The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett. Picador (2008).
The Uncommon Reader is a clever, witty and insightful look at one person's, namely the Queen of England's, entry into the world of books and reading. Bennett masterfully crafts a tale of what it is like to become immersed, and indeed obsessed, by reading. Through books, the Queen comes to be a more thoughtful observer of the world and the people around her.
One of my favorite passages reminded me of the current interest in what President-Elect Barack Obama is reading. While I've wondered why people care, the following made me realize why it is so important.
"But ma'am must have been briefed, surely?"
"Of course," said the Queen, "but briefing is not reading. In fact it is the antithesis of reading. Briefing is terse, factual and to the point. Reading is untidy, discursive and perpetually inviting. Briefing closes down a subject, reading opens it up."
This is why it is so important that our President-Elect reads. In fact, it is why it is so important we all read. Reading helps us grow as people. It allows us to see the wider world around us. The Uncommon Reader is a love letter to reading and its ability to mold a life. I highly recommend this book.