"Thanks to art, instead of seeing only one world and time period, our own, we see it multiplied and can peer into other times, other worlds which offer windows to other lives. Each time we enter imaginatively into the life of another, it's a small step upwards in the elevation of the human race.
Every week seems to bring news of more bookstores closing, not least this week with the news that Borders will definitely be going into liquidation and many of its remaining stores will close. So here to brighten your Friday is a happy little time-lapse video of a new bookstore going from empty to open in less than 80 seconds.
According to Booker Prize-winning author Penelope Lively, e-books are for "bloodless nerds". Considering her somewhat advanced 78 years, one might assume that this was simply a reaction to new technology, but Lively owns an iPad (although she "wouldn't dream of reading a book on it" unless she was traveling or in hospital) and, for what it's worth, thirteen of her books are available as ebooks, including Moon Tiger (which won the Booker Prize in 1987).
To be fair, although the "bloodless nerd" soundbite is being quoted far and wide today, her full comment was, "It seems to me that anyone whose library consists of a Kindle lying on a table is some sort of bloodless nerd." Do you think she has a point? If a person's entire literary collection was contained within an electronic device, might their experience with reading be a tad soulless? Or does the written word rise above the confines of the media containing it?
A cool book promotion idea comes to us from Cairo, Egypt where
Alef Bookstores has launched the "Taxi of Knowledge" initiative.
Alef Bookstores mission is to "instill the light of knowledge and learning that once upon a time made great Arab thinkers the pillars of modern civilization in each and every individual who walks through our doors" - an objective that now extends to the passengers in over 200 Cairo taxis.
The concept is simple but elegant. The bookstore lends taxi drivers five books to place in their car for free, which can be exchanged for other titles at any time. The books are donated by friends, authors and volunteers with the aim of encouraging both the drivers and passengers to read. To date, over 10,000 books have been collected covering a wide range of tastes to suit both drivers and passengers.
The first World Book Night was held in the UK on March 5, 2011 and saw 20,000 people give away one million copies of 25 specially printed books in one day. The event was considered a great success.
In 2012, a second event is scheduled to take place in the UK, but the day will move to April 23, which is recognized as the International Day of the Book; and, according to today's news, other countries, including the USA, might take part. The Day of the Book originates in Catalonia (an autonomous region in the north of Spain). Catalonia has long celebrated April 23rd as the Day of the Rose, because it is the day they celebrate their patron saint, Sant Jordi (St George), whose symbol is a rose. Then, back in 1923, an enterprising bookseller started to promote the holiday as The Day of the Book, because it was on that day in 1616 that Miguel Cervantes (author of Don Quixote) and William Shakespeare both died (Inca Garcilaso de la Vega is also recorded as dying on that day so sometimes he is included in references to The Day of the Book).
Books have been inspiring people from all walks of life for many centuries, not least the architects who build the libraries to house them!
From the Vatican library, established more than 500 years ago, to modern buildings that are pushing the boundaries of the avant-garde such as The Czech Republic's proposed new national library, these six websites will take you on a tour of some of the most beautiful, inspiring and, occasionally, downright weird library buildings to be found in our wide world....
On September 15, 2009 one of my (far too many) book groups embarked on a reading challenge entitled "Around the World in 80 Books." Its object was to read 80 books from 80 different countries over the course of the subsequent 12 months. Of the nearly seventy people who signed up to participate, six of us met the goal. Sure, there's a sense of accomplishment, but far more importantly I've found that I've learned quite a lot over the past year, both about history and about my reading tastes in general.
The first thing I discovered was that when one is looking for books about a specific country or region, it's FAR easier to come up with non-fiction books than novels. Most book sites don't allow you to search by a specific country. (Ever try to find a novel about Qatar or Oman? It ain't easy!) At first, this intimidated me. I've had an annual goal for as long as I can remember to read six non-fiction books a year, and most of the time I don't succeed. I do a fine job of BUYING non-fiction books; there are many that look really interesting. Somehow, though, they always seem to languish on my shelves longer than the novels I purchase. I finally decided, though, that if I was going to participate in this challenge, I'd just have to bite the bullet and read some non-fiction (yikes!).
Last week was "Banned Book Week" in the USA - an annual event celebrating the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment. Of the many talking heads who opined on the topic during the week, Nancy Pearl's piece on "Penguin Classics On Air" struck me as particularly interesting. Rick Wartzman's take on the history of banned books from the point of view of the banning of The Grapes of Wrath is also worth a listen.