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15 years ago, Mark Blumberg flunked his high school English class when he failed to read Herman Melville's Moby-Dick. Now newly enamored with the notorious novel, he reaches out to his former teacher to see if she would accept a belated book report from him... in the form of a feature-length documentary film. After several months of research, interviews, and awkward interactions, he presents her with The Act of Reading. Attempting nothing less than a comprehensive portrait of the reading mind, Blumberg's quest introduces him to a unique assortment of scholars, scientists, and teachers -- from a snowy New England reading marathon to a magical Texas classroom. He also meets two of Melville's descendants who channel their famous ancestor in dramatic reenactments. Yet, as the project grows in scope, Mark's marriage begins to fall apart. His attempt at fixing the past must instead develop into an earnest search for meaning, not just in great books, but in all of life's great confusions.