Friday, June 29, 2007

Book 32: A History of Reading

NUMBER: 32
TITLE: A History of Reading
AUTHOR: Alberto Manguel
STARTED: June 4, 2007
FINISHED: June 21, 2007
PAGES: 372
GENRE: Books about Books

FIRST SENTENCE: One limp hand by his side, the other to his brow, the young Aristotle languidly reads a scroll unfurled on his lap, sitting on a cushioned chair with his feet comfortably crossed.

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] Writer, translator, and editor Manguel has produced a personal and original book on reading. In 22 chapters, we find out such things as how scientists, beginning in ancient Greece, explain reading; how Walt Whitman viewed reading; how Princess Enheduanna, around 2300 B.C., was one of the few women in Mesopotamia to read and write; and how Manguel read to Jorge Luis Borges when he became blind. Manguel selects whatever subject piques his interest, jumping backward and forward in time and place. Readers might be wary of such a miscellaneous, erudite book, but it manages to be invariably interesting, intriguing, and entertaining. Over 140 illustrations show, among other things, anatomical drawings from 11th-century Egypt, painting of readers, cathedral sculptures, and stone tables of Sumerian students.

REASON FOR READING: It was assigned for my summer course.

THOUGHTS: Part memoir, part histiography, part biography, Manguel's A History of Reading incorporates numerous genres to craft a complete history of reading. Despite the fact that this book was assigned for my class (which generally means that I will not like it), I rather enjoyed this book. Manguel draws together the most random aspects associated with reading to create a rather eclectic view of books and their readers. At first, I did not understand how the anatomy of the eye or Manguel's personal musings worked together - but they did.

Manguel's book is not so much a chronological, unabridged history of reading but, instead, is more like an anthology. The book is composed of vignettes of activities, items, people, and events that are associated with the history of reading. While Manguel does not write the "extensive" history of reading, the aspects he has drawn together give the reader a complete view of the beloved activity.

The prose of the book is both self-musing and lyrical. There is a well-paced flow to the book that makes even the most boring aspects seem interesting. Manguel's vocabulary is rich and descriptive; this lends the book a quality that just makes the reader want to curl up in an easy chair with a cup of hot chocolate and read the day away.

MISCELLANEOUS: If I were to write a memoir of my reading, it would be very... random.

RATING: 7/10 [Very Good]

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