A History of Reading by Alberto Manguel

On and off for the last fifteen years I've been very interested in how the largely text-based Net influence language. I've started writing down things every three years or so, and never really reached any kind of text I wanted to share. The last time was about a year and a half ago, and in connection to that I decided to look up something I heard at one time or another: that people used to read aloud to themselves, and silent reading had to be discovered/invented. A statement that seemed very counter-intuitive to me, and yet had such a beauty to it, with that alluring ring to it whispering of truth… I found it very thought provoking. (The implications, for instance for our human mental development are very interesting.) Poking around a bit it seems like the issue has been a cause for argument for some time, but that (as far as I can understand) it is considered doubtful that silent reading was 'invented'. I'll write more about it some other time. I promise!

In any case, one of the sources discussing silent reading (and coming down on the side of 'invention') is Albert Manguel's book A History of Reading. I found an excerpt online, and it was so nice that I decided to pick up a copy of the full book and read it. A History of Reading is a collection of connected essays, each chapter discuss some form of the act of reading or the reader. The edition I got my hands on had many beautiful photographs and a fold-out time-line as well. The illustration fades in comparison with the text however, which speaks of a true love of texts and of reading. I also appreciated A History of Reading because it touched and deepened my thoughts on a few things I had considered while reading myself (e.g. the ides in Readers and Robots), but more importantly because it introduced me to much I had not considered before. The writing is beautiful and wise. One can tell that Manguel has a deep love of books and texts, and that he has put a lot of effort into A History of Reading. That I did not agree at every turn, matters less, that is the price of learning.