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Publisher's Summary

For rare-books librarian Matthew Battles, libraries represent a compelling paradox. On the one hand, they exist to collect and preserve knowledge. On the other hand, they have been used to control, restrict, and sometimes obliterate knowledge. Battles takes us on a spirited foray from classical scriptoria to medieval monasteries, from the Vatican to the British Library, from socialist reading rooms and rural home libraries to the Information Age. At the same time, he gives due attention to both what has been found and what has been lost, from the clay tablets of ancient Mesopotamia to the storied Alexandrian libraries in Egypt, from the burned scrolls of China's Q'ing Dynasty to the book pyres of the Hitler Youth. This history speaks volumes about the care of the written word.
©2003 Matthew Battles; (P)2003 Books on Tape, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"Battles' sprightly narrative performs a valuable service by blowing the dust off our stodgy, conventional conception of the library." (The Los Angeles Times Book Review)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Story

Fascinating and Timely

Well written and researched Battles explores our complex and often confounding relationship to the shifting institution of the library.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • A
  • 04-21-12

Okay, So I'm a Nerd

But I really enjoyed this book. I gave it five stars because I had such an enjoyable time reading it. I like reading history books that attack history from a slightly different point of view. I can only read so much political history before I want to scream. As far as intellectual history goes, the development of the library is an important one--and not as straight forward as we might think. Battles did a nice job. Kept it short and interesting while still covering a lot of ground. Gardner is, as always, a pleasant listen.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Story
  • Scott
  • Santa Clara, CA, United States
  • 03-31-14

Very entertaining and educational.

This book ties together so many ideas and historical events. It's the kind of book that pieces together isolated bits of information into what eventually becomes knowledge.
Furthermore, at under seven hours, it never gets tedious or mired down in detail.
A wonderful listen, and well worth your time.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Sharon
  • Seattle, WA USA
  • 06-17-14

Don't bother

Awful. Awful. A fine writer who is completely disorganized. Skips from topic to topic, era to ear and back again. What a shame. The reader is just fine but that doesn't' compensate for a truly terrible mess of a book.

0 of 4 people found this review helpful