Many would argue that to read a novel is a difficult and complex art. For one to fully understand a story, one must acquire pre-requisite skills to take all that they can, from what the author has given. This is undeniably true, as both Virginia Woolf, in “How Should One Read a Book? ”, and James Wood in “The Limits of Not Quite” prove, that reading to its potential requires an open mind, the independence of the reader to ignore the critiques of others, while having the ability to make his or her own.
Far too often is it that people go into a novel with preconceived notions about its author, or the novel in particular. This is a huge mistake because “If you hang back, and reserve and criticize at first, you are preventing yourself from getting the fullest possible value from what you read. ” (Woolf) The problem with going into a novel close-minded is that it restricts a person’s view of the content in the book. Meaning that the assumptions made prior to actually reading the book (whether they are positive or negative), will leave the reader with “blurred and divided minds. (Wood) The best way to go into a novel is to “banish all such preconceptions when we read. ” (Woolf) With that, the reader can make his/her own connections, and thoughts on the book. Even if the book does turn out to be somewhat confusing, or simply, not of the readers taste, “you will be surprised, indeed you will be overcome, by the relics or human life that have been cast out to moulder. ” (Woolf) No matter how terrible the book, there is always something for the reader in every novel, and that “something” can be anything from a life lesson, to reason in something that had previously been unclear.
Bottom line is that all books have something for everyone, but can only be achieved with an open mind. Having a liberal mindset is tough, and is a reason as to why reading to its potential can be difficult. To experience reading to its full extent, one must have a strong sense of independence. Independence, or the freedom from control, influence, support, aid, or the like, of others, “is the most important quality that a reader can possess. ” (Woolf) Having this ability gives the reader the freedom to make their own connections or interpretations of the story.
Every person will have their own unique thoughts and ideas on the book, so “nothing can be more fatal then to be guided by the preferences of others in a matter so personal. ” (Woolf) This is why independence is so vital to the reader. When the reader allows him or herself be influenced by other people’s opinions, it takes a lot out of the experience of reading – finding the pros, cons, connections, etc. is a huge part of the reading experience. Giving this power to the critics “is to destroy the spirit of freedom,” (Wood) that so many get from reading.
To ignore the influence of others can be extremely difficult, but necessary part of reading to its potential. It is just another part of the difficult and complex pleasure, known as reading. In order to take reading to its potential, the reader must be able to make his/her own individual judgments based on the book – if they enjoyed it, if not, or if the story itself was even believable, and why. The freedom to make such decisions can be quite a daunting task for some readers, as there can be so much going on at one time.
The reader’s decision to believe, or not to, is a “belief that is requested, that we can refuse at any time, that is under our constant surveillance. ”(Wood) The decision is ultimately made by the reader and may change several times throughout the course of a novel. This decision requires the reader to be independent, allowing him/her to make their own decisions on the point, because “fiction demands the belief from us, and that is demanding partly because we can choose to believe or not. (Wood) The decision of whether or not to believe is not the only decision which must be made by the reader, nor is it the most difficult. The most difficult task in passing judgment on a novel is “to press further, and say, ‘Not only is the book of this sort, but it is of this value; here it fails; here it succeed; this is bad; this is good’. ” (Woolf) The process of evaluating the book, can also give the reader a different sense of what they had previously read, as he/she may come up with new ideas, that didn’t dawn upon them, while reading the book.
This step in the reading experience takes a great sense of independence as well as an open mind. It is not an easy part of reading, but can open many new ideas to the reader, in a new light, that they had previously not previously encountered while actually reading the book. Reassessing what was read in a novel can be a quite difficult and complex process, but is vitally necessary for the reader, to taking all that they can from the book. Reading to its apex, requires the reader to make his/her own decisions, while keeping an open mind to the ideas of others.
This can be quite difficult to achieve. For many even impossible, as far too often is the reader influenced by other sources, or are simply too close minded to accept anything new into their minds. To read this way, is not to read at all. Reading is a freedom, which has no limits, no bounds, and to read with a closed mind, is to put barriers where one should be free. Reading is an indulgence which should be effortless, yet taken with great passion. Work Cited Wood, James. “Introduction: The Limits of Not Quite” Woolf, Virginia. “How Should One Read a Book? ”