Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Books about books

The 2015 One Book One Community program began October 1. To celebrate 10 years of our local community read, the committee chose Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan. This 10th anniversary selection honors the long history of the book and takes the reader from a mysterious present day San Francisco book store and Google’s campus to Renaissance book printers and back. Clay, an out-of-work graphic designer, finds a job on the night shift at a San Francisco bookshop which soon leads him and several high tech friends on a quest to solve a centuries-old mystery involving codes, a medieval typeface, and the search for immortality. Mr. Penumbra’s is a fun and magical book wherein friendship, perseverance, intelligence, and imagination optimistically link old and new technology and speak to our desire for permanence in the digital age. Print and audio copies of this book can be checked out of your library, inter-loaned from other libraries or purchased at local bookstores.

Sloan will speak to the public at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, October 20 in NMU’s Jamrich Hall Auditorium, Room 1100. Free admission. Other free activities include public book discussions at PWPL on Oct 6 and at Snowbound Books on Oct 19, and the Film “Her” at PWPL on Oct 12. Snowbound Books will be open for 24 hours Oct 19-20. Activities that night include a 1:00 a.m. visit from Sloan who grew up downstate and attended MSU. Visit www.pwpl.info and click on the One Book One Community link, visit www.nmu.edu/onebook, or call 226-4309 for more information.

One of my favorite stories about books is People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks. This fictionalized history also explores the history of the book, but in this case, one particular book. In 1996, Hanna Heath, a young Australian rare-book expert, is called to analyze and conserve the famed Sarajevo Haggadah, a priceless and beautiful six-hundred-year-old Jewish prayer book that has been rescued during the Bosnian war. When Hanna discovers a series of tiny artifacts in the book’s centuries old binding, she reveals the book’s mysteries and exposes an international cover up.

Ander Monson, in Letter to a Future Lover: Marginalia, Errata, Secrets, Inscriptions, and Other Ephemera Found in Libraries, considers the histories of books and their readers through traces of themselves left behind in each book such as comments in the margins, bits of paper, envelopes, and other artifacts. In college, we signed a slip in the back of a book when we checked it out of the library. It was exciting and felt a bit subversive to learn who had read this book before you did, to realize each book has a history of being read. Monson, originally from the Keweenaw and now teaching in Tucson, uses this communal experience of reading to reflect on life and literature. 

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin is a sweet, sad and funny tribute to books and booksellers. A.J. Fikery decides to drink himself to death. His wife has died; his business is losing sales; and his 1st edition of Poe’s Tamerlane, Fikry’s retirement plan, has disappeared. However, when he finds an abandoned toddler sleeping in his shop and unwillingly discusses a new line of titles with a pesky book sales rep., he eventually discovers a second chance at love and renewed joy and humor in connecting books and people.

Michael Dirda, Washington Post book critic, shares joy-filled insights about books and reading in Browsings: A Year of Reading, Collecting, and Living with Books. He writes conversationally of visits to used and rare bookstores and library book sales. His purchases inspire reminiscences of books and authors who have filled his reading life. He, too, shows how reading stories builds relationships between readers and authors and between or among readers, and how these relationships change and shape the reader’s life. One will be inspired to make a long list of books to read next.

Books in print format will never disappear. There are, after all, all kinds of readers, books and reasons for reading. However, John Palfrey argues in Bibliotech: Why Libraries Matter More Than Ever in the Age of Google, libraries must transition to digital formats if we hope to save libraries and through them, our democratic ideal. We all know that the ways in which we obtain and use information is rapidly changing and to keep up we have to know how to find and use digitized information. Palfrey, founding chairman of the Digital Public Library, believes that as we enter the digital world, libraries will be more important than ever as they continue to provide equal access to information and education, a safe space, free access to computers and the internet, and a sense of connectedness to the local community and the world beyond. He maintains that libraries will have to change their focus from traditional formats to a digital environment and ensure that digital materials and information are publically available to all people. Learn something about this transformation by attending a One Book One Community sponsored program, “24-Hour Digital Resources @ Your Library,” on Oct 13 at 7:00 p.m. in PWPL’s Computer Lab.

 --Cathy Sullivan Seblonka, Collection Development/Reference Librarian

No comments:

Post a Comment