A History of Reading

Six thousand years of the written word as explored by a great essayist


In 1996, essayist and editor Alberto Manguel produced a 22-chapter literary adventure solely exploring the act of reading. His passion for turning the pages was met with clever anecdotes and well-researched information, all uniting to form “A History of Reading,” a beloved book on the power of words. This non-fiction work traipses through time and space—from Greek carvings and Egyptian scrolls to our modern-day computer consumption. Yes, it’s a history book, but it’s also a narrative—with 140 illustrations and photographs. There’s an allure to understanding how words work, as we noted with “What We See When We Read.” The author—first and foremost—alludes to the seduction of literacy; an obsession inside all of us and a compulsion that becomes part of our very identity. The tome is set for re-release on 26 August 2014 thanks to Penguin Book—and this time it’s with a brand new introduction, penned by Manguel himself.

“In every literate society, learning to read is something of an initiation, a ritualized passage out of a state of dependency and rudimentary communication,” Manguel describes, as he embarks on a panoramic thematic study of reading and its impact. The book isn’t told chronologically, but flows attune to the growth of its sub-themes. One moment, a reader is presented with Walt Whitman’s opinions on reading and the next censorship is addressed. Vanished library tales give way to thoughts on translations. Even Manguel’s own story of learning to read is incorporated. Altogether, the author’s excitement provokes thought and a mysterious, daunting subject becomes a tale worth reading.

Pre-order “A History of Reading” on Amazon for $18.

Images by Cool Hunting