9780099565949Reviewed by Marcus Hammond

The world of literature is a living world that records human experience. Through literature, whether it is a poem, a memoir, or a piece of fiction, we can be transported into a powerful, cathartic world of knowledge and imagination. The world of literature grows and changes with society in both positive and negative ways. With the introduction of technology, for example, reading has become more accessible, yet arguably less appreciated. It is the impact of these various changes in the reading and the collective passion for writing that bonds the authors together in Stop What You’re Doing and Read This! The contributors range from fiction writers like Zadie Smith and Mark Haddon to specialists in language and reading and literature instructors. No matter what background these contributors come from, each one holds an intense respect and passion for literacy.

Each essay in this collection presents a different view on the importance and future of literature. In “Library Life,” Zadie Smith describes her background with reading and libraries as she grew up and went to school in London. She recalls how her experiences within the libraries of her youth and young adulthood provided a sense of community as well as a sense of individual learning. Smith makes a strong case that libraries are essential to the experience of learning and desires that these public institutions continue to be funded and respected even though they face government scrutiny and a decrease in funding.

Mark Haddon’s “The Right Words in the Right Order” takes on a significantly different tone from Smith’s essay in that he describes how a novel presents a constantly shifting experience. He states, “But a novel really is just inky shapes on paper. It comes to life only when we read it. And we all read differently.” One person can read a classic piece of literature like Frankenstein and interpret it as a scientific premonition, while another may read it simply as a piece of Gothic horror. It is this interpretive opportunity that makes reading literature a unique medium for knowledge that no other media can copy.

There are eight more essays within this collection that each present a unique view of our reading lives. Each author presents a personal and deeply critical view of how impactful literature can be. Overall, these essays show that whether it is the establishments where we obtain books, the actual words presented within those books, or the ways that we read them, the experience is worth the time and effort we put into it.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

After obtaining a Masters in Liberal Arts and Literature Marcus has dedicated most of his time to teaching English Composition for a community college in the Midwest. In his down time, he spends time avidly reading an eclectic selection of books and doing freelance writing whenever he gets the chance. He lives in Kansas with his wife.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Random House UK. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.