“Unlocking worlds: a reading companion for book lovers” by Sally Allen


The name of my blog sort of gives it away.  I read mostly FICTION.  However, the exception that proves the rule is that I read non-fiction if the subject matter is books. With “Unlocking worlds” I felt that I met a kindred spirit in the author, Sally Allen.

She writes: “As much as it is a real place, the United Kingdom is a place in my imagination cultivated from years of reading British literature.”  Wow!  Did she say that, or did I think it?  I am the daughter of a British war bride.  My mother instilled in me a love of reading that obviously remains with me still.  I grew up reading Rupert annuals that arrived as the very best Christmas presents from English relatives.  From there my reading progressed to ‘The secret garden“, and the like.  “Jane Eyre” is probably my MOST favorite novel. To this day I admit I prefer a novel set in the U.K.

“One task of fiction is to remind us of the virtues – of love and forgiveness, for example – and these can be portrayed just as well in an ongoing story of everyday life as they can on a more ambitious and more leisurely canvas.”

Allen writes about how the reading of fiction has progressed over the years.  Once it was so looked down upon that people would say things like “It’s only fiction”, or “It’s ONLY a novel”.  She expounds on the worthiness of classic literature while at the same time praising the more modern fiction and its merits.  In particular she writes about authors such as Helen Fielding, Alexander McCall Smith, Zadie Smith, Jo Baker, Nick Hornby and Jill Mansell.

She writes about ‘books about books’ such as her own.  Here she mentioned a few of my personal favorites “84 Charing Cross Road” and “The storied life of A.J. Fikry” among others.

“Discovering mutual understanding is one of the pleasures of reading books about the reading life.”

She admits to reading electronically but confesses that they cannot compare in one regard:  “…endless mysteries books pose as historical artifacts”
Years from now when historians look back at what people of our time were reading, their glimpses at our electronic documents will not have the same resonance as the heft of a real book.

Allen says of series fiction (in particular Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series) : “The best part about this literary feast is that, as it’s the first in a series, the adventures continue beyond the last page.”

She quotes Nina Sankovitch the author of “Tolstoy and the purple chair: my year of magical reading”: “Good books, illuminate universal human experiences, and, through this, connect readers across time, culture, and history.” “Reading provides us a way of connecting not only to friends and family but also to distant cultures, to the past, and to readers from around the world…” 

This reminds me yet again about how fortunate I feel to be among a worldwide community of super-supportive book bloggers.

Unlocking worlds” has also caused me to add several titles to my already gigantic TBR.  I feel that the author has so many book favorites that correspond with mine, that those titles she mentions that I haven’t yet read – I must!  One she mentioned was already on my TBR: “Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour bookstore“.  She suggests books for different times of year, in particular Halloween and Christmas.

She writes about how reading in public can lead to enthusiastic discussion with strangers and can in turn lead to a spontaneous moment of connection, not to mention, a book recommendation, exchange of ideas, or a new way of thinking.someone-reading-a-book-you-love

Also, she writes about social media and how it has caused readers to become more connected.  How readers like to look at pictures of books.  Nowhere is that more evident than on Pinterest.  I’m guilty of spending countless hours gazing on book jacket art, book quotes, and bookshelves of every shape and description.

She gives pointers on what to record if you want to maintain a reader’s journal.  Also, she confesses that she never goes ANYWHERE without a book.

She says she has been known to be drawn to an arresting book cover.  Whoops – has she channeled me again?  My Cover Love series of blog posts prove that I am very guilty of the same…

Allen says that ultimately, every reader brings his or her own imagination to the task of envisioning literary characters and settings.  Another way of saying:

Edmund Wilson quote

The author, who lives in New England tells us that (like me) her favorite season is the autumn.  She quotes Gustav Flaubert: flaubert-quote

She wraps up her lovely little book with the lament that we must reconcile with the inevitable… We can’t read ALL the books.  How do we deal with the anxiety about all of those unread books?  It is one thing to reconcile ourselves to the unpleasant reality that we cannot read all the books that we want to – and quite another thing to reconcile ourselves emotionally.meaning-to-read

In short, “Unlocking worlds” is a treatise on how reading enriches the life of the reader.

HIGHLY recommended for all bibliophiles and in particular…fictionophiles.


I received a digital copy of this book from Griffins Wharf via NetGalley.


sally-allenYou can follow Sally Allen on Twitter

Sally Allen has several other publications, many of them about her favorite subject, READING.

She leads book discussion groups, reading workshops, and creative writing workshops, both online and in-person.

Visit her blog:

About Fictionophile

Fiction reviewer ; Goodreads librarian. Retired library cataloger - more time to read! Loves books, gardening, and red wine. I have been a reviewer member of NetGalley since October 2013. I review titles offered by Edelweiss, and participate in blog tours with TLC Book Tours.
This entry was posted in Book Reviews, books about books, Choosing what to read next, Favorite books, Fiction, NetGalley, Quotations, Reading and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to “Unlocking worlds: a reading companion for book lovers” by Sally Allen

  1. Pingback: On reading and writing -

  2. Wonderful review – really effective!


  3. FictionFan says:

    Love the quotes – especially the one about books recommending people. 🙂


  4. This sounds great, brilliant post! I also love Jane Eyre, it has to be my favourite book of all time 🙂


    • Fictionophile says:

      Mind too. It is the one of the very few books I’ve every re-read. My favorite film adaptation was the BBC one starring Ruth Wilson.null


  5. Hfineisen says:

    I read this when it first came out and felt the same way. Enjoyed your review and will dig out my copy. Happy Reading!


  6. Absolutely fabulous post. Tweeted this on @bakeandwrite.


  7. Wow, what awesome post! I love spying on other peoples shelves.

    Happy Sunday!


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