Book review: The Library At Night

The Library At Night

The Library At Night

The Library At Night
Alberto Manguel
Publisher: Yale University Press
Pub. Date: 2006
ISBN: 0300139144
Pages:  373
Nonfiction/book on books and libraries
Public Library
Literary Award:
Bronze medal winner
of the 2008 Book of the Year Award
in the category of Architecture,
presented by ForeWord magazine.

Buy Link

This book counts for the following Reading Challenges:
New Authors 2013 2013 TBR Pile


Rating system



1)      The Library As Myth
The Tower of Babel vs. the library of Alexandria. Reality or myth?

2)      The Library As Order
 How do you classify your books on your shelves? The importance of Dewey.

3)      The Library As Space
The problem of space on your shelves and in a library. How do we store knowledge? Fun reaction to extreme weeding in an American library in the early 1990s!

4)      The Library As Power

5)      The Library As Shadow
Explicit censorship, but also implicit censorship: what’s NOT in your library is the fruit of your own censorship

6)      The Library As Shape
Architecture of libraries. How do you feel reading in a different shape of room?

7)      The Library As Chance
How books end up together in garage sales, etc

8)      The Library As Workshop
Place where you read and place where you write

9)      The Library As Mind
Tell me what you read, and I’ll tell you who you are. Your library is a reflection of your mind

10)   The Library As Island
Do we venerate literature or do we venerate books? Question of the book enthroned or the book read

11)   The Library As Survival
How some books managed to survive, and how books help survive in extreme situations, eg in concentration camps

12)   The Library As Oblivion
Books we read and then forget. And forced oblivion of books by totalitarian regimes

13)   The Library As Imagination
Imaginary books and collections

14)   The Library As Identity
How our library reflects our identity. Likewise, the identity of a society can be mirrored by a library that serves as our collective definition.

15)   The Library As Home
Timeless and without borders


In the sixteenth century, the Ottoman poet Adbüllatif Çelebi, better known as Latifi, called each of the books in his library “a true and loving friend who drives away all cares.”

Every reader exists to ensure for a certain book a modest immortality. Reading is, in this sense, a ritual of rebirth. p.28

In a library, no empty shelf remains empty for long. Like nature, libraries abhor a vacuum, and the problem of space is inherent in the very nature of any collection of books. p.66

Every book is autobiographical.  Chap.9

For the cosmopolitan reader a homeland is not a space, fractures by political frontiers, but in time, which has no borders. Chap.15


Inspired by the process of creating a library for his fifteenth-century home near the Loire, in France, Alberto Manguel, the acclaimed writer on books and reading, has taken up the subject of libraries. “Libraries,” he says, “have always seemed to me pleasantly mad places, and for as long as I can remember I’ve been seduced by their labyrinthine logic.” In this personal, deliberately unsystematic, and wide-ranging book, he offers a captivating meditation on the meaning of libraries.

Manguel, a guide of irrepressible enthusiasm, conducts a unique library tour that extends from his childhood bookshelves to the “complete” libraries of the Internet, from Ancient Egypt and Greece to the Arab world, from China and Rome to Google. He ponders the doomed library of Alexandria as well as the personal libraries of Charles Dickens, Jorge Luis Borges, and others. He recounts stories of people who have struggled against tyranny to preserve freedom of thought—the Polish librarian who smuggled books to safety as the Nazis began their destruction of Jewish libraries; the Afghani bookseller who kept his store open through decades of unrest. Oral “memory libraries” kept alive by prisoners, libraries of banned books, the imaginary library of Count Dracula, the library of books never written—Manguel illuminates the mysteries of libraries as no other writer could. With scores of wonderful images throughout, The Library at Night is a fascinating voyage through Manguel’s mind, memory, and vast knowledge of books and civilizations. [Goodreads]


Alberto Manguel on Reading Pictures


Alberto Manguel

Alberto Manguel (born 1948 in Buenos Aires) is an Argentine-born writer, translator, and editor.
He is the author of numerous non-fiction books such as The Dictionary of Imaginary Places (co-written with Gianni Guadalupi in 1980) and A History of Reading (1996) The Library at Night (2007) and Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey: A Biography (2008), and novels such as News From a Foreign Country Came (1991).

Manguel believes in the central importance of the book in societies of the written word where, in recent times, the intellectual act has lost most of its prestige.
Libraries (the reservoirs of collective memory) should be our essential symbol, not banks. Humans can be defined as reading animals, come into the world to decipher it and themselves.






8 thoughts on “Book review: The Library At Night

  1. Hi Emma,

    On today’s post I was eager to read your review of The Library At Night by Alberto Manguel, but when I clicked on Read my Review I found myself on a blank page entitled Ramblings of a Coffee-Addicted Writer. Did I miss something? How do I see your review? [I met Alberto Manguel in Aix a couple of years ago. One of his books was adapted for an opera written by a young Argentine composer. Manguel was here with the composer. I chatted with him briefly about his latest book A Reader on Reading which he was very pleased to hear was already available in our English bookstore in Aix.]



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