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40 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Magpie's Nest of Bookish Treats
"A History of Reading" is an eclectic collection of essays on books, bibliophiles, bibliophobes, bibliokleptomanes, printing, translation, censorship, reading glasses and the Heian period in Japan. A browser's delight, it can also be devoured in a single sitting (guilty). From reading aloud to reading silently and from the physical pleasures of a book's shape,...
Published on May 19, 2001 by bibliomane01

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars dig deep for nuggets
There are many thought provoking nuggets buried in this book, but I had a hard time digging them out. Manguel tells lots of stories about readers, readers who have to hide (slaves), writers who are readers (reading aloud), and many others. What I liked most though was when he discussed how reading is contexualized by who the reader is, what point in their life the reader...
Published on August 21, 2011 by MV


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40 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Magpie's Nest of Bookish Treats, May 19, 2001
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This review is from: A History of Reading (Paperback)
"A History of Reading" is an eclectic collection of essays on books, bibliophiles, bibliophobes, bibliokleptomanes, printing, translation, censorship, reading glasses and the Heian period in Japan. A browser's delight, it can also be devoured in a single sitting (guilty). From reading aloud to reading silently and from the physical pleasures of a book's shape, binding and smell to the less corporeal qualities of books that prompted Pinochet's Chile to ban "Don Quixote" as subversive, Alberto Manguel's bibiomanic panorama is a thoroughly enjoyable celebration of one of life's greatest pleasures. In it, the reader will encounter Callimachus of Cyrene, who worked in the "vanished library" of Alexandria and laid the foundations for what we know today as the library catalogue; compare and contrast the difffering approaches to public readings of Charles Dickens and Pliny the Younger; and decide once and for all whether it is preferable to read lying down or at a desk. Tolle, lege!
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars make "time" to read this book., January 24, 2001
This review is from: A History of Reading (Paperback)
Any lover of books and reading will love the time spent here in these pages. "Time" is often the reason many people give for NOT reading. Others often feel guilty about the actual amount of time that they gladly devote to reading. I admit that I am of this latter group. Reading Manguel's book puts it all in perspective... makes me fall in love with the printed word all over again, and helps me to realize that I am part of a long line of splendour... that there is indeed, a wonderful history of those who have loved reading and/or writing books.
His book is an excellent thematic study; the erudite gleanings of seven years of research, and chockfull of the personal touch of a lifetime of being profoundly bookish. Along with vignettes of his personal acquaintance with Argentine poet Jorge Luis Borges, there are very insightful passages on Franz Kafka, Walt Whitman, Rainer Maria Rilke and many other greats. I remember being surprised that Manguel (a Canadian resident since 1982) was not even shortlisted for the Governor General's award for this book... but then later on it won one of the world's most prestigious of awards, France's Prix Medicis... and all was well with the world.
It's a beautifully written book. It fortifies my conviction that if I'm ever too busy to be a READER... then I'm definitely too busy, and something's gotta go!
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An engaging and eclectic survey, November 14, 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: A History of Reading (Paperback)
When I first saw Alberto Manguel's A History of Reading, two thoughts ran through my mind. First, what a wonderful topic for a work of non-fiction. Second, how can one possibly write such a book? I am thrilled to report that Manguel has succeeded beyond all expectations. Both a personal essay telling of Manguel's own learning to read and encounters with books and a highly eclectic survey of books and reading through the ages, History provides both erudition and levity, scholarship and wit. In broad outline, Manguel groups his books in two sections. In the first, "Acts of Reading", he tells how reading itself took different shapes during the ages, including being read to, picture reading (books made up of pictures for the non-reader), reading silently to oneself, and other matters. The second part is captioned "Powers of the Reader and deals with the forbidden reader (e.g., pre-emancipation slaves in the American south); translation; prophesy; and other matters. Manguel quickly becomes an old friend and companion. I hated to see this book end!
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A True Companion, January 9, 2001
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This review is from: A History of Reading (Paperback)
It is wonderful to read about a subject that you value so much written by someone who feels the same way. The value for me, however, was the prism Manguel offers through which reading is separated into a variety of dazzling colors. I enjoyed the history, the anecdotes, his personal experiences, and his ability to carry a thread from our earliest ancestors desire to understand the written word to the present. His references caused me to visit the library and bookstores once again and enjoy authors that I had either forgotten or with whom I was not yet familiar. It is a book I will recommend frequently to anyone I know who loves reading.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent history of a magical process., January 3, 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: A History of Reading (Paperback)
A strange thing, reading. It doesn't immediately strike one as THE easiest subject on which to write a history, but Alberto Manguel does a wonderful job tracing reading from Sumerian stone tablets to contemporary computers. The guy seems to know as much as any ten people. He's taken a very private act and made it public, in the process creating not only a history of reading but a history of thinking as well. This is a great book to read late at night. One slips into it like a warm bath. Anyone who doesn't smile at the section in which the young Manguel reads to the blind Borges doesn't deserve to own books
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent, May 11, 2005
This review is from: A History of Reading (Paperback)
This book is well-written, perfectly researched, and a staple for reading history. At first, the book is slightly surprising because it doesn't read chronologically but thematically. When reading a "history", the reader thinks that chronology will be the main vein of the text; this text follows the vein of themes. A new and prudent story opens and meters each chapter. We are introduced to crucial information, people, and history, through the vantage point of stories, people, and research. I found the thematic approach alarming at first but later found it refreshing.

This is a wonderful book for a history of reading. It is text book quality book wrapped in a more popular presentation and writing style. It is simple and clear. It is actually exciting and pleasant.

The research is wonderful and illuminating. Anyone who is interestied in taking a walk through time, and a history of reading and some of the most important characters, this is the book for you. The history of reading is made interesting through wonderful themes, people, and stories. A great scholar, reader, and man. A great book.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a reader's read, March 24, 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: A History of Reading (Paperback)
the perfect meshing of message, messenger, and audience. Non-readers will put this book down by page 11 w/ a comment of "boring". To which the reader will reply with "go back to the tv, but keep it down because I'm trying to read this." Manguel ranges across a huge swath of history and geography, but always manages to find at the right time that moment of precise human detail where the reader goes "that's me; that's me exactly!" A long and seeminly exhaustive book, one wishes at times he had gone even further--quoted another reader, talked more of Borges, yes, brought in some modern critical theory if only to humanize it as he does so well with his science-based discussions. A fascinating journey where the reader gets to experience a sense of community and self-recognition, alongside the excitement of learning new knowledge
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You are sure to learn something, December 3, 2001
By 
Megami (Darwin, Australia) - See all my reviews
This review is from: A History of Reading (Paperback)
Manguel has done a wonderful job of capturing the many fascinating aspects of reading from the neurological (just what is reading, what our eyes and brains do), to the evolution of reading out loud to `silent' reading, to the history of some of the great collections of the world, and much, much more. This really is a great book, that I would recommend to anyone who loves to read, as you are sure to find something of interested, and undoubtedly something you did not know previously. The title is a *little* misleading, in that it is not a straight chronological historical study. My only quibble would be that the approach at times can be a little too scatter-gun, but perhaps that is part of the charm - it is like a fascinating rambling conversation about every bibliophiles favourite topic.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For anybody who has been graced to read to live, and others too!, December 23, 2005
By 
Ian Muldoon (Coffs Harbour, NSW Australia) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: A History of Reading (Paperback)
When Nelson Mandela was released after 27 years in a white man's prison for being black he acknowledged that books kept him sane. When Somerset Maugham went travelling through Malaya early last century his companions were books. Any reader can identify with these two quite different gentlemen - Virginia Woolf wrote whilst at school "I have sometimes dreamt that when the day of judgement dawns and the great conquerors and lawyers and statesmen come to receive their rewards - their crowns, their laurels, their names carved indelibly upon imperishable marble - the Almighty will turn to Peter and will say, not without a certain envy when He sees us coming with our books under our arms, " Look, these need no reward. We have nothing to give them. They have loved reading." p. 311/312 A HISTORY OF READING. The great truth that every reader knows is that books liberate one, enrich one, reveal, embolden and humanize, entertain, inform, and nourish.

Senor Manguel's excellent book does all of these things in part - I never knew that the King James Version of the Bible was composed by a committee of 49. It was enlightening too to see the author list the common fallacies held about readers: 1. all literature is political, in the sense that it influences the political consciousness of the reader (a fallacy endorsed enthusiastically by Totalitarian States)2. The influence of a text is is directly proportional to its circulation. ( Mssrs Mills and Boon presently rule the Western World non? Or is it Mr Dan Brown President?). 3. "Popular" culture has a much larger following than "high" culture and therefore it accurately reflects the attitudes of the masses; 4. "high" culture tends to reinforce acceptance of the existing social and political order (a presumption widely shared by both the left and the right), and, 5. the canon of "great books" is defined solely by social elites. Common readers eitherr do not recognise that canon, or else they accept it only out of deference to elite opinion. p. 313 HISTORY OF READING.

Other gems among the many include this from KAFKA " Altogether I think we ought to read only books that bite and sting us. If the book we are reading doesn't shake us awake like a blow on the skull, why bother reading it in the first place? So that it can make us happy, as you put it? Good God, we'd be just as happy if we had no books at all; books that make us happy, we could, in a pinch, also write ourselves. What we need are books that hit us like a painful misfortune, like the death of someone we loved more than we love ourselves, that make us feel as though we had been banished to the woods, far from any human presence, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us. This is what I believe. " p93 (Brilliant eh?)

There is also a touching examination of the prejudicial punishments readers have suffered because they read - beaten, shunned, imprisoned, and labelled - NERD, INTELLECTUAL, POSEUR, PRETENTIOUS TWIT, COMMUNIST etc.

Beautifully and joyfully composed, I finished Senor Manguel's fine A HISTORY OF READING on 24Dec05 and immediately started TRISTRAM SHANDY and made notes of other books mentioned that piqued my taste, nay love, of the continuing journey - a journey I shall never complete as, for example, I refuse to FINISH Proust - who would want it to end?
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A perfect gift book for the readers in your life, November 26, 1997
By 
Ed Marquand (Seattle, WA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: A History of Reading (Paperback)
Reading a fine book like this about reading is like reading about eating chocolate cake while eating a piece. I found myself slowing down to savor every idea and every amazing story. He is the perfect author for the topic: affectionate toward his subject, a good storyteller, and global in his perspective. Buy the hardcover. As a serious reader, you will revisit it for years to come.
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A History of Reading
A History of Reading by Alberto Manguel (Paperback - October 1, 1997)
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