Sunday, 1 December 2013

Review - The Library At Night

The Library At Night
Alberto Manguel
Publisher: Yale University Press
Pub. Date: 2006
ISBN: 0300139144
Pages:  373
Genre: Nonfiction/book on books and libraries
Source: Public Library
Literary Award: Bronze medal winner of the 2008 Book of the Year Award in the category of Architecture,
presented by ForeWord magazine.

If you read this page, it means there are lots of chances you love books, and probably books on books and libraries.
In this category, I had meant to read Manguel’s The  Library at Night for a while. And I was not disappointed when I finally did.
First, I had a real surprise when I found myself back in France: I had no idea that Manguel had bought a property in the Loire Valley; that’s where he decided to build his own personal library (of 35,000 books!) , in an old barn.
The book is divided in 15 chapters, 15 different ways of considering libraries form different points of view. Each chapter is entitled “The Library as…”.  Each begins with Manguel’s ideas on his own library, about each facet, and then he widens the topic by looking at this point in libraries throughout history and countries.
To be clearer, I will give the example of the 2nd chapter, entitled “The Library As Order”. 

In it, he starts by explaining how he decided to classify his own books in his library on his shelves. And then he explores this topic in history: how and when did we start classifying books, or papyri? What criteria have we been using throughout the centuries? Was it different in Egypt? In Asia? How do famous people or famous libraries do it?
Of course he has to talk about Dewey. I learned there fascinating things about Dewey, how young he was when he discovered the method that has had his name ever since, where he was when he discovered it – quite funny actually; I had not realized that he was the first one of thinking of using digits to classify books instead of letters only! Well, now I want to read Dewey’s biography!
The book is totally fascinating, rich with zillions of information, but always given in a very accessible and even fun way. Manguel also inserts great illustrations.
Nothing dry here, only delightful lines on books and libraries for the obsessed reader you probably are.
That would make a delightful Christmas gift for the readers among your friends.

 You can find here moredetails about the book and a few quotations I really liked.

*Disclaimer - I checked out this book at my public library*

About the Author:
Alberto Manguel (born 1948 in Buenos Aires) is an Argentine-born writer, translator, and editor. He is the author of numerous non-fiction books such as The Dictionary of Imaginary Places (co-written with Gianni Guadalupi in 1980) and A History of Reading (1996) The Library at Night (2007) and Homer's Iliad and Odyssey: A Biography (2008), and novels such as News From a Foreign Country Came (1991).

Manguel believes in the central importance of the book in societies of the written word where, in recent times, the intellectual act has lost most of its prestige. Libraries (the reservoirs of collective memory) should be our essential symbol, not banks. Humans can be defined as reading animals, come into the world to decipher it and themselves.

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