Friday, November 21, 2008

Review: A History of Reading by Alberto Manguel

This is nonfiction, a sort of history meets personal essay of 372 pages counting the index and notes, 319 pages sans, with plenty of illustrations.

This book was a joy to read, a hymn of praise to the very act of reading. It focuses on that specifically, the act of reading, and it's amazing the amount of information there is to be had. There was some overlap with the history of books, history of writing, etc., but only in passing. It's really all about reading. There was a lot of information that I'd never come across before that seems to have been included just because it was interesting, and that was fine with me!

The book is organized in two main sections, "Acts of Reading" and "Powers of the Reader." There are chapter headings like "Learning to Read," "The Silent Readers," "Ordainers of the Universe," and "The Author as Reader." So instead of a moving through a chronological timeline, Manguel brings us into a much more organic narrative that actually resembles the way we read books. We skip back and forth between similar things, follow tangents that only make sense to us readers. We pause to meditate on single thoughts, and dash along through topics that aren't as mesmerizing.

Manguel draws us into what feels a very intimate group, tracing readers down through history all the way to us. It's a reassuring book; because reading is such a private affair it can seem lonely, but rest assured there are a gazillion other readers who have loved just the same things about their books as we do about ours. A History of Reading was informative, while remaining informal and very enjoyable.

Some other books that sit next to this one on the humongous bookshelf of my mind: The Book on the Bookshelf by Henry Petrosky, Library: An Unquiet History by Matthew Battles, Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose, and Quiet, Please: Dispatches from a Public Librarian by Scott Douglas. All of these were interesting in the same way, though the subject matter varies ever-so-slightly.

Buy A History of Reading

No comments:

Post a Comment

Hi guys, made some changes to the comments... You don't have to go to the separate page anymore, and I had to start requiring word verification because of a bunch of spam comments.