A lively, authoritative cultural history.

THE LIBRARY

A FRAGILE HISTORY

A comprehensive history of the invention and reinvention of libraries.

Historians Pettegree and der Weduwen have created a capacious, deeply researched examination of collections of the written word. They begin with clay tablets in the Assyrian Empire of Mesopotamia and move to the digitized material probed by Google’s Alexa (named after the ancient library at Alexandria) to answer 500 million questions per day from customers around the world. The history of the library, the authors assert, “is not a story of relentless progress” or even of shared meaning about what a library should be, what it should contain, and whom it should serve. From ancient Greece to contemporary urban spaces, the authors offer a panoramic view of collections ranging from illuminated manuscripts in medieval monasteries to popular novels circulated in bookmobiles, from Oxford’s privately funded Bodleian Library to Andrew Carnegie’s extensive public library system. Collections often served as symbols of status and power; access to the San Marco library in 15th-century Florence, for example, “was restricted to literate male citizens of the city with scholarly interests.” Once the printing press made books affordable—9 million books were printed by 1500—appetite for ownership burgeoned, “fueled by universities and schools, movements of popular lay devotion and the steady growth of cities.” Still, before the 17th century, most libraries were privately held, occupying “spaces which were not originally constructed as rooms for books.” In a narrative packed with fascinating facts for bibliophiles, the authors recount the vulnerability of books to war, oppression, censorship, fire, and confiscation. Even collectors used to rid themselves of duplicates by recycling them “as wallpaper, bookbinding supports, wrapping paper or toilet paper.” Not until the advent of antiquarian booksellers was there an eruption of “bibliomania, frantic competitive bidding for the best and rarest copies of early printed books.” Faced with increasing digitization, libraries are more than merely public gathering spaces. “The health of the library,” write the authors, “will remain connected to the health of the book.”

A lively, authoritative cultural history.

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5416-0077-5

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2021

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Red meat, and mighty tasty at that, for baseball fans with an appreciation for the past and power of the game.

THE BASEBALL 100

Longtime sports journalist Posnanski takes on a project fraught with the possibilities of controversy: ranking the 100 best baseball players of all time.

It would steal the author’s thunder to reveal his No. 1. However, writing about that player, Posnanski notes, “the greatest baseball player is the one who lifts you higher and makes you feel exactly like you did when you fell in love with this crazy game in the first place.” Working backward, his last-but-not-least place is occupied by Japanese outfielder Ichiro Suzuki, whose valiant hitting rivaled Pete Rose’s, mostly a base at a time. As for Rose, who comes in at No. 60, Posnanski writes, “here’s something people don’t often say about the young Pete Rose, but it’s true: The guy was breathtakingly fast.” Thus, in his first pro season, Rose stole 30 bases and hit 30 triples. That he was somewhat of a lout is noted but exaggerated. Posnanski skillfully weaves statistics into the narrative without spilling into geekdom, and he searches baseball history for his candidate pool while combing the records for just the right datum or quote: No. 10 Satchel Paige on No. 15 Josh Gibson: “You look for his weakness, and while you’re looking for it he’s liable to hit 45 home runs.” Several themes emerge, one being racial injustice. As Posnanski notes of “the greatest Negro Leagues players....people tend to talk about them as if there is some doubt about their greatness.” There’s not, as No. 94, Roy Campanella, among many others, illustrates. He was Sicilian, yes, but also Black, then reason enough to banish him to the minors until finally calling him up in 1948. Another significant theme is the importance of fathers in shaping players, from Mickey Mantle to Cal Ripken and even Rose. Posnanski’s account of how the Cy Young Award came about is alone worth the price of admission.

Red meat, and mighty tasty at that, for baseball fans with an appreciation for the past and power of the game.

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982180-58-4

Page Count: 880

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 20, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2021

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