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Virginia Woolf offers many different ways to read a book in her essay "How Should One Read a Book." In the opening of the essay, Woolf states that her essay cannot define how all people should read a book. Instead, her essay only states that the answers found in the essay apply only to her.
That said, Woolf does offer suggestions to readers of the essay in finding their own way to properly read a book. Woolf's first suggestion is that we, as readers, must "control ourselves." What Woolf means here is that there are many different genres of texts. As readers, we need to understand that each genre offers something different from the others. One's job as a reader is to "become him" (the author). Instead of judging the truths and realities (criticizing too early), the reader should allow the text to open itself freely to the reader (without any preconceived ideas).
Woolf goes onto suggest that the imagination of the reader is key to appreciating a book. Without imagination, the reader is limiting what they will get out of the book. Limited imagination leads to limited entertainment.
Woolf also suggests that readers not ignore the memoirs and the biographies. She suggests that these types of writings offer readers insight into real lives, real conflicts, and real history. Virginia Woolf states that readers should not only look to be entertained and educated, but to "refresh and exercise our own creative powers."
In the end, Woolf suggests that there are two parts to reading: opening the mind to the suggestions made in the book and judging. For Woolf, the first is far more difficult than the second.
Woolf suggests that by doing these two things reading a book will allow the book to become "stronger, richer, and more varied."
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