Although we rarely question the value of writing, producing, selling, and reading books-after all, books are our passion and our business-never have we experienced such broad confirmation of these activities as we find in So Many Books
. Socrates, in the Phaedrus
, argued that books undermine our powers of memory and are inferior to conversation. Today's critics are more likely to point to the astounding number of titles published per year in issues of only a few thousand (more than a million) as a troubling development. But essayist Gabriel Zaid, at ease with the philosophy, history, psychology, and business of books, is their match, marshaling amazing facts and figures and constructing original arguments. Among the former are that 81% of Americans want to write a book, that Oxford University Press kept a certain translation from the Coptic into Latin (that sells an average of 2.6 copes/year) in print for 200 years; and that books that will sell for $30 to a few thousand people can't be given away to another ten thousand. Zaid weaves all into an utterly able defense of the book, and its irreplaceable contribution to cultural conversation. Touché
An Eighth Day View:
"Reading liberates the reader and transports him from his book to a reading of himself and all of life. It leads him to participate in conversations, and in some cases to arrange them . . . It could even be said that to publish a book is to insert it into the middle of a conversation." (from "So Many Books")
Join the conversation In "So Many Books," Gabriel Zaid offers his observations on the literary condition: a highly original analysis of the predicament that readers, authors, publishers, booksellers, librarians, and teachers find themselves in today--when there are simply more books than any of us can contemplate.
..".Zaid traces the preoccupation with reading back through Dr. Johnson, Seneca, and even the Bible ('Of making many books there is no end'). He emerges as a playful celebrant of literary proliferation, noting that there is a new book published every thirty seconds, and optimistically points out that publishers who moan about low sales 'see as a failure what is actually a blessing: The book business, unlike newspapers, films, or television, is viable on a small scale.' Zaid, who claims to own more than ten thousand books, says he has sometimes thought that 'a chastity glove for authors who can't contain themselves' would be a good idea. Nonetheless, he cheerfully opines that 'the truly cultured are capable of owning thousands of unread books without losing their composure or their desire for more.'"--"The New Yorker "