Friday, March 6, 2015

The Giving Book: A Review of the Library Book

 The Library Book, fitting in with my trend of loving to read books about books, is a collection of short stories and essays all centered on the theme of the importance of libraries.  The range of stories includes essays that describe the writer’s formative personal experiences in a libraries, essays on the politics of libraries, and creative short stories emphasizing the magic that is held inside a library for many people.  As a whole it is a strong collection of writing, but a few essays stood out as particularly apt in my mind.  The first piece that really caught my attention was Hardeep Singh Kohli’s story “The Punk and Langside Library”.  This tale took to heart one of the most important writing lessons I have ever learned: show, don’t tell.  Kolhi’s unexpected encounter with the punk teen demonstrates how not everything a library has to offer is contained in a book.  As a community meeting ground, libraries can also help to foster cultural understanding in the simplest of ways: allowing people of all backgrounds to come together and just be.  On the other end of the spectrum was the last essay prior to the afterword by Karin Slaughter.  Reprinted from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Slaughter’s article argued passionately that libraries are an essential element of freedom.  Interestingly enough, it is the only essay in the collection written from an American perspective.  This to me seemed a fitting way to end the book.  Because though it clearly has a different voice and setting (a refreshingly familiar one to an American reader) than the essays written by the British authors, its themes were identical and show the universal nature of the impact libraries can have.

But what makes this book special is not just the stories it contains but purpose behind the book itself.  Published in February 2012 by Profile Books in London, all royalties produced by this book go not the contributors, but to the Reading Agency, a charity based in England that works to improve libraries as a community resource and to encourage reading among both adults and children throughout the UK.  While I believe that reading any book is always personally empowering, it is always nice to know there is a measurable effect in the outside world as well.  For this reason alone, I would encourage people to go out and buy this book regardless of its quality.  Because readers don’t encourage others to read who will?

For more information about the Reading Agency check out their website at:

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