Remember the excitement of reading as a kid? I'm not talking about children's books. I'm talking about those first "real" books you read. Books with more than 15 or 20 pages. Books with no pictures. My first "real" book was a biography of Harry Houdini that I checked out from the Washakie County Library. The library was in a building that was formerly the hospital where I was born. (As a child, when asked where I was born I was known to answer, "the library.") The Harry Houdini book ignited my imagination. As kids do, I read the book, reread the book, and then read it again. I wondered what it would be like to live during the time of Harry Houdini. To know Harry Houdini. TO BE Harry Houdini. And then I lamented my extreme misfortune, being born in a time and place that wouldn't allow me to even see Harry Houdini perform.
As a kid and youread more and more, it gets harder and harder to find that same sense of wonder in books. Maybe we all just get a little jaded. So imagine my excitement when, for the first time in a long time, I read a book that, if it didn't ignite my imagination, it certainly gave it a good jolt. That book is Alan Bennett's novella, The Uncommon Reader. The story opens with the Queen (yes that Queen) discovering a mobile library truck outside the palace (a brilliantly silly construct). Inside the Queen meets a young reader named Norman who works in the royal kitchen (and has a penchant for books by gay authors). Out of a sense of duty, the Queen checks out her first book. Her royal sensibilities have prevented her from reading in the past. However those same sensibility encourage the Queen to read the borrowed book. And she likes it well enough. Norman is promoted out the kitchen to become the royal literary adviser. The Queen becomes obsessed with the joys of reading. And the rest of the court and country are dismayed by the whole affair.
The Uncommon Reader is a short, love letter to the book lovers everywhere. It's a jewel of a tale that can be enjoyed in an afternoon. It's packed with wonderful images like the Queen calling the library to apologize yet again for her dogs, who've chewed up another book because they too have grown weary of the royal reading habits.
Just like reading as a kid, this book inspired wonder. What would it be like to know the Queen? How fun would it be to talk books with HRH? Imagine recommending a book to my friend and fellow book lover, THE QUEEN! The Uncommon Reader is a must read for anyone who loves books. And it's the perfect read for anyone who wishes they loved books. The Uncommon Reader gets a great big, warm and fuzzy Read It! rating.