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A History of Reading

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3.98  ·  Rating details ·  4,142 ratings  ·  600 reviews
At one magical instant in your early childhood, the page of a bookthat string of confused, alien ciphersshivered into meaning. Words spoke to you, gave up their secrets; at that moment, whole universes opened. You became, irrevocably, a reader. Noted essayist Alberto Manguel moves from this essential moment to explore the 6000-year-old conversation between words and that ...more
Paperback, 372 pages
Published October 1st 1997 by Penguin Books (first published October 1st 1996)
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Average rating 3.98  · 
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 ·  4,142 ratings  ·  600 reviews


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Lobstergirl
Jul 24, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: books-on-books
Though this is not a comprehensive history of reading, being only 319 pages of text excluding notes and index, it certainly feels like it is. Dense with information, weighty with erudition, wordy with words, it covers the history of reading lying down, sitting up, in one's bedchamber, with and without eyeglasses, through translation, silently and aloud, alone and in groups. The history of tablets, scrolls, and codices is covered. The development of libraries and cataloging gets ample shrift. The ...more
Al Bità
Mar 27, 2010 rated it it was ok
For some reason I found this work quite disappointing — perhaps because the title promises more than the book delivers? The book comes across more as an academic 'showing-off' of the author's extensive reading habits. It quickly becomes a series of articles that discuss various aspects of writing, printing, book publishing, what it means to 'read', or to 'be read to', book burnings, book collecting, etc.

All of these are interesting subjects in themselves, and often the sections include fascinati
...more
Steven
Mar 29, 2009 rated it it was amazing
A History of Reading is a rich and wonderful book - a treasury of knowledge, stories and illustrations - that takes us on an unforgettable journey. Infinitely engaging and amusing, a sweeping exploration of what it means to be a reader of books, A History of Reading is a brilliant reminder of why we cherish the act of reading - despite distractions from the Inquisition to the lures of cyberspace.
Alberto Manguel reminds us that readers live in books as well as among them: we find our own stories
...more
Pink
Nov 25, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
2 stars = it was okay. A shame, as this was only okay and I thought it should have been great. There was a wealth of information about the history of reading, though none of it felt particularly well organised. I enjoyed some parts, but then found whole sections very dry and laborious to get through. I preferred the paragraphs about famous authors and quotes from their work, which led to me keeping notes of other books I'd like to read. Whereas I was not particularly interested in Manguel's own ...more
Smiley
Oct 11, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
I bought this fantastic book late one afternoon after I went to meet my supervisor at GSE/UQ and walked past a book cafe near the Lodge I was staying. I decided to buy it since its content was interesting and the price was reasonable, that is, AUD 24.95. I thus kept reading on and on with delight, fine photos to see, etc. till the end while "it's raining outside" one day in Australia. (If I recall correctly.)
M. D.  Hudson
Mar 02, 2009 rated it liked it
The problem with all books about reading is that they tend to get somewhat self-regarding, too self-conscious. As for this one, I stopped reading this about halfway through about a year ago. Sometimes Manguel's Joy of Reading passages got too purple for me, despite the interesting facts here and there. There's interesting stuff beneath the goosh, however, and when the book reemerged from my bedside pile, I found the second half quite enjoyable. Still, too much frosting, not enough cake.
Daniela
Apr 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Reading is, and has been for a long time, a vital part of my life. As Manguel points out, it is a skill that once learned can't be unlearned. And, even more dangerously, it rapidly becomes automatic. When you can read, you just do it. Your brain translates those symbols - the letters - into meanings in an unavoidable process. That is, you can't stop yourself from reading (if you know the language, of course) anymore you can't stop yourself from hearing.

Manguel is brilliant at ascribing deepfelt
...more
Nourhan Elkafrawy
please , give me 10 stars so I can fairly rate this marvelous fantastic and exceptionally extraordinary book ❤
Praj
Mar 18, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Even though I am in the midst of reading of this book, every page is a passage to scintillating information. It clears the misconception of reading being restricted to literacy(books) and moves on to this unbelievable plethora of deciphering methods for gaining wisdom and knowledge. From primitive methods of reading faces,pictures to highly cultivated medium of materials, this book is not only an enlightment but also a wonderful gift to a hungry mind.
Mrs Lecter
Feb 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
I flew through this book!
I found it quite accessible considering I went into it knowing very little about the history of reading and books. Each chapter is divided up nicely and I enjoyed the author's thoughtfulness by including a chapter about the invention of glasses and how they impacted reading and society's perceptions of readers.
I think this is a great book to dip in and out of because it can be quite overwhelming in terms of the sheer number of authors and historical figures discussed.
Christine
The first half of this mediation about reading is good, nice and strong. Yet the book feels as if it has gone for a tad bit too long. There are some interesting facts and stories crammed into this mediation about reading. The Library at Night, however, was a stronger book.
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Aug 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read2016, readingmayx
"I wanted to live among books."

This is one of the better books on reading and books that I've read by Manguel (and it's a topic he loves to write about) because it is not merely a compilation of essays he has written elsewhere or a list of books - he is writing about the history of reading within civilization and within his life. I found a lot of great topics for my reading class (which is why I read it) and learned more about a lot of things. I did not know that he used to read out loud to the
...more
♥ Ibrahim ♥
Mar 13, 2017 rated it liked it
I love this book; it has pictshues(pictures, I mean, using baby language here!) and yes, indeed, I am visual like most people and I love how the author is intelligently keen on illustrating his point and instilling in us the same passion he's got for reading. I am already fired up just reading thus far and while still on page 6... Who knows what will happen to me when I reach the end of the book? I will be on fire for books and reading, and that I already am!
Abby
Jun 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
“As I build pile after pile of familiar volumes (I recognize some by their colour, others by their shape, many by a detail on the jackets whose titles I try to read upside down or at an odd angle) I wonder, as I have wondered every other time, why I keep so many books that I know I will not read again. I tell myself that, every time I get rid of a book, I find a few days later that this is precisely the book I’m looking for. I tell myself that there are no books (or very, very few) in which I ha
...more
Nikki Stafford
Mar 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
I bought this book over 20 years ago, and it's sat on my shelf all these years and I finally picked it up and read it. And I'm really glad I did. This is one of those books that alters the way you read books from that point forward. He talks about how readers bring something to every book — the writer writes one book, but it's the reader who imagines whatever bedroom is in their head, or pictures the lead character a certain way. He talks about how historically readers — and especially bespectac ...more
Steph
Dec 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Perhaps this is the best way to state how much I loved this book, I just finished an ebook edition from my library and purchased a hard copy immediately for myself. There is just too much amazing information contained within to have it be an ebook. I have numerous digital highlights, but this is the sort of book that warrants writing in margins, notes, dog ears, and post-it tags, hence again why I have a copy in the mail. As a teacher of Ancient Civ there is so much fascinating content about Mes ...more
Revanth Ukkalam
Jun 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
The author of a 'Night at the library' is a reader. To him reading seems to be an essential facet of life - only he does it not to survive but live. This shows in his history of reading. He offers nuggets from history and the worlds of texts and reading to illuminate particular elements of reading - like reading quiet, reading alone, judging a person by the book's cover, and forbidden reading. As if that were not enough he tops it with anecdotes; of growing up with books and even more fantastic, ...more
Nasam Al Ward
It took me too much time to finish this book but anyway RTC..
1.1
Apr 05, 2012 rated it liked it
I am guilty lately of overusing the term 'interesting' to refer to books in quick, discouraged reviews. Clearly I've not been passionate enough about reviewing properly. I sincerely doubt things will change unless I get back in the habit of keeping notes and page numbers for quotes and all that work business, which I feel detract from the pleasures of reading.

Alberto Manguel does pretty much what an enshrined member of the establishment would do: a learned summary of reading, in purple prose, wi
...more
Graychin
May 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
I’m half ashamed of enjoying Manguel as much as I do. I cringe at movies about movies, and (for the most part) can’t stand listening to artists talk about art. To read with pleasure about the pleasures of reading, therefore, makes me feel a bit dirty, like I’m indulging in something vaguely illicit.

Most of the time (when he’s not reminiscing about reading to the blind Borges as an adolescent) Manguel is smart enough to make you feel that you’re at least being educated. A History of Reading is p
...more
Scott
Mar 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is the second book I have read by Alberto Manguel. The first, "The Library at Night," was magnificent, and it left me eager to enjoy more of his erudite prose and wide-ranging stories of scholars and enthusiasts within the literary and humanist tradition. In "A History of Reading" the chapters cover eclectic topics, providing not a chronological but a conceptual history of reading and supporting stories of readers. I found myself wanting to spend time ruminating on each chapter, so I found ...more
Jonfaith
Jun 17, 2010 rated it really liked it
My biomom gave me her copy of this after a visit in 1998: I honestly can't recall which visit, though there were only two. The book is lush with bibliocomfort and I kneaded the pages four seemingly months on end. I would like to scurry about within it again.
Ryan
Oct 30, 2017 rated it liked it
Manguel, one imagines him writing in library windows that overlook trees planted in old cities, shares moments from the history of reading in a free form structure that goes forwards, backwards, and, sometimes, upwards. Readers who come to this history looking for an eclectic, dreamy few hundred pages of prose on reading may enjoy it more than I did. Please note, however, that if someone had told me that this is an eclectic, dreamy few hundred pages of prose on reading, I would have rushed out t ...more
Catie
Aug 08, 2017 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Recommendation in NYTimes 'By The Book', Carla Hayden - 8/3/2017
Lazar
Jan 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
It was original, pleasant, instructive!
 Sophia B
DNF. Read more than half a long time ago. It was tedious and not very inspirational. Some parts were interesting.
Claire
May 02, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
So I was really super excited to start this book and I have to admit I was slightly disappointed.

First of all, the book did start off on a great foot. The author gave his own personal history of how he started reading and why he fell in love with the art (yes, I consider reading an art. If you read this book you’ll understand why.) which I could totally identify with, but really it descended into organized chaos after that.

The book is divided into a few different sections and those sections are
...more
lita
Jan 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
The shelves of books we haven’t written, like those books we haven’t read, stretches out into the darkness of the universal library’s farthest space. We are always at the beginning of the beginning of the letter A.

When I started reading this book, I took a very deep breath, wondering if I would finish it. It was ‘difficult’ to finish it, because it describes all aspects of reading holistically, in detailed-but-compact sentences. It tells us from how people invented letters and alphabets, introdu
...more
Martha
Mar 06, 2011 marked it as to-read
I'm on page 94 and utterly entranced. All I want to do is read this book non-stop. I've had it on my reading list for years and years, but I finally received a copy for Christmas. I am suddenly very aware that I don't read nearly enough these days. I'm aware of how short my attention span is because I'm tired and distracted. This is no good. This has to change. Reading Manguel, I want to read everything by Kafka and Borges (Borges! Manguel was Borges' personal reader for two years, when Borges w ...more
Ben
Apr 14, 2008 rated it liked it
I had trouble deciding between 3 and 4 stars. I'd love to give it 3.5 stars. This was an eclectic set of essays looking at different aspects of reading over the last several thousand years. It was interesting and the lack of chronological order was necessary considering the subject matter but I thought it was only alright, not read it in a few days because you can't put it down good.

I really liked the idea of the infinite library, a library filled with every book of every conceivable combination
...more
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1,259 followers
Alberto Manguel (born 1948 in Buenos Aires) is an Argentine-born writer, translator, and editor. He is the author of numerous non-fiction books such as The Dictionary of Imaginary Places (co-written with Gianni Guadalupi in 1980) and A History of Reading (1996) The Library at Night (2007) and Homer's Iliad and Odyssey: A Biography (2008), and novels such as News From a Foreign Country Came (1991). ...more

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