How to Read a Book: A Novel (Hardcover)

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How to Read a Book: A Novel By Monica Wood Cover Image
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Violet has been recently released from prison after serving time for manslaughter. Harriet is the coordinator of the prison book club. Frank is a recently retired bookstore handyman but is also the husband of the woman who died in Violet’s car crash. Their lives collide at Wadsworth Books - a bit of a coincidence, but Portland, Maine isn’t that big a city. Violet’s family has abandoned her, and while Harriet has the support of her kids and niece, they are all planning to move away. And Frank is dealing with the complicated grief of widowhood. So, there it is - a story of found family, which I love, and a lot of book reading and discussion, which I love too. But it gets better – Violet gets a job in a Parrot lab at the local university, and it turns out they are both smarter than you know and an important part of the story. Dare I say it? If you’ve been looking for a book that captures all the joys of Remarkably Bright Creatures, I think you’ve got it here.

— Daniel Goldin

A deeply moving novel about forgiveness, second chances, and the power of books to change our lives. The story revolves around three people and how their lives intersect: Violet, a 22-year-old released just from prison after serving two years for a drunk-driving incident that took the life of a kindergarten teacher; Harriet, a retired teacher who runs a book club for inmates in a women's prison; and Frank, a retired machinist trying to find his way after the death of his wife. The author tackles difficult questions of taking responsibility for one's actions, living with mistakes made, and how and when to forgive others and oneself. Questions that lead me to pause and ponder: what would I do/feel/think in this situation? And, do I really know the answer to that question?

— Kathy Herbst

May 2024 Indie Next List

“A charming novel about the power of books to heal, connect, and teach. A prison inmate, her reading group teacher, and the man damaged by the inmate’s crime are drawn together by their love of reading and their need for human connection.”
— Susan Taylor, Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza, Albany, NY


"A deeply humane and touching novel; highly recommended for book clubs and fans of Shelby Van Pelt's Remarkably Bright Creatures." — Booklist

"A beautiful, big-hearted treasure of a novel." —Lily King

From the award-winning author of The One-in-a-Million Boy comes a heartfelt, uplifting novel about a chance encounter at a bookstore, exploring redemption, unlikely friendships, and the life-changing power of sharing stories.

Our Reasons meet us in the morning and whisper to us at night. Mine is an innocent, unsuspecting, eternally sixty-one-year-old woman named Lorraine Daigle…

Violet Powell, a twenty-two-year-old from rural Abbott Falls, Maine, is being released from prison after serving twenty-two months for a drunk-driving crash that killed a local kindergarten teacher.

Harriet Larson, a retired English teacher who runs the prison book club, is facing the unsettling prospect of an empty nest.

Frank Daigle, a retired machinist, hasn’t yet come to grips with the complications of his marriage to the woman Violet killed.

When the three encounter each other one morning in a bookstore in Portland—Violet to buy the novel she was reading in the prison book club before her release, Harriet to choose the next title for the women who remain, and Frank to dispatch his duties as the store handyman—their lives begin to intersect in transformative ways.

How to Read a Book is an unsparingly honest and profoundly hopeful story about letting go of guilt, seizing second chances, and the power of books to change our lives. With the heart, wit, grace, and depth of understanding that has characterized her work, Monica Wood illuminates the decisions that define a life and the kindnesses that make life worth living. 

About the Author

Monica Wood is a novelist, memoirist, and playwright; a recipient of the Maine Humanities Council Carlson Prize for contributions to the public humanities; and a recipient of the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance Distinguished Achievement Award for contributions to the literary arts. She lives in Portland, Maine, with her husband, Dan Abbott, and their cat, Susie.

Praise For…

"I laughed and wept my way straight through How to Read a Book. What a beautiful, big-hearted treasure of a novel!"
Lily King, New York Times bestselling author of Euphoria and Writers

“What a master of plot and character Monica Wood is. I love the various worlds How to Read a Book took me to: a prison, a bookshop, and a laboratory, all in Portland, Maine. And I love how hopefully Wood writes about grief and second chances on behalf of her three protagonists. Surely everyone who reads this novel will want to offer Ollie, a voluble African grey parrot, a home.” — Margot Livesey, New York Times bestselling author of The Boy in the Field and The Flight of Gemma Hardy

“A young female ex-con, a widower who was collateral damage, and a woman who runs the prison bookclub—three indelible voices (and let’s not forget one extraordinary parrot's), remind us that life is full of mysteries, and sometimes the ones we believe are unsolvable as the ones that might save us. About second chances (our lives need not be apologies), the weight of forgiveness, our bond with our books, and the stubborn way love can make us see a world shining with mercy, Wood’s new novel is both incandescent and unforgettable.”   — Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of With or Without You and Pictures of You 

"Gorgeously told...A finely wrought story, with deeply memorable characters." — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Told with compassion and empathy, Wood’s tender novel explores the ways people can surprise themselves and others. A deeply humane and touching novel; highly recommended for book clubs and fans of Shelby Van Pelt's Remarkably Bright Creatures."Booklist

Product Details
ISBN: 9780063243675
ISBN-10: 0063243679
Publisher: Mariner Books
Publication Date: May 7th, 2024
Pages: 288
Language: English