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Extended Audio Sample Library: An Unquiet History Audiobook, by Matthew Battles Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (599 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Matthew Battles Narrator: Grover Gardner Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: September 2003 ISBN: 9781415912706
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On the survival and destruction of knowledge, from Alexandria to the Internet. Through the ages, libraries have not only accumulated and preserved but also shaped, inspired, and obliterated knowledge. Matthew Battles, a rare books librarian and a gifted narrator, takes us on a spirited foray from Boston to Baghdad, from classical scriptoria to medieval monasteries, from the Vatican to the British Library, from socialist reading rooms and rural home libraries to the information age.

He explores how libraries are built and how they are destroyed, from the decay of the great Alexandrian library to scroll burnings in ancient China to the destruction of Aztec books by the Spanish—and in our own time, the burning of libraries in Europe and Bosnia.

Encyclopedic in its breadth and novelistic in its telling, this volume will occupy a treasured place on the bookshelf next to Baker’s Double Fold, Basbanes’ A Gentle Madness, Manguel’s A History of Reading, and Winchester’s The Professor and the Madman.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Battles’ sprightly narrative performs a valuable service by blowing the dust off our stodgy, conventional conception of the library to reveal the living heart of cultures that beats beneath its stone facade.”

    Los Angeles Times Book Review

  • “Splendidly articulate, informative, and provoking…A book to be savored and gone back to.”

    Baltimore Sun

  • “Battles…offers a distinguished portrait of the library, its endurance and destruction throughout history, and traces how the library’s meaning was questioned or altered according to the climate of the time. In accessible prose, Battles recounts the building and burning that have marked the library’s long history…Dynamic characters lend this history a novelistic tone.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “Battles, a rare book librarian at Harvard, takes the reader on a world tour of the library from ancient times to the present digital age…Battles writes in an engaging way, and his book will be appreciated by librarians and book lovers.”

    Booklist

  • “One might expect a book that…[is] huge in scope and academically dry…Library is neither…[An] engaging book.”

    BookPage

Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Ramona | 2/11/2014

    " Interesting but dry at the same time. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Becca | 2/10/2014

    " Reading for the 000 portion of the Dewey Decimal Reading Challenge. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Janine | 2/3/2014

    " I really liked it. I read most of it at work, and I got quite a few comments. One of the librarians I work with thought the title was hilarious. It was interesting to read about the origins of the library and how it works though. It makes me miss the card catalog that much more. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Amy | 1/31/2014

    " This book gave some interesting history of the library. I especially liked the parts chronicling the different formats information was stored in before the codex (book) was invented. However, the author moved from topic to topic in a very haphazard and unorganized way (kind of ironic considering this person is a librarian - I guess we're not all organized...) "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Eric | 1/22/2014

    " When you're a book person, even a flaky one like me, you usually end up with a library fixation. Matthew Battles, who works at Harvard's Houghton Library, ended up doing something useful with his by tracing the history of the library through the centuries. In the process, we find some interesting things about the guardians of knowledge and the ways they try to steer the course of things. The chapter on Nazi librarians is especially fascinating. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Tom | 1/17/2014

    " Not as good as it could have been, and definitely skewed toward the history of libraries in the Ancient World and the Far East. Not a single mention of Dr. William Pepper, who created the first free and public library in the U.S. (Philadelphia), though Boston and New York Public are included. The book was less of a narrative history and more of a dissertation, the point of which seemed to be to include as many bits of general history as possible into each chapter. The result was fairly disjointed work about the role of libraries in the intellectual dialogue throughout history. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Rock | 1/14/2014

    " meh, some good factoids, but relentlessly nerdy "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Tim Weakley | 1/14/2014

    " A short history of the library as a concept and a reality. Very well written and entertaining. It held my interest all of the way through. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Tim | 1/12/2014

    " The heart of this book is -- an exploration of libraries and how the institution has evolved over the years -- is certainly worthwhile but Battles' philosophically-inspired prose becomes a huge anchor on the material he presents. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Tom | 12/25/2013

    " So much of the "unquiet" part is book-burning and library destruction that it made this book-lover weep. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Clementine | 12/13/2013

    " Read for LIS class. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Susan | 11/20/2013

    " Yes, two stars. It was ok. The library's place in history is riveting but you wouldn't know it from this book. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Emily Anne | 1/17/2013

    " I mean... Battles ends the book wondering where the Library of Congress is going to assign the call number for his book. Delightfully geeky. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Amelia | 10/13/2012

    " Hard to follow at times but fun to read. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Meredi | 10/2/2012

    " The bit about the geniza was worth the price of the book alone. Very interesting "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Peregrina651 | 6/28/2012

    " A cultural history of the world. Well done. Held my interest. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Katelyn | 2/18/2012

    " I found the content very interesting but prefer books detailing the history of a subject to be more linear. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Keith Miller | 8/24/2011

    " Library by Matthew Battles (2004) "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jo | 8/8/2011

    " I'm not much of a nonfiction reader, but it was interesting learning about the history of libraries. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jack | 3/9/2011

    " I appreciate the academics of the rendering.Someone has to get this message out I think Matthew missed
    an opportunity.
    Library read "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Katelyn | 2/2/2011

    " I found the content very interesting but prefer books detailing the history of a subject to be more linear. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Clementine | 1/30/2011

    " Read for LIS class. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Ariel | 9/15/2010

    " Had to read it for class. A pretty interesting history of the library. Battles tends to name=drop a bit though. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Gems | 6/27/2010

    " Hmmm, skipped through a lot, was a bit boring in places, but then other parts were really interesting and well written, bit of a mixed bag this one. Maybe i'm just not used to reading nonfiction for pleasure and am judging it on an unfair criteria. Just 2 stars, it was ok. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Leslie | 3/4/2010

    " Interesting general history book on libraries...... "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Meredi | 2/8/2010

    " The bit about the geniza was worth the price of the book alone. Very interesting "

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About the Narrator

Grover Gardner (a.k.a. Tom Parker) is an award-winning narrator with over eight hundred titles to his credit. Named one of the “Best Voices of the Century” and a Golden Voice by AudioFile magazine, he has won three prestigious Audie Awards, was chosen Narrator of the Year for 2005 by Publishers Weekly, and has earned thirty-seven Earphones Awards.