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Shamelessly Disorderly Reading

If your leisure reading habits have been a bit haphazard lately, you are in good company. In a recent essay for Common-place, Matthew P. Brown shamelessly admits to grazing magazines and a rising stack of half-read books. He argues that there may be a method to this reading madness.

I should feel shame about my disorderly reading, but I don’t. In fact,
I’d like to defend it as a reading practice of depth, rather than
superficiality. Disorderly reading mimics the mind’s generative
activity of thought and discovery, those instances where you know
something is happening but you don’t know what it is. We might better
call it discontinuous or nonlinear reading and acknowledge its long
history, a history that reveals the fact that nonlinear reading lends
itself to routinized procedure as well.

Brown is the author of The Pilgrim and the Bee: Reading Rituals and Book Culture in Early New England. The rest of his defense of disorderly reading, along with his thoughts on nonlinear reading practices past and present, can be found in the Common Reading section of the October volume of