lieberman

"Governments want to tell you that "science, technology, engineering, maths" (STEM) are the most important subjects. But reading is the real stem. Understanding what a fact means understanding how to read. A fact is an interpretation of date: a reading." Timothy Morton

"Studies of the effects of education confirm that educated people really are more enlightened. They are less racist, sexist, xenophobic, homophobic and authoritarian. They place a higher value on imagination, independence and free speech. They are more likely to vote, volunteer, express political views and belong to civic associations such as unions, political parties and religious and community organizations. They are also likelier to trust their fellow citizens - a prime ingredient of the precious elixir called social capital, which gives people the confidence to contract, invest, and obey the law without fearing that they are chumps who will be shafted by everyone else.
For all these reasons, literacy is an engine of human progress, material, moral, spiritual.
" Steven Pinker

"Non-fiction books matter because we are what we read." Daniel Susskind

And some book recommendations by Emma Jane Kirby:
Hamel, Christopher de "Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts"
MacGregor, Neil "A History of the World in 100 Objects" (I read "Germany. Memories of a Nation")
MacDonald, Helen "H is for Hawk"
Nicholson, Christopher "Amon the Summer Snow"
Winterson, Jeanette "Oranges are Not the Only Fruit"
Winterson, Jeanette "Why be Happy When You Can be Normal"
Wynn, Raynor "The Salt Path"

From the back cover:

"Why read non-fiction? Is it just to find things out? Or is it for pleasure, challenge, adventure, meaning? Here, in seventy new pieces, some of the most original writers and thinkers of our time give their answers.

From Hilton Als on reading as writing's dearest companion to Nicci Gerrard on reading for her life; from Malcolm Gladwell on entering the minds of others to Michael Lewis on books as secret discoveries; and from Lea Ypi on the search for freedom to Slavoj Žižek on violent readings, each offers their own surprising perspective on the simple act of turning a page. The result is a celebration of seeing the world in new ways - and of having our minds changed.


  1. Well, My Amazon Wish List has just increased by one... [grin] Thanks! I do so love books about books...

    1. Soooorry for that, Kitten. LOL
      This is not as much a book about books but about reading non-fiction books but it is quite interesting nonetheless. I really liked it.

  2. Interesting book, love the quotes. It is always interesting to hear why people are reading, and what they are reading. Up it goes on my list.

    1. Definitely great to see what people think about non-fiction reads, Lisbeth, especially those writing it themselves. And I thought I defintiely have to add some of the quotes that meant the most to me.

  3. This sounds like the type of book I would enjoy, thanks!

    1. I think most readers would enjoy it, Emma. I hope you can get to it one day.