The Reading List is a love letter to books, exploring how they connect, guide, teach and inspire us. It’s also a celebration of libraries, reminding us how valuable these spaces are for the community.
The novel begins with a reading list: an apparently carefully crafted list of books written in beautiful handwriting found by chance. The list finds its way into the hands of different characters throughout the novel and we follow them as they make their way through it, knowingly and sometimes unknowingly, connecting to each other through the books.
Whilst the reading list is discovered by a few people throughout the novel, the main focus is on two characters: Aleisha, a 17 year old who’s just taken on a summer job at the local library, despite not really reading books, and Mukesh, an elderly widower who comes to the library to connect with his late wife who was an avid reader. I warmed to these two characters, and much preferred the chapters which focussed on them.
When the chapters moved away from the two protagonists, I found it a little confusing jumping to different characters and years (which didn’t seem to have a relevance, unless I’m missing something). I imagined all the stories would come together – and they did – but they felt a little muddled and lacking purpose, more like an aside rather than adding much to the story
Throughout reading I thought The Reading List was a nice book. Easy-to-read, a pleasant story but nothing spectacular. About 80% of the way through, however, something happens in the story and I was hooked. I really needed to know what happened next. Perhaps I needed to have read that 80% in order to feel this way, but I couldn’t help thinking it was a shame I hadn’t felt as compelled to read on throughout the previous part of the book.
The sudden jump between a story that kind of plods along nicely and then a sudden quickening of reading pace felt a little jarring. And because it was so close to the end of the book, it made the ending feel a little rushed. However, the ending is a lovely, and satisfying, one.
Overall, The Reading List is a good read that does an excellent job of reminding us of the importance of books and libraries, and how they can connect us.