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The Book on the Book Shelf

So delightful! I languished over this book for weeks and weeks because I couldn’t really stand to be done with it. The book is a detailed history of shelving, or the ways we have stored our books since before there were books. Petroski starts with papyrus and gets all the way to ebooks before wrapping it up. Not only is this book interesting to read, but it is also fun to look at because there are many many illustrations of the various shelving apparati that the author describes. In many cases there is simply not much known about the book storage devices of the time and so Petroski paints a word picture of how he thinks the devices would work. Lovely illustrations of chain libraries, Saint Jerome, big old libraries and books galore. The author is certainly a lover of books and yet this book strives to answer the question “how do we decide how to store these books for use, not just for looks?” The conclusions he comes up with -- and the appendix listing the various orderings ones book collection could be put into is a delight -- are practical, well-reasoned and entertaining.