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BBC RADIO 4 BOOK OF THE WEEK
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.
About the Author
Alberto Manguel is a writer, translator, editor, and critic, but would rather define himself as a reader and a lover of books. From 2015 to 2018 he was the director of the National Library of Argentina. Born in Buenos Aires, he has since resided in Israel, Argentina, Europe, the South Pacific, and Canada. He now lives in New York City.
“Alberto Manguel is a kind of global Reader Laureate: he is reading’s champion, its keenest student and the most zealous proselytiser. . . if you value these particular pleasures already, you may find yourself the ideal reader for Alberto Manguel.”—Daniel Hahn, Spectator
“Packing My Library [alternates] intimate chapters that make up an ‘elegy’ for his library with 10 masterly digressions on his life as a reader and lover of books. . . . Manguel’s intellect and enthusiasm are on full display as he cites a dazzling number of books in many languages, dilating on an astounding number of topics.”—Ernest Hilbert, Wall Street Journal
“The enviably multilingual Alberto Manguel . . . reflects on his peripatetic life in Packing My Library, . . . an excellent [book] about books.”—Michael Dirda, Washington Post
BBC BOOK OF THE WEEK, SPRING 2018
“Slight but poignant. . . In its exploration of the symbiotic relationship between life and literature, the biblio-memoir would appear to be a rallying cry in the affirmative.”—Lucy Scholes, Financial Times
“One of the world’s greatest readers, whose finest work has often been about the writing of others. . . has produced a book —a slim, fragmentary meditation on the power of reading and the importance of libraries.”—Claire Armitstead, The Guardian
“The author brings a fresh hopefulness to the enterprise of books and reading. Vintage Manguel—a pleasure for his many readers and admirers.”—Kirkus Reviews
"Manguel is an easily trusted guide in the world of books, and here too he moves comfortably across the many related subjects, with some interesting and thoughtful digressions and reflections.”—M. A. Orthofer, Complete Review
“If [Manguel] cannot be a Dante, he can at least be our Virgil. It’s an ambitious goal – to project an unforgettable image of himself escorting us companionably ‘within the model of that which we attempt to reproduce in words and images.’ And he has succeeded brilliantly.”—Ron Slate, On the Seawall
“In his latest work, Packing My Library: An Elegy and Ten Digressions—the title evokes Walter Benjamin’s famous 1931 essay on book collecting—Manguel has arrived at the ideal format for his divagating thoughts.”—Dana Hansen, Literary Review of Canada
“I bet in his dreams Alberto Manguel never leaves his beloved library, the disassembling and packing of which gives title to this brilliant book. . . . I doubt the loss of books has inspired a more beautiful work. Read this book — and hold onto it.”—Luis Clemens, senior editor for diversity at NPR News, NPR’s Best Books of 2018
"The area which Alberto Manguel has mapped for himself is that of the eros of reading. . . . He is a Don Juan of libraries."—George Steiner, The Guardian
"Manguel vaults over the traditional fences of genre, literary history, and discipline with breathtaking virtuosity. He is the Montaigne de nos jours and, as regards this latest effort, if they put another rover on Mars they should call it 'Manguel.'"—John Sutherland, University College London
"Alberto Manguel is a wanderer among books, immensely curious in such an intriguing way that he lets his readers easily discover the fruits of his curiosity."—Roberto Calasso
Alberto Manguel is a great reader. His entire oeuvre testifies to this. In Packing My Library, Manguel continues his celebration of the book as object, conduit, and talisman. This elegy for his library, including digressions on citizenship, dictionaries, god’s speech, and creativity, shows a profound appreciation for the shibboleths and affinities of the bibliophile. A joyful testament!—Jeff Deutsch, Seminary Co-op