9 Quotes About The Library As A Temple

Image of New York Public Library via Wikimedia Commons

In an age when libraries must clamor to justify their existence, and serve as battlegrounds for social issues ranging from homelessness to feminism to free speech (or any combination thereof), it can be easy to lose sight of the simple pleasures this institution still affords to anyone who darkens their local branch’s door – particularly those who lack books of their own, or a quiet place in which to read them.

It’s important to remember that the history of libraries is full of such battles. While it’s widely believed that the great Alexandrian library burned to the ground, history paints a much thornier picture. According to Wikipedia’s source, “The library actually declined gradually over the course of roughly 800 years, starting with the purging of intellectuals from Alexandria in 145 BC during the reign of Ptolemy VIII Physcon, which resulted in Aristarchus of Samothrace, the last recorded head librarian, resigning from his position and exiling himself to Cyprus.”

To this day, those who’ve grown up exploring the world (and themselves) through books tend to regard libraries as a temple or sacred space – in which a librarian serves a Magister Templi, guiding pilgrims on quests both esoteric and mundane. The following quotes may help rekindle your appreciation for that local building that houses so many mysteries.

J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, 1998

“’That’s what Hermione does,’ said Ron, shrugging. ‘When in doubt, go to the library.”

 

Shelby Foote, as quoted in North Carolina Libraries, 1993

“A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library.”

 

Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore, 2002

“When I open them, most of the books have the smell of an earlier time leaking out  between the pages – a special odor of the knowledge and emotions that for ages have been calmly resting between the covers. Breathing it in, I glance through a few pages before returning each book to its shelf.”

 

Jeanette Winterson, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, 1985

“In the library I felt better, words you could trust and look at till you understood them, they couldn’t change half way through a sentence like people, so it was easier to spot a lie.”

 

Barbara Kingsolver, The Poisonwood Bible, 1998

“I attempted briefly to consecrate myself in the public library, believing every crack in my soul could be chinked with a book.”

 

Jean-Paul Sartre, The Words, 1963

“I had found my religion: nothing seemed more important to me than a book. I saw the library as a temple.”

 

Stephen King, It, 1986

“He sat there studiously bent over his work (Bill saw him), which lay in a slant of crisp white winterlight, his face sober and absorbed, knowing that to be a librarian was to come as close as any human being can to sitting in the peak-seat of eternity’s engine.”

 

Marilyn Johnson, This Book Is Overdue!: How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All, 2010

“Librarians’ values are as sound as Girl Scouts’: truth, free speech, and universal literacy. And, like Scouts, they possess a quality that I think makes librarians invaluable and indispensable: they want to help. They want to help us. They want to be of service. And they’re not trying to sell us anything.”

 

Jeanette Winterson, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?, 2011

“’Whenever I am troubled,’ said the librarian, ‘I think about the Dewey decimal system.’

‘Then what happens?’ asked the junior, rather overawed.

‘Then I understand that trouble is just something that has been filed in the wrong place. That is what Jung was explaining of course – as the chaos of our unconscious contents strive to find their rightful place in the index of consciousness.’”

 

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Be Not Proud: 10 Books To Help Us Face Mortality

Dietmar Rabich, via Wikimedia Commons: “Braunton (Devon, UK), St Brannock’s Church – 2013 – 9”/CC BY-SA 4.0

Here in the United States, we have a death problem. By this I do not mean a sudden uptick of American fatalities — rather, the combination of scientific breakthroughs and de-emphasis of religion has translated into an odd denial of the existence of death.

Doctors are trained to preserve life rather than well-being, and many of us act as if death is a problem we can circumvent with a vegan diet and enough hours at the gym. Thankfully, there also exists a movement toward accepting death’s place in our life cycle; here are some wonderful books to help us do so.

The cover of the book When Breath Becomes AirWhen Breath Becomes Air

Paul Kalanithi

Before he died at age 37, Kalinthi was an up-and-coming neurosurgeon who also enjoyed wresting with literary and philosophical precepts. Upon his diagnosis with the lung cancer that would take his life in less than two years, he began writing this open-hearted, clear-eyed memoir about how to live when you know you’re going to die. It remains a stunning legacy.

 

The cover of the book How We DieHow We Die

Sherwin B. Nuland

A surgeon who struggled with serious illness in his youth, the late Dr. Nuland harbored no illusions regarding “good deaths.” To him, the end of life was messy, difficult, and dehumanizing, and he resented any effort to disabuse us of this notion. Here, he carefully details the biological and chemical processes of what is inevitably to come for each of us. As dour as it sounds, the clarity of this tome is not just bracing but oddly comforting.

 

The cover of the book Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the EndBeing Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End

Atul Gawande

Like poet William Carlos Williams or The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat author Oliver Sacks, Gawande is that rare soul who is as talented a writer as he is a doctor. In this call for a reevaluation of end-of-life care, he meditates on how to navigate age-related frailty and mortal illness so that not just the living, but the dying, can be comfortable.

 

The cover of the book MortalityMortality

Christopher Hitchens

The late political journalist and author Hitchens was a controversial figure throughout his life, and he proved no less controversial upon receiving a diagnosis of stage 4 cancer. True to form, he fully documented his waning health, fears, and unflagging atheism with a dogged, cheerful boldness.

 

193755The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Jean-Dominique Bauby

At age 44, French Vogue editor Bauby seemingly had it all. Then he suffered a massive stroke that left him almost entirely paralyzed. In his last few months on Earth, he used his left eyelid to convey this stunning memoir of his revelations upon being caught in between life and death.

 

The cover of the book Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?

Roz Chast

Who says death and dying can’t be funny? Leave it to Roz Chast, best known as the beloved New Yorker cartoonist, to craft a graphic memoir that finds the gallows humor (and haunting melancholy) in her parents’ last days.

 

The cover of the book Talk Before SleepTalk Before Sleep

Elizabeth Berg

The one novel on this list, it perfectly encapsulates the pain of losing a close friend to cancer while you’re both still in middle age — the conversations, the solidarity, and the terrible sense of moving into two separate worlds.

 

The cover of the book Let's Take the Long Way HomeLet’s Take the Long Way Home

Gail Caldwell

A remembrance of the author’s final days spent with memoirist Carolynn Knapp, who died in 2003 at age 42, this offers haunting insight into communing and dying with grace.

 

 

The cover of the book On Death & DyingOn Death & Dying

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

Ten years after her 2004 death, this new edition of Dr. Kübler-Ross’s definitive work was released, and it’s chock-ablock with her original insights about the psychological processes of dying as well as new resources for the ailing and their loved ones.

 

The cover of the book The Year of Magical ThinkingThe Year of Magical Thinking

Joan Didion

The strength of this memoir written in the year after Didion’s husband’s sudden death lies in its deconstruction of dissociation. Through the repetition of words and a documentation of her obsessive behaviors, she fumbles into accepting her loss by tasting phrases with the numb wonderment of a weeping child tasting her own tears. An extraordinary, elegant achievement.

So You Want to Read Paleo Fiction: Here’s Where to Start

Image courtesy of the Bradshaw Foundation ©

What really happened in the Stone Age? With only a skeletal remains, stone tools, and cave paintings to go by, scientists can only offer an educated guess. While that kind of ambiguity is the bane of researchers, it is a boon for novelists, an invitation for the imagination to run wild.

The books selected for this list had to meet three criteria: the novel had to be currently in print, entirely set on Earth during the Stone Age, and could not involve time travel, aliens, sorcery, alternative planes of reality, and other fantastical plot devices. This excluded a number of science-fiction novels that involve prehistoric peoples, and we will revisit them in a future guide.

The cover of the book The Clan of the Cave BearThe Clan of the Cave Bear

JEAN M. AUEL

Jean Auel’s Clan of the Cave Bear is the best-known example of paleo fiction. It is the story of a young girl who is adopted by a clan of Neanderthals after she is separated from her tribe. They know her as one of the Others — the mysterious new people who are pushing them out of their lands — but cannot lead her to starve. The girl finds a place in the clan, but not everyone welcomes her presence. Some consider her different ways of thinking to be a threat.

 

The cover of the book The InheritorsThe Inheritors

WILLIAM GOLDING

No one knows exactly what happened to the long lost hominid species known as the Neanderthals. We know that there was a certain amount of interbreeding — services like 23andme can tell you how much Neanderthal DNA still lurks in your genes — but that’s only a small part of the story. Did anatomically modern human beings outcompete them for limited resources? Did we murder them en masse? William Golding’s The Inheritors is the story of a dwindling Neanderthal tribe’s first encounter with the beings who would bring their doom: us.

 

The cover of the book ShamanShaman

KIM STANLEY ROBINSON

Kim Stanley Robinson’s Shaman is the story of Loo: a young apprentice shaman learning his trade at the feet of his master, Thorn. Loo and Thorn’s time, 30,000 years removed from our own, is one of warriors, spirits, and unrelenting cold. As the next shaman, Loo will inherit a powerful position in his tribe, but only if he survives the dangers of an unforgiving world.

 

The cover of the book Dance of the Tiger: A Novel of the Ice AgeDance of the Tiger: A Novel of the Ice Age

BJÖRN KURTÉN

Finnish paleontologist Björn Kurtén was in a better position than most of us when it comes to imagining what life in Stone Age Europe might have been like. As an expert on stone age life, Kurtén’s primary work was in scientific research, but he also wrote  in a genre that he dubbed “paleofiction”. Dance of the Tiger is the story of a clash between anatomically modern humans and Neanderthals. Written with an eye for scientific accuracy, the novel is as entertaining as it is thought-provoking.

 

The cover of the book People of the Wolf: A Novel of North America’s Forgotten PastPeople of the Wolf: A Novel of North America’s Forgotten Past

KATHLEEN O’NEAL GEAR AND W. MICHAEL GEAR

Kathleen O’Neal Gear and W. Michael Gear’s novel People of the Wolf is the story of North America’s first inhabitants: people who arrived on the content by way of the Bering Land Bridge. Set in what is now known as Alaska, People of the Wolf follows these brave first Americans as they settle a wild, unknown land.

5 Non-Fiction Books Every Gamer Should Read

How did video games go from a pastime for “nerds” to a phenomenon that touches the lives of millions? Find out in our essential video game reading list.

The cover of the book The Comic Book Story of Video GamesThe Comic Book Story of Video Games

JONATHAN HENNESSEY; ARTWORK BY JACK MCGOWAN

Writer Jonathan Hennessey and artist Jack McGowan’s The Comic Book Story of Video Games is a complete history of the medium: a story that begins with the radar technology of World War II and continues to this very day. Meet the iconoclasts and scientists who changed gaming history, and learn how the industry they birthed has infiltrated our homes, workplaces, and even our pockets. Along the way Hennessey addresses some of gaming’s biggest questions: Are video games art? Are they a healthy outlet or a threat to our health and mental well-being? A comic book art is the perfect format for the story of a visual medium, and McGowan’s work really brings it to life with splashy colors and hidden references to gaming’s best loved titles.

 

The cover of the book The Ultimate History of Video GamesThe Ultimate History of Video Games

STEVEN L. KENT

If comic books aren’t your thing, then you might want to consider Steven L. Kent’s book The Ultimate History of Video Games, a lively and eminently readable overview of the medium. Kent, a gaming historian, profiles the visionaries who saw a future in which gaming could be a big business, and the passionate fandom that formed around it. Examining both the arcade classics of yesterday, like Pac-Man and Centipede, and the triple A titles of today, The Ultimate History of Video Games should be on every fan’s bookshelf.

 

The cover of the book Death by Video GameDeath by Video Game

SIMON PARKIN

Video games, like comic books, music, and Dungeons & Dragons, have been in the crosshairs of teachers, pastors, parents, and lawmakers off and on throughout their short history. Claims that these games provoke aggression and rot the brain usually come with very little evidence to back them up. However, there have been deaths associated with the hobby at its most extreme: gamers who died of exhaustion during days-long marathon sessions. Investigative journalist Simon Parkin sets out to uncover the truth behind these tragic deaths, and to meet the virtual daredevils who push the limits of human endurance in the name of extreme gaming. If you like true crime stories, cultural histories, and most of all, gaming, this is a book you’ll probably enjoy.

 

The cover of the book Masters of DoomMasters of Doom

DAVID KUSHNER

Doom wasn’t the first first-person shooter — that would probably be 1974’s Maze War — but it was one of the first big smash hits in gaming: a must-have PC title that defined the genre. Doom was the brainchild of John Carmack and John Romero, the “Lennon and McCartney” of video games. Doom (along with Quake, their second big title) proved to be their ticket to a lavish new lifestyle, but their personal demons weren’t as easily defeated as the ones in the game. The story of the friendship between these two men, and the betrayal that ended it, is as engrossing as the games they created.

 

The cover of the book Extra LivesExtra Lives

TOM BISSELL

Do video games deserve consideration as a serious art form? If so, what do they have to teach us? Writer and gamer Tom Bissell examines these and other heady questions in a book that is sure to get you thinking about a hobby enjoyed by millions yet rarely considered in such terms. By highlighting the culture, technology, and art of gaming, Bissell makes the case that play can be a serious — and seriously rewarding — pastime.

Future Tense: 10 Books on Technology Run Amok

Image by elbpresse.de, via Wikimedia Commons

We live in a society of seemingly never-ending technological advancement. In my relatively short life, I’ve seen rotary phones (look that one up, kids) hanging on the wall in my grandparents’ house, and used internet that started up with a dial-tone with speed measured in kilobytes rather than mega or gigabytes. It was only ten short years ago that the iPhone revolutionized the way we looked at cellphones. Now, we’re on the cusp of self-driving cars and currently take to the skies in planes that are essentially automated.

There’s a lot to be said for all of this constantly marching advancement, but there are certainly concerns and more than a few potential pitfalls. In fact, writers have long rang a warning bell for dangers of technology potentially run amok. From classics that feel disturbingly prophetic to more recent fare that feels all too relevant, here are few of our favorite novels on out of control technology.

The cover of the book Never Let Me GoNever Let Me Go

Kazuo Ishiguro

While there are certainly benefits inherent to the idea of cloning, more than a few writers have explored the potential unintended consequences. However, none have done it with quite the emotional impact of Kazuo Ishiguro. Never Let Me Go imagines a near-future where clones are raised essentially for the sole purpose of organ harvesting. It’s deeply moving and elegiac story that lingers long after the final page.

 

The cover of the book The CircleThe Circle

Dave Eggers

Is there any piece of technology more ubiquitous in today’s society than social media? With billions of users across myriad platforms, it’s difficult to fathom the inherent danger – and stunning impact – social media could pose. With The Circle, Dave Eggers zeroes in on the most logical concern for this societal obsession: privacy. Eggers takes the question of just how much privacy we are willing to sacrifice for either convenience or a few moments of internet fame to its unnerving and all-too-plausible conclusion.

 

The cover of the book 19841984

George Orwell

Due to a surge in popularity back in January, 1984 may have become one of 2017’s most read classics. With mounting concerns of government surveillance programs and the attendant overreach, that surge in popularity has been long brewing. Orwell’s best known novel has proven disturbingly prescient in recent years and is always well worth a reread.

 

The cover of the book The Fear IndexThe Fear Index

Robert Harris

Dealing with a potentially hostile AI is a classic sci-fi trope, but it’s utility obviously extends beyond the four corners of sci-fi. With The Fear Index, Robert Harris combines the corporate espionage thriller with the theme of an AI moving beyond it’s intended scope. In this case, a system utilizing a series of algorithms to better predict financial markets ends up sending its creator’s life into a tailspin.

 

The cover of the book Jurassic ParkJurassic Park

Michael Crichton

Michael Crichton was well known for the technical wizardry that underpinned much of his work. His meticulous research and medical/scientific background added an engaging air of authenticity to his writing. Jurassic Park is not only among his best known novels, but also one of his best. Crichton asks the question: What man would do if we suddenly discovered a technique for cloning dinosaur DNA? The answer, of course, is we’d open a super-expensive and surprisingly non-secure theme park. What could go wrong?

 

The cover of the book CellCell

Stephen King

Stephen King, for all his skill, is not always a particularly subtle writer, and his general aversion to technology is a well-trod aspect of a good chunk of his fiction, from “Trucks” to The Tommyknockers to the more recent End of Watch. Cell is arguably the most overt examination of Kings forays into Luddism. In true King fashion, a mysterious signal broadcast across cell phone networks begins to the turn the world’s population into interconnected network of hive-mind powered zombies.

 

The cover of the book WatchersWatchers

Dean Koontz

In this Dean Koontz thriller, a genetically engineered, super-intelligent dog goes on the run from a shady government organization and a laboratory engineered killing machine hellbent on the dog’s destruction. Koontz crafts a predictably tight and well-hewn thriller built around fears of genetic engineering and unfettered scientific advancement.

 

The cover of the book Player PianoPlayer Piano

Kurt Vonnegut

For all its promise, automation has already taken a toll on economies and enterprises the world over. It’s all too easy to imagine the perilous implications of ever-increasing automation could have on our society. This is an issue that Kurt Vonnegut foresaw with striking clarity in 1952 with the publication of Player Piano. Vonnegut, true to form, imagined a disturbingly plausible world where mechanization and automation have made the average human worker all but obsolete.

 

The cover of the book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Philip K. Dick

Philip K. Dick was a revolutionary force in the world of sci-fi, and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep is one of his most thought provoking and fascinating novels. Dick’s dystopia imagines a world and a population ravaged by war and a decaying environment. The earth’s population, both human and animal, are supplemented by incredibly life-like androids. Through this lens, Dick examines the ethical quandaries of sentience, what it means to be human, and the perils of man attempting to play god.

 

The cover of the book Oryx and CrakeOryx and Crake

Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood is enjoying something of a popular renaissance, with The Handmaid’s Tale suddenly feeling more relevant and terrifying than ever and marquee adaptations of her works finding success with new audiences. Her brand of speculative fiction relies on a healthy dose of well-conceived realism to attain their often shocking prescience and Oryx and Crake is no different. Tackling the subject of genetic engineering, Oryx and Crake is an unnerving view into the perils of short-term scientific gains pushing ethical responsibilities to the wayside.