• Picador
Reading Group Gold
The Uncommon Reader - Alan BennettSee larger image
See Hi-Res Jpeg image


email/print EmailPrint

The Uncommon Reader



Book Buy
Book Hardcover
Ebook Ebook 
    
Share this book with friends through your favorite social networking site. Share:           Bookmark and Share
Add this title to your virtual bookshelves at any of these book community sites. Shelve:             
sign up to get updates about this author
add this book's widget
to your site or blog

About The Author

Alan BennettAlan Bennett

Alan Bennett has been one of England's leading dramatists since the success of Beyond the Fringe in the 1960s. His work includes the Talking Heads television series, and the stage plays Forty Years On, The Lady in the Van, A Question of Attribution, and The Madness of King... More

photo: Hugo Glendinning

Stay In Touch

Sign up to recieve information about new releases, author appearances, special offers, all related to you favorite authors and books.

Other Books You Might Like

cover Buy

More formats
eBook
Smut
Stories

Picador
One of England’s finest and most loved writers explores the uncomfortable and tragicomic gap between people’s public appearance and their private desires in...
  
cover Buy

More formats
eBook
A Life Like Other People's

Farrar, Straus and Giroux
FROM ONE OF BRITAIN’S GREATEST LIVING WRITERS AND THE AUTHOR OF THE UNCOMMON READER, A FAMILY MEMOIR AND UNIQUE WORK OF ART—A LIFE LIKE OTHER IS ALAN BENNETT...
  
cover Buy

More formats
eBook
The Habit of Art
A Play

Faber and Faber, Inc.
Benjamin Britten, sailing uncomfortably close to the wind with his new opera, Death in Venice, seeks advice from his former collaborator and friend, W. H....
  
cover Buy

More formats
eBook
Untold Stories

Picador
An instant bestseller in the U.K., Untold Stories brings together the finest and funniest writing by one of England's best-known literary figures. In his first...
  
cover Buy
The History Boys: The Film

Faber and Faber, Inc.
Now a major motion picture from Fox Searchlight Pictures, The History Boys: The Film contains Alan Bennett's diary of the filming, the shooting script, and an...
  
cover Buy

More formats
eBook
The History Boys: A Play

Faber and Faber, Inc.
“A play of depth as well as dazzle, intensely moving as well as thought-provoking and funny.” —The Daily Telegraph An unruly bunch of bright, funny...
  
cover Buy

More formats
eBook
The Complete Talking Heads

Picador
Alan Bennett's award-winning series of solo pieces is a classic of contemporary drama, universally hailed for its combination of razor-sharp wit and deeply...
  
cover Buy

More formats
eBook
The Laying On of Hands
Stories

Picador
Alan Bennett’s extraordinary ear for dialogue and sharpness of perception have made him a master storyteller. In “Father! Father! Burning...
  
cover Buy

More formats
eBook
Super Shred: The Big Results Diet
4 Weeks 20 Pounds Lose It Faster!

St. Martin's Press
The diet that works faster and forever! SUPER SHRED  Using the same principles—meal spacing, snacking, meal replacement and diet confusion—that made his...
  
cover Buy

More formats
Audio eBook
Illusion
Chronicles of Nick

St. Martin's Griffin
Be careful what you wish for . . . You just might get it. Nick Gautier is tired of his destiny. He doesn’t want to be the son of a demon who’s fated to end...
  
cover Buy

More formats
eBook
Fangirl

St. Martin's Griffin
In Rainbow Rowell's Fangirl, Cath is a Simon Snow fan. Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan, but for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good...

Reading Group Gold

About this Guide

The following author biography and list of questions about The Uncommon Reader are intended as resources to aid individual readers and book groups who would like to learn more about the author and this book. We hope that this guide will provide you a starting place for discussion, and suggest a variety of perspectives from which you might approach The Uncommon Reader.



Praise for The Uncommon Reader

"Bennett’s deadpan, self-deprecating humor translates perfectly." —David Gates, O, The Oprah Magazine

"There is probably no other distinguished English man of letters more instantly likeable than Bennett." —Michael Dirda, The Washington Post Book World

"A prose stylist of disarming grace and sly humor." —The New York Times Book Review



Discussion Questions

1. Does your group meet regularly? If so, how do you think the queen, as fountain of honor, would appraise your list of reading so far?

2. The queen says that she reads because, "One has a duty to find out what people are like." Yet she begins by reading Nancy Mitford and Ivy Compton-Burnett, hardly a stretch for Her Royal Majesty. How did you begin your reading career? Was it Anne of Green Gables or Barbara Cartland? What treasured books on your group’s list closely reflect your own world and background? Do you read to understand others? Is anyone present at this meeting a member of the titled aristocracy?

3. Early in The Uncommon Reader, the queen explains that she has resisted reading because it is a hobby, and therefore an expression of a preference—preferences exclude people and are to be avoided. Why does she fear that reading will exclude people – haven’t we been brought together today by reading? Is your reading group very exclusive? Have you ever denied membership to someone who wanted to join?

4. "Herself part of the panoply of the world, why now was she intrigued by books, which, whatever else they might be, were just a reflection of the world or a version of it? Books? She had seen the real thing." Do you believe there is a difference between reading and experiencing? Isn’t the act of reading a form of experience, or is that vein of thinking distinctly privileged?

5. At first the queen says that her purpose in reading is not primarily literary: it is for analysis and reflection. Why exactly do you read; is it a lofty endeavor or a fundamentally human one?

6. What do you think of the queen’s values as a reader, for example her insistence upon reading a book all the way through to the end, regardless her level of engagement? Surely most of us would put a book down if within fifty pages it proved to be a tedious waste of time. Have you ever attempted to discuss a book you haven’t read?

7. Authors, the queen decides, were probably best met within the pages of their novels, left to the imagination like their characters. Have you met any famous writers? What were they like? Was your experience anything like the queen’s?

8. The appeal of books, according to the queen, lay in their indifference: there is something undeferring about literature, she says. Books do not care who reads them or whether one read them or not. All readers are equal, herself included. Do you agree? Have you ever felt unequal to a book? Superior to one?

9. When the queen first meets the man in the book mobile, she refers to herself as a pensioner – this is clearly a joke. Talk about how Alan Bennett gives voice to the queen and draws humor from her. How had your feelings for this seemingly inaccessible figure changed by book’s end?

10. Why is Norman fond of Cecil Beaton, David Hockney and J.R. Ackerley, what do these three people have in common, besides being British artists and writers?

11. Should our leaders spend more time engaged in the arts, particularly in reading literature (for what it’s worth, Bill Clinton said he loved Walter Mosely)? What would be the effect?

12. When the queen begins to ask her subjects what they are reading, she is usually met with a shrug (or the Bible, or Harry Potter). Are people intimidated by reading, or are they just lazy and dim?

13. As the queen reads, she grows less interested in her royal duties, and even her appearance (the "permutations" of her wardrobe) goes into decline. Is she becoming more normal, more common? How has reading endangered her ability to carry out her role as a focus for British identity and unity? Isn’t that role just a little too much for anyone to shoulder?

14. The queen finds that one book often lead to another; that doors opened wherever she turned ("the days weren’t long enough for the reading she wanted to do"). Has The Uncommon Reader opened doors for you? Has it inspired or emboldened you to try a book you’ve been putting off. Proust, perhaps?

15. At first the queen does not like Henry James’s Portrait of a Lady ("oh, do get on!"), but she finds that reading is like a muscle that needs to be developed, and later she changes her mind about James. Have you ever had a similar experience, upon revisiting a challenging book? Would you consider reading The Uncommon Reader again, in order to glean further nuance from its pages?

You May Also Be Interested In

cover Buy

More formats
eBook
The Good Soldiers

Picador
A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR FOR: THE NEW YORK TIMES CHICAGO TRIBUNE SLATE.COM THE BOSTON GLOBE THE KANSAS CITY STAR THE PLAIN DEALER (CLEVELAND) THE...
cover Buy

More formats
eBook
The Uncommon Reader
A Novella

Picador
From one of England's most celebrated writers, the author of the award-winning The History Boys, a funny and superbly observed novella about the Queen of...
cover Buy

More formats
Audio eBook
The Unwinding
An Inner History of the New America

Farrar, Straus and Giroux Paperbacks
The 2013 National Book Award Winner A New York Times Bestseller American democracy is beset by a sense of crisis. Seismic shifts during a single...
  Bonus