The How and Why of Reading


Writing “in defense of reading” essays is an outmoded literary form. Leo Robson points out in an examination of a slew of new books that reading, unlike other pastimes such as smoking, is generally considered a healthy pursuit. Since nobody debates the merits of reading, defenders of the faith like Howard Bloom have focused instead on the “how to” and the “why.” These are the questions at the heart of new books by John Carey, Philip Davis, Wendy Lesser, and Rebecca Mead, all of which can be read, as Robson points out, while smoking.

Ian MacAllen is the author of Red Sauce: How Italian Food Became American (Rowman & Littlefield, April 2022). His writing has appeared in Chicago Review of Books, Southern Review of Books, The Offing, 45th Parallel Magazine, Little Fiction, Vol 1. Brooklyn, and elsewhere. He tweets @IanMacAllen and is online at More from this author →