Book Review: A History Of Reading by Alberto Manguel

HistoryOfReading
TheBreakaway | BreakawayConciousness
Zy Marquiez
April 17, 2017

“Real books disgust the totalitarian mind because they generate uncontrollable mental growth – and it cannot be monitored.”
John Taylor Gatto, A Different Kind Of Teacher, p. 82.

“So often, a visit to a bookshop has cheered me, and reminded me that there are good things in the world.”
– Vincent Van Gogh

“If we encounter a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he reads.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Whether you are a reader, student, a teacher, a writer, a researcher, an editor, a scholar, or someone who loves books, you have undoubtedly experienced the feeling of being swept away by words.  Individuals of all types, who use the written word as a form of expression, often showcase in one way shape or form, a new world, a different world, one of possibilities, one of vision, one of depth.  Such instances often leave the reader feeling  thankful for having experienced what they just did.

In similar fashion, the author of the following book, Mangel, paints a historical picture with such clarity and precision that it allows the reader to journey through the pages of time as if we were right there with other readers, even sampling actions and thoughts at times.

A History Of Reading by Alberto Manguel is an intriguing and in depth overarching overview of most circumstances that involve reading throughout the pages of history.

The book is essentially a conjunction of two different elements: part personal diary and part scholarly research.

Cogent and incisive, Manguel does not hesitate in delving into the full spectrum that encompasses a bibliophile’s delight, weaving through countless historical instances which home in on crucial events around the history of books and reading.

For instance, the author not only covers absorbing anecdotes, individuals and the origins of reading, but also curious ventures of prominent individuals who had prodigious libraries of all types, one of which insisted on having his library travel with him.

Manguel notes:

“In the tenth century, for instance, the Grand Vizier of Persia, Abdul Kassem Ismael, in order not to part with his collection of 117,000 volumes when travelling, had them carried by a caravan of four hundred camels trained to walk in alphabetical order.”[1]

A bibliophile to boot, no doubt!

Beyond that, the book also features intriguing anecdotes of a wide range which infuse into the reader full range of emotions that readers of all types experience.  Regarding this topic, the author states:

“The act of reading establishes an intimate, physical relationship in which all the sense have a part: the eyes drawing the words from the page, the ears echoing the sounds being read, the nose inhaling the familiar scent of paper, glue, ink, cardboard or leather, the touch caressing the rough or soft page, the smooth or hard binding; even the taste; at times, when the reader’s fingers are lifted to the tongue.”[2]

Manguel also does a fine job of making sure the reader gets a taste of what it would have been to be a reader throughout other distinct  time periods.

Additionally, Manguel covers the Library of Alexandria, book thieves, reading the future, ancient librarians, and much more.

Another noteworthy historical point of consideration examined  was the relentless censorship that governments have undertaken of books.  Such immoral instances show the inherent fear governments have of educated individuals due to the salient self-sufficiency and power that books can impart.

As the author soberingly contemplates:

“As centuries of dictators have shown, an illiterate crowd is easiest to rule; since the craft of reading cannot be untaught once it has been acquired, the second-best recourse is to limit its scope.   Therefore, like no other human creation, books have been the bane of dictatorships.”[3]

Given that we are in an age where censorship of the written and spoken word is increasing across social media platforms and through many media outlets as well, such words should be ruminated upon deeply.   Modern society is once again entering into an crucial age of censorship, and in this new age the excuse for it is the meme of “Fake News”, which is being bandied about relentlessly . This is leading to an unprecedented tidal wave  of censorship by those in power.  And as history shows, it’s probably going to get much worse.

Manguel speaks about this same issue:

“Absolute power requires that all reading be official reading; instead of whole libraries of opinions, the ruler’s word should suffice.”[4]

And the ruler’s words, in modern times, comes mostly through the mainstream media.

Nothing frees a mind more than a book, for it allows readers to be self-sufficient and be able to be free to the fullest extent of the word.  That’s why historically, books have always been dangerous.

With that said, the book covers much more than mere censorship, and censorship is only a fraction of the totality collated by the author.  The book still covers a kaleidoscope of information to satiate the curious reader.

Regardless though, books are to be enjoyed, and the ironic part is that, reading a book about reading made me want to read even more than ever before.  And perhaps, this book can do the same for you.

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Source:
[1] Alberto Manguel, A History Of Reading, p. 193.
[2] Ibid., p. 244.
[3] Ibid., p. 283.
[4] Ibid., p. 283.

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This article is free and open source. You are encouraged and have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Zy Marquiez and TheBreakaway.wordpress.com.
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About The Author:

Zy Marquiez is an avid book reviewer, researcher, an open-minded skeptic, yogi, humanitarian, and freelance writer who studies and mirrors regularly subjects like Consciousness, Education, Creativity, The Individual, Ancient History & Ancient Civilizations, Forbidden Archaeology, Big Pharma, Alternative Health, Space, Geoengineering, Social Engineering, Propaganda, and much more.

His own personal blog is BreakawayConsciousnessBlog.wordpress.com where his personal work is shared, while TheBreakaway.wordpress.com serves as a media portal which mirrors vital information usually ignored by mainstream press, but still highly crucial to our individual understanding of various facets of the world.

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BreakawayConsciousness

Zy Marquiez is an avid book reviewer, an open-minded skeptic, yogi, and freelance writer who regularly studies subjects such as: Consciousness, Education, Creativity, The Individual, Ancient History & Ancient Civilizations, Forbidden Archaeology, Big Pharma, Alternative Health, Space, Geoengineering, Social Engineering, Propaganda, and much more. His own personal blog is BreakawayConsciousnessBlog.wordpress.com where his personal work is shared, while TheBreakaway.wordpress.com serves as a media portal which mirrors vital information usually ignored by mainstream press, but still highly crucial to our individual understanding of various facets of the world. My work can also be found on https://steemit.com/@zyphrex.

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