Recent years have seen an explosion of reading memoirs, the result of a collective recognition that this age-old habit is undergoing profound change.
Accounts of how people's lives have been changed by reading are quite old: that's really what Augustine's Confessions is all about, though that's rarely recognized. The same can be said for Jean-Paul Sartre's autobiographical The Words and Richard Rodriguez's beautiful Hunger of Memory; but I think the reader's memoir as a distinctive contemporary genre got started with Lynn Sharon Schwartz's Ruined by Reading in 1996. Since then, the genre has gotten far more prominent. Francis Spufford's wonderfully titled The Child that Books Built is an elegant example, and now the estimable Marilynne Robinson is about to release a book of essays called When I Was a Child I Read Books. A number of British writers have produced a lovely book of mostly memoirish essays called Stop What You're Doing and Read This! There are many others -- heck, I even wrote my own brief narrative of my history as a reader.
All this memorial activity suggests that we're getting collectively thoughtful about the experience of reading, and I can't help thinking that such reflectiveness is largely a result of changing technologies of reading. Those of us who were raised on books think more about how that experience has shaped us because we see other people now being raised on different media. Imagining how children will experience reading when they do it on touch-sensitive tablets or on e-readers whose "pages" are turned by the pushing of buttons, we think back to our own early history. We re-tell our stories to ourselves, seeing significances that were oblivious to us before.