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Analysis of "A Study of Reading Habits" by Philip Larkin

Updated on December 26, 2015

Text of "A Study of Reading Habits"

When getting my nose in a book
Cured most things short of school,
It was worth ruining my eyes
To know I could still keep cool,
And deal out the old right hook
To dirty dogs twice my size.
Later, with inch-thick specs,
Evil was just my lark:
Me with my cloak and fangs
Had ripping times in the dark
The women I clubbed with sex!
I broke them up like meringues.
Don’t read much now: the dude
Who lets the girl down before
The hero arrives, the chap
Who’s yellow and keeps the store,
Seem far too familiar. Get stewed:
Books are a load of crap.

Mind of Teenagers

This poem gives very accurate insights into the evolving mind of many teenagers. Lots of people loved scholastic activities in their youth, only to fall away from those things as they age. Interestingly, many people are only truly happy when they are eight or nine years old. It’s when people begin to care too much about how others perceive them, that happiness is no longer feasible. One just can’t find true happiness while trying to manipulate themselves into someone else’s ideal. Somehow, somewhere, being smart, and working hard became “uncool” in certain circles. I’m unclear how this started, but I’d bet ten dollars that when the uneducated people of the world deem it necessary to degrade those that care about increasing their knowledge, it is out of jealousy, spite and ignorance.

Philip Larkin
Philip Larkin

Other Themes

I love how the speaker mentions “ruining my eyes” (l. 3), because I have been told that my whole life. In the next stanza, the speaker throws in “with inch-think specs” (l. 7) as kind of a sardonic, almost bitter afterthought. I wear contacts, although I think it has more to do with my genetic makeup, than my reading habits.

I absolutely LOVE to read. I used to carry around at least a half-dozen novels in elementary-school and early middle school. I used to have so much time to just sit and read. I could “deal out the old right hook” (l. 5) or anything else that I cared to read about… but then my time became too constrained. I read very swiftly, and I’d like to think to think that I comprehend well. Reading comprehension and math are usually my highest marks on standardized tests. Being able to read quickly benefits you on almost ANY test, because you have more time to re-read instructions, prompts, questions, answer choices, etc. I wish that I had an hour a day to sit in a comfortable chair in the library with sun in my face and read classic literature. Reading can make one so much smarter. Oh, haha, and what kind of phrase is “get stewed” (l. 17)?

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