11 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Dull and Lacking in Charm,
This review is from: The Library at Night (Hardcover)Having been spellbound by A History of Reading, his fascinating and wide-ranging account of how reading has been part of life through the ages, I was pleased to find another work by Manguel on the matter of books, in this case libraries. And it is again wide-ranging and well researched, touching on libraries and book collections and collectors from ancient times to the present day, from mediaeval storerooms to the donkey library service of Columbia, along with many descriptions of Manguel's own library and his clear love affair with books and their keeping.
Ultimately though, I found this a disappointing work, a strange mix of too much detail and too little, too broad a topic and yet too many unimportant facts given; I also didn't find the writing style as enjoyable, this was dry and dull and referred to a dizzying range of works the reader is presumably familiar enough with to have them glossed in a few lines, to little effect. I actually skim read the final few chapters and was quite pleased to discover a large chunk at the end is given over to citations of other works consulted! The division into subtopics made it feel more like a collection of essays, several of which did indeed engage me, but I felt Manguel was trying too hard to make his work up-to-date. I disagree with his views on the Web and the effects of electronic archiving of books and writing - I've had access to a wider range of authors and ideas via Project Gutenberg and online journals than I would ever have managed with traditional libraries, and have read more, not less, as a result.
The flights of fancy he indulges in about the rustling of pages at night, the secret joy of losing oneself in a bookish world of dim light and cosiness while the world beyond the window sleeps is a pleasing image to any bibliophile, but his is not the book I would be curled up with, nor recommend to others. A book to browse in, maybe use as a springboard for wider reading but not destined to become an old friend.