Published: 17th September 2020
This book was a total impulse buy. I came across it while browsing in a bookshop and after a few moments of deliberation I decided that I could not leave without it!
For as long as she can remember, Cathy Rentzenbrink has lost and found herself in stories. Growing up she was rarely seen without her nose in a book and read in secret long after lights out. When tragedy struck, books kept her afloat. Eventually they lit the way to a new path, first as a bookseller and then as a writer. No matter what the future holds, reading will always help.
Dear Reader is a moving, funny and joyous exploration of how books can change the course of your life, packed with recommendations from one reader to another.
For anybody who loves reading, this is something that really encapsulates all that you could possibly love about books. Told with an interesting mix of cosiness and candour, it acts as both an occasionally poignant memoir and a haven for useful recommendations, where fictional characters offer the perfect antidote to the pressures of day-to-day life.
Cathy Rentzenbrink has loved books for as long as she can remember. She talks of often being late for things on account of finishing a chapter or an entire novel, having to spend long periods of time alone reading, and frequently rereading many of her favourites as a source of comfort. In addition to that, she had an eventful career as a bookseller at some of the UK’s leading establishments.
The most emotional section was learning about how reading helped her to keep going after her brother was tragically killed in a road accident; the writing here was meaningful and affecting. It was also fascinating to learn of her parents and their deeply contrasting perspectives on literature, especially that of her father.
I really enjoyed the insight into what is like to work as a bookseller in London and organise events involving several of the world’s most popular and successful authors. There are some unusual or amusing anecdotes scattered throughout such as incidents which took place at book signings and having to speak to the media about a new release.
Due to her love of reading, Rentzenbrink was in the perfect position to give recommendations to customers, and we see that trend continue here as in between most chapters we are given short descriptions of her favourite books which follow a particular theme. It is an amazing repository for anyone who wants to discover a great read, although there are some minor spoilers involved.
Overall, while this book does not have to work very hard to impress its target audience, it is still an extremely pleasant and fulfilling read. Rentzenbrink shows self-awareness and maturity in the way she writes but also makes it fun, celebrating books with genuine feeling in a way that reflects the impact they have had on her life.
An avid reader and book lover, Cathy Rentzenbrink was born in Yorkshire and went on to work at Waterstones in Harrods and then at its flagship store in London’s Oxford Street. She now lives in Cornwall and has become a writer in addition to being Project Director of the charity Quick Reads and Associate Editor of The Bookseller magazine.
She has written two books about the impact of losing her brother Matty in a car accident when was a teenager, and in 2021 published a novel entitled Everyone Is Still Alive.
This was a relatively short and quick read, but lovely all the same. I enjoyed finding out about the author’s journey through books and how they have had such a significant say in her life.
My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Have you read Dear Reader? If so, what did you think? Let me know in the comments!