Power of Reading, by eminent cultural and social historian Frank Furedi, is a unique, erudite and ground-breaking examination of the history of readers and their relationship with wider culture and society which will appeal to fans of Christopher Booker`s bestselling The Seven Basic Plots and John Gross’s seminal study, The Rise and Fall of the Man of Letters.
In this comprehensive history, Furedi explores the changing meanings attributed to the act of reading, from Socrates’s apprehensions about the impact of literacy on the individual to Cicero’s attempts to classify the readers of Ancient Rome to the awakening belief in the twentieth century that mass literacy was an indispensable skill for individuals attempting to make their way in the modern world.
Against this historic backdrop, Furedi crucially focuses on the culture of reading that prevails in the twenty-first century, questioning key beliefs such as that the internet damages our ability to digest information and that boys don’t read. Furedi’s book in also a call to arms. Taking a cue from George Steiner, Furedi argues vigorously for the restoration of the art of reading- every bit as important as the art of writing.
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The popularity of Goethe’s novel, The Sorrows of Young Werther, was blamed for a spate of suicides. Frank Furedi argues that it set a trend for manufactured outrage that is with us still.
When I told my American colleagues at a sociology conference this summer that I expect my students to read Émile Durkheim’s 'Suicide', they reacted with incredulity.
Busy, distracted, inattentive? Everybody has been since at least 1710 and here are the philosophers to prove it.