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Pickle Me This

January 17, 2008


My upcoming Descant blog post will be a celebration of the commonness of reading, but I want to briefly celebrate The Uncommon Reader before then. (Which doesn’t seem to be available on, and I don’t know why, but I am sure it’s out in Canada). Oh, the book is extraordinary and perfect, and not just because of its gorgeous endpapers. Or because Alan Bennett wrote The History Boys (who knew?). Rather I love the book for its acknowledgment and celebration of what I call “serious reading”.

The uncommon reader in question is Queen Elizabeth, who stumbles upon a mobile library by mistake. Not much of a reader is she, but she soon finds that one book leads to another. That books can inform the whole wide world, rendering it more complicated, perhaps. Reading, she finds, is a muscle, and she exercises it by reading with a pencil in hand (which you might recall is my New Year’s resolution). And as a reader she becomes “uncommon” not by her pedigree, but by her devotion to bookishness. By treating reading as a most serious task, not reading willy-nilly, by exploring through the doors books open for her, thinking about connections, ideas, suggestions that books bring forth, and indulging the curiosity towards the world that books awaken within her.

There are so many of us “uncommon readers”, at various levels of uncommonness– with our books clubs, book logs, book blogs, reading challenges etc. Though Steve Jobs may suggest otherwise, in my experience uncommon reading is remarkably common. But then this, of course, is a post for another time.

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