BOOK REVIEW: So Many Books by Gabriel Zaid

This was a very short little book – 144 pages (now out of print, I think). It had a lot of good quotes and observations on the state of the publishing world and I think every English Major should be required to read it so they consider the weight of what the literary world is doing – how it adds and subtracts from the world.

I disagree with Zaid on 2 points in this work, though. At one point, he says that the world is overpopulated with humans as well as books, but that one is the greater legacy than the other (children). I disagree entirely with this. Even if you write something that barely anyone reads or enjoys, you have connected with a specific group of people who understands you. You get no guarantee that a child will ever understand you, or that they will continue your legacy (once they stop breeding, your DNA becomes a dead legacy). A book lasts longer than generations. Ask Homer.

If humans vs. books, the lesser of two evils is more books. More books means more variety and option. More humans means less of everything. That was such a stupid statement on his part. Too romanticized and too whimsical. It risked undermining all his other observations for me.

It made my mind shoot in anger to thoughts like: What if the aliens could read all the books? What if time was nothing to them? Maybe then all books would matter. And what about the robots? Maybe the robots want all our books. Maybe our books will help better them. How selfish of him to think that books are less than humans. Some stories are certainly worth more than whole countries. Wars have been started in the name of stories and books and authors (religious books not the only ones). Don’t tell me that a single human is worth more than books. There are greater readers than us out there.

The second beef I have with this book is his blind faith that publishing will automatically equal diversity. At the very end he crams it in without it being fully supported by his argument. Half of his argument actually works against the idea of diversity–pointing out the publishing industry’s flaws.  I was left thinking “Wait, what? How did we get here? How did we get to diversity?” But then again I’m not so sure he defines diversity in the book, so we might be talking about two different “diversities.”

He covers sports and other forms of entertainment–comparing them to the book in ways I had never considered. It’s worth a read. And doesn’t take up your time. He makes a point of it not to, because he practices what he preaches.

 

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