I'm a sucker for books about books and libraries. One of my favorite was a history of shelving for books. I was absolutely enthralled with the evolution of book furniture from a table to a desk to a shelf to more shelves – well, you get the picture. But then again, I've already read a book about the potato and was almost as excited.
This little book is a nice set of ruminations and observations on libraries and books. It's a collection of short chapters – many one page essays, actually – about some aspect of books or libraries. It does remind me that while I do enjoy books and libraries, I am in no way bibliomanic in the way it describes – people that throughout history have bought books by the hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands. I am even getting to the point that I don't actually read – or enjoy reading – all that much. I enjoy books as a source of information, but increasingly have a hard time immersing myself in one – most notably fiction. My days of being obsessed by what I classify as "archaeology porn" seem to be gone.
No, that's not a reference to 1950's Playboys, but the subtype of fiction that is premised on the discovery of a lost archaeological artifact. The genre took off with Dan Brown's The DaVinci Code, but for some reason it just doesn't give the thrill it used to. I suppose at some point you've seen the lost tomb of Alexander the Great so many times that it's just not as interesting.
But that's really beside the point of this book, which is devoted to the physical book and its storage. Or maybe not – AP by Brown, Berry or Rollins is something that I'm more likely to read in e-form anyway – which Kells memorably analogizes to kissing a girl on the other side of a plate of glass. Well, perhaps he's right. I do recall less and less about the fiction I read when it's in electronic form. And I am increasingly interested in books in paper form again simply because the reading experience is better, and I enjoy having the book on the shelf afterwards. That's really the point of his book – that the preservation of the written words in physical form is worthwhile. And I certainly can't argue with that.