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A best-selling author and world-renowned bibliophile meditates on his vast personal library and champions the vital role of all libraries In June 2015 Alberto Manguel prepared to leave his centuries-old village home in France’s Loire Valley and reestablish himself in a one-bedroom apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Packing up his enormous, 35,000‑volume personal lib A best-selling author and world-renowned bibliophile meditates on his vast personal library and champions the vital role of all libraries In June 2015 Alberto Manguel prepared to leave his centuries-old village home in France’s Loire Valley and reestablish himself in a one-bedroom apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Packing up his enormous, 35,000‑volume personal library, choosing which books to keep, store, or cast out, Manguel found himself in deep reverie on the nature of relationships between books and readers, books and collectors, order and disorder, memory and reading. In this poignant and personal reevaluation of his life as a reader, the author illuminates the highly personal art of reading and affirms the vital role of public libraries.   Manguel’s musings range widely, from delightful reflections on the idiosyncrasies of book lovers to deeper analyses of historic and catastrophic book events, including the burning of ancient Alexandria’s library and contemporary library lootings at the hands of ISIS. With insight and passion, the author underscores the universal centrality of books and their unique importance to a democratic, civilized, and engaged society.


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A best-selling author and world-renowned bibliophile meditates on his vast personal library and champions the vital role of all libraries In June 2015 Alberto Manguel prepared to leave his centuries-old village home in France’s Loire Valley and reestablish himself in a one-bedroom apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Packing up his enormous, 35,000‑volume personal lib A best-selling author and world-renowned bibliophile meditates on his vast personal library and champions the vital role of all libraries In June 2015 Alberto Manguel prepared to leave his centuries-old village home in France’s Loire Valley and reestablish himself in a one-bedroom apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Packing up his enormous, 35,000‑volume personal library, choosing which books to keep, store, or cast out, Manguel found himself in deep reverie on the nature of relationships between books and readers, books and collectors, order and disorder, memory and reading. In this poignant and personal reevaluation of his life as a reader, the author illuminates the highly personal art of reading and affirms the vital role of public libraries.   Manguel’s musings range widely, from delightful reflections on the idiosyncrasies of book lovers to deeper analyses of historic and catastrophic book events, including the burning of ancient Alexandria’s library and contemporary library lootings at the hands of ISIS. With insight and passion, the author underscores the universal centrality of books and their unique importance to a democratic, civilized, and engaged society.

30 review for Packing My Library: An Elegy and Ten Digressions

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jeffrey Keeten

    ”The discovery of the art of reading is intimate, obscure, secret, almost impossible to explain, akin to falling in love, if you will forgive the maudlin comparison. It is acquired by oneself alone, like a sort of epiphany, or perhaps by contagion, confronted by other readers. I don’t know of many more ways. The happiness procured by reading, like any happiness, cannot be enforced.” I’ve often wished that I could infect other people with my passion or enthusiasm about reading. A book begins talki ”The discovery of the art of reading is intimate, obscure, secret, almost impossible to explain, akin to falling in love, if you will forgive the maudlin comparison. It is acquired by oneself alone, like a sort of epiphany, or perhaps by contagion, confronted by other readers. I don’t know of many more ways. The happiness procured by reading, like any happiness, cannot be enforced.” I’ve often wished that I could infect other people with my passion or enthusiasm about reading. A book begins talking to me the moment I touch it. The language of books is not just the words on the pages, but the shape of the book, the heft of the book, the braille to be interpreted from rubbing my fingers over the scars of its passage through life, and the cornucopia of scents, whether it is that fresh new book smell or the aromas accumulated over time of pipe smoke, aging paper, or the hint of dampness from a New England winter. My enjoyment of the book commences before I even read the first word. Alberto Manguel has 35,000 volumes of books. This is a staggering number of books. I’ve accumulated just over 4,300 books. I’m considered by many to be obsessively insane about books. I counter with Nicholas Basbanes term, that I’m “gently mad”. The problem, of course, is, if I am considered insane, how do you establish a word that is definably different for someone who is approximately eight times worse? I have a feeling that we would just end up in the same padded cell or, with any luck, two voluminous cells with books on the walls instead of padding. We can meet for a light lunch, split a bottle of wine, and exchange volumes, although neither one of us is very good about lending books because there is no such thing as lending—books rarely return to the lender. Of course, if this is a prison, the best way to torture a bibliophile is to take away what he obsesses about. Yes, I will miss having books, but you see, the damage has already been done. I have all these wonderful stories embedding in the framework of my mind. They will have to open up my brain and extract them with tweezers, one by one, and they will never, ever get them all. Something Wicked this Way Comes The Odyssey Anna Karenina The Portrait of a Lady Macbeth Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Beowulf David Copperfield Crime and Punishment Mrs. Dalloway The Great Gatsby Moby Dick Good luck yanking Mr. Hyde out of my mind. The surgeon may lose a finger or maybe an arm trying to extract Beowulf, who will cling to the dragon masthead of his ship like a barnacle. How about chasing down that white whale who plows the seas of my literary memory? Call me Ishmael, or whatever you want to call me, as long as you give me a book. Separating me from my literary memories will be a dangerous and fruitless task. Lock me up in a cubicle during the day, and let me roam the stacks of the Library of Congress at night. Like the Count from The Gentleman in Moscow, I will accept my punishment, and I will promise to never leave. But I digress. Manguel has found the perfect place for his library in France. ”The walled garden was an extraordinarily quiet place. Every morning at about six, I would come downstairs, still half-asleep, make myself a pot of tea in the dark rafted kitchen, and sit with our dog on the stone bench outside to watch the morning light creep along the back wall. Then I would go with her into my tower, which was attached to the barn, and read. Only the song of birds (and in summer, the drone of honeybees) broke the silence.” This ancient fifteenth century barn houses his books. Birds and bats fly about, but then beggars can’t be choosers when one has 35,000 volumes seeking shelter. So the basis of the book is the fact that he is moving to New York City (this is baffling because someone would have to knock me unconscious, roll me up in a rug like Cleopatra, and throw me on a steamship to Istanbul to extract me from this place in France) to a small apartment, and 35,000 volumes will not fit, even if he is willing to sleep standing up. He then moves from NY to Buenos Aires to take up a post that his mentor Jorge Luis Borges once held overseeing the library system. It is interesting how reading works. I read Ficciones just before starting this book. It is like having lingering scenes from the dreams the night before spilling over into my current musings. Like this review, Manguel has a series of digressions while working out the inherent problems with moving a ginormous library. One story he shares is oddly comforting. ”My Latin teacher would say, ‘We must be grateful that we don’t know what the great books were that perished in Alexandria, because if we knew what they were, we’d be inconsolable.’” Good advice, but of course, Manguel can’t help but obsess about the losses anyway.”Almost certainly among those lost was Homer’s comic epic the Margites, which for Aristotle was the predecessor of all comedies. Also gone are most of the works by the major Greek dramatists. According to ancient sources, the library held 90 plays by Euripides, 70 by Aeschylus and 13 by Sophocles. Of this vast collection, other than scattered fragments, only 18 plays by Euripides, 7 by Aeschylus, and 7 by Sophocles have come down to us in their entirety.” *Sigh* Think of the impact that what we do have from these erudite writers has had on literature, but also how we view ourselves. In the millions of books that have been published since, have we found their wisdom through the thoughts of our writers? Who can say? I will leave you with one last thought, which might very well apply to this review. ”In the nineteenth book of the Odyssey, Penelope speaks of dreams and says that they come forth through two gates: one made of burnished ivory, for the dreams that deceive us, and one of glistening horn, for the dreams that tell us the truth. Perhaps writers must content themselves with using only the ivory gate to chronicle their dreams, truly dreamt or invented, and yet knowing that their craft consists in telling lies. Except that the lies told by writers are not untruths; they are merely not real. In Dante’s words, ‘Not false errors.’ The distinction is important.” If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com I also have a Facebook blogger page at:https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten

  2. 4 out of 5

    Diane Barnes

    A brilliant set of essays on the importance of books, reading, and libraries. "It is true that, confronted with the blind imbecility with which we try to destroy our planet, the relentlessness with which we inflict pain on ourselves and others, the extent of our greed and cowardice and envy, the arrogance with which we strut among our fellow living creatures, it is hard to believe that writing—literature or any other art, for that matter—teaches us anything. If after reading lines such as Larkin’ A brilliant set of essays on the importance of books, reading, and libraries. "It is true that, confronted with the blind imbecility with which we try to destroy our planet, the relentlessness with which we inflict pain on ourselves and others, the extent of our greed and cowardice and envy, the arrogance with which we strut among our fellow living creatures, it is hard to believe that writing—literature or any other art, for that matter—teaches us anything. If after reading lines such as Larkin’s “The trees are coming into leaf, / Like something almost being said,” we are still capable of all such atrocities, then perhaps literature does make nothing happen." "Like the Greeks, we allow ourselves to be governed by sick and greedy individuals for whom death is unimportant because it happens to others, and in book after book we attempt to put into words our profound conviction that it should not be so." "Of course, literature may not be able to save anyone from injustice, or from the temptations of greed or the miseries of power. But something about it must be perilously effective if every dictator, every totalitarian government, every threatened official tries to do away with it, by burning books, by banning books, by censoring books, by taxing books, by paying mere lip-service to the cause of literacy, by insinuating that reading is an elitist activity. William Blake, speaking about Napoleon in a public address, had this to say: “Let us teach Buonaparte, and whosoever else it may concern, that it is not Arts that follow and attend upon Empire, but Empire that attends and follows the Arts.” There are too many wonderful passages to quote, but I thought these three had some relevance in today's world. I just wish everyone could understand the importance of reading.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Bettie

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09y... Description: Alberto Manguel has had consistent 5-star ratings for his books on reading, books and libraries. With regret, he packs up his library of 35,000 volumes and prepares to move from a vast property in rural France to a small apartment on Manhattan's West Side. Choosing which books to keep, store, or cast out, Manguel finds himself in deep reverie on the nature of relationships between books and readers, books and collectors, order and disorder, mem https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09y... Description: Alberto Manguel has had consistent 5-star ratings for his books on reading, books and libraries. With regret, he packs up his library of 35,000 volumes and prepares to move from a vast property in rural France to a small apartment on Manhattan's West Side. Choosing which books to keep, store, or cast out, Manguel finds himself in deep reverie on the nature of relationships between books and readers, books and collectors, order and disorder, memory and reading. In this poignant re-evaluation of his life as a reader, he illuminates the highly personal art of reading and affirms the vital role of public libraries. Manguel's musings range widely - from delightful reflections on the idiosyncrasies of book lovers to deeper analyses of historic and catastrophic book events, including the burning of ancient Alexandria's library and contemporary library lootings at the hands of ISIS. With insight and passion, the author underscores the universal centrality of books and their unique importance to a democratic, civilised, and engaged society.⭐⭐⭐⭐ We should be grateful that we do not know what was destroyed in the fire at Alexandria, because we would be inconsolable" Numinous is an English adjective, derived in the 17th century from the Latin numen, that is (especially in ancient Roman religion) a "deity or spirit presiding over a thing or space". Meaning "denoting or relating to a numen", it describes the power or presence or realisation of a divinity. WL The Library at Night MB Stevenson Under the Palm Trees 4 Packing My Library

  4. 5 out of 5

    St Jerome

    “Maybe this is why we read, and why in moments of darkness we return to books: to find words for what we already know.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Anton

    One more unplanned serendipitous encounter...And what a delight! A glorious ode to books, libraries, reading, and the power of written word. Utterly enchanting from the first page. A perfect gift for a bibliophile (if you are in search of one😉) 5 ⭐️

  6. 4 out of 5

    notgettingenough

    I was drawn to this article: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-07-30..., both the words, and unusually for me since I'm more print than picture motivated, the shots of his library. It's exactly what I want. I've never had a library, I've only ever had books everywhere, which isn't the same thing at all. Right now we have a 6m x 3m garage we are planning to turn into this thing, a library. A place which has no purpose at all other than to be with books. And I'm hoping to add this book to the shelves I was drawn to this article: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-07-30..., both the words, and unusually for me since I'm more print than picture motivated, the shots of his library. It's exactly what I want. I've never had a library, I've only ever had books everywhere, which isn't the same thing at all. Right now we have a 6m x 3m garage we are planning to turn into this thing, a library. A place which has no purpose at all other than to be with books. And I'm hoping to add this book to the shelves once I get my hands on a copy.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Lobstergirl

    "In June 2015 Alberto Manguel prepared to leave his centuries-old village home in France’s Loire Valley and reestablish himself in a one-bedroom apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Packing up his enormous, 35,000‑volume personal library, choosing which books to keep, store, or cast out," begins the book description. That was the book I wanted to read - the book I thought I was going to be reading, titled Packing My Library. Because this would be my personal nightmare, having to move all my "In June 2015 Alberto Manguel prepared to leave his centuries-old village home in France’s Loire Valley and reestablish himself in a one-bedroom apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Packing up his enormous, 35,000‑volume personal library, choosing which books to keep, store, or cast out," begins the book description. That was the book I wanted to read - the book I thought I was going to be reading, titled Packing My Library. Because this would be my personal nightmare, having to move all my books and get rid of enormous numbers of them, I wanted to read about how someone else went through the process. What books did they keep? What did they sell on ebay? What went right into the dumpster? This hope turned out to be delusional. Only on the penultimate page, in the Acknowledgements (!), did Manguel address the "packing my library" part. And he didn't even do the packing! "And then in the final months, when it came time to close down, several [of my friends] came to catalogue the library as it had been in its prime, and organized themselves into teams to take the books off the shelves, wrap them in protective paper, place them in boxes with the appropriate labels, and make maps of where they had stood..." I have to wean myself off this self-indulgent genre - bookish people Talking About Their Books, and all the supraliterary digressions Their Books conjure up. Already in the first chapter - the "elegy" - I felt resentful of the author luxuriating in a deep tub of his albertomanguelness. It takes a unique writer to pull off this genre. Manguel isn't.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    "In my library, I felt surrounded by this "silent majority" (as Homer called the dead), a vast flock of pages that helps they keys to my past and instructions for my present..." From PACKING MY LIBRARY: An Elegy and Ten Digressions by Alberto Manguel / 2018, Yale University Press The meta delight of bibliophiles - reading a book about books! Manguel, who has written widely on the history of reading, literary criticism, and the art of translation tells slices of his own life through the books in hi "In my library, I felt surrounded by this "silent majority" (as Homer called the dead), a vast flock of pages that helps they keys to my past and instructions for my present..." From PACKING MY LIBRARY: An Elegy and Ten Digressions by Alberto Manguel / 2018, Yale University Press The meta delight of bibliophiles - reading a book about books! Manguel, who has written widely on the history of reading, literary criticism, and the art of translation tells slices of his own life through the books in his libraries with this slim collection of essays. Argentine by birth, Manguel primarily writes in English. The "Elegy" in the title refers to the loss of books and libraries - his own through time and space, but also those of our civilization. The fires, wars, and floods - the Library of Alexandria amongst other examples - the loss of knowledge, how we don't even know what we've lost. The "Digressions" range from memoir to musings: ▫️his own youth in Buenos Aires, a reading assistant to Jorge Luis Borges, who hired him to read to him as his blindness developed ▫️his schooling in Canada and interest in Quebequois language and culture ▫️Jewish folklore of the golem and the power of word creation ▫️ Love letter to dictionaries ▫️ His appointment and work as the Director of the National Library in Buenos Aires in 2015, and continued work in literacy, collection development, and preservation I read some of Manguel's work when in library school over a decade ago. Happy to be reacquainted, and really interested to pick up his long-form essay that discusses his years reading to Borges, *With Borges*. A fascinating and contemplative book on the power of the word, the power of the book, and a clarion call to keep reading widely, deeply, and with purpose. Alright Alberto, mission accepted.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kathy

    My first reading of this author, a man who knows and loves books. The intro to the book covers a lovely description of where he lived in France for 15 years and maintained his substantial library in a barn. The digressions are various and rich with the history of books and libraries. Dante and Kafka figure into the thoughts shared in a rambling discourse covering time before creation from the Word of God to his grandmother's words of comfort. My first reading of this author, a man who knows and loves books. The intro to the book covers a lovely description of where he lived in France for 15 years and maintained his substantial library in a barn. The digressions are various and rich with the history of books and libraries. Dante and Kafka figure into the thoughts shared in a rambling discourse covering time before creation from the Word of God to his grandmother's words of comfort.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Nell Beaudry

    Cher M. Manguel, I think I might be in love with you. It's possible that that's an exaggeration, but if it is, it's only slight. You've captured, perfectly, the aboutness of reading, of being a reader, and of being an owner of books. I, too, am a many-book-owning librarian, and I know that that's a funny thing. But in this, a love letting to owning books, to picking up a sheaf of well-thumbed, bound pages, and finding not only a familiar story but a familiar time, place, drop of orange juice from Cher M. Manguel, I think I might be in love with you. It's possible that that's an exaggeration, but if it is, it's only slight. You've captured, perfectly, the aboutness of reading, of being a reader, and of being an owner of books. I, too, am a many-book-owning librarian, and I know that that's a funny thing. But in this, a love letting to owning books, to picking up a sheaf of well-thumbed, bound pages, and finding not only a familiar story but a familiar time, place, drop of orange juice from breakfast at your grandmother's kitchen table, tears along the sternum of the book between chapters two and three, you have articulated perfectly why the ownership of books, and their absence, can be such an emotional thing. I also very much enjoyed your digressions, which were as informative as they were charming, slipping perfectly within the notched out spaces in your story. The final section on what a national library can be, should be, was the most powerful for me. Nailed it. Re. the usual review things: lucid, luminous writing, a careful unpacking of feelings that never feels overwhelming but always feels deep enough, and a meticulously crafted narrative interspersed with contextualizing digressions on readership and ownership. Worth the read if you're a librarian, a reader, a book lover, or breathing. Merci bien pour quelques heures passées tranquillement, avec un livre extraordinaire.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth A

    2020 Nonfiction November Book #2. I listened to the audiobook, which was narrated by James Cameron Stewart. This memoir/collection of mini essays is a brilliant ode to books, readers, writers and libraries. I was mesmerized and delighted the entire time, and while I'm not well read enough to get every single reference, this felt like a wonderful interlude with a well read, erudite stranger, who makes you want to be a better reader and person. I loved everything about this one. 2020 Nonfiction November Book #2. I listened to the audiobook, which was narrated by James Cameron Stewart. This memoir/collection of mini essays is a brilliant ode to books, readers, writers and libraries. I was mesmerized and delighted the entire time, and while I'm not well read enough to get every single reference, this felt like a wonderful interlude with a well read, erudite stranger, who makes you want to be a better reader and person. I loved everything about this one.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    Loc 85: Borges observed in an early essay that a translation can be understood as equivalent to a draft, and that the only difference between a translation and an early version of a text is merely chronological, not hierarchical: where the draft precedes the original, the translation follows it. Loc 158-159 "Books delight one in depth, run through our veins, advise us and bind us in a kind of active and keen familiarity; and an individual book does not insinuate itself alone into our spirit, but le Loc 85: Borges observed in an early essay that a translation can be understood as equivalent to a draft, and that the only difference between a translation and an early version of a text is merely chronological, not hierarchical: where the draft precedes the original, the translation follows it. Loc 158-159 "Books delight one in depth, run through our veins, advise us and bind us in a kind of active and keen familiarity; and an individual book does not insinuate itself alone into our spirit, but leads the way for manu more, and thus provokes in us a longing for others." Petrarch Loc 291 If unpacking a library is a wild act of rebirth, packing it is a tidy entombment before the seemingly final judgment. Loc 1008-1013 Every translator knows that passing from one language to another is less an act of reconstruction than one of reconversion, in the profoundest sense of changing one's system of belief. Loc 1053 Jean Cocteau, with becoming parsimony, judged that a simple dictionary was enough to contain a universal library, because "every literary masterpiece is nothing but a dictionary out of order." Loc 1077-1081 If books are our records of experience and libraries our depositories of memory, a dictionary is our talisman against oblivion. Loc 1136 The imaginary reality of book contaminates every aspect of our life. We act and feel under the shadow of literary actions and feelings, and even the indifferent states of nature are perceived by us through literary descriptions, something John Ruskin called "the pathetic fallacy."

  13. 4 out of 5

    Ilana

    A wonderful reflection on books and reading by a man who made it his lifelong passion to collect books from childhood onwards and then had to pack away his personal library of over 35,000 volumes in his seventh decade when a move became necessary. Thinking of what this temporary loss means to him and then ten digressions about such things as the loss of another great historical library, the Library of Alexandria, and what works it is known to have housed; the notion that authors must suffer to w A wonderful reflection on books and reading by a man who made it his lifelong passion to collect books from childhood onwards and then had to pack away his personal library of over 35,000 volumes in his seventh decade when a move became necessary. Thinking of what this temporary loss means to him and then ten digressions about such things as the loss of another great historical library, the Library of Alexandria, and what works it is known to have housed; the notion that authors must suffer to write; writing about dreams convincingly; a piece on dictionaries and so on, which all make for fascinating reading. The whole is necessarily melancholy in tone, and though a slight volume, it is quite densely packed with thoughts and ideas, and my approach of reading just a few pages each day seemed to be the perfect pace to take it all in. I decided early on that I’d love to read more work by Manguel. 4.5 stars. Wouldn’t mind revisiting this one eventually too.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Julia Nock

    If this weren't a library book, there are so many wonderful things I would have underlined to revisit. Standing on the shoulders of Walter Benjamin's 1931 essay of the same name, Manguel also is packing up and leaving a beloved library. In the process he remembers books and libraries from the past- the many incarnations of his personal library from childhood on, the lost library of Alexandria, imaginary libraries. He writes about the meaning of books and reading through history and into the futu If this weren't a library book, there are so many wonderful things I would have underlined to revisit. Standing on the shoulders of Walter Benjamin's 1931 essay of the same name, Manguel also is packing up and leaving a beloved library. In the process he remembers books and libraries from the past- the many incarnations of his personal library from childhood on, the lost library of Alexandria, imaginary libraries. He writes about the meaning of books and reading through history and into the future (he is now the director of the National Library of Argentina). He brings his wide and deep erudition to his subjects of books, writing, reading, libraries, history, memory, and civilization, as well as the strong influence of Borges, who preceded him as Library Director. Despite what could be all this heavy freight, the book is a pleasure to read and think about.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Antonio Delgado

    Alberto Manguel is a captivated reader who knows how to captivate his readers. Let’s not be fool by the simplicity of this book. Within its digressions and personal stories, Manguel deploys erudition on every single page. For any bibliophile, reading Manguel’s text is like taking to a friend: it is personal and intimate.

  16. 5 out of 5

    JZ

    What a wonderful book! Because I've been doing a lot of reading for about 18 months or so, I'm developing my own 'philosophy of reading.' I find that reading really is spoiling me for wanting to do other things. Downloadable audiobooks make it so that I don't even have to get dressed to go to the library to pick things up, and failing faculties make listening the ideal pastime. I'm becoming a hermit, and more content to continue in that direction. Whether you think you know how you feel about boo What a wonderful book! Because I've been doing a lot of reading for about 18 months or so, I'm developing my own 'philosophy of reading.' I find that reading really is spoiling me for wanting to do other things. Downloadable audiobooks make it so that I don't even have to get dressed to go to the library to pick things up, and failing faculties make listening the ideal pastime. I'm becoming a hermit, and more content to continue in that direction. Whether you think you know how you feel about books, this gives food for thought on how we consume those tomes. A definite rereader. I recommend this to someone wanting to really think about relating to reading, books, and society's responsibilities toward libraries as saviours of knowledge.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Alexandra

    "and again and again, empires fall and literature continues." 😭📚 wow. this is the first book i have read by alberto manguel and i am blown away by how he presents his thoughts about the importance of literature and libraries in such an articulate and intelligent way. this is a book for true book lovers, who have spent their whole lives enamored with reading and books, and who can't even remember a time in their lives when they didn't love to read. manguel talks about the process of dismantling hi "and again and again, empires fall and literature continues." 😭📚 wow. this is the first book i have read by alberto manguel and i am blown away by how he presents his thoughts about the importance of literature and libraries in such an articulate and intelligent way. this is a book for true book lovers, who have spent their whole lives enamored with reading and books, and who can't even remember a time in their lives when they didn't love to read. manguel talks about the process of dismantling his 35,000 volume library that he set up in a barn on his property in france. he was going to be moving away and needed to choose which books to take with him, and which had to be donated or given away. during this time, which for him apparently was a very harrowing experience (he admits to placing high importance on owning all the books he reads), he muses on a variety of different topics, which can be found in his "digressions." he discusses things like the great library of alexandria, what a national library should be and what it should offer its citizens, the importance of literacy throughout the ages, and his own personal experiences with reading his particular copies of books. this is a very short book but it will make any book lover salivate 🤤📚 while some of the digressions got *a little* boring or seemed to veer off course more than my tired brain could follow properly, i thoroughly enjoyed every word. the contents of this book are the type of conversation i'd like to have with a fellow reader and i guess for now, this book is as close as i'll come to it.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Bob

    A bittersweet collection of essays from an author whose love of libraries, books and reading drips from every page. Packing my Library is somewhat of a sequel to Manguel’s beautiful Library at Night, though instead of celebrating his wonderful library in the countryside in France, we are faced with its dismantlement. We see Manguel make sense of the forced loss of his wonderful 35,000 volume library as he likewise wrestles with the inevitability of aging and decline. He chooses to widen his pers A bittersweet collection of essays from an author whose love of libraries, books and reading drips from every page. Packing my Library is somewhat of a sequel to Manguel’s beautiful Library at Night, though instead of celebrating his wonderful library in the countryside in France, we are faced with its dismantlement. We see Manguel make sense of the forced loss of his wonderful 35,000 volume library as he likewise wrestles with the inevitability of aging and decline. He chooses to widen his perspective from the individual library as personal sanctuary to the ideal of the library as force of good for society. This shift reminded me of Bertrand Russell’s analogy on mortality, that as we age we evolve from fast-flowing individual rivers to slower, broader seas of humankind. This slim volume is both a tribute to books and libraries and well as graceful aging and the acceptance of our own mortality. The conclusion sparks a new hope that life can surprise you at any age.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Christine

    Manguel is never better than when he is writing about books. In packing his library, he looks at why books and libraries are important - moving from his personal library to his work on a national library. If you read for escape or peace, if you are more at home with a book in your hand, Manguel is your type of man and author. The digressions are interesting for he looks at how reading can bring you into a community (the example of a lack of reading is Trump). He also discusses why we keep books a Manguel is never better than when he is writing about books. In packing his library, he looks at why books and libraries are important - moving from his personal library to his work on a national library. If you read for escape or peace, if you are more at home with a book in your hand, Manguel is your type of man and author. The digressions are interesting for he looks at how reading can bring you into a community (the example of a lack of reading is Trump). He also discusses why we keep books and how books are simply more than words.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Barb Middleton

    The author is packing his library to move from France to New York and reminiscing about his passion for literature and how it has shaped his life. Some of the books he packs represent a story and journey of where he lived in his life, who gave him the book, what the book meant to him. He goes off on many fascinating tangents such as the impossibility to create a work that is original, the limitations of words, dreams, how language defines us and more. He has a bit on his dream for libraries too The author is packing his library to move from France to New York and reminiscing about his passion for literature and how it has shaped his life. Some of the books he packs represent a story and journey of where he lived in his life, who gave him the book, what the book meant to him. He goes off on many fascinating tangents such as the impossibility to create a work that is original, the limitations of words, dreams, how language defines us and more. He has a bit on his dream for libraries too that I enjoyed. This isn't for everyone, but brings together my love of reading and libraries.

  21. 4 out of 5

    David

    Having not read Manguel before I suspect I may have started with the wrong book. ‘My mind is capricious. Sometimes it can be charitable: in moments when I need a consoling or happy thought it throws me, like coins to a beggar, the alms of an event that I had long forgotten, a face, a word from the past, a story read one sultry night between sheets, a poem discovered in an anthology that my adolescent self believed no one had discovered before.’ Purple has been a noble colour since before the gods Having not read Manguel before I suspect I may have started with the wrong book. ‘My mind is capricious. Sometimes it can be charitable: in moments when I need a consoling or happy thought it throws me, like coins to a beggar, the alms of an event that I had long forgotten, a face, a word from the past, a story read one sultry night between sheets, a poem discovered in an anthology that my adolescent self believed no one had discovered before.’ Purple has been a noble colour since before the gods themselves were children. Like another Goodreads reviewer I thought this book might help conceptually with the consolidating of various personal libraries in locations removed each from each, & then moving them all to some third or fifth place, a unity finally, the volumes casting slants of light across each other in their new proximity. But if you’re looking for advice about getting a library from location A on one continent to join that other one at location B1 on another, & then to pack and ship all those volumes you can’t live without to location B2, this is not the book you’ll want. It is a book which might make you feel better about your addiction, or bring on a bout of nostalgia for those books you abandoned in a city you knew once. It might even make you feel bad about not having stayed where you were rather than having packed up those books on some caprice in the first place. Packing My Library is quotable about the reasons you have the compulsion, and on the concept of a personal library in general. It’s very good on the reasons you love collections and can hardly imagine your identity without reference to what is on your shelves. It’s best read immediately after Walter Benjamin’s short 1932 essay ‘Unpacking My Library’ (available in this), which Manguel explicitly notes and which resonates throughout his book. I’m hoping to achieve the packing from various sundry lands and then Benjamin’s more joyous chaos of unpacking somewhere else in the near future. Manguel has made me feel more justified in the desire and less certain in the outcome.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Caroline

    Disappointing. One feels tremendous empathy for a man forced to put his enormous library into boxes for an indeterminate, possibly never-ending for him, time, but I didn’t get much more than that.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Ruxandra Georgescu

    Just wonderful.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Nourhan Elkafrawy

    my honeymoon book 📕😍❤

  25. 5 out of 5

    Anna

    I was absolutely delighted to see that Alberto Manguel was speaking at several events during this year’s Edinburgh International Book Festival. It was very sad to subsequently discover that he won’t be able to come after all. To console myself, I found this, his latest book, in the library. Manguel is probably my all-time favourite non-fiction writer. The Library at Night is my favourite book of his, as I share his profound love of libraries. In ‘Packing My Library’, he further reflects on the i I was absolutely delighted to see that Alberto Manguel was speaking at several events during this year’s Edinburgh International Book Festival. It was very sad to subsequently discover that he won’t be able to come after all. To console myself, I found this, his latest book, in the library. Manguel is probably my all-time favourite non-fiction writer. The Library at Night is my favourite book of his, as I share his profound love of libraries. In ‘Packing My Library’, he further reflects on the importance of personal and public libraries, now that he has become director of the National Library of Argentina - as Borges once was. Reading about Manguel’s own library is delightful, even though my attitude to book collecting is much closer to that of Borges: There are certain readers for whom books exist in the moment of reading them, and later as memories of the read pages, but who feel that the physical incarnations of books are dispensible. Borges, for instance, was one of these. Those who never visited Borges’ modest flat imagined his library to be as vast as that of Babel. In fact, Borges kept only a few hundred books, and even these he used to give away to visitors. Occasionally, a certain volume had sentimental or superstitious value for him, but by and large what mattered to him were a few recalled lines, not the material object in which he had found them. My own ‘modest flat’ has only one small overflowing bookshelf, the vast majority of books I read are from the library, and when I finish a book I’ve actually bought my impulse is to find someone suitable to pass it along to. Nonetheless, I greatly appreciate the physical qualities of books and can imagine collecting more of a personal library if I were to settle into a secure home rather than renting. The greatest joy of reading Manguel is the way he forges new links between books, historical events, philosophical concepts, and other thoughts. He is a wonderful synoptic writer, something specifically embraced in this book via the ‘ten digressions’. Each is a beautifully written short commentary on some aspect of the human condition and/or contemporary life. I particularly liked the digression on the association of misery and art: Being sick, being downcast, being poor doesn’t suit the creative genius; it only suits the idea that the rich patron likes to have of the artist to justify tightfistedness. There is an anecdote about the film mogul Sam Goldwyn trying to buy the rights of one of Shaw’s plays. Goldwyn being Goldwyn kept haggling about the price, and in the end Shaw declined to sell. Goldwyn couldn’t understand why. “The trouble is, Mr. Goldwyn,” Shaw said, “that you are interested only In art – and I am interested only in money.” I also loved the digression on the Library of Alexandria, a perpetually bewitching place, and that on golems: Our creations, our Golems or our libraries, are at best things that suggest an approximation to a copy of our blurry intuition of the real thing, itself an imperfect imitation of an ineffable archetype. This achievement is our unique and humble prerogative. The only art that is synonymous with reality is (according to Dante and Borges and the Talmudic scholars) that of God. That has strong echoes of Object-Oriented Ontology: A New Theory of Everything, which tells us that we can never directly perceive the thing-in-itself. Manguel also makes thoughtful comments on dreams, dictionaries, and colonialism. The final digression considers censorship: Of course, literature may not be able to save anyone from injustice, or from the temptations of greed or the miseries of power. But something about it must be perilously effective if every dictator, every totalitarian government, every threatened official tries to do away with it, by burning books, by banning books, by censoring books, by taxing books, by paying mere lip-service to the cause of literacy, by insinuating that reading is an elitist activity. […] And again and again, empires fall and literature continues. Between his digressions into relative abstraction, Manguel carefully presents a manifesto for public libraries in the 21st century that I found convincing and profound. Despite its short length, there is a great deal for the enthusiastic reader to consider in this subtle, beautifully written book.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Colby Stolson

    Few pages from the last, a dribble of coffee from my lips and onto "reflection". The mark remains forever. Few pages from the last, a dribble of coffee from my lips and onto "reflection". The mark remains forever.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sandradine

    An ode to books that every book lover/book addict, must read and own.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Edward

    Manguel writes short books, essentially extended essays, about his love for books, literature, and the act of reading. Not logically, at least for any bookish reasons, I became interested in him because he lived in the same area of France, near Poitiers, where I've spent a number of summers. A local newspaper published a feature story about his 35,000 volume library which he housed in a converted barn. I never met hm, but our geographical proximity got me into Manguel's mental world. I've read f Manguel writes short books, essentially extended essays, about his love for books, literature, and the act of reading. Not logically, at least for any bookish reasons, I became interested in him because he lived in the same area of France, near Poitiers, where I've spent a number of summers. A local newspaper published a feature story about his 35,000 volume library which he housed in a converted barn. I never met hm, but our geographical proximity got me into Manguel's mental world. I've read five of his other books where his approach is usually to take a subject derived from which books he has been reading, and see where it leads him. He has written a history of reading, kept a diary of a year's worth of reading, explored the world of Lewis Carroll's Alice, speculated on the thin line between life and fiction, and followed that with what I think is his only work of fiction, a short and very good novel about the the shadowy connection between Robert Louis Stevenson's life and Dr Jekyl and Mr. Hyde. His style is casual and informal. This latest work comments on his move from France to a New York City apartment, a move which necessitated packing up his many books and putting them in storage. He aptly calls his experience an "elegy" as a part of himself has been lost, and he wants to pay homage to this book-filled life. These books, he emphasizes, are not for the most part rare collector's items, just books that he liked and wanted to own. He discusses briefly a few individual favorite books, among them ones by his fellow Argentine, Jorge Borges, Cervantes' DON QUIXOTE, and Lewis Carroll from whom he quotes freely. What these authors have in common is the creation of fictional worlds, one that reflect and interpret our so-called "real" world. When we think about books, we transform them into "presences among which we live." At their best, those "presences" are their own justification. It could be said that serious readers don't read to live, but live to read. He is well aware that readers, much less serious ones, make up a very small percentage of the world's population, but books and reading exist as a good in their own right, one that stimulates imagination and empathy. He thinks all countries should have national libraries, and in passing, hopes that none of them suffer the fate of the destruction of the fabled library at Alexandria. I wish that Manguel would have said more about the details of his move, why he had to leave (his advancing age is part of it, but he doesn't go into any detail) his beloved library in "France profond" and move to America, but that remains a mystery, and maybe it's appropriate as he ends his book with questions as to what will happen to his dismantled library. Who will read his collected books? Which titles will recall other titles? What ghosts will linger over his books, and over all books, for that matter?

  29. 4 out of 5

    Lyubina Yordanova

    I love reading books about books! "Packing My Library" tells a story of the library of one of the most incredible readers and bibliophiles of our time Alberto Manguel, who is now the director of the National Library of Argentina. Packing up his enormous, 35,000-volume personal library, Manguel meditates on memory, language, maniacality, the act of reading, the importance of the public libraries, sharing interesting facts about books, writers and historic book events at the same time. Impressing th I love reading books about books! "Packing My Library" tells a story of the library of one of the most incredible readers and bibliophiles of our time Alberto Manguel, who is now the director of the National Library of Argentina. Packing up his enormous, 35,000-volume personal library, Manguel meditates on memory, language, maniacality, the act of reading, the importance of the public libraries, sharing interesting facts about books, writers and historic book events at the same time. Impressing the reader with his erudite knowledge, Manguel inspires! "Generous teachers, passionate booksellers, friends for whom giving a book was a supreme act of intimacy and trust helped me build it. Their ghosts haunted my shelves, and the books they gave me still carry their voices... The books in my library promised me comfort, and also the possibility of enlightening conversations. They granted me, every time I took one in my hands, the memory of friendships that required no introductions, no conventional politeness, no pretence or concealed emotion. The most famous and dearest of these readers (for me at least) is Alonso Quijano, the old man who becomes Don Quixote through his reading. Losing things is not so bad because you learn to enjoy not what you have but what you remember. You should grow accustomed to loss. As Nabokov understood, the language we use is not just an instrument - however feeble, inexact, treacherous - for communicating as best we can with others. Unlike other instruments, the language that we speak defines us. Our thoughts, our ethics, our aesthetics are all, up to a point, defined by our language. Sometimes the experience of a friend, a parent, a teacher, a librarian obviously moved be reading a certain page can inspire, if not immediate imitation, at least curiosity. And that, I think, is a good beginning. The discovery of the art of reading is intimate, obscure, secret, almost impossible to explain, akin to falling in love, if you will forgive the maudlin comparison." Packing My Library: An Elegy and Ten Digressions - Alberto Manguel Publisher: Yale University Press

  30. 5 out of 5

    michelle

    "Packing and unpacking are two sides of the same impulse, and both lend meaning to moments of chaos." . "Freed from their bounds, the books spill onto the floor or pile up in unsteady columns, waiting for the places that will later be assigned to them. In this waiting period, before the new order has been established, they exist in a tangle of synchronicities and remembrances, forming sudden and unexpected alliances or parting from each other incongruously. Lifelong enemies Gabriel García Márquez "Packing and unpacking are two sides of the same impulse, and both lend meaning to moments of chaos." . "Freed from their bounds, the books spill onto the floor or pile up in unsteady columns, waiting for the places that will later be assigned to them. In this waiting period, before the new order has been established, they exist in a tangle of synchronicities and remembrances, forming sudden and unexpected alliances or parting from each other incongruously. Lifelong enemies Gabriel García Márquez and Mario Vargas Llosa for instance, will sit amicably on the same expectant shelf while the many members of the Bloomsbury group will find themselves each exiled to a different “negatively charged region” (as the physicists call it) waiting for the wishful reunion of their particles." . "The unpacking of books, perhaps because it is essentially chaotic, is a creative act, and as in every creative act the materials employed lose in the process their individual nature: they become part of something different, something that encompasses and at the same time transforms them. In the act of setting up a library, the books lifted out of their boxes and about to be placed on a shelf shed their original identities and acquire new ones through random associations, preconceived allotments, or authoritarian labels. Many times I’ve found that a book I once held in my hands becomes another when assigned its position in my library."

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