Aesthetic value emanates from the struggle between texts: in the reader, in language, in the classroom, in arguments within a society. Aesthetic value rises out of memory, and so (as Nietzsche saw) out of pain, the pain of surrendering easier pleasures in favour of much more difficult ones ... successful literary works are achieved anxieties, not releases from anxieties.
The true use of Shakespeare or of Cervantes, of Homer or of Dante, of Chaucer or of Rabelais, is to augment one's own growing inner self. . . . The mind's dialogue with itself is not primarily a social reality. All that the Western Canon can bring one is the proper use of one's own solitude, that solitude whose final form is one's confrontation with one's own mortality.
We read deeply for varied reasons, most of them familiar: that we cannot know enough people profoundly enough; that we need to know ourselves better; that we require knowledge, not just of self and others, but of the way things are. Yet the strongest, most authentic motive for deep reading…is the search for a difficult pleasure.
One measures oncoming old age by its deepening of Proust, and its deepening by Proust. How to read a novel? Lovingly, if it shows itself capable of accomodating one's love; and jealously, because it can become the image of one's limitations in time and space, and yet can give the Proustian blessing of more life.
How to read "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone"? Why, very quickly, to begin with, and perhaps also to make an end. Why read it? Presumably, if you cannot be persuaded to read anything better, Rowling will have to do.