Thursday, July 28, 2005

Booknote: Better than Life

Title: Better than Life
Author: Daniel Pennac
Publication Information: York, ME: Stenhouse Publishers, 1999
Genre: Nonfiction
Subgenre: Narrative about books and reading
207 pages
Note: Translation of Comme un Roman
Possible similar books: Lynne Sharon Schwartz's Ruined by Reading, Anna Quindlen's How Reading Changed My Life, Harold Rabinowitz's A Passion for Reading (this one is a personal favorite of mine).

This is the little book that features the famous Reader's Bill of Rights. I am probably going to write some kind of entry or reflection on how the rights are present in my life as a reader, but that will be later. The book itself contains a narrative of how children discover books and become readers. To do so, the author looks at it from the point of view of a parent, then as a teacher and writer. The book is composed of little vignettes and short stories where the wonder of a child discovering books for the first time is conveyed. We also see the sadness as the child grows, goes to school, and finds his love of books destroyed as reading becomes more of a chore than a joy. Eventually, the child rediscovers books once more. The last part of the book has the bill of rights, where the author goes on to provide brief explanations and notes on what each mean to readers. The book overall is a pretty good read; has some poignant and moving moments. As a parent and educator, I could see some of the points he makes about how we come to discover reading, but some of the pacing was slow at times, enough to tempt me to skip to the last part of the book. I held on, and I think it was worth it. He does write with a simple style, but to me, it could get a bit repetitive in some areas. Maybe because I saw it more as the educator and parent and often felt like "I know this already." I have been lucky my daughter is growing to be an avid reader. The last part of the book is a definite keeper. If you like books about books and reading, this book may be good for you. If you want to remember why or how you came to discover books and reading, this may be for you as well. In spite of my small reservation on the pace, I do recommend this book strongly, and I will likely get a copy for myself down the road.

As a note and public service, here is the Reader's Bill of Rights:

  • The right not to read
  • The right to skip pages
  • The right to not finish
  • The right to reread
  • The right to read anything
  • The right to escapism
  • The right to read anywhere
  • The right to browse
  • The right to read out loud
  • The right to not defend your taste

I am sure a lot of reader's advisors in libraries live by this. I know in a lot of ways I do.

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