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The History of Reading by Alberto Manguel
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The History of Reading (original 1996; edition 1996)

by Alberto Manguel

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3,406502,901 (4.1)107
At one magical instant in your early childhood, the page of a book - that string of confused, alien ciphers - shivered into meaning. Words spoke to you, gave up their secrets; at that moment, whole universes opened. You became, irrevocably, a reader. Noted essayist Alberto Manguel moves from this essential moment to explore the 6000-year-old conversation between words and that magician without whom the book would be a lifeless object: the reader. Manguel lingers over reading as seduction, as rebellion, as obsession, and goes on to trace the never-before-told story of the reader's progress from clay tablet to scroll, codex to CD-ROM.… (more)
Member:scrapple318
Title:The History of Reading
Authors:Alberto Manguel
Info:Viking (1996), Paperback, 372 pages
Collections:Your library
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A History of Reading by Alberto Manguel (1996)

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» See also 107 mentions

English (37)  French (5)  Spanish (3)  Dutch (2)  Norwegian (1)  Catalan (1)  All languages (49)
Showing 1-5 of 37 (next | show all)
Other books may do a better job of telling the chronological development of literacy , but none come as close to expressing the sheer joy of reading as this does.

More of a literary biography than a true history, Manguel intertwines his well traveled, well read life with the life of the written word and asks some pointed questions along the way.

At times I felt it was a little self indulgent and overly academic, but then the author switched from discussions of Greek philosophy to his joy at finding a set of Enid Blyton “Noddy” books in a bookstore in Cyprus, or talks about picking up a couple of manga volumes at a Japanese airport and spending the flight making up his own narrative to go with the art, and I remembered that he is first and foremost someone who just loves to read. ( )
  gothamajp | Jun 10, 2021 |
This book was a very comfortable read. It makes one feel lowkey nationalistic about the act of reading books. I felt as if I was a torch bearer of an ancient culture going back millenia, which feeling was only exacerbated by the thoughts that most people don't read books anymore, and that in the future the number will only decrease, and already many consider reading books a waste of time, which could be true if one were to look at things purely from a price-benefit perspective. It is a very well researched and thorough book, well supplied with plates and illustrations.
  Sebuktegin | May 25, 2021 |
Good: I suspect like a lot of readers I harbor the secret belief in the back of my brain that I love books and reading more than anyone else I know, possibly more than anyone else in world. At least I did have this narcissistic belief until I read A History of Reading because, guys, Manguel loves reading more than you and me and everyone we know. This book is a love letter to reading and is beautifully written, which is Manguel's way. Sometimes he doesn't work for me but here he was much more focused and going with him through time and meeting all of the greatest readers in history was tons of fun.

Bad: It did get a little dry at points and always in a book that straddles the line between a serious work of research and pop nonfiction, I sometimes wanted to see the evidence more than I could.

Weird: I don't know why I never noticed this before but Manguel repeatedly shows the link people have made over the years between eating and books as in books provide you with sustenance. It tickled me a little.

Final: This is more of niche book than most nonfiction. If you're super into specifically the history of reading then you'll love it but a history buff might find it both too broad and too specific. ( )
  jobinsonlis | May 11, 2021 |
Really informative, but for some reason, I just couldn't get all that excited. ( )
  KatrinkaV | Feb 10, 2020 |
Very enjoyable, absolutely full of interesting facts. A love letter to reading and books. Now I'm very excited to move on to [b:The Library at Night|53082|The Library at Night|Alberto Manguel|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1170399108s/53082.jpg|2459677]. ( )
  jakebornheimer | Mar 27, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 37 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Alberto Manguelprimary authorall editionscalculated
Davids, TinkeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Eklöf, MargaretaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hirte, ChrisTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Le Bœuf, ChristineTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sandved, Arthur O.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
"But who shall be the master? The writer or the reader?" -Denis Diderot
To Craig Stephenson,
"That day she put our heads together,
Fate had her imagination about her,My head so much concerned with outer

Yours with inner weather.
-After Robert Frost-
"Reading has a history." -Robert Darnton, The Kiss of Lamourette, 1990
"For the desire to read, like all the other desires which distract our unhappy souls, is capable of analysis." -Virginia Woolf, "Sir Thomas Browne", 1923
The reader became the book; and summer night
Was like the conscious being of the book.
-Wallace Stevens.
Dedication
TO CRAIG STEPHENSON,
That day she put our heads together,
Fate had her imagination about her,
My head so much concerned with outer,
Yours with inner weather.
-- After Robert Frost --
To the reader
To the Reader

Reading has a history - Robert Darnton

For the desire to read, like all the other desires which distract our unhappy souls, is capable of analysis. - Virginia Woolf

But who shall be the master? The writer or the reader? - Denis Diderot
First words
One hand limp by his side, the other to his brow, the young Aristotle languidly reads a scroll unfurled on his lap, sitting a cushioned chair with his feet comfortably crossed.
Quotations
I could perhaps live without writing. I don't think I could live without reading. Reading - I discovered - comes before writing. A society can exist - many do exist - without writing, but no society can exist without reading. (p. 7)
"There are those who, while reading a book, recall, compare, conjure up emotions from other, previous readings," remarked the Argentinian writer Ezequiel Martinez Estrada. "This is one of the most delicate forms of adultery." (pg. 20)
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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At one magical instant in your early childhood, the page of a book - that string of confused, alien ciphers - shivered into meaning. Words spoke to you, gave up their secrets; at that moment, whole universes opened. You became, irrevocably, a reader. Noted essayist Alberto Manguel moves from this essential moment to explore the 6000-year-old conversation between words and that magician without whom the book would be a lifeless object: the reader. Manguel lingers over reading as seduction, as rebellion, as obsession, and goes on to trace the never-before-told story of the reader's progress from clay tablet to scroll, codex to CD-ROM.

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