Reading Beyond the Book
The Social Practices of Contemporary Literary Culture
Routledge – 2013 – 350 pages
Literary culture has become a form of popular culture over the last fifteen years thanks to the success of televised book clubs, film adaptations, big-box book stores, online bookselling, and face-to-face and online book groups. This volume offers the first critical analysis of mass reading events and the contemporary meanings of reading in the UK, USA, and Canada based on original interviews and surveys with readers and event organizers.
The resurgence of book groups has inspired new cultural formations of what the authors call "shared reading." They interrogate the enduring attraction of an old technology for readers, community organizers, and government agencies, exploring the social practices inspired by the sharing of books in public spaces and revealing the complex ideological investments made by readers, cultural workers, institutions, and the mass media in the meanings of reading.
'This is more than just an excellent study of books and reading in the twenty first century. It's a superb piece of cultural sociology.'
--David Hesmondhalgh, University of Leeds
'In Beyond the Book, Fuller and Rehberg Sedo set out a carefully argued and highly readable account of "Mass Reading Events" (MREs) in Britain, Canada and the USA, supporting careful empirical research with sophisticated political and economic analysis of the reading industry. Their findings testify to the persistence of a book culture with long historical roots, despite radical upheavals in media structures and delivery platforms. Students and scholars of media and reading will especially appreciate the way the authors comprehensively pull together theoretical and empirical literature on current reading practices. This insightful and well-informed book is essential for anyone interested in the place of texts and reading in contemporary media-saturated life.'
--Christine Pawley, University of Wisconsin-Madison
'This lively, methodologically adventurous book should be read by everyone interested in the fate of reading in our digital age. Why, the authors wonder, have community organizers, universities, and even both local and national governments turned to the promotion of mass reading events at the very moment when our media landscape seems to be changing so radically? Investigating how the community reading of books is financed, organized, promoted on radio and television, and then experienced and evaluated by the many who participate in this widespread activity, the authors explore with great verve and insight the significance of the fact that a book reading industry has flourished even as digital media garner more and more of our collective attention.'
--Janice Radway, Walter Dill Scott, Northwestern University
'Using an impressive range of empirical material gathered from organizers and participants, this book offers a compelling account of the significance of Mass Reading Events in today’s ‘reading industry’. In the tradition of Janice Radway and Elizabeth Long it reminds us that attention to actual readers and their practices is vital if we are to make sense of the changes and continuities evident in contemporary literary culture.'
--David Wright, University of Warwick
'[T]his is a remarkably in-depth study that teases out many insights into what reading means to readers, how book culture combines prestige with consumerism, how the radical potential for growth through literature is entangled with a conservative desire to belong and be comforted, and what role books and reading have in mass media and popular culture. This book is an important and insightful interdisciplinary contribution to reading studies.'
--Barbara Fisher, Gustavus Adolphus College
'There is no question but that this book opens up a substantial development of the last two decades, one which has not only reconfigured in significant ways the cultural place of book-reading, but also shifted the workings of the publishing industry. It is also good to see book-readers becoming a focus of research in their own right, outside broad social histories…[I give] my overwhelming recommendation of [this book]. [It] deserves to be very widely read….'
--Martin Baker, Participations: Journal of Audience & Reception Studies
'As a guide to understanding how and why people gather to read in a digital age, Reading Beyond the Book is a much-needed and theoretically informed study of popular iterations of reading practice in our neoliberal world.'
--Tony Tremblay, TOPIA: Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies
Introduction. 1.Reading 2. Television 3. Radio 4. Money 5. Worker 6. Reader 7. Book
Danielle Fuller is Senior Lecturer in the Department of American & Canadian Studies at the University of Birmingham, UK.
DeNel Rehberg Sedo is Associate Professor in the Department of Communication Studies at Mount Saint Vincent University, Canada.