Reads Like a Novel

Daniel Pennac

translated from the French by Daniel Gunn
Quartet Books 1994
A book review by Danny Yee © 2008
Reads Like a Novel is a heartfelt pleading for a new approach to the teaching and learning of a love of reading. Drawing on his experiences with his own son and as a school teacher, Pennac explains how the pressure put on children to read, and the narrow and dogmatic approach to teaching reading, take the pleasure out of the activity. He appeals for the enjoyment of a good story to be accepted as a central motivation for reading.

This argument has an underlying structure to it, but the presentation is more that of a memoir or novel, with dialogue, characters, and short punchy sections which vary in tone and style. It successfully follows its own injunctions, entertaining and pleasing while informing and convincing.

Pennac ends with an analysis of the rights of readers: the right not to read, the right to skip pages, the right not to finish a book, the right to re-read, the right to read anything, the right to 'bovarysme' (the enjoyment of sensation), the right to read anywhere, the right to browse, the right to read out loud, and the right to remain silent.

Reads Like a Novel will have obvious appeal to parents, teachers, students, and anyone else involved with education. But it may also make readers reconsider their own motivations for reading, and help them find new ways to understand their pleasures. Reads Like a Novel is short, lively, and to the point, and can be read in a sitting.

Note: Reads Like a Novel was originally published in 1992 as Comme un Roman. A newer translation has been published as The Rights of the Reader.

September 2008

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%T Reads Like a Novel
%A Pennac, Daniel
%M French
%F Gunn, Daniel
%I Quartet Books
%D 1994
%O paperback
%G ISBN 0704370735
%P 178pp