Excursions Of A Bibliophile

What are u reading these days?

Rereading Alan Bennett’s “The Uncommon Reader”

Posted by Vish Mangalapalli on June 9, 2012

The recently concluded diamond jubilee celebrations of Queen Elizabeth’s unhindered representation of the institution of monarchy in UK managed to elicit a lone article in The Guardian’s book section on Alan Bennett’s gem of a book “The Uncommon Reader” which covers the inspiringly transformative journey of the queen from an ill-read person to a well-read person. That prompted me to re-read the book

Reading can be anybody’s journey. Ideally, it should be everybody’s journey. In reality, it ends up being only a few people’s journey. The inherently egalitarian nature of reading transcends age, class, colour, creed, gender, profession, preferences, penchants, passions, status and vocation. That a royal personage of eminence is smitten by the pleasure of words and propagates silently in her own way the importance and centrality of reading as an essential activity is a symbol that Bennett employs to drive home the point about the democratic and wholesome nature of reading.

Written with a well-balanced tongue-in-cheek humor, this short book is full of wonderfully memorable insights. Some of these that I missed during my first read but liked immensely during the reread are:

You don’t put your life into books. You find it there

… reading was, among other things, a muscle and one that she had seemingly developed. (How I wish every teacher, parent and elder remembered and acted accordingly!!)  

The appeal of reading, she thought, lay in its indifference: there was something lofty about literature. Books did not care who was reading them or whether one read them or not. All readers were equal, herself included. Literature, she thought, is a commonwealth; letters a republic

Bennett makes the book interesting to both adults and children alike and drives home the point that the journey in the world of books is ongoing and the horizons ever expanding.

A truly enjoyable and inspiring read

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