edited by
Email this review


A spirited collection of original essays extolling the virtues of the book and the “intoxicating power of the printed word.” Offered as an antidote to the clichÇ that books and reading are threatened by the proliferation of electronic information and entertainment sources, each essay stresses the personal connection of its author to favorite books, writers, genres, or reading practices. Many of the essayists express the pleasures associated with reading, but they also offer insight into how the reading of books helped them to develop both as intellectuals and as fully realized emotional beings. Reading is suggested as a road map to the human interior, which seems to be depreciated as society increasingly fixates upon the manipulation of visual surfaces and information. Of particular interest is “The Pleasures of Reading” by Joseph Epstein, who discovers the sensual nature of his reading practices only after attempting to listen to one of his own novels on an audiocassette. James Shapiro’s “The Sad Demise of the Personal Library” bemoans the conditions that make it more difficult for graduate students and part-time faculty to amass large private book collections like the one that he began in the 1960s with a load of books rescued from the back of a garbage truck. In “The Future of the Academic Book,” Gill Davies explores the connection between books and authorship, pondering how it has been affected by the advent of digital technology. The final verdict is that books will continue to be a nourishing element of the human experience for the foreseeable future. Book enthusiasts will find this collection (edited by Salwak, a professor of English at Citrus College, Calif.) both familiar and reassuring, while younger readers will find much here to inspire them to pursue what could become a lifelong passion for the printed word.

Pub Date: Aug. 30th, 1999
ISBN: 0-312-21884-2
Page count: 228pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1999