Review: The Uncommon Reader

The Uncommon Reader: A Novella, by Alan Bennett

"Authors, she soon decided, were probably best met with in the pages of their novels, and as much creatures of the reader's imagination as the characters in their books."
The Uncommon Reader, by Alan Bennett

The Quick Synopsis
This will be a very short synopsis because at only 128 pages, if I give you any more than a couple of sentences, it will end up longer than the book itself.

Quite by accident, the Queen of England (yes, that Queen) stumbles upon the bookmobile that visits Buckingham Palace each week. To be polite, she checks a book out from the traveling library and what follows is an adorable story in which HRH develops quite an obsession with books and sends the palace into an uproar.

The Literary Criticism
Written from the Queen's perspective, this novella is both charming and witty. Watching the Queen's progress as she begins her literary explorations is, in it's own way, inspiring. She starts out as most of avid readers do, picking and choosing books based on interest. As she becomes more accomplished, she begins taking notes and venturing her own thoughts on reading. Her new hobby becomes a full-time obsession and hilarity ensues as the Queen's reading begins to interfere with her royal duties.
'I don't see,' said the Queen, 'why there is a need for a press release at all. Why should the public care what I'm reading? The Queen reads. That is all they need to know. "So What?" I imagine the general response.'
'To read is to withdraw. To make oneself unavailable. One would feel easier about it,' said Sir Kevin, 'if the pursuit were less ... selfish.'
'Perhaps I should say solipsistic.'
'Perhaps you should.'
The Uncommon Reader, by Alan Bennett

But aside from the quaintness of the story, there is also some serious philosophical musings on why we read, why we chose to read what we do, and the myriad of ways reading can determine one's character. There's a lot more to this novella than first meets the eye. And the ending ... well, suffice it to say that the ending is a puzzle-perfect fit.

The Recommendation

This is a wonderful choice for a gift book for the reader in your life. To be honest, the sticker price somewhat baffled me: I thought $12.00 a bit steep for this small novella, but perhaps I'm out of touch. Nevertheless, this little charmer will assuredly make A Reader's Respite Holiday Gift Guide this year and undoubtedly find it's way in to a few friend's stockings on Christmas morning.

Four Stars!

Title: The Uncommon Reader
Author: Alan Bennett
ISBN-13: 978-0312427641
128 pages
Publisher: Picador
Date: September 30, 2008

Addition Reviews in Blog-Land:

California Literary Review
Ready When You Are, C.B.
Bookish Ramblings
Books, TV, etc.
Curled Up With a Good Book
Booking Mama
Compulsive Overreader
Hidden Side of a Leaf
Little Apple Bookworm
A Guy's Moleskin Notebook
Stuff Beautiful Dreams are Made On
Outlandish Dreaming
Vulpes Libris
Bart's Bookshelf
Rebecca Reads
Reading Derby
Read Like Me
Constellation Books
So anyway,
Behold, the Thing That Reads Alot
Vegan Opera Diva
Random Ramblings
Camooli Camooli

(whew! I should get brownie points for typing all those out!)


  1. I think I may have to pick this one up! I wonder what the real Queen thinks of it!

  2. Great review. Now I have to read about the queen!

  3. I won this during the Book Giveaway Carnival and can't wait to get it. Thanks for the review.

  4. I wonder if the Real Queen is a reader. Why do I think not...?

  5. I liked this book a lot too (but didn't review it since I read it before I started blogging). I'll give you brownie points for all that typing!

  6. All in all, it's a cute book with lots of things that people who are obsessed with reading will relate to.

    And Caite - I agree with you...I doubt she is and for all the reasons that this book enumerates. :)

  7. I am planning to read this soon!

  8. Wow, that's a lot of links! I'm about to post a review today with 13 links to other reviews, but you beat me with nearly double that many!

    This sounds like a fun book!

  9. Avis - I think I'll avoid reviewing popular books in the future just to avoid typing out a list like that again....ha.

  10. Sometimes short reads hit the spot. Thanks for the great review!

    Diary of an Eccentric

  11. Awesome review - I really would love to get this one!

  12. Michele - I was really excited about reading this and now I'm even moreso!

    And yes, you should get brownie points for typing out ALL of those review links!!!



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