The Child that Books Built by Francis Spufford

June 2003

I picked up this book by chance in the bookstore, and it completely hooked me as I leafed through it in the shop. Unfortunately, when I got the book home and read it cover to cover, it didn't engross me in quite the same way as it had in the store. It was still a pleasant enough read, though. Spufford explores psychology, language acquisition and the development of memory in order to figure out how and why children read and, specifically, why the books he read as a child affected him like they did. This is all very interesting, but it tends to push the bounds of pretension and self-indulgence a bit too frequently for my liking. Still, Spufford offers some interesting insights, and I could relate to a lot of what he wrote: he read many of the same books I did as a child, and he became a teenage science fiction fan, as did I. And in one brief passage, I saw an exact reflection of myself and an explanation for why, even today, I read the types of books I do: "I didn't just want to see in books what I saw anyway in the world around me, even if it was perceived and understood and articulated from angles I could never have achieved; I wanted to see things I never saw in life. More than I wanted books to do anything else, I wanted them to take me away." Indeed.

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