Princeton University Press has acquired World rights, including Audio, to Marion Turner’s Why We Read Fiction. Ben Tate, Senior Editor, Humanities at PUP handled the deal with Georgina Capel of Georgina Capel Associates Ltd.
From Augustine to Hilary Mantel, Aristotle to Shakespeare, Jane Austen to Toni Morrison, Chaucer to Proust, reading fiction is, for many people, an essential part of being human. For many, our lives are shaped by imagined people and their imagined stories: Hamlet’s emotional paralysis, Elizabeth Bennet’s change of heart, Victor Frankenstein’s rejection of his own creation, or Atticus Finch’s vivid courtroom defense. At times, the characters from novels can seem more real, more knowable, than our own friends and neighbors, telling us who we are—or want to be—how relationships work, or what darkness lies within us.
In Why We Read Fiction, Marion Turner explores the long history of our engagement with fiction, across the ages and into the present as technology changes how and why we read. Along the way, Turner probes why and how gendered stereotypes about who reads what persist and offers surprising comparisons to show both how much—and how little—the experience of consuming stories has changed across history. Reading national epics aloud from lavishly illustrated manuscripts is not the same as reading didactic extracts aloud to teach moral lessons to children. But there are many surprising similarities across time too: is the fan fiction that fills the Internet so different from medieval scribes adding in extra Canterbury Tales to ‘complete’ Chaucer’s unfinished text? Are modern book groups so different to groups of aristocratic women at court reading romances together and discussing them? A rich and often surprising cultural history, Marion Turner’s brilliant new book shows us how reading fiction is, for many, a truly essential part of being human.
Marion Turner is the J.R.R. Tolkien Professor of English Literature and Language at the University of Oxford and the author of Chaucer: A European Life, published with PUP, which was shortlisted for the Wolfson Prize and won the Otto Gründler Book Prize, the Beatrice White Prize, and the Rose Mary Crawshay Prize given by the The British Academy. Chaucer: A European Life was also named a best book of the year by The Times, Times Literary Supplement, Sunday Times, and New Statesman. Her most recent book is The Wife of Bath: A Biography, hailed as “elegant” (New York Times Book Review), “immensely entertaining” (Washington Post), “[a] superb biography” (The Spectator), and “thrilling” (The Guardian). It was published by Princeton University Press in early 2023 and named a Best Summer Read by the Financial Times and a Best Book We’ve Read This Year by the New Yorker.