Book Review: Phantoms on the Bookshelves, by Jacques Bonnet


‘Phantoms on the Bookshelves,’ by Jacques Bonnet was translated from the French original by Sian Reynolds and has an introduction by James Salter. The copy I have is a Kindle edition. It was first published in Great Britain in 2010 by MacLehose Press. It is a relatively short book at 123 pages in length, so it won’t take too much to get through it.

Phantoms on the Bookshelves, by Jacques BonnetThe introduction to the book by James Salter is a good, brief read concerning the author of the book and his book collecting ways. It could easily describe me, though I have nowhere near as many books as Bonnet, even though I have thousands myself in traditional form and/or digital format. I see similarities between the description given of Bonnet by Salter and myself, with my far fewer volumes. I too struggle now to find room for them all, with my virtual bookshelves requiring expansion in the near future to accomodate my book collecting ways into the current century and digital age. Traditional books have long run out of room in this house, as I suspect they have in Bonnet’s apartment.

Bonnet is a man who loves books and his thoughts on what is normal in a home, the presence of many books, is something I can relate to. I also find myself in wonder when I see homes with no books, particularly in some of the circles in which I move or have moved. How can they get by without books? Mind you it is probably not as easy a situation to read (no pun intended – truly not) these days, with books now being able to be stored by the thousands on a home computer and/or on an external hard drive or two. Still, I have wondered this for many years and I think Bonnet would probably agree with me. Relating to others is made easier when discussing books for Bonnet and I find this an agreeable thing also. It is the way of Bibliophiles, whether we use that term or not (perhaps for some Bibliomaniac is a better term).

I did not find Bonnet’s chapter on cataloguing and organisation helpful at all, though I expect it would help some. This is probably because I have developed my own system which closely resembles that of the Dewey to almost certainly be called a Dewey system. The Bonnet decsription horrified me and I thought it would become far too confusing and disorienting for me. He is certainly right about the Internet making a major impact on libraries and the need to have as many books as he has in his collection. It is not only the storing of works on the World Wide Web, in the cloud and on other digital storage systems like computers, external drives, etc, where libraries are changing and/or have changed, but also in the cataloguing and organisation of books. I have a large number of books stored on digital devices and by digital means, but I also have access to far more over the Internet from vast libraries that I can access online. But I also have both offline and online digital methods for assisting me in cataloguing and organising my books, which I use as best I can and with great relief for being able to do so. Yet it boils down to individual choice and comfortableness, being able to manage these resources in a way that allows the individual to harness them to the greatest effect, which is indeed something of an indiviual matter and process.

The Bonnet method of reading will not be everyones cup of tea, but that’s OK too, because that is also a very individualistic thing. Bonnet likes lying down to read, I prefer sitting at a desk. Bonnet likes to underline and write in his books as he reads, I prefer to highlight and collate quotes via other media. There is no one rule for all, but many different rules for many different people. The thing is to retain what one reads in some way, that I think is the key to reading. It is certainly not a requirement to read each and every book from cover to cover, but to take a dip in each one to some extent and to achieve some purpose when doing so is required if you wish to say that you read your books and they aren’t just display items.

The manner in which Bonnet has collected his books is almost baffling to someone who has not done so in the same manner. He seems almost obsessed with completing lists and collections of books, of following every author/book line that comes up in what he reads or experiences. It seems any book mentioned must be obtained for his library. This is the way of a Bibliomaniac, that is for sure. His obsession with collecting ‘picture’ books is another seemingly crazed hobby which almost seems to be a driving force for him. I too collect books, but this insight into how another book lover and lover of reading goes about collecting his books is one that is beyond my experience. It is a fascinating world of book hunting and gathering if ever there was one. Something about one book leads to another which leads to another, or some conversation leads to a book which leads to another, etc.

Bonnet’s reflections upon his books shows someone who truly absorbs what he reads and imbibes the being of those written about. He seems to feel them, to know them, far better than any creator of them. Authors of books, whether fictional pieces or biographical/autobiographical works fade with the passing of time, if indeed a true reflection of them is left in the pages of the books they write or in the annals of history. However, those created and placed within the realms of literature remain the same and can be known almost completely. There are places to visit, whether real or ethereal, people to meet and to greet. Books bring a whole world to one’s home and experience, and even beyond that one travels into the realm of fictional lands and peoples. A plethora of experience that is only exaggerated when the library is swollen by multimedia resources. What an amazing world the library can become – is.

Buy this book at Amazon:
http://www.amazon.com/Phantoms-Bookshelves-Jacques-Bonnet/dp/1590207599/

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Encyclopaedia Britannica: Printed Editions Almost Gone


Less Than 1000 Sets Remain

The following link reports on the last days of the printed editions of Encyclopaedia Britannica. Less than 1000 sets remain.

For more, visit:
http://www.finebooksmagazine.com/fine_books_blog/2012/04/encyclopaedia-britannica.phtml

Book Review: Currently Reading – Print is Dead, by Jeff Gomez


I have been reading ‘Print is Dead – Books in our Digital Age,’ by Jeff Gomez. Having just read chapter two, ‘Us and Them,’ I must say that his point in that chapter is well made. The demise in traditional book sales has not been because ebooks have taken the world by storm – at least not at this stage – but because other areas of the digital world have. Generations of younger people have turned away from books in all their forms and have sought entertainment in other things, such as the Internet and video games, to name just a couple. It is reading itself that is being passed by, so the advent of the ebook is not that which is killing off the traditional book and by extension the bookseller/bookshop, but rather ‘dumber’ forms of entertainment.

Books will always be around in one form or another (at least I believe that), whether they remain as prolific as they now are is quite another thing, it is the habit of reading that may fall away dramatically and cause books to be cast aside – at least in the wider community. I think there will always be a group or community of diehard book readers, who eventually will have ebooks as their primary source of books and reading material. There are those who will not be lost entirely to less intellectual forms of entertainment, though perhaps some of these other forms of entertainment may play a role in the ‘reading’ of the future in the digital world (linked to videos, etc). Reading is a great skill that is being lost and the medium for ideas through the ages faces its greatest threat from a lack of it.

The next chapter, ‘newspapers are no longer news,’ deals with newspapers as a source of news and book reviews, or rather, how they are rapidly loosing their ascendency to online applications and tools. In a world that is rapidly changing and access to news as it happens online, newspapers are becoming a too infrequently updated source of news and information. Online access to news and events as they happen are so readily accessible, that the traditional source of news is fading away. As for book reviews, the avenues of discussion about books on the web via social networking, Blogs and the like, opens the opportunity for all to join the discussion. Book reviews in newspapers, like movie reviews, are opportunities for the reviewers to pontificate and/or push their own views onto a public unable to respond – online however the avenues of discussion are legion and varied. All may be involved – or not at all. The decision as to how one may be involved is left to the individual, which also translates to news stories in a similar manner. Interaction with the news and books has never been so simple and as rich an experience.

See also:
http://www.dontcallhome.com/books.html (Website of Jeff Gomez)
Podcast (Excerpts from the Book)
Google Books
Amazon

Site Libraries and At the BookShelf


I have been working on the two book libraries (of sorts) that I have on two of my websites. These libraries are being redeveloped and there is quite a bit of work to be done on both of these sites. Let’s look at the two libraries in a little more detail.

 

Tracing our History – History

The first library is hosted at Tracing our History and this library is part of the History section of the site. This library is the smallest of the two libraries, though it will continue to grow in size over time.

History is the main page of the History section of the Tracing our History site and doubles as the main directory to the History library. At the moment the library is a library of links to works on Australian history in particular and other areas of history that I am interested in. Works that were previously hosted at Tracing our History are currently unavailable until they have been reviewed and made available in pdf format. There are however a number of books available via links that are of a high quality and in my opinion, very important and/or valuable works.

Visit the History page at:
http://tracingourhistory.com/history.html

 

The Book Room

The second library is hosted at particularbaptist.com and is called simply ‘The Book Room,’ where old books are not forgotten. It is also known as The Particular Baptist Library, with an emphasis on Particular Baptist and good, solid, Reformed works. The Book Room features a directory to the various sections of the library in the right column of each page. This makes navigation of the site a relatively simply exercise.

As with the previous library at Tracing our History, there are a large number of books available via links to other sites. Most of these links should now be in working order, having recently been checked. As with the previous library, works hosted at particularbaptist.com are being reviewed and being replaced by PDF versions. This will take time to complete and currently those works are still available in HTML format.

Future plans for The Book Room include having dedicated pages for each work hosted at particularbaptist.com, including sections on each book page for book reviews, a Scribd widget for reading and downloading PDF versions of the book, additional resources on the book, links to other versions of the book and purchasing options for the book via online bookshops like Amazon. An example of this approach is ‘The Sermons of Hugh Latimer,’ which can be found at:

http://particularbaptist.com/library/latimer_sermons_contents.html

The Book Room can be found at:
http://particularbaptist.com/library/libraryindex.html

 

At the BookShelf

This Blog, ‘At the BookShelf,’ will be linked to both of these libraries, being the vehicle whereby news of added content, book reviews, and so on, will be broadcast. Of course At the BookShelf will remain a place for reviewing books and sharing my experience of them, but I do plan for At the BookShelf being a way of sharing what I read in a more valuable way also – by actually making available what I read to those who are entering into my reading experience, be that by way of an ebook hosted on one of my sites, an ebook hosted elsewhere or by links to places where the book may be purchased.

At the BookShelf and the two libraries already mentioned will also interact with my other book reading and sharing activities on the World Wide Web at such places as Goodreads, Shelfari and Book Crossing, as well as at other sites that I may become involved in over time. There will also be interaction with Quotista (a site for sharing quotes) and possibly another Blog I maintain for the purposes of quotes from books (which currently I use for private purposes).

With all of my involvement in book sharing social networks, web applications, web sites and the like, At the BookShelf will be a rich meeting place for all things to do with books and should be the better for it. I hope it will be a place of interest and usefulness for others. It will also be a place for sharing my personal experiences with books, which may or may not be of interest to visitors of this Blog. I guess time will tell.

 

Visitor Interaction

I welcome visitor interaction on all of my sites, including this Blog. On all of my sites I try to make available the means for interacting with visitors for sharing information, making comments, etc. Please make use of the means for doing so, though I do reserve the right for removing content that I don’t approve of (such as Spam, offensive comments, etc).

 

 

‘Shameful Flight – The Last Years of the British Empire in India,’ by Stanley Wolpert


Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

‘Shameful Flight’ relates the history of the final years of the British Raj in India, including the partition of India into both Pakistan (West and East) and India, and the early hostility of the two new nations destined for perpetual warfare in such regions as the Kashmir.The history of this era of political instability on the subcontinent includes all the main players from Great Britain, India and Pakistan.These main players include Winston Churchill, Viceroy Louis Mountbatten, Mahatma Gandhi, Pandit Nehru and Quaid-i-Azam Jinnah. There is not a single figure in this history of India’s partition who comes out of it in a good light, though several seem to have had very well-intentioned aims and motivations. It is the true story of lost opportunity and the devastating consequences of human pride and selfishness that have reverberated down through the decades to the present day and remain visible in the continuing clashes between India and Pakistan, as well as in the extremism expressed in both the Islamic and Hindu communities throughout the sub-continent. It is a story of perpetual tragedy and human suffering with no end in sight.

This book is extremely easy to read, passes on a wealth of historical information and whets the appetite for further research on the India/Pakistan situation. It provides enlightenment, by bringing understanding to the current political instability in both India and Pakistan, by clearly revealing the root of the problem – the manner of the birth of both nations out of British imperialism and that nation’s final haphazard departure aptly described as a ‘Shameful Flight.’ This is a great book for understanding the sub-continent and the wounds it still carries to this day.

This book was provided to me for review by Oxford University Press – www.oup.com