So Many Books – Gabriel Zaid

I am just over halfway through The Children’s Book by A. S. Byatt which I have to say I absolutely love so far. It is utterly beautifully written in fact it’s so rich and filled with wonderful descriptions and depictions that you occasionally need a break which when you have another eleven of the Man Booker isn’t the best option but I took one just for a few hours with a book about books that one of my friends bought for me recently. 

Gabriel Zaid’s non-fiction book ‘So Many Books’ isn’t initially what you might think it would be. I was expecting from the cover and from the title that this would be a book all about the books that he loves and with over ten thousand books in his home (which he delightfully calls ‘an embarrassment of books’ – I might steal that) you would think that he would have lots of delightful books to recommend and share with you. Actually what you get, which in many ways is just as good, is a discussion and in many ways a conversation with you about books. 

How can it be a conversation if you are reading the book and can’t answer? Well you see that is where Zaid is very clever as he asks many questions and then provides the answers sometimes even with varying thought processes, such as ‘why people read’. He also brings in some amazing facts about books. For example I had no idea that in recent years over 52,000,000 new books get published every year. How on earth are we as readers ever going to read all the books we can? 

A new titled book is published every 30 seconds. If a person read a book a day he would be neglecting 4,000 others published on the same day 

All this information is definitely for the avid book lover and in some parts it could become incredibly dull but Which when you have an hour or so (one thing I did disagree with him was the fact a paperback book ‘averages at £6 and takes only two hours to read”) to spare and you want to indulge yourself in something a little different during a long read, or just for a change or read this is something for any book lover. 

There were a few bits that I had to skip if I am one hundred per cent honest. ‘Culture and Commerce’ was one, which just seemed a little bit too business minded and so I whizzed through. The other was ‘The Supply and Demand of Poetry’ simply because I don’t really read poetry and I couldn’t identify with that. That was only ten pages; the rest of it was incredibly close to home for this reader.  

Truly cultured people are capable of owning thousands of unread books without losing their composure or their desire for more 

With lines like the above, I knew I was in the company of someone very much of my mind, and quite possibly of yours if you are a book-a-holic. I also have to praise the chapter ‘The End of the Book’ which sounds like it could be grim reading for anyone who loves books but Zaid left me with a smile on my face and a spring in my step. A fabulous book, definitely only for the true book lover and addict. 

What other books about books are there out there? Which ones would you recommend? Do you like books about books and reading habits or do you just prefer to stick to your fiction?


Filed under Books About Books, Gabriel Zaid, Review, Sort of Books

22 responses to “So Many Books – Gabriel Zaid

  1. I do love books about books but they also stress me out as I think “so many books still to read”.

    I depressingly worked out recently that if I live until I am eighty and read 100 books a year (arbitrary but reasonable number) then there are only 5100 books that I have the time to read and that includes re-reads. Such a thought, ironically, makes me want to end it all now.

    However, if we all managed to read paperbacks in 2 hours then there wouldn’t be a problem. We’re obviously doing it wrong!

    I am happy and relieved to hear that you are loving The Children’s Book! My library copy may be available by November *rolls eyes*.

    • November!!! That is crazy! I would think like with the Orange they would be ordering more copies in. 5100 books, that really is depressing, mind you… it does make me even more aware not to read books I am not enjoying, its a waste of time, something Zaid cannot abide!

      If I finish The Children’s Book by Book Group will bring it with me, though with 300 pages to go and the small matter of The Bell Jar to read (am 50 pages in from the tube this morning) it might be touch and go!

      • I hope they will be in the process of ordering more in. Don’t stress yourself about finishing it for Thursday! If my requested copy doesn’t look as if it will be ready in time then I’ll buy a copy perhaps and sell it later (unless I adore it…)

        My sobering realisation of the few books left for me to read has made me stricter in my approach towards books I am not enjoying – if I’m not feeling it then it’s not getting read! I may give some books with a second chance as it may just be my mood/place I’m in at the time but time is too precious to read bad books.

  2. Now, Claire, that is a sobering thought. So when I say to myself that I will die with these unread books still on my shelves, it is really true! Oh Jeez.

    I remember C.B. James mentioning a book called “Why We Read What We Read” (I think that was the name) that he enjoyed.

    • I shall hunt that C.B James blog down now thanks Sandy. Claire’s thought it sobering but makes me feel less guilty about having a TBR of 1000 books as means I acn officially say to ‘The Converted One’ taht “I will read them in my lifetime”! Hoorah!

      • Sandy, it’s a dreadful predicament!

        Simon, you’d think that it would be a viable excuse but no… my boyfriend responded to the 5100 books with “so that means then that you don’t have to buy any more books now as it’s likely that you have all 5100”. NOT the response I was looking for.

  3. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book about books, but I do think this sounds very interesting I am certainly guilty of owning lots of unread books, but still craving more!

  4. Book Psmith

    This is my kind of book…it will be going on my tbr list. I love to read books about books as well as books about bookselling and bookstores. Ex Libris, A Passion for Books, Sara Nelson’s book…and An Alphabetical Life, The Yellow-lighted Bookshop…and I will check out any fiction that has a love of books central to the plot or main character. Thanks for directing me to this book.

  5. This sounds like a great book, I love books-about-books. Like Book Psmith, one of my favourites is Anne Fadiman’s Ex Libris (in fact, it’s in my 50 Books… list on my blog)

  6. lizzysiddal

    Well that “truly cultured” person quote has pushed this book to my book of the year and I haven’t even read it yet!

    A must-read me, then. But I’m on a book-buying embargo until the Edinburgh Book Festival so I’ve put it on wish list.

    Books about books or books about bookaholics? For the latter, see my review of Tom Raabe’s “Biblioholism”. Or even better take the test … don’t forget to divulge your score in comments.

  7. Armen

    There is a book about books and in a funny way!
    It’s called “How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read” by Pierre Bayard. It is a very interesting book.

    it starts like this: “THERE is more than one way not to read, the most radical of which is not to open a book at all.”

  8. One of my favorite book about books is The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop by Lewis Buzbee. He reflects on his journey and relations to bookstores that he frequents. Buzbee is frank about his unquenchable desire to buy books even when he has a stack waiting for him at home. I am endeared to his book because he’s a local author who touches on many of the bookstores that I know around here.

  9. This book looks great! Thanks for sharing! It is going on my ever-more-embarrassing TBR list. I love that phrase “an embarrassment of books”- awesome.

  10. Pingback: Books On Books, Book People on Book People and Writers on Writing « Savidge Reads

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