Monday, June 11, 2007

Alberto Manguel - Reading Diary: A Year of Favourite Books

Jane Sullivan reviews Alberto Manguel's Reading Diary.
The essayist and novelist Alberto Manguel is one of those increasingly rare beings who live their lives steeped in books. What is even rarer is that he has the gift of passing on his enthusiasm.

A few years ago, he re-read a few of his favourite books and was struck by the way their worlds of the past seemed to reflect the "dismal chaos" of the world he was living in. He decided to keep a record of those moments by reading one favourite book every month for a year, and writing notes elicited by his reading.

The result is a curiously enchanting book, A Reading Diary: A Year of Favourite Books. It is a book of fragments, but in an eerie way the fragments come together and hint at something momentous that lies just out of reach. It's also a wonderful reminder of why we read at all.

Much of this is due to the choice of books, which is somewhat eccentric. There are the classics that boys used to read - Kipling's Kim, Wells' The Island of Dr Moreau, Conan Doyle's The Sign of Four. There are classics of world literature - Don Quixote, Sei Shonagon's Pillow Book. And then there are books of almost wilful obscurity, such as The Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas, that most English-speaking readers have never heard of. Read More

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