Jeffrey Brooks deals with one of the most significant, yet still relatively unexamined aspects of change in late imperial Russia—the advent of mass literacy and a popular readership. Penetration of a market economy, the peasantry's increasing administrative integration after the serf emancipation, migration to cities, temporarily or permanently, all compelled the rural population to place a greater premium on literacy as a tool for survival. Additionally, and this is Brooks's focus, literacy provided peasants and former peasants a key to an imaginative world of cheap commercial fiction in which they sought not only recreation, but orientation amid a rapidly changing, complex environment and affirmation of new values, aspirations, and dreams that many of them were beginning to internalize by the turn of the century. When Russia Learned to Read is nothing less than an attempt to plumb collective popular mentalités during this period, largely by reading what lower-class Russians read. The author's conclusions are provocative, if not definitive, and should force us to rethink some of our assumptions about popular attitudes on the eve of the revolutions of 1917.