|But... what about love?
The first thing one would notice about The Wonderful World of Books is the colour scheme. The second would be the evangelical fervor of the cover preaching the amazing benefits of reading. Let’s be honest, anyone that did not enjoy reading probably would not have made it past the fifth line of text on the cover. At 319 densely-spaced pages, it’s amazing this book explaining the joys of reading for people who don’t like to read didn’t make it into that Alanis Morissette song.
That being said, one of my favourite books is Harold Bloom’s How to Read and Why, which breaks down the importance of reading, particularly reading with a critical eye. It is a life goal of mine to read every book that was referenced in his book, and I would probably have put a reasonable dent into the pile if not for the discovery of the Biblio-Mat. That, and alcohol. Helps with writing, not so much with the reading.
The Wonderful World of Books is edited by Alfred Stefferud, as the book itself is a collection of seventy-two short essays, thoughts, and anecdotes from a variety of people I have never heard of but I’m sure were big in the book club circles of 1953. Organized under various subject matters, they are grouped into sections such as ‘Books Are Friends’, ‘Reading for Citizens’, ‘Choosing and Using Books’, and ‘Libraries Are for You’.
As a fan of short stories and opinion pieces, the book piqued a lot of interest. Diving in, there turned out to be a good mix of formal research pieces written with an academic eye broken up by stories from run of the mill people who just like to read. In short snippets that rarely ran longer than four pages, it was easily digestible and if the writer was awful, there’s a new one a few pages later. One of the better pieces was #23 – ‘Boyhood: Made in America’ by Louis Redmond, who gave a concise explanation of the impact Walt Whitman and Mark Twain had on American poetry and literature. In two pages it captured what took an entire university course to explain.
The book was a fast read, and would have been an even faster read if the piece entitled ‘How to Read More Efficiently’ was placed at the beginning instead of seventy pages in. With studies on eye movements, text comprehension, and the art of skipping words, it was a breakdown of the classic speed-reading technique that you once had to mail a dollar to an address in the back of a magazine to learn. Strangely enough, there are thirty pages in the middle of the book that are brown, in contrast to the off white of the rest of the book. With no other explanation, I will assume that it was a racing stripe.
Overall, The Wonderful World of Books achieves what it sets out to do. With an abundance of motivational and spiritual quotes around the value of reading mixed in with references to variety of classic works from Dickinson to Kipling, it does indeed make one want to explore more literature. Then again, my willingness to humour books from a random vending machine may suggest I have a predisposition to this whole reading thing.
Book rating: 8/10 (A great pick up & flip to a random page book)
Random quote: “I love, personally, to read the pessimistic poets, so that I may sustain and then contain my temperamental optimism.” (Truth)