The Library at Night Alberto Manguel

Publication date:
28 Apr 2009
Yale University Press
400 pages: 229 x 140 x 25mm
76 b-w illus.

Inspired by the process of creating a library for his fifteenth-century home near the Loire, in France, Alberto Manguel, the acclaimed writer on books and reading, has taken up the subject of libraries. “Libraries,” he says, “have always seemed to me pleasantly mad places, and for as long as I can remember I’ve been seduced by their labyrinthine logic.” In this personal, deliberately unsystematic, and wide-ranging book, he offers a captivating meditation on the meaning of libraries.


Manguel, a guide of irrepressible enthusiasm, conducts a unique library tour that extends from his childhood bookshelves to the “complete” libraries of the Internet, from Ancient Egypt and Greece to the Arab world, from China and Rome to Google. He ponders the doomed library of Alexandria as well as the personal libraries of Charles Dickens, Jorge Luis Borges, and others. He recounts stories of people who have struggled against tyranny to preserve freedom of thought—the Polish librarian who smuggled books to safety as the Nazis began their destruction of Jewish libraries; the Afghani bookseller who kept his store open through decades of unrest. Oral “memory libraries” kept alive by prisoners, libraries of banned books, the imaginary library of Count Dracula, the library of books never written—Manguel illuminates the mysteries of libraries as no other writer could. With scores of wonderful images throughout, The Library at Night is a fascinating voyage through Manguel’s mind, memory, and vast knowledge of books and civilizations.

 Read more about Albert Manguel, writer, translator and editor.

'... crowded with memorable tales of reading as rescue, as solace, as liberation, in times of want, fear or tyranny... The Library at Night revels in the physical pleasure of drifting and dipping through the Gutenberg galaxy of ink-on-paper books.'---Boyd Tonkin interview with Alberto Manguel, The Independent

"Books jump out of their jackets when Manguel opens them and dance in delight as they make contact with his ingenious, voluminous brain. He is not the keeper of a silent cemetery, but a master of bibliographical revels."—Peter Conrad, The Observer

?? full of [Manguel?s] passion for books.? - The Bookseller

'Manguel not only writes beautifully, he is a master of the art of reading. In this wide-ranging, single-minded collection, he empowers fellow book lovers…He tempts you to explore new avenues and sends you hurrying back to old favourites.' —Maggie Ferguson, Intelligent Life (The Economist), 1st July 2010

"In my personal library of imaginary places, and more specifically on the bookcases near my desk, I maintain a shelf reserved for brilliant readers. There's rarely any turnover. Borges, Calvino, Benjamin and Zweig (plus a few other steadfast patrons). With Manguel's The Library at Night, that will clearly have to change."?Allen Kurzweil, author of The Grand Complication and A Case of Curiosities

?An eloquent and surprisingly moving tribute not only to libraries, private and public, but to our enduring need for them and for the order they try so hard to impose on a chaotic world. . . . . Manguel does all facets of his subject proud in The Library at Night, celebrating a treasure we so often take for granted. With this wise and tender book, he also creates a treasure of his own.??The Gazette (Montreal)

?In a good book, certain passages stand out because they are well written. In a great book, nothing stands out because nothing can. The Library at Night is one of those great books.??The Globe and Mail

"The book contains fifteen essays that posit the library 'as myth,' 'as shape,' 'as island,' and the like. Manguel has assembled thumbnail biographies, entertaining anecdotes, close readings, and photographic documentation into a kind of commonplace book stitched together by his amiable prose. . . . The Library at Night . . . communicates the joy and the solace of being yourself a reader."?Brian Sholis, BookForum

"In The Library at Night, Alberto Manguel, the well-known historian of books and reading, lovingly explores the nooks and crannies of this enchanted domain. To call Mr. Manguel a 'bookman' would be the grossest of understatements. He lives and breathes books. . . . Though he's not opposed in principle to electronic books or so-called 'virtual libraries,' he's cautious of the claims made for them, and no doubt rightly so. For him such devices, however useful, have none of the palpable magic of the printed word."—Eric Ormsby, New York Sun

"The Library at Night—a series of essays on what one might call the Platonic idea of a library—reveals some of its author's intellectual range and magpie learning. . . [It] is an elegant volume, in both its design and its text. . . . Alberto Manguel has brought out a richly enjoyable book, absolutely enthralling for anyone who loves to read and an inspiration for anybody who has ever dreamed of building a library of his or her own."—Michael Dirda, Washington Post Book World

"The Library at Night is a pleasant journey across times and places, Manguel exploring the history of book-collections and repositories and the people behind them, and the books in them. . . . Richly illustrated, and with many, many entertaining examples from the literary world . . . The Library at Night is an enjoyable easy ride. . . . As a general but also very personal library-tour-book it is certainly worthwhile, and offers sufficient rewards for anyone who is bookishly inclined."?Complete Review Quarterly

"The Library at Night is a sentimental history. . . . [It] is larded with fascinating figures, telling anecdotes, and library lore. . . . The success of The Library at Night is the product of a mind made by reading, and the realization of its own essential argument: The library is a mirror in which we find ourselves and our world reflecting and interpenetrating."?Matthew Battles, Wilson Quarterly

"Alberto Manguel, that great scholar of books and reading, charms in this new book, The Library at Night, a guided tour of the history of libraries, both public and private. Manguel draws from the construction of his personal library at his home in France, seducing the reader with that image of the reader engrossed in a book, darkness all around, light only on the page. . . . To read this book is to be invited into a world in which books are both, luxury and necessity, destiny and serendipity, to experience that sweet moment when the world falls away and we are left along with the words on the page."?Susan Larson, New Orleans Times-Picayune

"Alberto Manguel . . . the Argentine-born author and bibliophile celebrates books as brothers, as crucial companions for a lifetime."?Julia Keller, Chicago Tribune

"For bibliophiles, The Library at Night is a pleasure?especially at this time of expansion, reinvention and internet related uncertainty for libraries. For those like Manguel who are distressed by the amnesia of the Web, this book is also an excellent example of how to rejuvenate the past and continue its conversations."?Ben Carlson, The

"A vivaciously erudite justification for society's inexorable efforts to collect, order and store information. . . . There seems to be no one more qualified than the renowned anthologist, translator, essayist, novelist, editor and author of A History of Reading, to act as a guide on this engrossing tour. . . . Manguel is comfortably present throughout, by way of his candid opinions and often humorous observations, particularly in descriptions of the minutia of a reading life. . . . Book lovers will luxuriate in these earnest and impressively researched pages."?Christine Thomas, Miami Herald

"[A] deliciously rich and lavishly illustrated book of books. . . . [A] magical book."?Jeff Simon, The Buffalo News (Editor's Choice)

"In a delightful new volume [Manguel] offers a richly illustrated, thoughtful ramble sure to please any bibliophile. . . . Part history, part literary analysis, part cultural commentary, part intensely personal journey, The Library at Night is a successful and altogether wonderful book that will amply reward anyone lucky enough to pull it from the shelf?be that shelf in a public library, a school library, a bookstore or one's own living room."?John Sledge, Alabama Press-Register

Bronze medal winner of the 2008 Book of the Year Award in the category of Architecture, presented by ForeWord magazine.

"This is the kind of non-fiction that keeps me reading past midnight. Manguel is wonderful with words. . . "?Rebecca Rego Barry, Fine Books & Collections 

“A bold undertaking . . . meditative, questing, and essayistic. . . . Manguel takes the broad sweep that his subject demands.  He is a humane and judicious commentator whose wide reading is matched—something not always the case—by broad sympathies. . . .The Library at Night remains a remarkable book—re

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