Originally published: 17 September 2020
Author: Cathy Rentzenbrink
Published by: Picador
Length: 230 pages
Reading dates: 26 November-8 December 2020
‘Reading has saved my life, again and again, and has held my hand through every difficult time’
For as long as she can remember, Cathy Rentzenbrink has lost and found herself in stories. Growing up she was rarely seen without her nose in a book and read in secret long after lights out. When tragedy struck, books kept her afloat. Eventually they lit the way to a new path, first as a bookseller and then as a writer. No matter what the future holds, reading will always help.
Dear Reader is a moving, funny and joyous exploration of how books can change the course of your life, packed with recommendations from one reader to another.
I think you have guessed by now I’m a reader. I love books. But books about other people’s reading habits don’t generally appeal to me because I don’t consider myself “well read”. I know there is no shame in that and I am happy to read the books I enjoy but because of this, books where another reader tells us about the books they have read, rarely appeal as I don’t think I will want to read any of them.
But Dear Reader was just amazing. Cathy Rentzenbrink tells us the story of her life and throughout, the love of reading and books that got her through difficult times. We hear about her school days, through to University and her life as a book seller starting as a Christmas temp at the Waterstones branch in Harrods before moving to other book shops and organising author visits. I loved hearing especially about her book seller days – I would love to work in a huge bookshop – she makes it sound as amazing as I would imagine it to be! In later life she has become a supporter of literacy campaigns and has worked with prisoners to encourage them to read.
After each chapter Rentzenbrink, lists a few of her favourite books with brief summaries on a mixture of themes including children’s books, fictional diaries, books about booksellers and bookshops and books set in pubs to name but a few. And this is the dangerous bit as I’ve added many books I now want to read to my TBR!
I also loved that because I am a similar age to the author, a lot of the books she mentions are books I read as well – the St Clare’s series from Enid Blyton was a huge favourite for me a child and we discovered Harry Potter at much the same time and in a similar way!
I loved Dear Reader and came away from it wishing that Rentzenbrink was my friend who I could chat about books with. This would make an amazing Christmas present either to yourself or a reader in your life. I guarantee they will love it! I’ll finish my review with this paragraph from the book. This year has been horrendous (not just for me I know) and these words really resonated with me. When I was anxious about lockdown, when I was lonely and missed my friends and family, when my husband left me…books were my saviour.
Reading has saved my life, again and again, and has held my hand through every difficult time. Now, if I start to fray around the edges I know I need to reverse out of watching the news, deactivate social media, curfew myself on technology and banish all devices from my bedroom. I need to get in the bath or go to bed with a book.
Many thanks to Book Break UK and Picador Books for my beautiful hardback copy.
About the author:
Cathy Rentzenbrink is the author of The Last Act of Love and A Manual for Heartache and Dear Reader: The Comfort and Joy of Books. She speaks and writes regularly on life, death, love, literature, literacy and mental health, and is often to be found doing bookish events at festivals, in shops and libraries, and in prisons. In previous lives Cathy worked for The Bookseller, The Reading Agency, Quick Reads, Waterstones and The Bell & Crown Inn. Despite her books being shortlisted for various prizes, the only thing Cathy has ever won is the Snaith and District Ladies Darts Championship when she was 17. She is now sadly out of practice.