A History of Reading

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9780140166545: A History of Reading

At one magical instant in your early childhood, the page of a bookthat string of confused, alien ciphersshivered 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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Review:

This wide-ranging and erudite exploration of the topic of reading is suffused with the spirit of Manguel's fellow Argentinian Jorge Luis Borges. Manguel takes us through the history of reading as if leading us room by room through the infinite library Borges constructed in one of his famous stories. Manguel's approach is not chronological, but thematic. His chapter topics jump from attempts to censor reading to the physical surroundings favored by readers, from the limitations of translations to the esotericism of books written for a restricted readership. Throughout he moves easily through time and geography to quote anecdotes and examples from diverse sources. Manguel's enthusiasm, and the impressive breadth of his reading, will make his readers eager to rush to the nearest library.

From the Back Cover:

"An absolute treasure.... Alberto Manguel has written a celebration of reading [that] has the impact of an elegy." -The Globe and Mail

"Anyone who reads will be hooked right away: ...it is, after all, a history of ourselves, and a celebration of our favourite occupation." -Margaret Visser

"A love letter written to reading." -George Steiner, The New Yorker

"A remarkable achievement. I finished the book with a sense of gratitude to have shared this journey through time in the company of a mind so lively, knowledgeable and sympathetic." -P.D. James, The Sunday Times

"A highly entertaining overview that leaves us with both a new appreciation for our own bibliomania and a deeper understanding of the role that the written word has played throughout history." -The New York Times

"Awe-inspiring.... A fine anthology of things we are unlikely to have found, or ever to find, for ourselves." -The Times Literary Supplement

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