Just in time for Queen’s Birthday holiday this weekend I picked up Alan Bennett’s The Uncommon Reader. It’s a cute little book, packed with ideas, humour and wit.
The premise of the book is what happens when the Queen discovers, much to the displeasure of her staff, the joys of reading. She accidently happens, by way of her rascally corgis, onto the Westminster travelling library bus and decides it would be rude not to borrow a book.
This book is joy to read; Bennett light heartedly pokes fun at the monarchy, modern management practices, bureaucracy and New Zealand too! The book is also packed with ideas about how reading can challenge, stimulate and be ultimately quite subversive. There are many laugh-out loud moments as Bennett’s humour is quite deliciously wicked.
A part of the book that was a real “Aha” moment for me was the point where the Queen points out the difference between reading and being briefed:
“briefing is not reading…antithesis of reading. Briefing is terse, factual and to the point. Reading is untidy, discursive and perpetually inviting. Briefing closes down a subject, reading opens it up.” (p.22)
As someone who has to write a lot of briefs for work, I always find it quite an unenjoyable task. Sure there is considerable skill needed in being able to write an effective, concise and readable brief, but reading Bennett’s book made me realise just why I find them so painful – the act of writing a brief is not really a creative act.
Will be chasing down Bennett’s autiobiographies – Writing Home and Untold Stories