It was an absolute corker of a conversation--Sarah was a pleasure to chat with. (In fact, there wasn't room in print for the whole rollicking discussion.) Here's an excerpt:
Taking a cynical view, a book about how to read books could sound like the ultimate in redundancy: if you can read it, you might reason, then you don't need it, and if you can't read it then it's definitely no good to you. After all, you know how to read. You probably learned in your first years at primary school, or even before. What more to it is there? Quite a lot, actually, and Damon Young's purpose in this elegant volume is to demonstrate just what an extraordinary thing it is to be a reader - and how much power we have to be even better at it.
Young is a philosopher by trade - and an honorary fellow in philosophy at the University of Melbourne, Australia - and his approach is strongly shaped by this background. He breaks the topic down into several "virtues" that he recommends we cultivate. There's curiosity, patience, courage and justice, which are perhaps self-explanatory; but also pride (yes, pride can be a virtue, when it means coming to a book with a full sense that you are its equal), and temperance - it's a relief to anyone who's worried they're not reading enough when Young confesses that binging on Star Trek novels didn't necessarily do him any good. From Virginia Woolf's elegant experimental novels to Frank Miller's comic books, Young's approach is omnivorous and inspiring. In 2016, he undertook an experiment of reading "no white dudes" for six months, and The Art of Reading is pleasingly ready to range outside the conventional canon of "great men" .
It's an encouragement both to spread your reading wings wider, and to have the confidence in your own judgement rather than allow 'capital-L' Literature to intimidate you. After all, as Young says, writing is just "dark marks on paper" until you make it mean something. There is no book without a reader.