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The Common Reader

A Common Reader: Books for Readers with Imagination was an American mail-order book catalog, established in 1986 by James Mustich Jr., a bookseller, editor, and writer. It was notable among general-interest book catalogs for its eclecticism, with large sections of each issue given over to obscure literary classics.

The catalog was named in honor of Virginia Woolf’s two-volume collection of essays, entitled The Common Reader (1925) and The Second Common Reader (1932), which collected her lectures and writings about the nature of reading and how best to approach it.

A Common Reader’s in-house publishing imprint, the Akadine Press,initiated in 1996, republished over 60 out-of-print books by authors such as Lillian Beckwith, Alice Thomas Ellis, Barbara Holland, Reynolds Price, and John Ciardi.

A Common Reader was published up to 17 times a year, with a readership in the tens of thousands. Each edition listed an average of 700 books, accompanied by editorial write-ups. At its peak, A Common Reader sold over 300,000 titles per year.

The business closed in January 2006,[6] to the regret of many readers who appreciated its discerning finds and well-written précis. The Wayback Machine has snapshots of the catalogue taken between 1999–2006.

01 – The Common Reader
02 – The Pastons and Chaucer
03 – On Not Knowing Greek
04 – The Elizabethan Lumber Room
05 – Notes on an Elizabethan Play
06 – Montaigne
07 – The Duchess of Newcastle
08 – Rambling Round Evelyn
09 – Defoe
10 – Addison
11 – The Lives of the Obscure
12 – I. The Taylors and the Edgeworths
13 – II. Laetitia Pilkington
14 – III. Miss Ormerod
15 – Jane Austen
16 – Modern Fiction
17 – ‘Jane Eyre’ and ‘Wuthering Heights’
18 – George Eliot
19 – The Russian Point of View
20 – Outlines – I. Miss Mitford
21 – Outlines. II. Dr. Bentley
22 – Outlines. III. Lady Dorothy Nevill 
23 – Outlines. IV. Archbishop Thomson
24 – The Patron and the Crocus
25 – The Modern Essay
26 – Joseph Conrad
27 – How It Strikes a Contemporary
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