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Book Review: How to Read Now: Essays By Elaine Castillo


How many times have we heard that reading builds empathy? That we can travel through books? How often have we were heard about the importance of diversifying our bookshelves? Or claimed that books saved our lives? These familiar words–beautiful, aspirational–are sometimes even true. But award-winning novelist Elaine Castillo has more ambitious hopes for our reading culture, and in this collection of linked essays, “she moves to wrest reading away from the cotton-candy aspirations of uniting people in empathetic harmony and reposition it as thornier, ultimately more rewarding work.” (Vulture)

How to Read Now explores the politics and ethics of reading, and insists that we are capable of something better: a more engaged relationship not just with our fiction and our art, but with our buried and entangled histories. Smart, funny, galvanizing, and sometimes profane, Castillo attacks the stale questions and less-than-critical proclamations that masquerade as vital discussion: reimagining the cartography of the classics, building a moral case against the settler colonialism of lauded writers like Joan Didion, taking aim at Nobel Prize winners and toppling indie filmmakers, and celebrating glorious moments in everything from popular TV like The Watchmen to the films of Wong Kar-wai and the work of contemporary poets like Tommy Pico.

At once a deeply personal and searching history of one woman’s reading life, and a wide-ranging and urgent intervention into our globalized conversations about why reading matters today, How to Read Now empowers us to embrace a more complicated, embodied form of reading, inviting us to acknowledge complicated truths, ignite surprising connections, imagine a more daring solidarity, and create space for a riskier intimacy–within ourselves, and with each other.


I found this novel extremely difficult to get into as the writing was a bit arrogant to begin with and very annoying.

The writing style was a bit annoying as it isn’t very proper every for essay style it was a bore. I have read more interesting novels based on essays in the past. I often find this with American style pieces as it takes a great amount of education it seems for some to write well. As I do have my favourites from all over the world to actually know what good writing is whatever the sub genre of the novel is.

It also didn’t make complete sense in this way. It was constantly full of the authors notes instead of reading as a novel would normally read or even when a novel discusses topics as this just read differently. (EVEN FOR ESSAY STYLE).

There was not really any tips. The title in itself dictates ‘How To Read Now’ which for the average educated person denotes you will be given tips on how to read.

I wouldn’t say it was extremely well written the entire time as it wasn’t consistent in that sense. I wasn’t finding myself too excited to reach for this.

I expected tips from this however it wasn’t as useful as the title suggests. Just my opinion. 

1/5 Stars

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