'Reading has a history. But how can we recover it?' Consuming Texts explores the history of reading in the British Isles during a period in which the printed word became all pervasive. Beginning with an overview of recent work on this exciting topic, it goes on to privide a series of new case studies of individual readers and the communities to which they belonged. These include the wealthy Gertrude Savile, who combined reading sermons with the perusal of the new plays and 'amatory fiction' of the 1720s; and John Clare, whose reading of cheap books helped him to become an author one hundred years later. It examines a range of previously neglected sources, such as annotated books and representations of reading in commercial libraries in order to argue that a variety of new reading communities emerged during this period.