The Innocent Reader: Reflections on Reading and Writing

Debra Adelaide

The Innocent Reader: Reflections on Reading and Writing
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The Innocent Reader: Reflections on Reading and Writing

Debra Adelaide

Books are impractical companions and housemates: they are heavy when you are travelling, and in the home take up a lot of space, are hard to keep clean, and harbour insects. It is not a matter of the physical book, it is the deep emotional connection that stretches back to my early years. Living without them is unimaginable.

These collected essays share a joyous and plaintive glimpse into the reading and writing life of novelist, editor and teacher of creative writing Debra Adelaide.

Every book I have read becomes part of me, and discarding any is like tearing out a page from my own life.

With immediate wit and intimacy, Adelaide explores what shapes us as readers, how books inform, console and broaden our senses of self, and the constant conversation of authors and readers with the rest of their libraries. Drawing from her experiences in the publishing industry, the academic world, her own life and the literary and critical communities, she paints a vibrant portrait of a life lived in and by books, perfect for any student, bibliophile, editor, or simple: reader.


Debra Adelaide is not the first author to pen a memoir of sorts by taking us on a journey of personal reading. You may have read Jane Sullivan or Ramona Koval’s books of a similar nature. All of these wonderful authors share something in common. They understand that knowing what another person reads makes it possible to deduce much about that reader’s fears and delights. Right on trend, Adelaide has produced a collection of essays on her reading and writing life and like all assemblages of this nature she is sharing her most private self. It is a substantial act of generosity.

Step by step, Adelaide revisits the books in her life that have left a particular mark. Her early love of Dickens, romance and Reader’s Digest are all included. By sharing the wonders of an abbreviated novel, Adelaide prompted me to remember and miss my own grandparents, whose vinyl-clad books held pride of place within their bookcase. Good writing does that. It jolts your reflective nerve.

Adelaide devotes time to the Brontë sisters, to the wondrous Jessica Anderson, Helen Garner and to Patrick White. Each essay is its own entity and can be read in isolation, but there is power in progressing from the front to the end. Adelaide’s literary trademarks are apparent. We see that she is an author that understands the power of pattern, of acknowledgement and of considerable kindness. She says in her opening pages, ‘Every book I have read becomes a part of me’. And so it is that this book, this insightful and provocative read could and should be considered a personal gift.

Chris Gordon is the programming and events manager for Readings.

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