Friday, April 25, 2008

Every Book Its Reader by Nicholas A. Basbanes

I picked this up on a whim at the Harvard Book Store sometime early last spring when I was feeling like I wasn't reading enough grown-up books. I read the first half and really enjoyed it, but then got distracted by some other book that needed to be read. I picked it up again when I needed something to read while I waited for the next group of requests from the library. I picked up where I left off a year ago, and slipped right back into it.

I particularly enjoyed the first few chapters, which discussed some of the earliest known literature and how our relationship to it changes over time. I made a lot of notes in the margins about the correlations to my own ideas about the cultural history of fairy tales.

This book made me even more aware of the gaping holes in my knowledge of literature. I wasn't an English major in college because I didn't want to have to read all those Dead White Males (and after reading chapter 10, I have a better understanding of where that came from), but now I realize how much I've missed out on. Of course, it would take most of a lifetime to get caught up, but I may have to try to tackle one each summer, or something like that.

I was really, genuinely sad when I reached the last chapter, and I wanted to immediately start it over again. I highly recommend it for anyone interested in cultural studies or the history of literature.

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