I read Manguel’s A History of Reading (1996) many years ago and I still frequently resort to it when I need a handy quote or passages to add to some teaching materials, but since then I hadn’t read anything else from him. This book, as the author himself admits is, as almost all his other books, about reading. it is a collection of thirty-nine papers that range from lecturers, published articles and personal reflections on reading.
There is a background theme running through the book as Manguel frequently refers to Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass to frame his comments and reading experiences. Another recurrent theme is Manguel’s on personal story as a reader that interweaves with the history of the dictatorship in Argentina and how it positions in the history of the world, and particularly South America. Being born just on the border with Argentina and having lived my childhood and teenage years under the dictatorship in the neighbouring country I can easily relate with his experiences.
Manguel has sometimes being criticized by his lack of scholarly rigour and for his too enthusiastic and passionate approach to books and reading. Although I think such criticism to too harsh if applied to the book mentioned above, this one certainly does not stand as a piece of academic research. But then, it does not have any pretensions to it whatsoever. Manguel here is simply kind enough to share his past and present life experiences with books in an attempt to inspire his readers to also reflect on their relationships with reading.
Manguel, A. (2010) A Reader on Reading. New York: Yale University Press.
- Manguel, A. (1996) A History of Reading. New York: Viking.