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  • © 2022

The Cultural Sociology of Reading

The Meanings of Reading and Books Across the World

Palgrave Macmillan
  • Provides a study of the social practice of reading

  • Examines the practice of reading in a variety of global contexts

  • Outlines the theoretical components and subsequent empirical investigations of the cultural sociology of reading

Part of the book series: Cultural Sociology (CULTSOC)

Buying options

eBook USD 109.00
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • ISBN: 978-3-031-13227-8
  • Instant PDF download
  • Readable on all devices
  • Own it forever
  • Exclusive offer for individuals only
  • Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout
Hardcover Book USD 139.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)

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Table of contents (19 chapters)

  1. Front Matter

    Pages i-xxv
  2. Introduction

    • María Angélica Thumala Olave
    Pages 1-15
  3. The Project of a Cultural Sociology of Reading

    1. Front Matter

      Pages 17-17
    2. Reading Matters: Toward a Cultural Sociology of Reading

      • María Angélica Thumala Olave
      Pages 19-61
  4. Literary Value and Cultural Intermediaries

    1. Front Matter

      Pages 209-209
    2. Editor’s Love: Matching, Reading, and the Editorial Self-concept

      • Joshua B. Silver, Claudio E. Benzecry
      Pages 249-274
    3. A Self Enlarged by Fiction

      • Cristina Vischer Bruns
      Pages 343-358

About this book

This book showcases recent work about reading and books in sociology and the humanities across the globe. From different standpoints and within the broad perspectives within the cultural sociology of reading, the eighteen chapters examine a range of reading practices, genres, types of texts, and reading spaces. They cover the Anglophone area of the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia; the transnational, multilingual space constituted by the readership of the Colombian novel One Hundred Years of Solitude; nineteenth-century Chile; twentieth-century Czech Republic; twentieth century Swahili readings in East Africa; contemporary Iran; and China during the cultural revolution and the post-Mao period. The chapters contribute to current debates about the valuation of literature and the role of cultural intermediaries; the iconic properties of textual objects and of the practice of reading itself; how reading supports personal, social and political reflection; bookstores as spaces for sociability and the interplay of high and commercial cultures; the political uses of reading for nation-building and propaganda, and the dangers and gratifications of reading under repression. In line with the cultural sociology of reading’s focus on meaning, materiality and emotion, this book explores the existential, ethical and political consequences of reading in specific locations and historical moments. 


  • Cultural Sociology
  • Sociology of Reading
  • Sociology of Books
  • Icons
  • Aesthetic Experience
  • Reading


“Reading is the interplay between embodied texts and human beings. It takes place in landscapes of politics, economics, emotions, memories, and hierarchies of both social power and cultural prestige. The essays in The Cultural Sociology of Reading untangle this rather mysterious practice.  More, they exemplify what the best sociology can do: They situate readers within specific local and global contexts, among unevenly distributed material and intellectual affordances, and then explore and illuminate what happens.” (Wendy Griswold, Professor of Sociology and Bergen Evans Professor in the Humanities, Northwestern University, USA)

“The book edited by María Angélica Thumala Olave is a major contribution to the study of the book and its multiple appropriations, a particularly dynamic and fertile sector of cultural sociology. Thanks to the quality of the chapters, it succeeds in the tour de force of making us understand, in relation to varied national contexts, periods and types of texts, the meaning and functions, from the most political to the most intimate, of an object as central in the history of humanity as the book.” (Bernard Lahire, Professor of Sociology, École Normale Supérieure de Lyon, France)

“Why does reading matter? What are the individual and social uses, practices and values of reading? This book answers these questions on a global scale. The case studies and genres covered-- novels, zines, erotic literature, religious booklets, popular media narratives— from around the world offer a richly heterogeneous panorama of reading from the nineteenth century to the present. Bringing together sociology and cultural studies, the authors illuminate the spaces, politics, ethics, materiality, affect, and embodiment of reading.” (Marcy Schwartz, Professor and Chair of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, Rutgers University, USA)

"The Cultural Sociology of Reading presents compelling and often striking encounters between the sociological and the literary. Ranging widely across peoples, places, and times, the book is attentive as much to the subjective experience of reading as it is to the social structures through which the activity is regulated and ordered. Offering important new insights into how we read and why, the book constitutes a major contribution to the academic study of the social and cultural dimensions of reading." (Andrew Bennett, Professor of English, University of Bristol)

"The eighteen methodologically rich essays in The Cultural Sociology of Reading explore the ways the practice of reading recalibrates cultural value, subverts political meaning, and constitutes the social and affective self in a range of sociological, literary, and physical contexts. Extending Michel de Certeau’s assertion of the creativity and unpredictability of the act of reading into various corners of the globe, the authors engage a plethora of modes of reading (engaged, detached, collective, and clandestine) on the part of diverse demographics of readers (acquisition editors, zine collectors, professional and lay reviewers) in a variety of spaces—from bookstores to bedrooms, from well-lit libraries to the shadows of repressive regimes. The essays occasionally talk past and even against one another but remain in conversation through the interplay among the volume’s defly reinforced through lines: meaning, emotions, and materiality. " (Joan Judge, 2021 Guggenheim Fellow, FRSC, York University) 

Editors and Affiliations

  • School of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK

    María Angélica Thumala Olave

About the editor

María Angélica Thumala Olave is Lecturer in Global Sociology at the University of Edinburgh, UK. Her recent research explores the personal and political significance of reading and books in Latin America and the UK.

Bibliographic Information

  • Book Title: The Cultural Sociology of Reading

  • Book Subtitle: The Meanings of Reading and Books Across the World

  • Editors: María Angélica Thumala Olave

  • Series Title: Cultural Sociology

  • DOI:

  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan Cham

  • eBook Packages: Social Sciences, Social Sciences (R0)

  • Copyright Information: The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2022

  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-3-031-13226-1Published: 13 December 2022

  • Softcover ISBN: 978-3-031-13229-2Due: 27 December 2023

  • eBook ISBN: 978-3-031-13227-8Published: 12 December 2022

  • Edition Number: 1

  • Number of Pages: XXV, 590

  • Number of Illustrations: 10 b/w illustrations, 26 illustrations in colour

  • Topics: Sociology of Culture, Sociological Theory, History of the Book

Buying options

eBook USD 109.00
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • ISBN: 978-3-031-13227-8
  • Instant PDF download
  • Readable on all devices
  • Own it forever
  • Exclusive offer for individuals only
  • Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout
Hardcover Book USD 139.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)