Shouting back at your books

I’ve been very much enjoying [amazon_link id=”190555964X” target=”_blank” ]The House of Twenty Thousand Books[/amazon_link] by Sasha Abramsky. It’s a memoir of his grandfather Chimen Abramsky, the son of a famous Lithuanian rabbi, who ended up in North London as one of the social centres of post-war left-wing intellectual life. Chimen was a book dealer and seller, as well as a noted historian of socialist and Jewish history. Although he had no degree himself, he became a professor of Jewish studies at UCL and an expert on rare documents for Sotheby’s.

[amazon_image id=”190555964X” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The House of Twenty Thousand Books[/amazon_image]

The book conveys a wonderful atmosphere of emotional warmth and practical chaos, sociable meals and long, late-night discussions of ideas. It made me try to estimate how many books there are in my house – fewer than 3,000 I reckon, and I’ve been thinking I need to do a big clear-out this holiday.

Still, it underlines again the importance of physical books – 20,000 on a Kindle would be meaningless. You couldn’t have read the notes Karl Marx wrote in the margins of his reading material if he’d been a Kindle-user. Needless to say, I was delighted to read yesterday this fabulous article by Tim Parks on why you need to read a paper book with a pen in hand to scribble on it – it makes it more likely that you will engage with the words, the ideas, if you interact physically with the book. It’s like shouting back at the radio: you have to have a book in your hand to shout at.


7 thoughts on “Shouting back at your books

  1. Pingback: Shouting back at your books | Homines Economici

  2. I think I appreciate – and can recall – a book better when I engage with the weight and physicality of the printed item. But Tim Parks’ argument that one needs the physical book in order to highlight and comment ignores the fact that one can do this with a stylus and Kindle book. It could be argued that it is even better as one can jump to bookmarks, revisit highlighted passages and read one’s comments on whichever device is to hand.

    I would be very interested to find out if anyone has carried out research on just how many people actively use this functionality, if it aids engagement / recall effectively, and if age is significant factor.

  3. Pingback: Shouting back at your books | The Enlightened E...

  4. I can give you another address. Plus, it’s my birthday.
    But I’m afraid postage will be too expensive due to the distance

  5. Oh yes, the pleasures of writing in one’s books. Amongst which is opening them up years or decades later and discovering what you thought. Yet I’ve never been able to overcome feeling like a sinner. Have only used a pencil, with an eraser nearby for repentance. Willfully breaking the spine of a book–unthinkable and unforgivable!

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