When I’m between books and don’t have time to get to the independent (ideally) book store before a trip, I usually scan through my bookshelves to find something I meant to read, but didn’t. I took Alan Bennett’s The Uncommon Reader (all 118 pages) with me on a recent sojourn to Boston. I was smiling all the way, and finished long before arrival. Bennett, perhaps best known for his Tony Award-winning The History Boys, writes a quick and funny little British novel centered on no less than the Queen of England, whose life is changed when she discovers a mobile library parked near Buckingham Palace and feels obligated to borrow a book. Until the encounter, the Queen had left liking books to other people because “hobbies involved preference and…preference excluded people.” She’s quickly hooked and her new love of books changes her views on her world and the world at large. Of course, funny consequences for her country ensue.
If you believe in the power of reading, how it can change your life, and are looking for a laugh and a fun and very quick read, this, as the British tend to say, seems about right.