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Reading Allowed by Chris Paling

2017, Constable

A few months ago, in order to catch up on my posting backlog, I banned myself from reading books. Being an addict, this wasn't easy or even totally possible but luckily, Reading Allowed, by its very title, gave me the permission needed to break the ban at the rate of one short chapter per night (69 chapters total).

Author Chris Paling recounts his experiences working as a local librarian, after quitting his job in London due to the long commute. The stories about library users ranging from the rich and famous to the homeless and hungry are entertaining, but also touching. We learn how important this free space is for students, mothers with children, isolated people, and those who have nowhere else to sit down and warm up for a bit; and that due to budget cuts these spaces are closing, and professional librarians being replaced by less knowledgeable volunteers. In spite of the many fascinating stories of library users, I most enjoyed the facts about libraries woven in between the lines, including details of historical libraries, the odd Mr. Dewey and his famous decimal system; the unsuspected complications of shelving books in alphabetical order; and which books make it to the shelves.

Books Most Regularly Stolen from Libraries

(according to numerous surveys, p. 193)

The Guinness Book of Records

The Bible

Books designed for exam prep (such as law-enforcement training manuals!)

"racy" books and manuals like the Kama Sutra

Art books with nudes


Art books without nudes

Reference works

Help for Hard Times (p. 285)

Six months after the start of WWII, library issues in Britain had risen by 20 to 50%.

In London, the closed Bethnal Green tube station was used for a library; 6000 clients per night came to peruse or borrow its 4000 volumes.

Mood Booster Books

(author Chris Paling surveyed his library customers, p. 160)

The Necessary Aptitude, Pam Ayres

Jonathan Livingston Seagull, Richard Bach

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and

Through the Looking Glass, Lewis Carroll

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Rachel Joyce

Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Jeff Kinney

The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern

Other Reading

(mentioned in Reading Allowed)

Irrepressible Reformer, Wayne A. Wiegand (bio of Melvin Dewey)

Dewey the Library Cat: A True Story (a cat is found in a book drop box)

Library Confidential, Don Borchert

Bella Bathurst 'The Secret Life of Libraries', in Gray (ed.), The Library Book, p. 75

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Kat Becker
Kat Becker
Apr 22, 2022

I’d like to get that for Dave!

Apr 22, 2022
Replying to

I can give lend you mine if you want. Let me know! Yes, I think he might like it. Nice to have a comment so quickly, thanks faithful friend and reader!

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