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The Library at Night Hardcover – April 29, 2008

4.4 out of 5 stars 49 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"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
(Allen Kurzweil)

“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
(Globe and Mail)

"Alberto Manguel . . . the Argentine-born author and bibliophile celebrates books as brothers, as crucial companions for a lifetime."—Julia Keller, Chicago Tribune
(Julia Keller Chicago Tribune 2008-04-23)

"[A] deliciously rich and lavishly illustrated book of books. . . . [A] magical book."—Jeff Simon, The Buffalo News (Editor's Choice)
(Jeff Simon The Buffalo News 2008-05-11)

"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
(Brian Sholis BookForum 2008-04-01)

"In The Library at Night, Alberto Manguel . . . 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."—Eric Ormsby, New York Sun
(Eric Ormsby New York Sun 2008-03-19)

"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
(Michael Dirda Washington Post Book World 2008-04-06)

"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
(Matthew Battles Wilson Quarterly 2008-04-01)

"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
(Peter Conrad The Observer 2008-04-27)

"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
(Susan Larson New Orleans Times-Picayune 2008-04-21)

"A vivaciously erudite justification for society's inexorable efforts to collect, order and store information. . . . Book lovers will luxuriate in these earnest and impressively researched pages."—Christine Thomas, Miami Herald
(Christine Thomas Miami Herald 2008-04-27)

". . . a pleasure—especially at this time of . . . internet related uncertainty for libraries. For those . . . who are distressed by the amnesia of the Web, this book is . . . an excellent example of how to rejuvenate the past and continue its conversations."—Ben Carlson, The Atlantic.com
(Ben Carlson The Atlantic.com)

“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—remarkable above all for its openness to the possibilities that books hold out, and for the passion with which it tries to instill the same attitude in its readers.”--John Gross, New York Review of Books
(John Gross New York Review of Books)

"Like Montaigne's essays and Borges's fables, Manguel's ruminations on libraries are inviting, discursive, learned, playul, and imaginative."--Michael J. Ryan, Papers of the Biliographical Society of America
(Michael J. Ryan Papers of the Biliographical Society of America)

About the Author

Alberto Manguel is an internationally acclaimed anthologist, translator, essayist, novelist, and editor, and the author of several award-winning books, including A Dictionary of Imaginary Places and A History of Reading.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (April 29, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300139144
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300139143
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #82,467 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
In this wonderful tome ,Alberto Manguel has given anyone who loves books a fascinating look at books,libraries and the captivating world of books in general.
Books have been a major part of the author,s life,and he shares it with us on both a personal and worldwide basis. Generally speaking,anyone who loves books,can never resist the desire to have their own library.In this 373 page book ,he touches on just about every aspect of a library,both those which are personal and those which are public or private.The reader will constantly think of their own library as he discusses all these things. How and why the books are acquired,how are they arranged,how are they catalogued,how long are they kept,how hard were they to acquire,what will become of them,what about lending them,which are your favorites and why,where are they housed;you name it ,he talks about it.
I have a place in my library where I keep "Books About Books".I love to read about books and this one will be at home with them.
This book is beautifully written with a copious amount of amazing photographs. Because the author covers so much in the book,it never gets laboured and there is something new and interesting on every page.
Some of the things are simple ,such as the price-stickers,which he so aptly calls "these evil white scabs".They annoy me as well,and I have found a product called "Goo Gone" a great help in getting rid of them.This reminds me of those "evil doer of deeds" in some bookstores who price-clip the dust jackets because in their little minds they don't think the customers can handle the published price versus what they are asking. I am always interested in the published price of older books and their actions are nothing short of vandalism in what they do.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Alberto Manguel has produced a romantic history of libraries which incorporates their best feature: the ability to wander down hitherto unsuspected byways and make new discoveries, often winding up far from your original objective but still satisfied by what you have found instead. This is a discursive history of libraries through various categories: Myth, Order, etc. with fascinating essays for each. Those who love reading and libraries will learn much history and philosophy and will recognize in Manguel a kindred spirit and friend.
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Format: Hardcover
The Library At Night is the first book I have read by Alberto Manguel. I can say now, after completing it earlier today, that I am looking forward to reading other selections that this author has written.

I was not quite sure what to expect from this book, from simply reading the title. I could only hope that it would not disappoint and it did not. The book is broken down into 15 chapters. Each of them begins with "The Library As...." You can fill in the blank with such words as "Power," "Myth," "Shadow," and "Chance" (among 11 others). The chapters begin with personal anecdotes from Manguel. We learn a lot about who he is as well as the extent of his personal library. Following the brief reflection, he delves into well-researched historical data that revolve around his chapter topics. The stories he tells flow nicely together and endnotes are provided in the back of the book for further reading. The chapters are quite strong, though I really was expecting more from the last two chapters.

The only negative aspects, and really they aren't negative to all, of this book are Manguel's erudite use of language. He excels at linguistics and I found myself needing a dictionary nearby to help me through the text. Manguel makes many comparisons throughout the text between books, many of which, I had not heard of before. While I was excited about these newly discovered books,at least to me, they are not commonplace. So, yes, this book is written on a somewhat high intellectual level and a portion of its charm is lost by the author speaking over the reader's head.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I must preface this review by saying that, 1) I am an avid book collector and reader, and 2) I tend to prowl around the house (and my library in particular) late at night after the family are all asleep.

I can't imagine anyone who has grown, or dreams of growing, a personal library not loving this book. It's like sitting and chatting with a wise, engaging friend about a mutual love of books and libraries. Manguel writes the words, I speak them in my head, but they feel like they came right out of my own heart. I won't try to describe these essays in any detail. I know I will read them again and again and they will never grow stale. Suffice it to say that, when it comes to books about books, it may not be possible to beat "The Library at Night".
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I can not imagine a better gift than this to buy for a person who loves collections of books, whether as a professional librarian or one who simply possesses a private library (big or small).

Alberto Manguel is a wise and learned author. The lessons of his well written book go beyond libraries and touch on what makes us human, and that which connects us, across time and as people, to our historical past.
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Format: Paperback
This book is about the centrality of what has been lost in the history of the book. Manguel often mentions the destruction of the library of Alexandria as a real event and also as a metaphor to represent those dark spaces between the books we have that are the books we've lost.

Those who think that in a digital world this won't be a problem are misinformed. The first digital book long ago ceased to be readable, as I read in a NY Times article several years ago. Everything digital must ceaselessly be updated and transferred, while what's on paper is still easily accessible 500 to 1000 years later.

Although there are notes and places of celebration of books and libraries, Manguel returns again and again to lost books. For example, the destruction of the National Library of Baghdad, which, unfortunately, took place during the American invasion of Iraq. Many items from the earliest history of writing were destroyed, along with many newer but no less important books. Alexandria, Nazi book burning and digital rot are other examples.

Thus, more than a celebration, this is an elegy for books, although there is an element of celebration over what has survived.

I found the book to be very thought provoking. I was reminded of the end of Viktor Kamkin, a major Russian book import business in the suburbs of Washington DC. Kamkin allowed university libraries to take books for their collections, and I helped Rutgers University Library acquire some of the books at the end, but afterwards, I saw on the web how the warehouse was emptied into the parking lot and a massive pile of Russian books sat there open to the elements. Now when I come across a Kamkin book in Rutgers library, I think that at least this was saved from the wreckage. That is the tone of this book as well.
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