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Alberto Manguel

There are certain authors whose work simply transcends all mediums and The History of Reading is one of them. It is so beautiful that it should rank as one of the great works of Art.

I will admit now that it is my favourite book and there are many serious contenders for the position. Anything written by Robertson Davies for example though I will get to him later. A History of Reading is a wonderful collection of tales and reminiscences by the author all tied together by his love of books and the written word.

I will not spoil the book by divulging too many of the stories but one chapter explains how the Monte Cristo cigar got it's name. At the H. Upmann factory in Havana cigar rollers were so bored performing their repetitive tasks that they would pool together to pay someone to read to them. A favourite author was Alexandre Dumas so the workers asked the factory owner to let them name one of the cigars after the Count of Monte Cristo. They must clearly have identified with the central character. The cigar box carries the image of three swords, the swords of the Three Musketeers.

Alberto Manguel also recounts how in his youth he used to read to a man almost blind with age who instilled in him a real passion for reading. This was Jorge Luis Borges, one of the finest literary minds to come out of South America. One of life's little coincidences that two such great writers should meet so early on.

Alberto Manguel is a true bibliophile and erudite as hell, sharing his knowledge with pleasure. Whether you like books or not, the sheer warmth, humanity and gentle humour in every page will warm against the coldest night and promote the swiftest recovery from even the direst hangover.

This is one of the great books of all time.

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