Review: What We Talk About When We Talk About Books: The History and Future of Reading

What We Talk About When We Talk About Books: The History and Future of Reading What We Talk About When We Talk About Books: The History and Future of Reading by Leah Price
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

We have all heard (and maybe preached) the refrain that "people are reading less" and with it, comes the deep dread of a zombie apocalypse worldwide, not of actual zombies but by people unable or unwilling to read or at the very least, humanity is made all the less for this great and tragic loss of reading. But Price largely shatters that perspective with an in insightful historical look at books and our fundamental misunderstanding about books and the poor public discourse we have around them. Her first focus is to dismantle the myth of people reading less coupled with a challenge that asks exactly when were people doing more reading and what did that consist of? She notes that reading is still happening in significant numbers but people are fixated on the idea that people aren't reading books. Of course, book sales tell a different story and in fact, the idea of "books" isn't easy to unpack. When people say books, they mean certain types of books (often, literary) and thus they are quick to dismiss other book reading. It seems that if you're not reading War and Peace, you're not really reading but Price shows reading literary texts was never entirely too popular and some of the books we consider literature today, were considered rubbish in their time. Taken together, Price calls out the fallacy of this claim but she does that just in the first few chapters. From there, she delves into understanding the book as a cultural product whose meaning has fluctuated over time on nearly every level from ownership to content to the worries by society about books (yes, reading books was thought to lead to madness and now doctors in Wales prescribe them). In total, Price shows that the current discourse around the book as an evolving technology is par for the course but that it is still largely on that is mildly misinformed by the very folks who profess love for books.

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