Reading Style

June 24, 2014 non-fiction 12

18847887Title: Reading Style
Author: Jenny Davidson
Source: from publisher via NetGalley
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Review Summary: Sometimes this book was too academic for my taste, but at other times I enjoyed sharing the author’s passionate love of a beautiful sentence.

Author Jenny Davidson is both an English and Comparative Literature professor and an inveterate reader. She reads everything from classics to old but forgotten books, from high-brow literature to popular novels. Reading Style is a mix of all of these things. Although it refers to some literary theory, the author explains early on that what informed her decisions to talk about specific books was not a desire to”[make] an argument about style” but to share passages that “speak to [her] strongly.”

Lately I’ve been loving books about books and books about people who loves books. In many ways, Reading Style did not disappoint. Author Jenny Davidson is fun and passionate and clearly very much in love with the written word. Sharing her passion for particular sentences and writing styles was generally enjoyable. There were a few sections where she focused on authors who weren’t to my taste and I was surprised how much this could make a section drag. Perhaps this shouldn’t have surprised me though, given how liberally she quoted and how much my enjoyment of the book depended on entering into her enthusiasm. When I wasn’t loving the authors she was sharing, I often enjoyed the thought-provoking points she raised about the merits of style and substance in literature.

Even though I’m someone who enjoys thinking about the roles literature plays in our lives, the author sometimes waxed a bit too philosophical for me. In the age old criticism of literary criticism, it’s fair to say that I sometimes felt the author was investing too much meaning in the text she shared. I also sometimes found her writing very dense and hard to follow. Unfortunately, two of the last chapters were focused on authors I didn’t enjoy. They were also some of the trickier chapters to get through. As a result, I finished the book feeling very ready to be done with it. However, parts of the book were truly fantastic and if you’re someone who loves beautiful writing, I’d recommend giving this a shot.


12 Responses to “Reading Style”

  1. Jennine G.

    This sounds like an interesting topic, although I can see how the authors of personal disinterest would drag it down. How many authors would you say she discussed that you were interested in?
    Jennine G. recently posted…Summer 2014 Reading ListMy Profile

    • DoingDewey

      Hmm, I think she probably talked about 20 authors in depth and maybe a little over half of them were either authors I’d read or authors whose style I thought was enjoyable or interesting and fun. Some of it was just too academic for me – books where I thought the style was interesting but too strange or where she analyzed them to a depth that didn’t interest me. I enjoy literary criticism a bit, but if someone loved it, this would be a book I think they would enjoy more than I did.

    • DoingDewey

      It’s true! I sometimes wonder if authors have chosen to add books to their story knowing that most people who would pick up a book, also enjoy reading about them 🙂

  2. Andi @ Estella's Revenge

    I have the problem with books about books that if the book’s author is discussing I get all bogged down and my reading slows. I read Nick Hornby’s first book about books, The Polysyllabic Spree, and I experienced a lot of this phenomenon so I never read more. Boo! I’ll keep this one on my radar to try out.
    Andi @ Estella’s Revenge recently posted…This Week’s ReadingMy Profile

    • DoingDewey

      I’ve not read a nonfiction book about books before so I hadn’t experienced that slowing down until now, but that did happen to me here. I think as you read, you adjust to an author’s writing style and reading a book with a lot of excerpts from other authors meant that I was constantly having to readjust.

    • DoingDewey

      That was how I felt about it. It was a subject I enjoyed it, but it was a bit too academic and too full of excerpts for me.

    • DoingDewey

      This definitely isn’t my favorite nonfiction, but it might still be a good one to pick up, since the topic is obviously one that’s going to appeal to any reader 🙂

  3. Monika @ Lovely Bookshelf

    Thanks for how frank you are in this review. It LOOKS like one I’d be crazy interested in, but the aspects that were drawbacks for you are exactly the types of things that wouldn’t fare well for me, either. I think this might be a “when I’m in the mood for it and happen to see it at the library” type of possibility for me. 😉
    Monika @ Lovely Bookshelf recently posted…Review: Get Up Tim by Sally WeigelMy Profile

    • DoingDewey

      I think that’s a good category to put it in. It was pretty good and on an interesting topic, but not so good that I’d recommend running out to get it right away.