Not Just Another Grouchy Grammarian

Musings about language, books, grammar, and writing in general

Review: Library: An Unquiet History, by Matthew Battles

Matthew Battles’ Library: An Unquiet History is a most fascinating book. In fact, I could not breeze through it as quickly as I’m used to, but had to stop every chapter or two to digest what I had read.

Battles covers so much more than one would expect — he looks at the effects societies have had on libraries, and that libraries have had on societies. He gives a pretty thorough overview of the varying schools of thought on the purpose of libraries, and a horrifying look at the way various libraries were destroyed — with the numbers of materials lost so staggering it was hard to get my head around them.

One of the more interesting tidbits (to me, anyway) was about the geniza, which is a kind of book tomb.While not a library in the strictest sense, the geniza is a repository for books (until they can be properly destroyed and disposed of) that are no longer usable. The value of the geniza is that it accepts all kinds of written materials – from kids’ coloring books to sacred texts – giving the searcher a much broader understanding of what life was like in that society.

I definitely recommend Library: An Unquiet History to anyone who loves books and libraries.

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