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The Uncommon Reader

3.80  ·  Rating details ·  31,560 ratings  ·  5,470 reviews
A deliciously funny novella that celebrates the pleasure of reading. When the Queen in pursuit of her wandering corgis stumbles upon a mobile library she feels duty bound to borrow a book. Aided by Norman, a young man from the palace kitchen who frequents the library, the Queen is transformed as she discovers the liberating pleasures of the written word.

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Hardcover, 124 pages
Published 2007 by Faber and Faber
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Average rating 3.80  · 
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 ·  31,560 ratings  ·  5,470 reviews


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Petra-X
Oct 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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, ...more
Paromjit
This is a wonderfully humorous, subversive and comic homage to literature penned by non other than the great and incomparable treasure that is Alan Bennett. I listened to the audio, charmed by the narration by the author himself. This is a short book, worth its weight in gold, which has Her Majesty, the Queen of England inadvertently discover the mobile library, so beginning her early faltering steps to becoming an avid reader and bookworm. A whole world opens up, in which she is guided by ...more
Richard
Oct 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: current-lit-uk
The Queen takes a stroll around the grounds of Buckingham Palace with her Corgis. She notices a van parked up outside the kitchens. On further investigation she finds that the vehicle is a mobile library. Intrigued, she enters the van and meets Hutchings the driver and Norman an awkward young kitchen worker and great book lover.
Realising that she virtually never reads books the queen picks up a title or two. So begins a love of reading and an obsession with literature.
This doesn’t go down well
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Joey Woolfardis
Alan Bennett brings to life what a world would be like if Queen Elizabeth II started reading voraciously after stumbling upon a travelling library...

“You don't put your life into your books, you find it there.”

Quaint and quiet I think can best describe this. Bennett's usual work is often quite in your face with it's definite humour, but the funny side of this book seems to boil away quietly underneath, rearing it's lovely little head every now and then like a little postage stamp on the edge
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Lori
Nov 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
This is a loveable book about love of books It's a small volume (literally), originally a short story published in a British magazine. It starts when the corgis drag the Queen to a bookmobile on palace grounds and Her Majesty feels obligated to take one. In time this seed sown from her sense of duty blossoms into a love of reading for pleasure and which grows into an obsession. For the corgis, the books become objects of jealousy to steal and mangle whenever possible. For Prince Philip they're a ...more
Angela M
Jul 24, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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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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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Elyse  Walters
Mar 11, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"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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Richard Derus
Nov 20, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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Michael
Feb 11, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  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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Manny
Jan 15, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  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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Duane
My first thought was, "I wonder what the Queen thought of this". She probably didn't read it, and if she did, I hope she thought it was funny because it was. In this story she becomes an avid reader after accidentally stumbling upon a mobile library outside the palace. I didn't count them, but Bennett mentions more book titles and authors names than any book I've read. The Queen, much to everyones dismay, spends all her time reading and begins to neglect her queenly duties. She takes on ...more
Lisa
Sep 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-bookstores
Who knew I had so much in common with The Queen? Delightful!
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!
Diane
A delightful novella about the hijinks that ensue when the Queen of England suddenly becomes an avid reader. Utterly charming!

Favorite Quotes
"The Pursuit of Love turned out to be a fortunate choice and in its way a momentous one. Had Her Majesty gone for another duff read, an early George Eliot, say, or a late Henry James, novice reader that she was she might have been put off reading for good and there would be no story to tell. Books, she would have thought, were work."

"What she was finding
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TK421
Nov 15, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary
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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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
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Alana
Aug 14, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Lea
May 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Short, witty and highly enjoyable book. I find immense unexplainable pleasure when I read about other people reading, and discover the beauty and freedom of literature. The story shows the tremendous impact that reading routine has on the person’s life, even if that person is the Queen. I loved how the reading ignited the Queen's passion for life and shifted her whole perspective. Before, she concentrated on duties, and she was conditioned to completely disregard herself and lose her interest in ...more
Kinga
Jun 23, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore
A delightful (and slightly crazy) little novel about books and reading and the many worlds they take the reader into or rather the world they take us away from. When the Queen stumbles upon a mobile library outside one of the kitchen doors, and borrows an Ivy Compton-Burnett book just to be polite, little does she know that this is to be the beginning of a love affair with books. She is delighted, and soon lost as any of us readers are as she moves through Mitford and Ackerley, Dickens and Henry ...more
Carol
Feb 13, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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!

Kathleen
May 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a humourous little book about the pleasures of reading. Queen Elizabeth comes across the mobile library while chasing her corgis. Feeling obliged, she borrows a book and Norman moves from the kitchen to become an amanuensis.
Yes, I learned two new words while reading this novella. I learned that an 'amanuensis' is "One who writes from dictation, copies manuscripts. A literary assistant." And the meaning of an 'opsimath' is "one who learns only late in life."
Rather than tell the plot, I
...more
Melindam
‘One reads for pleasure,’ said the Queen. ‘It is not a public duty.’.

I loved this novella when reading it for the first time, but appreciated it even more on this re-read.
Love Alan Bennett's easy-flowing, tongue-in-cheek yet serious style/story.

An Uncommon Reading Experience altogether & highly recommended.
Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂
Jan 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂ by: Erica
Who would have thought! I have something in common with the Queen of England!

Well, kind of! I wasn't a non reader (which is how Bennett portrays the Queen) but for eight long years I worked in our local supermarket, originally on checkouts (soul destroying) & then managing the Bulk Bins. This was the hardest I had ever worked in my life. One of the few perks we had in what is essentially a miserable way to make a living was we were able to read the unsold magazines. (at work only - that was
...more
DeB MaRtEnS
I don't know how this little novella ended up on my radar, but it was a sweet grin of a book. Queen Elizabeth, in her eightieth year, discovers the joys of reading literature quite accidentally when she happens upon a book mobile in the process of trying to round up her barking Corgis. Norman, a cook from her Royal kitchen, is a borrower and a friendship ensues, with him becoming the purveyor of the world of pleasurable books. As the Queen's interest becomes more avid in the plethora of fiction ...more
·Karen·
Feb 14, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
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
...more
Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh
Dec 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Florence (Lefty) by: Petra-X
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 ...more
Antonomasia
[3.5] "Are you suggesting one rations one's reading?"

Yes, I must too, and had been thinking so before I heard this line. Ten books a month has been getting in the way of other things rather than helping to support them. Although more like this endearing two-and-a-half hour audiobook, which I started one night when I despaired of sleep, would not be obtrusive.

I can see myself listening to this again within 6 months - which is exceptional, as I am not, as a rule, a re-reader these days (it echoes
...more
Cecily
Jul 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: humour, favourites
Beautiful novella, imagining the effect on courtiers, corgis and protocol if the Queen develops a reading habit. The books she chooses are carefully chosen by Bennett to illuminate her metamorphosis. The main danger is reading it too quickly to savour it as it deserves. Bennett at his best.
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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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“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.” 3169 likes
“A book is a device to ignite the imagination.” 308 likes
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