Victorians read a lot, and they reflected on reading: Why read? What to read? Reading to what goal? After some stage setting, this article discusses four of John Ruskin’s thoughts on reading as expounded in Sesame and Lilies (1865) and that have never received much attention. (1) There are two species of books, “books of the hour” and “books of all time.” (2) The selection of which books to read is an ethical matter. (3) The norm for reading that readers should aim to comply with is the author’s meaning. (4) Readers should love the authors they are reading in order to understand them truly. This article discusses these claims and argues for a qualified endorsement of (1) in favor of (2), argues that (3) constitutes the commonsense view of reading, and defends it against various criticisms. The article finally argues against (4).

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