Kristen Northrup's Reviews > The Library at Night

The Library at Night by Alberto Manguel
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's review
Jan 03, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: nonfiction, information-science, fromlibrary
Read in February, 2010

This works particularly well as a bedside book, to read just a chapter at a time rather than all at once. And although it's interesting, it is nevertheless the sort of subject that helps you get to sleep. (In a good way, really.)

I flagged many interesting bits in the first 100 pages or so, then basically nothing for the middle, and a few again at the very end. I think this is in part because the subject matter inevitably begins to feel repetitive.

I made a note in the beginning that the introduction was remarkably cynical but in backtracking I can't tell why. I loved the incredible amount of detail that went into this. He recounts not just how he arranged his childhood books but many of their titles. There are many debate-provoking assertions from others, such as Virginia Woolf's argument that one can love learning or love reading but not both. And of course it's mostly full of interesting historical factoids, such as the irony of there being no record of the library of Alexandria itself -- the layout, the architecture, the classification system. Also a fascinating bit on the influence of light vs darkness on human interaction and on reading, particularly as an either/or.

I most enjoyed the discussions of how to arrange a collection. And Paul Masson is my new cataloging hero. But there are many more substantial sections, such as on censorship and cultural memory. Very re-readable, I think.

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