Unlocking Worlds, by Sally Allen

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Unlocking Worlds: A Reading  Companion for Book Lovers

We are happy to review Sally Allen’s book, Unlocking Worlds, as part of her current book tour.  The tour, hosted by iReadBookTours, runs November 16th to December 18th.  Do stop in at the author’s tour page here, to see where she has been and will be.  Each interview, article and review can be accessed there.

As a reader it is always so interesting to see what others read: What constitutes a favorite, what leads them to a particular author or genre, what brought them delight, just for starters.  Whenever you find one you’ve read too, you can’t wait to see what they have to say about it.  It never gets old.  It’s also an excellent method of finding new selections to read.  Unlocking Worlds: A Reading Companion for Book Lovers satisfies those needs wonderfully.

I admit I started the book a little backwards. As soon as I began to read the introduction, my curiosity insisted I look to see if there was an index showing which authors and books she included. There was. I spent some time perusing her list, finding several I’ve read, but a vast number I haven’t.

Among this  collection you will find both some classics and some recent bestsellers.  That too is part of the premise.  We each have different expectations in what we read. Ms. Allen will give you an idea why that is.

Were I writing a book such as this, many of my choices would be different.  Yours probably would be too.  That is the pleasure of reading, isn’t it?  There is no right or wrong in our choices, just differences, with the purpose of rousing a reader’s curiosity to read more.  It demonstrates the bounty of selection we have available to us.

Within the eighteen chapters you will find,

  • “Novels that play with time and space”…
  • “Books set in times of war”…
  • “Travelers Tales”…
  • “Novels about what happens when things fall apart”….

In addition, there are  books with a focus on Russian life, British books, college life and much more.  The bibliography itself is fun to explore.

One book the author mentions is “A Farewell to Arms.”  Were you aware that Ernest Hemingway rewrote the book with nearly forty different endings?  Even better, the book is available that way. In the Hemingway Library Edition it includes the endings and more.

Thoughts on Criticism

Perhaps the issue that I appreciated most was the author’s thoughtful comments on criticism. You will enjoy reading what she has to say about it.   She asks what the point is of criticism.  By the time the reader critiques it, it isn’t as though the author is going to change it. Therefore, doesn’t the criticism affects the critic more than the writer?

When you consider, it is clearly true. Once we find one thing we don’t like or feel is wrong, we may let it affect how we read the remaining pages.  We may stop enjoying a very good story, too busy watching for error. Yet nearly any book could be edited further.

How much more would we take from a book if we paid attention to what we liked and let go of the negatives. How much more might we learn or grow?

What Would Your Favorites Be?

It does make me wonder which you and I would choose. Try it for yourself. Can you pick your top 20 or 30 over your lifetime of reading?

The lesson of the criticism alone would make this book worthwhile. It will help to see past some errors found, to the lessons an author may have.

The book is well laid out so you can wander. You can read through the the usual way from the first page, or after reading the introduction and the basis, you can skip from section to section. If you have a favorite genre you can read that chapter first.

You will want to read it from start to finish too, as you would any book, since the author includes lots of interesting thoughts and tidbits you won’t want to miss.

However you read it, the book will be one you want to keep.  I can see it as a reference tool when I am indecisive about my choice. There are already post it notes here and there marking the books I will be reading eventually.

A book can be an inspiration years later, as with Ms. Allen. The story of Paddington Bear will show you how love of that book may have been what started her love of London and all things British.

“The power a book has to teach and to inspire should not be under valued.”

Reading her descriptions of many of the books encouraged me to add several to my list.  It was also interesting to read how the author saw some of the books I had read.  As she says, readers generally have their own favorites and love to discuss them.  When you find someone with similar tastes it is a treat to have their impressions as well.

Kindly Ms. Allen includes suggestions when you can’t decide what to read next.  Some excellent ideas there too.

Altogether a pleasure to read, and definitely one I will go back to time and again, to compare notes and to see what other novels I might still need to read. It’s lovely that the choices are never-ending.

Unlocking Worlds
Book Details:

Book Title:  Unlocking Worlds:  A Reading Companion for Book Lovers by Sally Allen
Category:  Adult non-fiction, 225 pages
Genre:  Books and reading
Publisher:  Griffins Wharf
Release date:  November 2015
Tour dates:  Nov 16 – December 18, 2015
Content Rating:  G

Book Description:

Award-winning writer and teacher Sally Allen knows that good books don’t just draw us in; they talk to us, shape us, and transport us to times, places, and minds different from our own.

In Unlocking Worlds: A Reading Companion for Book Lovers, Allen deftly weaves personal stories with fifteen thematized, annotated, and illustrated reading lists for what to read next. By sharing some of the treasures in her library and the secret lives they reveal, she gives us permission to embrace the shameless book lover inside each of us. Unlocking Worlds is a testament to how reading passionately—and compassionately—can unlock the world beyond our back yard. Celebrating books and those who read them, Allen shows how the solitary act of reading can be a powerful thread that creates community and connection. Thought-provoking and eloquent, Unlocking Worlds: A Reading Companion for Book Lovers is a must-have for anyone who can’t leave the house without a book in hand.

Buy the book:   Amazon   Barnes & Noble

Sally Allen About the author:

Award winning writer and teacher Sally Allen holds a Ph.D. from New York University in English Education, with an emphasis in writing and rhetoric, and a M.A. in English Language and Literature. She teaches writing, literature, and communications, leads book group discussions, and is the founder and editor of Books, Ink at HamletHub.

Connect with the author:  Website   Twitter




Merry Citarella, often writing as Merrci, writes on a wide range of topics. Recently relocated to the Oregon Coast in the northwest United States, she frequently writes travel features on the beautiful Pacific Northwest. She specializes in health and aging, Alzheimer’s Disease, food, lifestyle, and book reviews. For more information you can see her on The Writers’Door. You can read more articles here or at her websites Mystery Suspense Reviews .

Author: Merry Citarella

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1 Comment

  1. Thank you for this very thoughtful and considered review. It’s so heartening to hear that the book resonated with you. I was especially happy reading your response to my discussion of criticism and its purpose: “How much more would we take from a book if we paid attention to what we liked and let go of the negatives. How much more might we learn or grow?” These are beautiful and important questions. It can be hard to let go of the negative, and yet what amazing experiences can follow when we do!

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