Thursday, 25 October 2018

Shelf Life - Writers on Books and Readings - Alex Johnson

Well here’s another first for my blog - a book of essays. And it’s been quite intoxicating rediscovering this literary form that has sent me essay hunting way beyond the covers of this volume. So, thank you, Sir!

But specifically, this collection of essays. lovingly curated by Alex Johnson covers the subject of bookishness in a myriad of forms. From storing them, selecting them, protecting them to destroying them! 

There’s a cross section of, I do have to say only male, perspectives offered ranging from the king of essayists, Charles Lamb to Theodore Roosevelt’s reading habits, and Kipling who feels that:-

‘Books used temperately to excess become most dangerous drugs.’ 

Bring it on Rudyard!! They’re my recreational drug of choice nowadays!! 

I will say that Schopenhauer rattled my cage. 

So it comes about that if anyone spends almost the whole day in reading, and by way of relaxation devoted the intervals to some thoughtless pastime, he gradually loses the capacity for thinking….’  

Not me, matey!! 

I surmise that this is book that will appeal to a somewhat niche audience. It’s erudite and scholarly and offers much food for thought to bibliomaniacs and those who truly love books and reading. Interestingly there are no female contributors and there are no contemporary contributors. What to make of that I’m not sure suffice to say that it would be challenging to pen an essay on the arrangement of libraries upon an e-reader….. Heaven only knows what Schopenhauer would have made of that abomination!!

It’s been compiled with love by Alex Johnson, each essay prefaced by some  biographical details where relevant and other useful little snippets that complement the essays themselves. You can dip in and out of it. There’s nothing lost by not reading the essays in the presented order. 

My thanks to the British Library for a copy of this most enjoyable book.

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