The Delightful Unconsciousness of Reading a Book

I sit down to read a book in many different settings: on my bed, on the floor, outdoors, in a car, occasionally in a proper chair. Part of the draw to reading is beyond the mere content — it allows us to transcend our present moment, make something of it, give us some vague hope. Reading expands our conscious range. But just as the silent notes in music stir our deepest emotions, so it is the moments of pause when we suddenly stop reading a book: to think, to contemplate, to remember, to imagine, to dream, to chuckle, to remark, to mutter.

Virigina Woolf felt this sensation of pause on the reading of a novel: “How delightful to stop reading and look out! How stimulating the scene is, in its unconsciousness, its irrelevance, its perpetual movement — the colts galloping round the field, the woman filling her pail at the well, the donkey throwing back his head and emitting his long, acrid moan. The greater part of any library is nothing but the record of such fleeting moments in the lives of men, women, and donkeys.”

To read is to “open the mind wide to the fast flocking of innumerable impressions.”

Virigina Woolf; “How Should One Read a Book?”

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