A couple of years ago, after my fifty-third birthday, I decided to
reread a few of my favorite old books, and I was struck, once again, by
how their many-layered and complex worlds of the past seemed to reflect
the dismal chaos of the world I was living in. A passage in a novel
would suddenly illuminate an article in the daily paper; a
half-forgotten episode would be recalled by a certain scene; a single
word would prompt a long reflection. I decided to keep a record of
these moments. It occurred to me then that, rereading a book a
month, I might complete, in a year, something between a personal diary
and a commonplace book: a volume of notes, reflections, impressions of
travel, sketches of friends, of events public and private, all elicited
by my reading. I made a list of what the chosen books would be. It
seemed important, for balance, that there be a little of everything.
Pop Matters’ review of the book makes it sound like a blog.
Do not anticipate, picking up this book, being guided through the chapters by an obvious, linear argument. The format is, after all, a diary, and as such it ambles between memories of Manguel’s childhood, tales of his current travels, short tangential yarns and quotations, all either loosely or directly tied to the titles being examined.