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The Library at Night

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  3,461 ratings  ·  577 reviews
Inspired by creating a library for his fifteenth-century home near the Loire, in France, the author tours from his childhood bookshelves to the Internet, from Ancient Egypt and Greece to the Arab world, from China and Rome to Google. He ponders the doomed library of Alexandria and personal libraries of Charles Dickens, Jorge Luis Borges, and others.

He recounts stories of
Hardcover, 373 pages
Published April 29th 2008 by Yale University Press (first published January 2006)
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 ·  3,461 ratings  ·  577 reviews

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Jeffrey Keeten
May 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-on-books
”When evening comes,” he wrote, “I return home and go into my study. On the threshold I strip off my muddy, sweaty, workday clothes, and put on the robes of court and palace, and in this graver dress I enter the antique courts of the ancients and am welcomed by them, and there I taste the food that alone is mine, for which I was born. There I make bold to speak to them and ask the motives for their actions, and they, in their humanity reply to me. And for the course of four hours I forget the wo ...more
Mar 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: spanish-american
Paradise in Danger

The Library at Night is my Bible, Quran and Vedic guide on the aesthetics of this somewhat odd institution called the library. Odd because the concept of a warehouse filled with printed volumes available for general consultation is a rather late development in European civilisation, and odd because it is a concept that seems to have run its course as that civilisation becomes more technological. For this latter reason alone Manguel's aesthetic observations are critical: someth
Alberto Manguel understands you.

He knows that you look at your shelves at night, remembering a favorite passage, or how you acquired a book, as your gaze moves across titles on spines in the moonlight.

He sympathizes with your attempts to figure out new ways to organize your books, a task that becomes more urgent and, at the same time, more impossible as time passes and your collection grows outside the spatial boundaries of your shelves, or perhaps even of your home.

He understands your frustrat
hey, what did you guys do on your friday night? get drunk? get laid? spend a quiet evening with friends? see a fillum??

me? oh, i just sat at home, nursing a sore back with painkillers, and decided to let my thoughts about cloud atlas percolate a little before writing a review for it, and decided to play a little booknerd game with myself. as part of my new year's resolution to finally get around to reviewing all the books on my "favorites" shelf, i scrolled through all of 'em until i came to the
Riku Sayuj

Dreaming The Perfect LIBRARY

The Quest & The Question

The starting point, Manguel says is a question. Few today can doubt that the main features of our universe are its dearth of meaning and lack of discernible purpose.

And yet, with bewildering optimism, we continue to assemble whatever scraps of information we can gather in scrolls and books and computer chips, on shelf after library shelf, whether material, virtual or otherwise, pathetically intent on lending the world a semblance of sense a
Nov 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I once dreamt an entire novel. It was brilliant - a mystery replete with private eyes, conniving crooks, and a plot line convoluted by betrayals and double-agentry galore. It was vivid. I woke up wondering where I was, which almost never happens, groggy and disoriented. It was difficult to gauge my place in reality. This dream had really enveloped my mind. I got out of bed and looked for a notebook so that I could take notes, but as I did so, the memory of the dream collapsed in on itself like a ...more
Algernon (Darth Anyan)
Aug 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, 2014
This is the best book to finish the year with.
I have read many great novels this year, but of all of them this last one has become a true friend, one I hope will remain by my bedside, to comfort and inspire me when darkness rules outside my shelter.

Review to follow. Until then, here's a few of the many quotes I saved :

But at night, when the library lamps are lit, the outside world disappears and nothing but this space of books remains in existence. To someone standing outside, in the garden, th
Lynne King
Feb 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The library in which I have at long last collected my books began life as a barn sometime in the fifteen century, perched on a small hill south of the Loire. Here, in the last years before the Christian era, the Romans erected a temple to Dionysus to honour the god of this wine-producing area; twelve centuries later, a Christian church replaced the god of drunken ecstasy with the god who turned his blood into wine… .

What a splendid beginning to a book about libraries. But Alberto Mangruel now he
Apr 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing
For anyone who loves books and reading this book will probably be delightful. I'm pretty sure that except for the intricacies of cataloging books (and how to be king of the file clerks in a company, something I'm going to forget I ever had the misfortune to learn as soon as the class is over, so we'll ignore that) everything I've learned in my 3 semesters of Library School is in this book, and generally presented in a much more enjoyable manner than any of the things I've been required to read s ...more
Lyn Elliott
Alberto Manguel has created a life space for himself in which he can read, muse on reading and books and write about them to share his musings. Libraries are complex beings. Most of us have our own collections of books, but would we call them libraries? Manguel can, he has built a large room specifically to house his collection, and where he likes to read at night, in a carefully contrived pool of light, surrounded by shadows and books.
But if you're like us, we have books in unmatched shelves i
Paul Secor
P. 72 - "To compensate for the deficient planning of the new main San Francisco Public Library, in which the architect had not allowed for a sufficiently large amount of shelving space, the administrators pulled hundreds of thousands (my italics) of books from the library's hold and sent them to a landfill. Since books were selected for destruction on the basis of the length of time they had sat unrequested, in order to save as many books as possible, heroic librarians crept into the stacks at n ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Great book although not a lot of new things if you've read any history of libraries. I was reminded of a book that brought me to tears - A Universal History of the Destruction of Books: From Ancient Sumer to Modern-Day Iraq - although Manguel also looks at positive events in book and library history. He also talks about building his own library.

The book is organized by topic - library at night, library as space, library as power - I found these topics to be more accessible than a typical histor
Adam Floridia
This is a book I'm tempted to add to my "Favorites" list, an honor even more prestigious than my "5-star-books" list. It's not that I don't have a few complaints about the book, but this may just have been the perfect book at the perfect time for me. Recently, Life (new job, new baby mainly) has been inhibiting my regular-reading and, dare I say, my ability to become absorbed in a good book, all of which has caused my book-a-week pace to fall to a pathetic book-or-two-a-month pace. That is why I ...more
Nov 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Otis
The greatest thing about any online site or program that allows a reader to create virtual shelves for books is that it allows the reader to create virtual shelves for books. If you have a library, a private library, than you know the contrasting feeling of joy of rearranging the books but also the terror of doing it. But you also know the joy of being surrounded by your books.
This is a book about books en masse for people who own them in masse. If you have two books, this is not the book for y
Sep 05, 2016 rated it liked it
It is imperative that I state you should dismiss my ratings when it comes to Manguel. It is personal as I find myself largely inept at comprehending the various references he makes. His knowledge is impressive and powerful and his understanding of literature infused with history even more so. With him, I have to research on the net as well but that's something I don't mind putting an effort into because this man doesn't ramble pompously about. Alberto Manguel delivers:-

"The power of readers lies
Jul 11, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-on-books
I found this book while browsing on Amazon and was immediately entranced by Manguel's opeing chapter in which he describes his personal library. He has converted a 15th century barn in the French countryside into a home for his books. Wow! How cool is that? For me, this is a dangerous book, as it gets me thinking..."Maybe someday I can buy a hobby farm in the picturesque rolling hills of the Wisconsin country side, convert the barn into a library, and spend hours in retirement exploring the dept ...more
Dec 30, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: crit
In my fool hardy youth, when my friends were dreaming of heroic deeds in the realms of engineering and law, finance and national politics, I dreamt of becoming a librarian.

I did not, but have always felt safe there, even when I walked into the bottom of a concrete staircase and was nearly knocked unconscious. There's unfortunately something mercenary about me. I love used bookstores more. I also leer at the books of other people when I am in their homes.

Manguel spends excessive time with the ph
Ultimately, the number of books always exceeds the space they are granted.
Alberto Manguel would be disturbed, if not outright horrified or disgusted, by my personal conception and execution of my library. The physical form is nothing more than a Ship of Theseus, alphabetically sorted by author surname and piled up wherever they happen to fit, equipped with a varying number of pairs of teeth depending on the number of books I am concurrently methodically whittling down at any given momen
Jan 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
Every library both embraces and rejects. Every library is by definition the result of choice, and necessarily limited in its scope. And every choice excludes another, the choice not made. The act of reading parallels endlessly the act of censorship.

A versatile book, brimming with ideas and references. Can be read straight through, or dipped into, chapter by chapter, according to inclination. Each chapter approaches the notion of "library" from a different angle: The Library as Order, The Library
Derek Shouba
Jun 02, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I can scarcely remember reading a better nonfiction book. This learned but often playful mediation on personal and public libraries is the perfect mix of personal reflection, historical research, and theoretical insight. The book really makes one reflect on one’s own book hoarding habits. The author’s History of Reading is also fantastic.
Aug 13, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
I got lost in the various libraries that Manguel opines on, much as I love meandering through brick & mortar libraries and savoring all the gifts before me. Full review to follow when I can get my thoughts together. But if you love libraries, this is a gem. The chapters are entitled The Library as: Myth, Order, Space, Power, Shadow, Shape, Chance, Workshop, Mind, Island, Survival, Oblivion, Imagination, Identity and Home.

I haven't read anything my Manguel before but I will be sure to access his
May 05, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, memoir
Here in postmodern Los Angeles, the way it works is this : Read up your Times Literary Supplement, NY Times Book Review, or others online, and tab over to the LA Public Library site. Do vague browses or specific searches of the extensive Catalog there, choose edition, version, hard/paperback, and put anywhere up to Thirty (!) titles on hold. Any branch in the metro LA area from which they are available will then put them in transit to your nearest, or most convenient branch-- your choice. Choose ...more
Apr 24, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canada, argentina
Alberto Manguel's examination of the whats, hows, whys and wheretos of libraries starts with his own private library, constructed from a mediaeval wall in France and filled with everything from ancient tomes to cheap paperbacks, and ends up... well, like a book version of a private library. He divides his book not by strict, Dewey-like categories, but rather by free association, tackling his subject from different angles. The shelves say the library as myth, the library as shadow, the library as ...more
May 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-i-own
Recently (the end of 2015), I decided that I want to try and read a little more non-fiction to try and broaden my knowledge of the world I actually live in. I will still always read and love fantasy, but I figure I should throw in a little reality into the mix. And so I decided to check this one out. While I make it sound like this was a whimsical read, to be fair I have owned this for about a year, waiting for the right time to jump into the cool history of libraries, or at least I thought that ...more
Jan 29, 2013 rated it liked it
I feel ambiguous about this exploration of libraries and their meanings. On one hand I'm deeply on the side of libraries - I've used and worked in libraries for nearly all my life and am emotionally bound up with them in undisentanglable ways. But there's a big difference between a public library and a private one, and that's where this book fell down in my estimation. What Manguel is building and talking about is his private library, which is a completely different thing from something that is ...more
Jul 01, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Praj, Sawyer, May, Maciek, Starcatcher, P_u_m_s, Gabrielle Koret, Andreea Ros
If you enjoyed reading his "A History of Reading," this might as well entertain you with lots of interesting quotes from various intellectuals, men of letters, bibliophiles, etc. in various centuries. Of course, you can admire his ideas, insights and inspirations regarding his looking at such different dimensions of "The Library".

The quote I like most, since I've never read it before, is the one by Francois Mauriac (p. 215) who bluntly states, "An old man is always a Crusoe" and of course I can'
Jun 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction-read
This is a must-read for librarians and a great read for anyone who loves libraries and the books therein. Manguel's scholarship is amazing, his writing talented, and his appreciation of libraries in all of their forms whole-hearted. If I were assembling a guest list for the perfect dinner party, Alberto Manguel would be at the top. He has an incredible ability to assimilate a vast amount of information, organize it in a totally logical order of exposition, and present it in such an interesting n ...more
Dec 12, 2009 rated it really liked it
Have you ever thought, "I love my grandpa, but wouldn't it be cool if he read five languages, had a Ph.d. in Comparative Literature or Philology, and lived in the French countryside, where he built his own library in a four-hundred year old stone barn?" Well, first, why don't you accept your grandpa for who he is, you miserable bastard? Second, by pick up this warm and wonderful book by just such a barbate and bespectacled old sweetie.

I can't imagine anyone on Goodreads could be wholly disintere
Oct 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: libraries
A book about books, for those who love books, for those who keep books, piles of books, your own books, your own personal library. This is a niche book, that only certain people would probably appreciate, and those people must love books.

This is a rambling journey through the author's personal library and his personal experiences with libraries, and with the history of libraries. This book 'almost' made it onto my "5-stars of love" shelf, but it fell just a little short. I wanted more. I am gree
Mar 07, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This is a book for book lovers, library devotees and collectors of books. Manguel talks about his own books and his ordering of his library as well as libraries around the world and throughout history. A lovely little meandering book.
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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). ...more

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