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The Uncommon Reader

3.82 of 5 stars 3.82  ·  rating details  ·  16,146 ratings  ·  3,251 reviews
From one of England's most celebrated writers, the author of the award-winning The History Boys, a funny and superbly observed novella about the Queen of England and the subversive power of reading

When her corgis stray into a mobile library parked near Buckingham Palace, the Queen feels duty-bound to borrow a book. Discovering the joy of reading widely (from J. R. Ackerley
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Paperback, 120 pages
Published September 30th 2008 by Picador (first published 2007)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Petra X
Utterly charming book about the Queen stumbling across a mobile library that visits Buckingham Palace regularly and being assisted to choose reading matter by the helpful Norman. It's unusual because it shows how limited the Queen is by her very proper job which might not look like one, christening ships, knighting people, opening hospitals, hosting dinner parties and being nice to foreign politicians, but it certainly would feel like one. She escapes not from reality with a book, but into it, i ...more
The Book Maven
Oh wow. If I could give this book six stars, or heck, even ten, I would. It is so great--there's a lot of subtlety in here that Readers' Advisory librarians will definitely clue into, especially in how society views readers, reading, and books.

A lot of us read, sure. A lot of us really enjoy books. But because we are average joes, commoners, small potatoes, this is nothing groundbreaking. It likely will not become upsetting if we take up reading as a hobby. But what if someone important takes up
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Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways
Rating: 4.125* of five

Witty, irreverent, and completely charming, Bennett's novella is one I would sincerely hope that Her Majesty read and laughed at when it was published.

There are many reviews of this effervescent entertainment, so I will confine myself to noting that the book carries with it a none-too-subtle punch line which I can't imagine would have made Mr. Bennett more likely to be in line for a life peerage, but which I can imagine made him a popular figure around Highgrove.

A delightfu
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Michael
May 31, 2013 Michael rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Michael by: Florence
Reading this feels like putting a pot of water on to boil, forgetting about it, and coming back to find a delightful stew. The analogy relates to Queen Elizabeth wandering into a bookmobile, getting hooked on reading books, and the various consequences that ensue.

I have 14 or 16 GR friends now who rate this 4 or better. Must be the word "reader" in the title that inspires a grab. You can’t go wrong, as it’s a short pleasant read. Very subtle and understated, with humor that builds quietly until
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TK421
What would happen if the Queen started to notice the little things in life? You know, the type of things that seem to only matter to the lower stations. Futhermore, what if she was only noticing these things because she started reading books? That is the premise to this very fast-paced novella from Alan Bennett.

Overall, this story has some wonderful insight in to the magic of reading, exploring new worlds and meeting new characters through the written word. Additionally, this slim story is also
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Margitte
This was a delightful interlude.

Indeed, a mischievous wit is driving this novella about the Queen discovering reading and the consequences for the nation.

The opening incident in the book with the French president started me off with wicked giggles, and it continued with the subtle parody on staff and politicians gracing her majesty's world.

A perfect Sunday afternoon read. Great read for Mother's Day!
Manny
Aug 22, 2010 Manny rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Manny by: Daniela, Elisabeth and others
Several people had recommended The Uncommon Reader to me over the last year, but somehow I only got around to it this morning. Don't be as slow as I was! The idea is very simple - the Queen gets hooked on reading - but Bennett handles it perfectly. It's a delight, and takes about an hour to read.

Maybe a short extract will do the job:
'Exploded?' said the Queen. 'But it was Anita Brookner.'

The young man, who seemed remarkably undeferential, said security may have thought it was a device.

The Queen
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Emir Never
*The Uncommon Re-Reader

First review:

"'I know the word for you,' said the Queen.

'Ma'am?'

'You run errands, you change my library books, you look up awkward words in the dictionary and find me quotations. Do you know what you are?'

'I used to be a skivvy, ma'am.'

'Well, you're not a skivvy now. You're my amanuensis.'

Norman looked it up in the dictionary the Queen now kept always on her desk. 'One who writes from dictation; copies manuscripts. A literary assistant.'"


This scene from Alan Bennett's The
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Kinga
What’s better for a book lover than a book about books? It’s like when Xzbit in Pimp My Ride puts a car inside of your car because he knows you love cars.
And Alan Bennett puts books in your book. He also puts the Queen there, so you know you are in for a treat.

Imagine that the Queen, old as she is, suddenly discovers the joy of reading. She engages a certain Nelson to help her acquire books and guide her through the world of literature. That does sound like a dream job, doesn’t it? To become so
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Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh
A short novella that’s odd and original and wise; chalk full of clever, understated and so typically British humour. The Queen accidently stumbles across a bookmobile and despite the disapproval of her advisors, decides to take up reading. “I feel, ma’am, that while not exactly elitist, it sends the wrong message. It tends to exclude.’ Reading that becomes a passion bordering on obsession. She’d got quite good at reading and waving, the trick being to keep the book below the level of the windo ...more
Melki
There are already thousands of reviews of this delightful book about the Queen's new-found love of reading, so you don't need me to tell you how much fun it is. In lieu of a review, I'll list some of the best quotes about reading I have ever seen, all featured within the pages of this book.

'Reading is untidy, discursive and perpetually inviting.'

'A book is a device to ignite the imagination.'

'I think of literature,' she wrote, 'as a vast country to the far borders of which I am journeying but wi
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·Karen·
What a change from the 800 page behemoths that seem to be fashionable at the moment. Sly humour, warmth, thoughtfulness, alongside a revolutionary vision, and all within the space of around 120 pages.

I re-read this for a group that actually pay me to come and talk booktalk to them. There is always a limit on the length of any work due for discussion. This one slides in under the wire with ease: we shall see if we manage to fill 90 minutes talking about it.

Questions, anyone?

That won't fly the mo
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Dhanaraj Rajan
May be Three and half stars.

It is a funny little novella that speaks of the pleasures of reading. To expound this thesis, the author's creative imagination and liberty had sought the help of the Queen. Yes, Her majesty, the Queen is the main protagonist of this novella and the story is about how in her older days she gets enchanted by the pleasures of reading.

All through the book there are some interesting observations on reading. And they are certainly a delight for the regular reader.

Here are
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Elyse
"The Old Gal", (the Queen), is reading....'again'!!!!

"Reading is untidy discursive and perpetually inviting. Briefing closes down a subject, reading opens it up."


"With this dictionary always in hand, Norman read out: 'Opsimath: one who learns late in life'.
"It was a sense of making up for lost time that made her read with such rapidity and in the process now making more frequent (and more confident) comments of her own, bringing to what was in effect literary criticism the same forthrightness
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Angela M
How can I not like a book about someone who loves to read? In this case that someone just happens to be the Queen of England .It was clever and really a pleasure to read. There is not too much to say about the plot; its a short read. However,like others,I'll mention a few of my favorite quotes.

"What she was finding also was how one book led to another, doors kept opening wherever she turned and the days weren't long enough for the reading she wanted to do."

"Books are not about passing the time.
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Carol
When the Queen of England stumbles across a traveling bookstore, her newly developed appetite for books turns into an obsession.......and the fun begins.

There are many great lines and phrases for us readers to enjoy in this short story.....my favorite:

"What she was finding also was how one book led to another, doors kept opening wherever she turned and the days weren't long enough for the reading she wanted to do."

Amusing little novella!

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Kim
My enjoyment of this little gem of a book was considerably enhanced by listening to it being read by the author.

Essentially a parable about the life-changing potential of an appreciation for good literature, it displays Bennett's caustic intelligence and wit to great advantage. Choosing Queen Elizabeth II as his protagonist gives Bennett amazing scope for making his point about reading good books. After all, if the Queen's life can be changed in both small and monumental ways through reading, s
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Salma
من خلال مكتبة متنقلة تقف قرب قصرها، قررت الملكة استعارة كتاب... لينفتح أمام ملكة بريطانية المسنة عالم جديد... عالم القراءة... الباب الذي إذا انفتح فلا مغلق له... فالكتاب صار شغلها الشاغل و تحولت إلى قارئة نهمة... و لكن هذا الشغف الجديد بدأ يؤثر على حياتها و مهامها، و يثير حفيظة كل من حولها و امتعاضهم، مثل كل قراء العالم! شخصية الملكة و بفعل القراءة بدأت تتطور، إذ أخذت تنتبه لأشياء لم تكن لتنتبه لها سابقا، و صارت تضفي العمق على ملاحظاتها و تصرفاتها و تغفل الكثير من الشكليات... مما زاد في قلق من ح ...more
James
This new novella from the pen of Alan Bennett (author of the The History Boys) is without a doubt the funniest book I have read in recent memory. I started it while riding home on the bus and had a hard time keeping my seat as my laughter was almost nonstop. What a wonderful premise! Imagine the Queen of England patronizing a lending library van, and then imagine her actually reading books. The incongruity of the situation leads to hilarious consequences for the Queen, her family, her household ...more
Alana
I really didn't like this book at all. I picked it up because so many people seem to like it and I thought it would be probable that I would like it too. However, I found it to be extremely boring. This author is supposed to be a great wit and I just didn't "get" his humor in writing style or otherwise. This book seems to be an endless author and book review which I didn't like. The book moved along so slowly that I was surprised to find that I was halfway through the book still waiting for the ...more
Magdalena
Easy to read, but a book that gives so much back to the reader! One of the funniest book I have ever read, short but oh so good!
Joey
You may not be such a voracious reader if you could not relate to this novella.

The story is simple but interesting. It is about the queen of England, an UNCOMMON READER (look its meaning up in Wikepedia), who will fall to reading books when she meets across a travelling library. There she meets Norman, the kitchen boy, who will introduce her to different writers she has never met yet. The queen will completely immerse herself in books, derelict in her duty as Her Majesty of England. Ad nauseam b
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MaryG2E
At only 120 pages and with effortless, elegant prose from its author Alan Bennett, this short book can be knocked over in one afternoon. Just because it is light in weight does not mean it is lightweight. Indeed it is a most rewarding and insightful story, told with great economy and style by one of Britain’s critically acclaimed writers.

A chance encounter between a mobile library, a skinny young cook and the Queen of England, with corgis in train, leads to a minor Palace revolution. QE2 takes u
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David
The Queen of England as a late-in-life book lover, annoying her staff and confusing the public as she undergoes the personal change that only reading and writing can effect.

I received this book in the mail today, and immediately sat down with it, finishing in a couple of hours. This never happens: I usually let new books sit for quite a while before the bug really strikes, but it's a credit to this book in every way that I was unable to put it down before I was finished.

Not only is the regal a
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Kiwi
Despite the New Zealand bashing (poor Sir Kevin), I enjoyed this short quaint novella about the Queen taking up reading as hobby. This book follows in the same charming literary vein as another whimsy novel with a royal connection: The Tower, The Zoo, and The Tortoise and has a brilliant ending. A delightful read.

PS: I also learn my new favourite term: opsimath.

Favourite quotes:

“Pass the time?” said the Queen. “Books are not about passing the time. They’re about other lives. Other worlds. Far f
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Susan
I've been meaning to read more of Alan Bennett's work since enjoying Writing Home years ago.
I decided to start with this funny and charming novella.

The thought of Queen Elizabeth nipping down the back stairs of Buckingham Palace to visit the mobile library really made me smile....it also made me wonder how Bennett could ever have thought of such a thing....but he did, and the story of how this visit sparked off a royal passion for reading is both clever and entertaining.
I don't see how any book
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Ananthu
"As a girl, one of her greatest thrills had been on VE night when she and her sister had slipped out of the gates and mingled unrecognised with the crowds. There was something of that, she felt, to reading. It was anonymous; it was shared; it was common. And she who had led a life apart now found that she craved it. Here in these pages and between these covers she could go unrecognised."

A delightful little paean to the joys of reading and writing. Light and breezy. Three stars, but I am compell
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Suzy
HRH Queen Elizabeth discovers reading in her mid-70's when one day her corgis run into a mobile library parked outside the Buckingham Palace kitchen. Through reading the Queen discovers herself and we get to hear about it through this delightful and witty book. I had a smile on my face the entire time I was reading it, which wasn't very long considering it's only 120 pages.
Kaethe
November 18, 2007

Charming, but not at all twee. Universally beloved by everyone I know who's read it so far.

That's a fair number of people, because I pretty much force this on everyone I meet who enjoys reading at all. Come to think of it, I suppose there would be even more advantage in thrusting it at people who don't already enjoy reading.

Library copy
Diane Librarian
A delightful novella about the hijinks that ensue when the Queen of England suddenly becomes an avid reader. Utterly charming!

"What she was finding was how one book led to another, doors kept opening wherever she turned and the days weren't long enough for the reading she wanted to do."
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name.

Alan Bennett is an English author and Tony Award-winning playwright. Bennett's first stage play, Forty Years On, was produced in 1968. Many television, stage and radio plays followed, along with screenplays, short stories, novellas, a large body of non-fictional prose and broadcasting, and many appearances as
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More about Alan Bennett...
The History Boys Smut The Clothes They Stood Up In Talking Heads Untold Stories

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“What she was finding also was how one book led to another, doors kept opening wherever she turned and the days weren't long enough for the reading she wanted to do.” 3001 likes
“A book is a device to ignite the imagination.” 207 likes
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