Drawing on an anthropological study of the social organisation of the world of Irish writers, this article investigates the literary reading as performance which has become central for the career and promotion of contemporary writers. How is the reading - live as well as recorded - constituted, and how is it experienced from the writer's point of view? The data are derived from participant observation and interviews at literary festivals and conferences, writers' retreats, book launches and more informal situations with writers, as well as from fiction and essays by the writers. For this article, I asked some of the writers to write short texts on the reading. It turned out that the frames of the reading as performance reach beyond the reading event, and also that a reading includes elements of risk, such as not attracting a big enough audience or performing badly. Finally, the article considers the changing role of the ethnographer.