The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett. Finished 4-22-13, rating 5/5, novella, 120 pages, pub. 2007
My to-read list is small this year. I started with only 9 books and this is the fourth I’ve read so far. It made my list because Carol (Carol’s Notebook) had it on her end of 2012 survey as having the greatest impact, and it was even a reread! So I need to thank Carol because this is my favorite book so far this year – thanks 🙂
What she was finding also was how one book led to another, doors kept opening wherever she turned and the days weren’t long enough for the reading she wanted to do. (p.21)
The Queen is out with her dogs one day when she discovers the bookmobile parked by the palace. So begins her discovery of the joys of reading for pleasure. Always one to take her duties seriously, reading somehow begins to creep into her schedule, making her mundane duties most unpleasant since she must leave her book behind. And as the staff becomes more put-off by the reading, the Queen takes a hard look at her obsession. She is a doer, and ultimately, a choice must be made.
Had she been asked if reading had enriched her life she would have had to say yes, undoubtedly, though adding with equal certainty, that it had at the same time drained her life of all purpose. Once she had been a self-assured single-minded woman knowing where her duty lay and intent on doing it for as long as she was able. Now all too often she was in two minds. Reading was not doing, and that had always been the trouble. And old though she was, she was still a doer.
She switched the light on again and reached for her notebook and wrote: ‘You don’t put your life into your books. You find it there.’ (p.100-101)
This delightful story enticed me with its lightness, but captured me with its unabashed love of reading books. As the Queen notes, reading is a generally solitary pursuit and many of her thoughts on this stuck with me, especially as I was passing out books to strangers for World Book Night. Thankfully, we can and do find ways to connect through reading. This will make you take a look at your own reading life, and most likely, you’ll identify with the Queen’s discovery of the new worlds books open and her eagerness to share what she’s read. I don’t think the general public is as unread as this author seems to think, but maybe they are and I just don’t want to see it.
This is a must read for all book lovers. I plan on gifting this lovely novella to the readers in my life. I had this one on my shelves (and waited way too long to read it).