I think that we can all unanimously agree that reading is no longer only a solitary past time for stereotypical ‘book worms’ as it used to be labelled years ago. It has become a community activity thanks to literary websites and book blogs. Not only do books enrich us and become a part of our lives but book readers all over the world are able to connect with each other and develop a meaningful relationship based on shared literary experiences. That is the real power of literature – to bring people together and add rainbow colours to our lives through a series of words written in black on white.
Unlocking Worlds is a book about books – written by a book-lover, for a book-lover. I am always looking for good book recommendations and this one really gave me some very interesting ones.
The author has written a whole chapter in the beginning on how to let a book change you. In it, she explains that it is not imperative that a reader necessarily has to connect with a good book but it is totally okay to be able to relate to a book that is usually not considered such a literary masterpiece. Reading is very personal and subjective. The books she personally considers good in this manuscript have been classified more or less on the basis of five qualities – a compelling narrative, purposeful shaping of words, purposeful ambiguity, emotional truth and wholeness. I found it interesting because I usually tend to read a book in its entirety using only the basic elements of plot, characters, setting, conflict and resolution without delving much into nitty-gritty details and this has caused me to think more carefully about reading and reviewing.
The rest of the book is divided into several chapters that follow themes and genres – of family, time travel, war, tragedy, children’s fiction, memoirs and epistolary novels and many others. It is a well structured book where each chapter begins with a personal anecdote, usually from Allen’s childhood, and contains 10 book recommendations that not only give a brief description but also the author’s personal insight into why she was personally able to connect with them. Here, Allen’s writing, English literature and communication background has helped her to delve deeper into the meaning of each story and find the reasons why these books have moved her. She has beautifully been able to extract the essence of each book and her words have made me want to explore many books that I might not even have considered before.
I found the watercolor painted cover, the most attractive feature of this book. I honestly loved the simplicity as well as the colors used that brought out an old world charm that is sometimes missing in even the most brilliantly graphically designed books today. The little illustrations with the quotes at the beginning of each chapter were cute too.
I was able to connect with Sally Allen’s book-related experiences in many ways that a reader is able to relate to another. Books were always such a huge part of my childhood and like Allen, I often read (and re-read!) deep into the night by flashlight under the blanket after everyone had gone to bed. As the author relates in one of the latter chapters which is aptly titled ‘Books for Book Lovers’, books have sometimes played the role of ice breakers and for developing an instant connection between two individuals who might have never met before. This has personally happened to me twice on the metro as well where I was reading two different books on separate occasions and a couple of fellow commuters asked me about them. In those moments, I was completely able to relate to a stranger even if I shared only a couple of sentences with them. I have certainly not found this connection possible with any other material possession.
I think Allen has really hit the nail on the head in one of the last few chapters where she has expressed how difficult and overwhelming it can get for a reader nowadays to keep up with all the books that come out by the hundreds and thousands. I can completely relate to that feeling. It’s like a rat race that I feel I must keep up, only to realise that really reading is ultimately for my pleasure and enrichment and not for any other reason. So it’s best to really choose the books that you can personally connect to or learn from.
I would consider Unlocking Worlds to be the perfect holiday gift for a book lover who loves reading a variety of genres and you aren’t sure what book to gift them. It’s also the perfect compilation of recommendations to keep on one’s bookshelf for the next time you’re just not sure what to read next.
Book Rating : 4.5 stars out of 5
Note: I received a copy of this book through iRead Book Tours. However, the opinions expressed here are entirely my own. If you would like to read more author interviews, guest posts and book reviews of Unlocking Worlds, please have a look at the book tour schedule here.
Award winning writer and teacher Sally Allen holds a Ph.D. from New York University in English Education, with an emphasis in writing and rhetoric, and a M.A. in English Language and Literature. She teaches writing, literature, and communications, leads book group discussions, and is the founder and editor of Books, Ink at HamletHub.
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