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A History of Reading

by Alberto Manguel

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list price: $30.00
published: 1998
publisher: Knopf Canada
imprint: Vintage Canada
  • Winner, Prix Medicis
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In this marvelous book, acclaimed around the world, Alberto Manguel takes us on a fascinating 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 throughout the ages, from the Inquisition to the lures of cyberspace. He shows us what happens when we read; who we become; and how reading teaches us how to live. He reminds us that we live in books as well as among them—how we find our own stories in books, and traces of our lives. He shows us how our reading habits have developed over the centuries, and how, ever since humans first transcribed their thoughts and deeds on clay and papyrus, the act of reading is itself a part of being human.

Alberto Manguel is a lover of reading, and he brings a lover’s delight and enthusiasm to his history of reading. His stories take us across a breathtaking range of time and experiences. From the invention of the reader to Pliny the Younger’s first lip-synch in history; from the moment when Alexander the Great’s conquering army watched, amazed, as their captain read a letter from his mother—but silently—to himself!—to reading clubs in medieval France; from the Great Camel Library of the Grand Vizir of Persia, who trained his camels to walk in alphabetical order, to the ancient delights of bedroom reading and the modern horrors of book burning in Nazi Germany; from cuneiform  and codexes to the invention of printing and to Penguins; from the creation of eyeglasses to the hypnotics of hypertext—the story of reading is laid open here for our pleasure.

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Contributor notes

Internationally acclaimed as an anthologist, translator, essayist, novelist and editor, Alberto Manguel is the bestselling author of several award-winning books, including A Dictionary of Imaginary Places and A History of Reading. He was born in Buenos Aires, moved to Canada in 1982 and now lives in France, where he was named an Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters.

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Editorial Review

“A love letter written to reading.”
—George Steiner, The New York Times
“Anyone who reads will be hooked right away. . . . It is, after all, a history of ourselves, and a celebration of our favourite occupation.”
—Margaret Visser
“An amazing, breathtaking book!”
—Bernard Pivot (France)
“A highly entertaining overview that leaves us with both a new appreciation for our own bibliomania and a deeper understanding of the role that the written word has played throughout history.”
The New York Times (United States)
“A triumph.”
Frankfurter Allgemeine (Germany)
“ Exuberant, sumptuous. . . a great treasure.”
El Pais (Spain)
“An absolute treasure.”
The Globe and Mail
“A great and beautiful book.”
Die Zeit (Germany)
“The most entertaining, the most profound, the most instructive, the most jubilant book you can read today.”
—Jorge Semprun, Le Journal du Dimanche (France)
“An extraordinary feat of learning and writing, and a constant delight. This is my non-fiction ‘Book of the Year.’”
The Financial Post
“An erudite and beguiling study of an abiding human passion.”
“A remarkable achievement. . . . Highly enjoyable. . . . I finished the book with a sense of gratitude to have shared this journey through time in the company of a mind so lively, knowledgeable and sympathetic.”
— P.D. James
“Delightfully sinful, erotic, and anarchic.”
Neue Zurcher (Switzerland)
“If I hadn’t already got it, there is nothing I should so much like to receive. . . . Every worshipper of books will be gripped.”
 —Ruth Rendell

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