The Uncommon Reader

I picked up The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett on a recent trip to the library where I was alone and had more time than usual to browse in the non-juvenile section. (I would say adult section but that seems to imply an all together different type of book.) It was an appropriate introduction to a book that begins with Queen Elizabeth II stumbling upon a traveling library on the palace grounds while chasing a wayward Corgi. Her Majesty feels obligated to take a book with her and thus begins her introduction to the pleasures of reading.

This slim novella is a quick read and all together delicious little book. Witty observations on society and culture and class are woven into musings on the nature of reading itself and what it means to be a reader as Her Majesty goes from being a reluctant reader to someone who ignores all her other duties in order to finish her current book. She is aided by Norman, a fellow reader and servant brought up from the kitchens to be her personal amanuensis. Her mildly villainous personal secretary Sir Kevin is perplexed, irritated and finally conquered by this new interest of the queen’s.

The book is full of great quotes on the joys of reading but I’ll finish with one of my favorite:

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

Ah, isn’t that the truth? The days certainly aren’t nearly long enough.

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