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January 23 , 2010

By The Book: A reader's guide to life


By the Book is Ramona Koval's love letter to books and writing.

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What is it about reading that we love so much? Why do books make our lives so much richer?

Ramona Koval's By the Book is about reading and living, and about the authors that have written themselves into her life: from Oliver Sacks to Oscar Wilde, Christina Stead to Grace Paley. It is about learning to read (and asking her mother to buy her a copy of the Kama Sutra), about love and science (and her childhood ambition to be Marie Curie), about arctic exploration (and her ruminations on what part of a husky she would eat if she had to), about poetry and travel and falling in love.

In our book-devouring nation, this is a book for every avid reader and every avid listener who has been spellbound by Ramona's interviews over the years.

By the Book is quintessentially Ramona: warm, bright, erudite, unmissable.

Ramona Koval is a writer, journalist and broadcaster. She is the editor of Best Australian Essays and was the presenter of ABC Radio National's 'The Book Show' for many years. She now interviews writers for The Monthly's online book club.

'After 16 years as the host of Australian Broadcasting Corporation's The Book Show, Koval has a knack for conveying the essence of a book without spoiling it. She also recounts key exchanges with interviewees as diverse as Grace Paley, Oliver Sacks and Paul Theroux.' starred review Shelf Awareness

'By the Book takes us on intriguing journeys through books...The excitement with which Koval still approaches each new book, plunging in 'head first, heart deep', furnishes the last words of this urbane and enlightening work of her own.' Weekend Australian

'By the Book is a reminder of the role books can play in our lives. If you celebrate their contribution and appreciate their influence and artistry, then this is a story you will want to treasure. I certainly do.' Weekly Review

'A love letter to the act of ideal read for any bibliophile...Her tone is warm and inviting, just a touch short of wry...genuine and infectious.' Readings Monthly

'She's a shining presence in the world of literature, here in Australia and right across the globe...The book reads smoothly, it flows along from mood to mood, full of wit and beauty and grace...Her voice is always recognisable, invigorating, familiar to us and greatly loved: the voice of [a] highly literate woman.' Helen Garner

'As keen readers know, a book is more than an ordered pile of paper and cardboard - or these days, a collection of e-reader pixels. A companion, a refuge, a happy distraction, a gift to share - it can be all or any of these things, plus a bookmark of important times of one's life. The wise and warm Ramona Koval has written a literary memoir which focuses on this last quality, the books that marked and made her - from childhood through teens, student years to adulthood.' Australian Women's Weekly

'An irresistible study of the symbiotic relationship, for the bookish, between life and books...The voice is easily recognisable as the one we know from [Koval's] decades in radio: generous, warm and fearless.' Kerryn Goldsworthy, Australian Book Review

'The last chapters of By the Book reveal the quality of mind that made [Ramona Koval] such a brilliant interviewer, as much at home with scientists and travel writers as with novelists and poets.' Brenda Niall, Age

'Koval's enthusiasm bubbles from the page. It confirms the erudite and talented Koval is a treasure, whose voice is sorely missed on our airwaves.' Australian Bookseller and Publisher

'An entertaining, funny and instructive memoir about the real value of books.' Good Reading

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