A History of Reading

I'm almost finished with all the Alberto Manguel my library has. A History of Reading covers some territory that The Library at Night and A Reader on Reading cover but it is always fascinating. Manguel traces how reading developed and changed in function and importance. Starting with Asyrian cunieform, probably detailing the trading of animals, moving through Egyptians and Greeks (Socrates disliked books!), then Rome and the Middle Ages, reading, how it happens, the forms of books, how it is taught and valued (or not) is a fascinating subject. Manguel structures his chapters as topics rather than strictly chronologically which makes the book flow incredibly well.

I had several favorite chapters; I really enjoyed learning about how silent reading may have developed; it never crossed my mind that reading to oneself is not the natural way to read. The chapter on metaphors of reading (like devouring books) was great. It made me want to read the poetry of Walt Whitman, which I haven't done since high school. There are lots of pictures, fully explained through captions and in the text, that make so many of Manguel's concepts easily comprehended. I cannot recommend more that you read Manguel! You will enjoy it; start with A Reader on Reading.

On a different note, i really have to concentrate on my own books. I've way too many that are unread, about 160 per my Librarything page. I believe 6 of those are ERCs which i really should get to. another 10 were gifts. I am also craving a big fat Victorian book or a hefty sci-fi epic so i am looking longingly at both Bleak House and B's copy of The Neutronium Alchemist part 2. I only have 1 book out from the library and 4 on my hold list and, other than audiobooks that i listen to in the car, i am not going to add any more. No more library books until i get through at least 20 of my (or B's) books. so that's the goal.


  1. Does he include any projections on the future of reading? This sounds very interesting.

  2. Anonymous25/4/11 19:02

    What interesting thoughts! Especially pointing out that silent reading isn't the "natural" (or historical) way to read - something I'd never thought about before. My public library doesn't have a copy, but my University library does and I'm off to put my name on the list ASAP! Thanks for a great review!

  3. CB- not so much in this book; i think it was published in 95. A Reader on Reading is newer and has some things about reading's future, he's optimistic.

    We Read- hope you enjoy it!


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