Review Blog

Oct 09 2014

A history of the book in 100 books by Roderick Cave

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Allen & Unwin, 2014. ISBN 9781743317143.
(Age: Secondary - Professional) Since reliable and affordable access to the internet became readily available to most, we have heard cries that 'The book is dead!'; 'It's all online so you don't need books!'; and 'Empty your library's shelves of books and replace them with devices.' Despite the growing body of evidence that children need to develop traditional literacy skills using print, teacher librarians are constantly having to defend their decision to keep the traditional format on the shelves.
But here in the richly illustrated tome is the evidence that such calls for change are not new. Over the history of mankind changing technologies have changed the format of books, from ancient cave paintings to inscriptions on tombs of the ancient Egyptians and all stops in between through to the printing of books for the masses and now the accessibility of ebooks, the book as a device has evolved. While the advent of the ebook may be seen as a revolution by some, and the printed-paper book that we are so familiar with may go the way of the tablets of Babylon - although the notion of the 'paperless office' is yet to come to fruition - this book is an attempt to celebrate the endurance of the concept through the very careful selection of just 100 books which illustrate the huge range of formats and styles from all continents, except Antarctica. Many of those selected are not the most obvious choices, in fact choices have been made to deliberately stimulate the reader's interest to explore further.
Arranged into eleven chapters that suggest a broad chronological approach, each entry has been meticulously researched yet written in a very readable way. There is an extensive, illustrated glossary explaining terms from 'abugida' to 'graphic novel' to 'zaum' as well as a comprehensive bibliography to lead the reader further afield.
This is not a text whose purpose is to show that the book as we know it is doomed - indeed, the authors declare that it is not - but rather to show that despite its evolution in format, its importance and purpose to educate and entertain has essentially remained unchanged. Throughout civilisation, humans have had a need to record and share events, thoughts, discoveries and dreams whether that be on bone, bamboo, bark, paper, clay or computer screen.
Whether this is a personal purchase or one bought to support the curriculum, it is an important addition to understanding our continuing passion for and love affair with books.
Barbara Braxton

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