One of the NYRB‘s free articles is a review article discussing two books and a film about libraries. I’m a huge library fan. It opened the world of books to me from the time I was able to read, first in private lending libraries in Bombay and then the wonderful public libraries of the US. I fell off the wagon for a number of years, mostly because I had access to university libraries, but a few years ago I reacquainted myself with my city and county libraries and haven’t looked back. I love this description of what libraries offer us all:
Klinenberg is interested in the ways that common spaces can repair our fractious and polarized civic life. And though he argues in his new book, Palaces for the People, that playgrounds, sporting clubs, diners, parks, farmer’s markets, and churches—anything, really, that puts people in close contact with one another—have the capacity to strengthen what Tocqueville called the cross-cutting ties that bind us to those who in many ways are different from us, he suggests that libraries may be the most effective. “Libraries are the kinds of places where ordinary people with different backgrounds, passions, and interests can take part in a living democratic culture,” he writes. Yet as Susan Orlean observes in her loving encomium to libraries everywhere, aptly titled The Library Book, “The publicness of the public library is an increasingly rare commodity. It becomes harder all the time to think of places that welcome everyone and don’t charge any money for that warm embrace.”
The article covers Susan Orlean’s new book about the LA library fire, Eric Klinenberg’s nonfiction study of libraries as engines of community, and the great Frederick Wiseman’s documentary of the New York Public Library. I haven’t seen it yet, but Wiseman’s work is unparalleled and whatever you watch will stick in your brain forever.
The Guardian has an article on the mess that Amazon’s review and recommendation systems has become. This is a general problem for Amazon, with bots and fake reviews messing up the ranking systems, but the books issue is in a class of its own:Read the rest of this entry »