Crowley is among the most eclectic and intriguing literary voices around ... Sitting around with him in a bar is the sense you sometimes get from wandering through these mostly short pieces ... the list of what he’s read isn’t quite like anyone else’s, and one of the fascinations of a collection like this is how it serves as a kind of self-excavated archeology of his imagination, and the light it sheds on Crowley’s own work ... As is often the case in a compendium such as this, what is most engaging is often what is least expected. [Crowley] may not quite have convinced me to pick up the historical novels of David Stacton, and he pretty much convinced me not to re-read Hesse’s The Glass Bead Game, but his own insights into his world of reading are likely to stick around, and, as always, his prose is almost preternaturally graceful and clear.
If you’re as susceptible to book-buying as I am, Reading Backwards will test you ... The essays may not send you to the library quite so often as the reviews, but they’re of equal quality ... Crowley proposes rather than pronounces; his essays are products of reflection written to produce reflection in their readers. You may not agree with the tentative conclusions of A Few Moments in Eternity or Squeak and Gibber, but the author is too genial in his manner and honest in his uncertainties to object to an unpersuaded reader ... contains some repetition ... Were the repetitions more frequent or jarring, I suppose I might be annoyed, but in fact I was charmed and intrigued; you may learn a good deal from a man’s repetitions, and you’d understand less if Crowley had edited more. My one hope is that someday I have the pleasure of reading Crowley on Blake, on Nabokov, and on Pynchon ... So thorough is it that I almost expected to find Crowley’s blog posts included, or even his red-pen markings of student papers. Its exhaustiveness is a virtue, and no piece deserved deletion, but read front-to-back in short order, Reading Backwards exhausts. Jump in; dart out; flip around; set the book aside; take breaks; read, as the book’s title suggests, out of order. You’ll find that Reading Backwards provides months of enjoyment.
Crowley shows his colors as an insightful critic ... Crowley writes with a light touch, but he’s adept at bringing his subjects into sharp focus with a well-phrased observation ... This book makes a fine companion volume to Crowley’s previous essay collection, In Other Words (2007), and it will likely send its readers to investigate more of the books and subjects it covers.