In the Country of Books

Permit me just this once to promote a book I have written. My new book, In the Country of Books, has just been published in England. If you have an extra dollar or pound, it can now be purchased at all the online bookstores in the US and UK. I describe the publication this way.

In the Country of Books is an inquiry into the way literature enters the lives of readers and sometimes changes them. In most commentaries on literature the experience of the reader is virtually ignored as scholars and critics attempt to discern the meaning of the text from various theoretical or cultural frameworks. Instead, this volume focuses on the experience of readers, illustrated with accounts of the author’s reading experiences and current research findings.

The first section of the volume presents a historical background of commonplace books—an individual’s record or journal of memorable reading passages. The critical analysis of this literary form is not extensive. In antiquity commonplace books functioned as organized sources of knowledge and wisdom collected for use in philosophical discussions, public speeches, and legal disputes. Over the course of the following centuries, the form developed into personal collections of notable literary extracts organized in highly idiosyncratic ways.

In the Country of Books
is the first contemporary review of the commonplace book tradition, as well as a unique, in-depth analysis of a single commonplace book. It also presents the results of the first-ever survey of individuals who currently keep such a record. This is followed by an overview of the recent appearance of commonplace books on the Web, a study of the author’s commonplace book, and a discussion of the future of the commonplace book tradition.

The essays in the second section of In the Country of Books discuss a number of literary topics including several contemporary literary works, the function of bookmarks in the reading experience, The New Yorker magazine, and the current status of libraries. The volume concludes with an analysis of the varied effects of reading literature, including a review of anecdotal and empirical research on this issue.

I invite readers to e-mail me (rkatzev@gmail.com) if you have questions about the book or would like to discuss its contents.