This week I decided to mix things up and recommend a non-fiction book. I’d like to share a quick story about how I came to know about this book and then read it. In 2001 I was working as a cataloging librarian for Dallas Baptist University. Our institution was one of many that were privileged to participate in a program sponsored by the Library of Congress. As most people probably know, the LOC receives copies of books published in the US for copyright purposes. Extra copies are offered to other countries in exchange for published items not held in the US, and those remaining are offered to other federal agencies. The ones left over after all of that are donated to non-profit organizations and institutions, like DBU. But you have to have someone available to choose the items from a vast warehouse outside of Washington, D.C. Back when I was cataloging, we had someone who volunteered to go to the warehouse once a month and choose books for us. When we received the boxes each month it was like Christmas! I would go through the boxes, organize the books and then add them to our library’s catalog. One of the books that caught my attention was Alberto Manguel’s A History of Reading, originally published in 1996. After adding it to our collection, I checked it out and read it. I liked it so much, I ended up buying a hard copy of the book to keep for myself.
To many of you, this title may sound like a very boring sort of book. But essayist Manguel has an almost mesmerizing style of writing, and his knowledge ranges wide and deep. He covers the magical essence of the act of reading, and the history of book creation and publication. The various chapters cover topics like the creation of ancient manuscripts, the development of the printing press, the use of fonts and their subtle meanings, the ways in which books are constructed, and much more.
My favorite chapter is titled “Ordainers of the Universe” — a chapter about libraries and librarians, of course! Manguel delves, at least briefly, into the history of libraries and why they are so important to the history of reading, as well as to its future.
Because reading is one of the most important and pleasurable things I do, I loved reading about reading in this terrific book. Manguel is a well-known bibliophile, and has written several other books about books and reading. I have read his The Library at Night, and found it very enjoyable. But it was not as all-encompassing or entertaining (at least to me) as A History of Reading.
Have you read this book? What did you think? Let me know!
PS: I didn’t post anything about TV last night because I was watching TV. My daughter and I binge-watched The Kettering Incident on Amazon Prime, and we had to finish. I’m going to talk about it next week, because this series fits one of my pet peeves — series that need a second season but haven’t been picked up for production by a network. UGH!