THE LIBRARY, by Stuart Kells, Counterpoint/Perseus/Hachette Book Group



“If you think you know what a library is, this marvellously idiosyncratic book will make you think again.” —The Sydney Morning Herald


Libraries are much more than mere collections of volumes. The best are magical, fabled places whose fame has become part of the cultural wealth they are designed to preserve. Some still exist today; some are lost, like those of Herculaneum and Alexandria; some have been sold or dispersed; and some never existed, such as those libraries imagined by J.R.R. Tolkien, Umberto Eco, and Jorge Luis Borges, among others.
Ancient libraries, grand baroque libraries, scientific libraries, memorial libraries, personal libraries, clandestine libraries: Stuart Kells tells the stories of their creators, their prizes, their secrets, and their fate. To research this book, Kells traveled around the world with his young family like modern-day “Library Tourists.” Kells discovered that all the world’s libraries are connected in beautiful and complex ways, that in the history of libraries, fascinating patterns are created and repeated over centuries. More important, he learned that stories about libraries are stories about people, containing every possible human drama.

The Library is a fascinating and engaging exploration of libraries as places of beauty and wonder. It’s a celebration of books as objects, a celebration of the anthropology and physicality of books and bookish space, and an account of the human side of these hallowed spaces by a leading and passionate bibliophile.

Published August 27, 2017


I received this book in exchange for my honest review.

Do you love books as much as I do? Do you love them to the point of wanting to know more about how they’re stored, how many different methods of communication throughout history were used. How about learning more about places that treasure books for unusual reasons/purposes, reflect upon books in a library as a source of peace, comfort and a sanctuary for reflection, learning and the storage of unique knowledge.

This author traces oral traditions of various people to the first methods of recording and writing things down. You’ll learn about the materials used, such as tablets, papyrus and animal skins and what they were used for. From there, the author moves throughout history to where words are written on paper with accompanying illustrations.  Binding and covers are discussed and the methods used to easily locate the books.

Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg that Kells unfolds for us.  I’ve always wondered about the preservation of books, the collection and care of books of limited editions, etc. Kells researches all.  To keep you from falling asleep, he adds anecdotes, humor and historical photos.  You can feel the author’s passion about books as you read the pages of this one.

Recording thoughts of wisdom, acts from history and words of experts has always been a part of human nature as part of their legacy and Kells shows how this must continue, especially with today’s use of ebooks, through the medium of physical books and libraries.  If technology dies, breaks down and is not useable any longer, what will come of all those electronic books? What about all the words written on their electronic pages… will they simply disappear?

Why do people collect books, who are they? How have books affected different cultures, and what extents are people willing to go to protect the most rare, and ancient of books. You’ll learn about book banning, and how religion affected what people read in history as compared to now.

Damage to books is elaborated on, with discussions on water and insect damage and don’t forget fire.  Did you know there is actually an insect called a bookworm and that it’s not just a cute caricature. Ew!

This book is so fascinating, and well-written enough to keep the reader invested in the content, being drawn in by the author’s enthusiasm and passion for books. I think this tribute to everything to do about books and why we love them so much is much needed, reminding us of our heritage and who we are, why we must continue recording our thoughts and doing so in physical books.


Kells shows us how the library is a treasure trove, full of imagination, facts, emotions, and experiences.  His writing is both enjoyable, inspirational, tongue-in-cheek funny and engaging, even whimsical at times. He reaches deep within the book lover in all of us, eloquently asking us from his unique perspective, to take his guided tour of libraries all over the world.


This is a one of a kind book for me, and I encourage all to read it! I love books; I can’t seem to get enough of them and devour each story I am able to get my hands on, so I absolutely understand Kells’ passion.

I was truly amazed to read about the extent that some collectors would go to in acquiring a specific book for their collection and Kell’s writing of this made me laugh.

Anyone will enjoy this book if they read! I recommend it to schools too!

I gave this book



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