The Uncommon Reader

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The Uncommon ReaderThe Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett
Published: 2007

This is an odd little novel. Queen Elizabeth II stumbles upon a mobile library that has been put in place for the workers in the castle and becomes obsessed with reading. She has never read for pleasure in her life, but to avoid offense she decides to leave with a book. She quickly realizes what she’s been missing and sets out to make up for lost time by reading as much as she possibly can.

Books are not about passing time. They’re about other lives. Other worlds. Far from wanting time to pass, one just wishes one had more of it. If one wanted to pass the time one could go to New Zealand.

Being a reigning monarch doesn’t usually leave much room for hobbies, and she likes to appear absolutely neutral in conversation and public image, holding no preferences or strong personal opinions. Unfortunately, reading doesn’t lend itself well to that mindset. A reader may prefer an author or genre over another, and the act of reading exposes you to ideas and opinions that force you to consider your own.

Not only does the Queen’s change in attitude worry her staff, but it also distracts her from her duties. She was once full of patience and attention, but now she has a book stuffed in her purse and she really needs to get back to it.

You don’t put your life into your books, you find it there.

This is a quick and funny read that celebrates, and pokes fun at, the joy of reading. It’s an examination of why reading is special, and while it’s obviously preaching to the converted, there’s nothing wrong with a little affirmation in one’s life.

3 thoughts on “The Uncommon Reader

  1. Geoff W

    I’ve heard about this book, maybe on a podcast(?), and it sounded delightful then and even better now. I might have to find a copy.

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