Thursday, December 27, 2007

Books for book lovers

If you are a true bibliophile, there are three new books on the shelves that you might enjoy:
Books on Fire: the destruction of libraries throughout history by Lucien X. Polastron chronicles the sad fate of libraries destroyed by man and nature. He begins with the Sumerian library at Nineveh, which was razed in 612 B.C. and then goes on to circle the globe and travel through time. Sadly, many of the libraries and collections he eulogizes were lost in the 20th century to wars, dictators and cultural upheaval. He concludes with an examination of the movement to digitize books and the supposed goal of a 'paperless society'.
After you have gotten depressed by reading about the destruction of books, then try Classics for Pleasure by Michael Dirda. This is not the scary reading list you received in Honors English class, but instead is a collection of essays extolling the virtues of almost 90 novelists and poets whose work has had a profound impact on society, culture and avaricious readers. If you are familiar with the writers on Dirda's list, you will be able to carry on witty dinner conversation at any table. (Everyone's goal in life, I'm sure)
For fans of nonfiction, we have The New Kings of Nonfiction edited by Ira Glass, host of This American Life on NPR. Nonfiction has moved beyond how-to manuals and dreary textbooks into a type of reality-based storytelling, and Glass includes some masters of the genre: Malcolm Gladwell, Chuck Klosterman, Dan Savage and Susan Orlean. The subjects of these essays and articles are wide-ranging, but they all share a compelling narrative and a gift for engaging the reader and getting to the bigger picture. There's a reason our nonfiction shelves are heavily used, and it's because of writers like those featured in this book.

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