Reviewing By the Book by Romana Koval

January 20, 2013 § Leave a comment

It’s strange how our reading shapes the people we become. All those tomes read on a lazy Sunday afternoon or pages flipped into the wee hours of the morning have influenced our perceptions and views of the world. Some books come along at exactly the right time and seem as though they’ve been written especially for us and others impart wisdoms that don’t strike a chord in that moment, but we suspect are worth storing away for a later date.


By the Book is “Romana Koval’s love letter to reading”. Looking back at her experiences through the periscope of pages she’s read, Koval explores the role reading has played in her life and the paths it’s pulled her down. For one of Australia’s most well-known literary broadcasters much has changed since the long afternoons spent stretched across the floor of the Camberwell Mobile Library, but one thing stays the same: Koval’s love for the written word.

In her memoir, Koval reveals that reading is more than an escapist pursuit to her. It is the basis of her understanding of her mother and the key to a great many worlds she had never dreamt of. The books that Koval holds so dear provide insight into the person she is: an inquisitive and deep-thinking adventurer.

I found the most compelling part of Koval’s book to be her ability to draw parallels between the events in her life and the stories she’s read; each story revealing retrospective insights about the people most close to her and the decisions she’s made. Unfortunately, in the latter half of the book, Koval places less emphasis on making connections between her reading and experience in favour of exploring some of her favourite stories in greater detail, which are predominantly tales of exploration and survival.

While reading By the Book you cannot help but reflect on your own most treasured reads, questioning the extent of their influence on your perception of the world. And that is the delightful nature of Koval’s memoir. Not only does she openly and honestly reveal intimate details of her own life, but her observations about reading prompt the reader to question their own relationship with the written word. Any lover of books will appreciate Ramona Koval’s By the Book: A Reader’s Guide to Life. Just keep a pen handy for all the books you’ll want to add to your own reading list.


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