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Reading as a momentary stay against confusion

On Monday morning, as I unpacked from my two day trip to Switzerland for my godson’s confirmation, I listened to Radio 4’s Start the Week.  It was wonderful to hear about the work of Philip Davis, the Liverpool University professor who has just written a book on the art of real reading. He spoke about how we live in a world of the paraphrase, the summary and the gimmick and how there is a desperate need to go back to what he calls ‘reading with intense attention’.

Being a psychologist, he also discussed the how reading nourishes us, how it gives us what he calls a ‘holding ground’, a place to feel in our element – he quoted Robert Frost who spoke of poetry as ‘a momentary stay against confusion.’

Reading, Davis argues, is a form of philosophy in practise, one that focuses not on the abstract but on individual situations and on raw human experience. He works for The Reader Organisation which brings ‘real reading’ to places outside the educational system such as prisons and hospitals.  As someone who believes that stories heal, that they are essential to our existence as human beings, I felt deeply heartened by Davis’s words and by the wonderful work he is doing.  Here is his book, which comes out next week: