A deeply informative, stimulating volume.


A profusely illustrated, handsomely produced intellectual history.

Raven, a history professor and director of the Cambridge Project for the Book Trust, has drawn together scholarly essays offering a sweeping, erudite, and thoroughly engaging narrative focused on “how the book has been remodelled and reformed over time and in different parts of the world.” Beginning with evidence of the earliest writing in 3500 B.C.E. and ending with Google’s project to create a global, digitized library, the contributors consider the technologies and economics involved in textual production, distribution, and reception; varied uses of written material; censorship and piracy; and the ways that books reflect and shape the societies from which they emerge. “What do books do?” asks Eleanor Robson, a scholar of ancient Middle Eastern history, a question that underlies many essays, as does a more basic question: What is a book? Raven suggests that books “offer a durable, portable, or mobile, replicable and legible (that is, readable and communicable) means of recording and disseminating information and knowledge,” although he readily admits that evolving technologies may require a revision of even so capacious a definition. Legal, scholarly, religious, and literary texts survive from ancient times as parchment, scrolls, and steles, and, Robson notes, every literate society “supported a class of professional scribes who were not obviously economically productive.” The spread of basic literacy incited a desire for books. As cultural historian Ann Blair reveals in an essay about information management, readers looked for aids in finding content both within books and among them. The index and table of contents proved to be welcome new innovations, and with a huge proliferation of books resulting from printing, library catalogs became indispensable. Other contributors range across time and place, focusing on the Renaissance and Reformation, the Islamic world, and modern China, Japan, and Korea. In addition to the striking illustrations, Raven also includes a helpful 14-page timeline.

A deeply informative, stimulating volume.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-19-870298-6

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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


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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A concise personal and scholarly history that avoids academic jargon as it illuminates emotional truths.

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The Harvard historian and Texas native demonstrates what the holiday means to her and to the rest of the nation.

Initially celebrated primarily by Black Texans, Juneteenth refers to June 19, 1865, when a Union general arrived in Galveston to proclaim the end of slavery with the defeat of the Confederacy. If only history were that simple. In her latest, Gordon-Reed, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, and numerous other honors, describes how Whites raged and committed violence against celebratory Blacks as racism in Texas and across the country continued to spread through segregation, Jim Crow laws, and separate-but-equal rationalizations. As Gordon-Reed amply shows in this smooth combination of memoir, essay, and history, such racism is by no means a thing of the past, even as Juneteenth has come to be celebrated by all of Texas and throughout the U.S. The Galveston announcement, notes the author, came well after the Emancipation Proclamation but before the ratification of the 13th Amendment. Though Gordon-Reed writes fondly of her native state, especially the strong familial ties and sense of community, she acknowledges her challenges as a woman of color in a state where “the image of Texas has a gender and a race: “Texas is a White man.” The author astutely explores “what that means for everyone who lives in Texas and is not a White man.” With all of its diversity and geographic expanse, Texas also has a singular history—as part of Mexico, as its own republic from 1836 to 1846, and as a place that “has connections to people of African descent that go back centuries.” All of this provides context for the uniqueness of this historical moment, which Gordon-Reed explores with her characteristic rigor and insight.

A concise personal and scholarly history that avoids academic jargon as it illuminates emotional truths.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-63149-883-1

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: Feb. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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