from The Pleasure of Reading

Fowles, John

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Essay

Annotated by:
Wear, Delese
  • Date of entry: Dec-17-1996
  • Last revised: Aug-21-2006


Fowles, and many other well-known Anglo-American writers in this collection, provide marvelous personal rationales for reading: what it has meant in their lives, and most important for our discussion, how reading can work against the "atrophy of the imagination" brought on by this century’s fervor for electronic media.

This essay can be used early in Literature and Medicine courses to discuss the very different experiences of reading fiction and nonfiction, to show how their aims are opposed in many ways. According to Fowles, this includes: "learning to dream awake, against learning to absorb hard facts; almost, to be subjective, to learn to feel, to be oneself--or to be objective, become what society expects . . . . Talking about reading [fiction] is like talking about flight in a world rapidly becoming flightless; like raving about music to the deaf, or about painting to the color-blind."


The essay always provokes reflection in these classes about what fiction can bring to the study of medicine.

Primary Source

The Pleasure of Reading



Place Published





Antonia Fraser