The Reading List: A Book About Books
The Reading List by Sara Nisha Adams
Genre: General Fiction
Published August 2021, 384 Pages
Well, this book isn't what I expected! You know how you go in with a quasi preconceived idea about a book and then it's not that at all? Me. This book. Often books about books are charming and lighthearted like The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan, The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett, or The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald. This book is different from those. Still charming in places, but it is a bit darker, a bit more intense, yet equally rewarding to read.
This debut novel is set in London, and is about a lonely widower, Mr. Patel, and Aleisha, a 17 year old working in a library for the summer, bored and lonely. Aleisha discovers a reading list of 8 titles scribbled on a paper in the back of a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird. Since she has plenty of time and some unhappy issues at home, she decides to take her library job a little more seriously and read through the list which includes some well known titles like To Kill a Mockingbird, Life of Pi, Rebecca, Little Women, The Kite Runner, Beloved, etc.
Each section of The Reading List is related to Aleisha & Mr P. reading a specific book from the list and how they respond to it. Each of them relates differently to each book based on their personal experiences (as we all do). Two people who aren't readers discovering the pleasure and feelings and insights that can come from reading is just the best. Along the way we get their back story and the personal struggles they're facing (don't want to give too much away).
This book is an ode to books and libraries in the best way. The ability to tie such diverse books to two such diverse characters and have them make sense in their lives is extraordinary. I'm in awe. Although it helps a bit if you've read the books from the list, it certainly doesn't diminish your pleasure if you haven't. The story stands on its own. And, you may find yourself drawn to one of the novels.
The writing is an absolute joy - a combination of insightful bookish analysis and the simplicity of non-readers trying to describe how a book made them feel. It's genius. I couldn't put it down. It's about books, of course, but also friendship, tragic loss, found family of the best kind, and, at the heart of it all, books. (I may have shed a tear or two along the way.) Highly recommended.