Dear Reader: The Comfort and Joy of Books by Cathy Rentzenbrink

Book Review Jul 31, 2020

My review

5/5 stars

This book was such a lovely way to spend my afternoon; I was immersed in it right from the first page. The author writes in such a way as to make you feel like you’re having a conversation with a friend - the flow between book recommendations and heart-rending personal anecdotes feels so natural that you don’t even realise it’s happening. I got a very open look into someone’s life and understood how reading had shaped them - it was charming and endearing. Her passion for reading seeps through the pages; it’s a love letter to reading - not just the books she’s read but the actual art of reading as a lifeline and not just a hobby. I related to so much of what the author shared that I found myself devouring page after page willing my son not to wake up from his nap before I could finish!  

Two particular quotes that stuck out for me are:  

"Reading built me and always has the power to put me back together again.”  


“People can be a bit snooty about the idea of books as a form of escapism, but I believe this is one of the great powers of literature: to comfort”

The first quote served to make me realise that I have neglected my own bookworm tendencies too much since the birth of my son a couple of years ago, and reminded me that I should prioritise that thing that brings me comfort and peace like no other (particularly now in a challenging season in my life), so this book has served to give me a lifeline in the way the author described so many other books helping her out in a tough spot.  

The second quote spoke to me on such a personal level, because escapism is exactly why I read and I often feel that it’s not ok to admit that because it detracts from me identifying myself as a reader. It was lovely, not only to read that someone else struggles with that too, but to have them affirm that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with approaching reading in that way.  

My only quibble is that I would have liked a more in-depth discussion on some of the books she covered. I found myself able to acknowledge some of them that meant more to her than others, but that wasn't always reflected in how much time she spent talking about them and I’m curious to explore that further (her writing made me want to know more). Despite that, my enjoyment of this book was still absolutely complete,  so much so that I enthused about it to my husband and starting quoting bits to him (this is rare as he is not bookish, so we don’t normally discuss what I’m reading).  

Would recommend this to anyone who has an interest in reading; it’s perfect for inspiring conversation about that eternally loved pastime with anyone who’ll listen.  

*I received an electronic advanced copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Book blurb

'Reading has saved my life, again and again, and has held my hand through every difficult time'

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.


You can buy the book here from 17 September 2020. It's being published by Picador.

If you want to know more about the author, you can check out her website, or find her on Goodreads.