Rose Recommends: February | Reading about Reading

It’s hard to believe February is almost over. 2017 has been quite an exciting year so far for me. The 3 classes I’m taking for grad school are some of the best I’ve taken yet, and today I’m recommending one of my readings from class! Don’t worry, it’s totally not boring!

My favorite class this semester is called Literacy, Reading, and Readers. It’s basically my dream class because we get to talk about how and why people learn to read, how reading communities are formed, the history and culture of reading, the power dynamics of language and literacy, and lots more. It’s amazing. One of the books we read to start the semester was Alberto Manguel’s A History of Reading. It looks like dis:

A History of Reading by Alberto Manguel

There’s a lot of sticky notes in my copy because I love this book.

Although it may sound dry, this is actually not an “academic” book. It is a work of popular non-fiction, not a textbook or an obscure academic monograph. You can probably find it at a Barnes & Noble (if they have a well-stocked literary section). And all people who love reading should read this!

The book is organized not exactly chronologically, as you might expect, but more by topic. For example, there is a chapter on translation, a chapter on metaphors for reading, a chapter on illustrations, and a chapter on reading in bed! The book does move a bit chronologically through time, but it will jump back and forth depending on the topic at hand, which I found to be more engaging than just reading a chronological history. The author also tells stories about his own life that have to do with reading, which really brings out the author’s personality so that it’s not an “author-less” non-fiction book.

I learned so many interesting things from this book – hence the huge amount of sticky notes pictured above. I will share with you one of my favorite parts. In the chapter about stealing books, Manguel talks about measures old libraries took to prevent theft. In a monastery in Barcelona, there was a sign that read:

Excerpt from text

For him that steals, or borrows and returns not, a book from its owner, let it change into a serpent in his hand and rend him. Let him be struck with palsy, and all his members blased. Let him languish in pain crying aloud for mercy, and let there be no surcease to his agony till he sing in dissolution. Let bookworms gnaw at his entrails in token of the Worm that dieth not. And when at last he goes to his final punishment, let the flames of Hell consume him for ever.

If that’s not the greatest thing you’ve ever read, I don’t know what is. I told my co-workers we should post this somewhere in the library.

In short, if you’re reading this blog I’m assuming you like books, so you would love this book. Go read it.






  • History
  • Books
  • Reading


  • Slightly academic

  • Slightly not academic enough (for those who are studied in the topic, there are some outdated ideas and gaps in the history)

11 thoughts on “Rose Recommends: February | Reading about Reading”

  1. I’ve got a copy of this! (though I have not read it yet) Manguel is a well-known bibliophile. This is one of my favorite collections – books about books! I would LOVE to take that class! Also recommend anything by Nicholas Basbanes, especially A Gentle Madness, and Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love that you shared this a couple of weeks ago, because I’ve just come across the author in person, although I’d never heard of him before reading this blog post. Alberto Manguelo was one of the keynote speakers at my city’s Writers’ Week, and I live in Adelaide, South Australia. I wondered why his name sounded so familiar, then twigged that I’d jotted down this book recommendation. It was great to have the opportunity to buy it (different cover, same book) and have it signed. And he’s a really lovely gentleman.

    Liked by 1 person

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