Reading Lessons | Carol Atherton

Front cover of Reading Lessons book and a picture of author Carol Atherton


Reading Lessons is a magnificent rethinking of the books, plays and poems so many of us encountered at school and their impact on our lives.

There’s a warm, witty and conversational style in Reading Lessons that makes the book completely accessible, immensely interesting and thoroughly engaging.

Carol Atherton paints a picture of herself and her students so we feel like a fly on the wall of her classroom. This is a book filled with passion and compassion – Atherton’s exploration is so relatable that merely reading about a long-forgotten, dusty text from our school days can bring a lump to our throats.

Reading Lessons: Review & Synopsis

It’s hard to define Reading Lessons. Non-fiction, certainly. Part history, part social commentary, part literary criticism, part biography or memoir; it is all these things and yet so much more than the sum of its parts. What Atherton does in Reading Lessons is engender memories while presenting the most humane, insightful and deeply affecting consideration of what books and reading can tell us. She shows how education is so much more than the hours spent in a classroom or a prescribed curriculum.

Atherton explores themes that resonate with every reader. She considers our sense of identity, looking closely at the role of women, of otherness – whether that’s created through race, ethnicity or family – and she lays herself bare as she does so.

Reading Lessons is a travelogue through the literary landscape that shaped us: first-hand through our own reading; through the memories we attach to meaningful texts; and through the responses we have to reading.

Atherton makes us think, she makes us reconsider the books we read and how and why we read them, but above all else she makes us brave, giving us permission to be ourselves so that we can celebrate both literature and life.

Reading Lessons is enlightening, moving and surprisingly emotional. Filled with humanity and love, this book speaks to the very heart of who we are.

I thought it was totally wonderful.

Reading Lessons by Carol Atherton is out on April 4, 2024 (Fig Tree, HB, £18.99) and available from Amazon.

Read more fiction reviews by Linda Hill including Every Move You Make by C.L. Taylor, Every Smile You Fake by Dorothy Koomson, The Happiest Ever After by Milly Johnson, The Memory of Us by Dani Atkins and The Due Date by Niki Mackay.