Synopses & Reviews
How do you use your local library? Does it arrive at your door on the back of an elephant? Can it float down the river to you? Or does it occupy a phone booth by the side of the road?
Public libraries are a cornerstone of modern civilization, yet like the books in them, libraries face an uncertain future in an increasingly digital world. Undaunted, librarians around the globe are thinking up astonishing ways of reaching those in reading need, whether by bike in Chicago, boat in Laos, or donkey in Colombia. Improbable Libraries showcases a wide range of unforgettable, never-before-seen images and interviews with librarians who are overcoming geographic, economic, and political difficulties to bring the written word to an eager audience. Alex Johnson charts the changing face of library architecture, as temporary pop-ups rub shoulders with monumental brick-and-mortar structures, and many libraries expand their mission to function as true community centers. To take just one example: the open-air Garden Library in Tel Aviv, located in a park near the cityandrsquo;s main bus station, supports asylum seekers and migrant workers with a stock of 3,500 volumes in sixteen different languages. and#160;
Beautifully illustrated with two hundred and fifty color photographs, Improbable Libraries offers a breathtaking tour of the places that bring us together and provide education, entertainment, culture, and so much more. From the rise of the egalitarian Little Free Library movement to the growth in luxury hotel libraries, the communal book revolution means youandrsquo;ll never be far from the perfect next read.
"In this sumptuously illustrated history of the book, Lyons (Ordinary Writing, Personal Narratives) covers a millennia of changes, from ancient Mesopotamian carvings to Gutenberg's innovations in printing, through the computer age and the advent of the Internet and e-readers. Rather than narrate a continuous story, he utilizes two to four page chronological sections with headings such as 'Luther's Bible,' 'Books of the Scientific Revolution,' and 'Atlases and Cartography.' With such heterogeneous segments, it's difficult to discern the principle of inclusion or exclusion. Meanwhile, the many illustrations serve as interesting (though non-essential) window-dressing for the text, as with the splendid images from the Book of Kells or the detailed drawings of mechanized printing presses. Larger than a typical hardback yet smaller than a coffee table book, the contents seem similarly torn between a textbook's dry specificity and the generality of a popular history. However, this approachable and attractive volume summarizes key moments in the evolution of print culture, in a tone suitable for an unfamiliar or general interest reader. Scholars will find nothing new, and will likely be disappointed by the book's aggressive superficiality.
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"In this sumptuously illustrated history of the book, Lyons covers a millennia of changes, from ancient Mesopotamian carvings to Gutenberg's innovations in printing, through the computer age and the advent of the Internet and e-readers."—Publishers Weekly
"Besides giving us a visual journey of the book as a beautiful, aesthetic object, Lyons also shows how influential the book has been in shaping human history for 2,500 years."—Shelf Awareness
“An excellent introduction to the history, terminology, and trends in writing and reading books.”—Fine Books & Collections
“An ambitious, beautifully illustrated work.”—Choice
“A profusion of bibliophilic eye-candy.”—College & Research Library News
Books: A Living History celebrates the history and magic of the book, from cuneiform tablets to Harry Potter, looking along the way at related trends in literacy rates, the growth of new genres and book-related industries over the centuries, and printing revolutions.”Book News
andldquo;Fascinating. . . . A valuable visual culture book that doubles as a travel resource.andrdquo;and#160;
andldquo;Beautifully depicts the fun side of libraries. . . . The photos in Improbable Libraries
give a glimpse at a present, and hopefully a future, in which libraries remain at the heart of our shared literary culture.andrdquo;
andquot;Johnson, the son of librarians, is an exuberant guide.andquot;
andldquo;Improbable Librariesand#160;is definitely a labor of love for literature, and offers a global perspective on how essential access to books is in bringing communities vibrancy and education. Itandrsquo;sand#160;engagingand#160;to flip through the pages and discover unexpected projects. . . . While the DIY and individual-driven libraries Johnson highlights are inspiring, itandrsquo;s also essential that he locates them in theand#160;contemporary context of why they are needed in places underserved or ignored by institutions.andrdquo;and#160;
andldquo;Fascinating. . . . Underscores the importance of books, no matter where a reader lives.andrdquo;
andldquo;Thisandnbsp;delightful book will give bibliophiles everywhere ideas for how to exhibit their collection as well as add some destinations to their bucket list. A great option for the childrenandrsquo;s room, too.andrdquo;
From the first scribbling on papyrus to the emergence of the e-book, this wide-ranging overview of the history of the book provides a fascinating look at one of the most efficient, versatile, and enduring technologies ever developed. The author traces the evolution of the book from the rarefied world of the hand-copied and illuminated volume in ancient and medieval times, through the revolutionary impact of Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press, to the rise of a publishing culture in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and the subsequent impact of new technologies on this culture. Many of the great individual titles of the past two millennia are discussed as well as the range of book types and formats that have emerged in the last few hundred years, from serial and dime novels to paperbacks, children’s books, and Japanese manga. The volume ends with a discussion of the digital revolution in book production and distribution and the ramifications for book lovers, who can’t help but wonder whether the book will thrive—or even survive—in a form they recognize.
About the Author
Martyn Lyons is professor of history at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, and the author of A History of Reading and Writing in the Western World (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009) and Reading Culture and Writing Practices in Nineteenth-Century France (University of Toronto Press, 2008).
Table of Contents
1. Libraries on the Move
2. Animal Libraries
3. Tiny Libraries
4. Big Libraries
5. Home Libraries
6. Mobile Libraries
7. Not Libraries