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The Book as a Reader's Experience: Shared Experience

Although reading is most often viewed as a solitary activity, it often takes place in a public area. In addition, the results of reading are often shared within a community of readers. Price (2012) notes that books "can be used both as a bridge between people and as a wedge between people."

In The Order of Books: Readers, Authors, and Libraries in Europe Between the Fourteenth and Eighteenth Centuries, Roger Chartier 1994, (viii) states that

"reading is always a practice embodied in acts, spaces, and habits... a history of reading must identify the specific mechanisms that distinguish the various communities of readers and traditions of reading."

Reading Spaces

Through history, people have found a wide range of places to read. Whether enjoying a book outside under a tree or in bed before going to sleep at night, the study of reading spaces is closely connected with the reading experience.

try itTry It!
Go to A Place of Reading. Work your way through the exhibits reading about reading places and viewing the image bank.

Where do you like to read? What influences your choice of reading space? How have reading spaces changed over time?

According to Hackel (2005, 34-35),

"If we take reading to be an increasingly solitary, silent, and private activity in the early modern period, it is essential to understand the material circumstances that permitted solitude and to acknowledge the unfamiliar ways in which privacy was figured. Domestic reading spaces, especially the bedchamber and book closet, were critical sites of an emergent sense of privacy, but they were also frequently communal, even noisy, places. Women's reading was often confined to spaces within a household, so it is especially important to understand the range of reading experiences possible in this realm."

Book Clubs

For many people, participation in a book club brings reading to life. A book club refers to a group of people who discuss a book or books they have read.

During the 19th century, book clubs were often connected to social groups such as a women's club.

In the 20th century, formal book clubs were established by some publishers to promote their books. Nonprofit groups also developed lists of books and discussion questions to help facilitate the development of book clubs.

Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books (2003) by Iranian author Azar Nafisi tells the story of her book club formed in the late 1990s as they read Western literature including the controversial Lolita.


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