In this book Manguel recounts his experiences of a year (2002/03) considered through reflections on books he re-reads - a different book for each month. Each book becomes relevant and newly resonant when connected with contemporary happenings. It is not hard to find links between Don Quixote and the 2003 invasion of Iraq, but Manguel is never anything but subtle. Though his thoughts are often wistful and occasionally melancholy, this is a warm and tender book, full of astute observations and amusing anecdotes.
Manguel is intimidatingly well-read and it was, admittedly more enjoyable to read the chapters/months where he read books that were familiar to me, but I have been inspired to read those books that were new to me, so lovingly are they described.
I read Stevenson Under the Palm Trees by Manguel a couple of years ago and was impressed by his tight grip on the prose in that sultry and claustrophobic novella. A Reading Diary is, by contrast fresh and light but, though the temptation to ramble must have been there, the author has maintained an ability to sound succinct yet relaxed in this thoroughly enjoyable book.
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