Monday, March 31, 2008

13, A Reading Diary

The title: A Reading Diary: A Year of Favourite Books
The author: Alberto Manguel
Publication: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004
Got it from: RC, Christmas 2005

"The main inconvenience of traveling is having to learn how to manipulate new bathroom fixtures." - Alberto Manguel

Grade: B

I approached this book with some hostility, memories of Harold Bloom's How to Read and Why still leaving a bad taste in my mouth even after many years. I don't normally like this genre of books. By "this genre" I mean some snooty literary white dude waxing on and on about other (dead) literary white dudes, patting their backs and propping up these paragons of patriarchal purveyors, all the while writing so cryptically that no one can understand what the #@*! they're talking about except themselves, so smug and laughing with their little in-jokes.

But this book wasn't so bad. Maybe because I read the whole thing in the bathroom, where I was more inclined to humour it a bit. Sure, it started out as bathroom-wall banging frustrating, but once I got Manguel's voice, he became kind of companionable. A bit like a silly old professor uncle who says witty things but is ultimately harmless. And I did get the jokes, so ha ha.

This book is basically a compilation of musings based on a classic book Manguel reads every month. I haven't read any of them, sadly. Most of them were the kind of melancholy, enigmatic books that drive me nuts so I doubt I will even ever read any of them, except perhaps The Wind in the Willows. The section I found most interesting was the chapter on Sei Shonogan's The Pillow Book, partly because it was written by a woman, and partly because of the author's fascination with lists.

In the spirit of this chapter, I am compiling my own list. It is of books in my collection which I treasure for personal reasons, but which are probably not worth much to anybody else:

  • My grandfather's 19th century edition of Pilgrim's Progress
  • My signed copy of Budge Wilson's The Imperfect Perfect Christmas
  • My great-grandmother's scrapbooks
  • My 1911 edition of Anne of Green Gables
  • My signed copies of Simon Winchester's The Professor and the Madman, The Map that Changed the World and Krakatoa
  • My copy of The Mists of Avalon purchased in Cornwall, England
  • My signed copy of Alberto Manguel's A Reading Diary

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