In the Country of Books

It is only fitting, I think, that my first post should tell you a little about the book that inspired me to start this blog. In the Country of Books, by Richard Katzev, Ph.D., is at once delightful and fascinating.  In reading the first few pages, you know you are in the company of a fellow reader who “gets it,” one who understands and appreciates the lure of language and the magic and majesty of literature.

Page from Jefferson's Commonplace BookIn reading, especially in history and biography, I had noticed references to commonplace books and, from the context, had a general idea of what they were.  But after reading a biography of Thomas Jefferson and learning about the commonplace books he kept from boyhood, I became really curious.

So I did what every other thinking person of an enquiring mind would do – I googled “commonplace books!”   Eventually, I found my way to In the Country of Books.   What a lucky find.  Dr. Katzev is a dedicated journalist of readings, and he shares many of his interesting entries in his book.  But he has also delved deeply into the tradition of commonplace books and reading journals, the compulsion that some of us have to record and annotate what we read, and ultimately,  in his words, “the experience of the readers, how literature enters their lives, and possibly changes them.”

In the Preface of his book, Dr. Katzev quotes Proust:

In reading, friendship is suddenly brought back to its original purity.  There is no false amiability with books.  If we spend the evening with these friends, it is because we genuinely want to. 

I’m looking forward to many more evenings with these friends.

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