Category Archives: Books

Profile of a Book Lover: Richard Macksey

alex atkins bookshelf booksOne of the most inspiring professors and book collectors is now exploring the Great Library in Heaven; perhaps it similar to the fantastical, vast library conceived by Jorge Luis Borges in his famous short story “The Library of Babel.” The professor’s name? Richard Macksey, a beloved professor who taught courses on the humanities, comparative literature, and film at Johns Hopkins University for more than 60 years. Sadly he passed away, at the age of 87, on July 22, 2019. The obituary that appeared in The Washington Post gives you a glimpse into his impressive erudition and dedication to the humanities: “Dr. Macksey was a wide-ranging scholar and polymath whose expertise extended from ancient and modern literature — in at least six languages — to medical history, biophysics, critical theory and film. He had joint appointments in Johns Hopkins’s School of Arts and Sciences and the medical school, where he helped design a curriculum that included writing and the humanities. He developed the university’s first courses on African American literature, women’s studies, scholarly publishing and film studies… [He] helped found the Humanities Center (now the Department of Comparative Thought and Literature), for the interdisciplinary study of literature, history, art and philosophy… Dr. Macksey wrote poetry and fiction, edited scholarly journals and published academic papers on everything from Hungarian revolutionary poems to mathematics to French literature… He also was a founder of what is now the Maryland Film Festival in Baltimore.” As one student reflected on Macksey’s profound influence: “You’re lucky if, in your lifetime, you have one or two teachers who inspire you the way he did. I think he approached teaching in the way someone creates a work of art. If you think about the way art is created, it comes from some mysterious place. Macksey’s approach to teaching comes from that mysterious place.” Another student said, “You could never mention an author, historian or book that he did not have an expert knowledge of. He had such a capacious mind.”

But of course, in addition to his tremendous intellect and insatiable curiosity, Macksey was a quintessential book collector. His capacious mind was mirrored by an equally capacious library. Over the decades he created a wondrous private library with more than 70,000 books that filled just about every room in his house as well as a converted garage. Several of his colleagues believe it to be one of the largest private libraries in Maryland. Commenting on this, Dean of libraries at Johns Hopkins, Winston Tabb, remarked: “I’m almost certain that that’s true. I’ve been in many, many private libraries, but never one like Professor Macksey’s.” If you are a true book lover it is as spectacular as it is inspiring. Fortunately, there are several videos that provide a tour through the labyrinth of bookshelves (one led by Macksey himself). The viewer will be guided through packed bookshelf after bookshelf, with books in just about every language, piled on every flat surface that is available. Perhaps the organization could be best described as controlled chaos (book lovers know that there is always a method to the madness). Perhaps if Marie Kondo came across this library she would have a heart attack — but that is no matter for Macksey who believed that every single book sparked joy. Take that Kondo!

There are two remarkable videos shot (each about 20 minutes long) by a student, identified as Omda M, titled “In the Library of Richard Macksey” that allow you to step into Macksey’s magnificent library and poke around the stacks. Omda introduces the viewer to his process: “The following is a recorded walk through the Richard Macksey library in an effort to see the books sitting on shelves, chairs, tables, stands. The manner of walking, the logic of focusing on this or that title or tableau rather than the other, has to a great extent to be arbitrary, but the invitation and the seduction to which this walking takes itself as an answer is very much necessary and real.” Interestingly, seduction is one of the guiding principles for book collecting for Macksey; Omda elaborates: “Books, or certain books, seduce and you are drawn to them. To the common question of whether he had read all of these books, he would tend to give two answers. First, he knew all of them, their places, their histories and associations. Second, some books are to be devoured, some tasted, some consumed, some taken like medicine, and others used as garnish. They were all like people to him. Except for letting through light and providing seats, he wouldn’t spare any place for his people. A third answer could resort to an ancient metaphor. Just as you don’t go around in a garden smelling all the flowers each by each, a personal library is populated by books that ought to be left sitting in rest and summoned only when necessity spontaneously calls. His little cosmos remains disorganized in appearance, but it has its own structure through and through. Plus, if you want to have a library of your own, by necessity it has to grow ever larger and larger, because one book leads to another, and why should you stop following the lead?”

What will happen to Macksey’s library? you ask. Fortunately it will be find a permanent home in the libraries of Johns Hopkins.

Search for the following videos on Youtube:
A Rare Collection: Lessons Learned from Dick Macksey
In the Library of Richard Macksey: Take 1
In the Library of Richard Macksey: Take 2

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: Words for Book Lovers
The Most Amazing Private Library in the World
Profile of a Book Lover: William Gladstone
Profile of a Book Lover: Rebecca Goldstein
Profile of a Book Lover: Sylvester Stallone
Confessions of a Book Scout: Old Bookstore Have Been the Hunting Grounds of My Life
Confessions of a Bibliophile: J. Kevin Graffagnino
The Man Who Launched 75,000 Libraries

Most Expensive American Book
The World’s Most Expensive Book
Words Invented by Book Lovers

The Sections of a Bookstore

For further reading: Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges

The Best Books to Read at Every Age From 1 to 100

alex atkins bookshelf books“Books are a portal to our personal histories.” writes Stephanie Merry, editor of Book World at The Washington Post, “Pick up a worn copy of a childhood favorite and you might be transported to the warmth of a parent’s arms or a beanbag chair in a first-grade classroom or a library in your hometown. Avid readers could build autobiographies around their favorite books and come to the realization that what they have read is almost as meaningful as when they read it.” Within that context, the editors rolled up their sleeves and began deliberating and debating which book could be assigned to each year, from age one to 100. And every book lover loves a book list since it invites spirited discussion over what was included or excluded. Obviously with a list this comprehensive, it seems some books were assigned somewhat arbitrarily to a particular age. Nevertheless, the editors deserve kudos for their ambitious goal. Without further ado, here is the list of “The Best Books to Read at Every Age:”

Age 1: “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle

Age 2: “Llama Llama Red Pajama” by Anna Dewdney

Age 3: “Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak

Age 4: “Charlie Parker Played Be Bop” by Chris Raschka

Age 5: “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein

Age 6: “Ramona the Pest” by Beverly Cleary

Age 7: “The Complete Calvin and Hobbes” by Bill Watterson

Age 8: “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” by J.k. Rowling

Age 9: “Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing” by Judy Blume

Age 10: “Smile” by Raina Telgemeier

Age 11: “Ghost” by Jason Reynolds

Age 12: “Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry” by Mildred D. Taylor

Age 13: “I Am Malala” by Malala Yousafzai

Age 14: “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky

Age 15: “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas

Age 16: “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Brontë

Age 17: “Once Upon a River” by Bonnie Jo Campbell

Age 18: “A Gate At the Stairs” by Lorrie Moore

Age 19: “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood

Age 20: “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” by Junot Díaz

Age 21: “The Sun Also Rises” by Ernest Hemingway

Age 22: “Democracy In America” by Alexis De Tocqueville

Age 23: “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” by Malcolm X and Alex Haley

Age 24: “Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand

Age 25: “I Capture the Castle” by Dodie Smith

Age 26: “Americanah” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Age 27: “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey

Age 28: “Sister Outsider” by Audre Lorde

Age 29: “In Defense of Food” by Michael Pollan

Age 30: “The Joy of Sex” by Alex Comfort

Age 31: “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” by Julia Child

Age 32: “The Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck

Age 33: “Becoming a Man: Half a Life Story” by Paul Monette

Age 34: “Beloved” by Toni Morrison

Age 35: “How To Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk” by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish

Age 36: “Life Among the Savages” by Shirley Jackson

Age 37: “The Joy Luck Club” by Amy Tan

Age 38: “The Sportswriter” by Richard Ford

Age 39: “What Alice Forgot” by Liane Moriarty

Age 40: “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” by Jean-Dominique Bauby

Age 41: “Rabbit, Run” by John Updike

Age 42: “The Woman Upstairs” by Claire Messud

Age 43: “Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Zora Neale Hurston

Age 44: “The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt

Age 45: “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” by Maria Semple

Age 46: “Salvage the Bones” by Jesmyn Ward

Age 47: “Stretching” by Bob anderson

Age 48: “Bossypants” by Tina Fey

Age 49: “Walden” by Henry David Thoreau

Age 50: “Fifty Shades of Grey” by El James

Age 51: “Who Do You Think You Are?” by Alice Munro

Age 52: “Men Without Women” by Haruki Murakami

Age 53: “A Man Called Ove” by Fredrik Backman

Age 54: “The Denial of Death” by Ernest Becker

Age 55: “Olive Kitteridge” by Elizabeth Strout

Age 56: “When Things Fall Apart” by Pema Chödrön

Age 57: “Remains of the Day” by Kazuo Ishiguro

Age 58: “The Plague of Doves” by Louise Erdrich

Age 59: “Dynamic Aging” by Katy Bowman

Age 60: “The Five Years Before You Retire” by Emily Guy Birken

Age 61: “Fear of Dying” by Erica Jong

Age 62: “Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand” by Helen Simonson

Age 63: “Our Souls At Night” by Kent Haruf

Age 64: “Old In Art School” by Nell Painter

Age 65: “65 Things To Do When You Retire” by Mark Evan Chimsky

Age 66: “The “Outlander” Series by Diana Gabaldon

Age 67: “Don Quixote” by Miguel De Cervantes

Age 68: “The Year of Magical Thinking” by Joan Didion

Age 69: “I Remember Nothing” by Nora Ephron

Age 70: “Master Class: Living Longer, Stronger, and Happier” by Peter Spiers

Age 71: “Midnight’s Children” by Salman Rushdie

Age 72: “Love In the Time of Cholera” by Gabriel García Márquez

Age 73: “The Years of Lyndon Johnson” by Robert Caro

Age 74: “Paris In the Present Tense” by Mark Helprin

Age 75: “The History of Love” by Nicole Krauss

Age 76: “Women Rowing North” by Mary Pipher

Age 77: “Gilead” by Marilynne Robinson

Age 78: “Charlotte’s Web” by E.b. White

Age 79: “The Coming of Age” by Simone De Beauvoir

Age 80: “Coming Into Eighty: Poems” by May Sarton

Age 81: “Devotions” by Mary Oliver

Age 82: “The Summer of a Dormouse” by John Mortimer

Age 83: Thrillers by Walter Mosley, Dorothy Gilman, and Jacqueline Winspearr

Age 84: “The Last Unknowns” by John Brockman

Age 85: “Ravelstein” by Saul Bellow

Age 86: “Old Filth” by Jane Gardam

Age 87: “King Lear” by William Shakespeare

Age 88: “Nearing Ninety: and Other Comedies of Late Life” by Judith Viorst

Age 89: “A Carnival of Losses: Notes Nearing 90” by Donald Hall

Age 90: “Beachcombing For a Shipwrecked God” by Joe Coomer

Age 91: “Selected Poems: 1988-2013” by Seamus Heaney

Age 92: “Nothing To Be Frightened of” by Julian Barnes

Age 93: “Sapiens” by Yuval Harari

Age 94: “This Chair Rocks: a Manifesto Against Ageism” by Ashton Applewhite

Age 95: the Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante

Age 96: “Somewhere Towards the End” by Diana Athill

Age 97: “My Own Two Feet” by Beverly Cleary

Age 98: “Life Is So Good” by George Dawson and Richard Glaubman

Age 99: “Little Boy” by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Age 100: “Sailor and Fiddler: Reflections of a 100-Year-Old Author” by Herman Wouk

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: The Best Books Based in Every State

For further reading:

This I Believe: There is No Limit to What A Democratic Society Can Achieve

alex atkins bookshelf wisdom“A candid statement of faith becomes, for me, a concentrated spiritual autobiography. My fundamental beliefs are the products of three converging influences that have been silently at work within my personality: history, America, and Jefferson.

As a student of history, I have been impressed again and again by man’s potentialities for good and evil. I spent my childhood in Vienna. The atmosphere of the dying Austrian Empire made me sensitive to comparative politics and history. Gradually the conviction grew in me that man everywhere, regardless of race or region or climate, is his own worst enemy or best friend. By and large, human beings themselves create their own heavens or hells. They do so because, of all the creatures on Earth, they alone have the intelligence and imagination to change their environment.

My first American home was Detroit. This great middle-western metropolis, the very essence of 20th century American industrialism, stimulated my imagination. From the inspiring history of America, I have learned what good will, intelligence, and creative application can accomplish. It is one of my beliefs that the opportunities of social and human well being in America are still inexhaustible.

And this brings me to Thomas Jefferson. His influence on my spiritual and intellectual life has been continuous and pervasive. I think I know by now every word he has ever written. I feel inside me the very rhythm of his thought. His life and personality have been, to me, sources of spiritual strength and inspiration. Jefferson never failed me in any crisis.

What I learned from him, in brief, has been an abiding faith in human potentialities. I would call this the ‘religion of democratic humanism.’ Following Jefferson’s optimistic faith, despite examples of horrors and bloodshed in recent times, I believe that man can and should be kind and just to his fellows; that man can and should strive for constant spiritual and social improvement and to keep the avenues of opportunity always open for himself and his fellow men. To state it negatively, I believe with all my heart that cruelty, injustice, and intolerance are social crimes that should be punished as severely as physical ones.

It is a cardinal article of faith with me that there is no limit to what men in society can achieve. In this context, I believe that the good, just, and happy life cannot be accomplished in any society where power, political or economic, is monopolized in the hands of a single person or single group. I hold, with Jefferson, that only inside a democratic society, even if it is imperfect, can human beings make a successful effort to attain happiness. [Emphasis added]

And finally, I believe that all these human goals are attainable by men of all races and creeds; and that, if we use our social intelligence and the ample tools of science, a day will come when there is no bloodshed, hatred, and diseases, and no slums and no poverty, and no destructive fears of the unknown.”

From the 1952 essay “A Shining Day Will Come” by Saul Padover, former dean of the School of Politics at the New School for Social Research (New York), and author of Jefferson and Thomas Jefferson and the National Capital. The essay appears in This I Believe: The Personal Philosophies of One Hundred Thoughtful Men and Women edited by Edward Murrow.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: This I Believe: Good Can be as Communicable as Evil
Wisdom of Rainer Maria Rilke

Wisdom of a Grandmother
Wisdom of Tom Shadyac
Wisdom of Morrie Schwartz

For further reading: This I Believe and This I Believe II: The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women edited by Jay Allison and Dan Gediman

I’ve Gone to the End of the World on the Wings of Words

alex atkins bookshelf quotations[Mrs. Merrett gives a book to American Dr. William Chester Minor, a patient at the Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum] Dr. Minor (the madman) responds: “You read? I will guess which one it is [if you provide me with] a paragraph, a sentence. [She turns and walks away, looking downward, ashamed]. Mrs. Merrett… What did I do? You cannot read. Forgive me, I should not have presumed. I do not need you to bring books Mrs. Merrett. It is your visits… I can teach you [to read]. Oh please, let me teach you. You can teach your children. It’s freedom, Mrs. Merrett. I can fly out of this place on the backs of books. I’ve gone to the end of the world on the wings of words. When I read, no one is after me. When I read, I am the one who is chasing, chasing after God. Please I beg you… join the chase.”

From the film, The Professor and the Madman (2019), by John Boorman and Todd Komarnicki based on the book The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester. To set up the historical context, at the time that Shakespeare was writing his plays and sonnets, there were no English dictionaries. The first English dictionaries only began being published around the time of Shakespeare’s death (1616). Winchester writes: “The English language was spoken and written — but at the time of Shakespeare it was not defined, not fixed. It was like the air — it was taken for granted, the medium that enveloped and defined all Britons. But as to exactly what it was, what its components were — who knew?” Thus, it was very important to academics to develop the first, definitive English dictionary. When James Murray, a Scottish philologist and lexicographer (by trade, a former schoolmaster and bank clerk) began compiling the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary in 1879 (although work had begun as early as 1857 but stalled), he sought the public’s assistance in providing entries (word with quotations from notable sources) for the dictionary. Dr. Minor contributed more than 10,000 entries in a period of 20 years. Throughout that period, Murray, grateful for Minor’s enormous contribution, invited him to Oxford so that he could visit the Scriptorium and meet the team. Finally, Murray travels to Crowthorne to visit Minor only to discover that he was incarcerated for life at a criminal lunatic asylum. After serving in the American Civil War, Minor suffered delusions that militant Irishmen were coming to kill him; one night, he ran out pursuing one of his imagined assassins, George Merrett, a brewery worker on his way to work (sadly, at the wrong place at the wrong time), and shot him several times. Minor’s army pension allowed him to live in Broadmoor and maintain a vast personal library of classic works; Minor also directed a portion of his resources to support the Merrett’s widow. Writing those dictionary entry slips, was perhaps, the madman’s therapy as well as his attempt at redemption. That activity also formed the foundation for a very profound, respectful friendship with a fellow word lover. When Murray first began work on the OED he told the delegates of the Oxford University Press that it would take seven to ten years. He was wildly optimistic. The first edition was completed, 13 years after he died. The first edition was published in 1928 — 50 years after Murray had begun; the dictionary, published in ten volumes, contained 414,825 words and 1.8 million citations to illustrate the keywords.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

Books Should be a Window to and a Mirror of the World

alex atkins bookshelf booksWhat’s so important about kids’ books — they can be windows to introduce them to the world, but they also need to see a reflection. They should be a window and a mirror… [For me, libraries have] been sanctuaries, a place I can go to discover.”

Carla Hayden, American librarian and the 14th Librarian of Congress, discussing the importance of books in an interview with Time magazine (September 26, 2016). Hayden, the first African American and first woman to hold that distinguished post, oversees more than 162 million items, filling more than 838 miles of bookshelves, in the extensive collection of the Library of Congress, considered the largest library in the world. That number includes more than 32 million books and print materials as well as more than 61 million manuscripts — in more than 450 languages. The library receives about 15,000 new items each day.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: Weird Things Customers Say in Bookstores
Types of Book Readers
Signs at an Indie Bookstore: Why Not Try a Book?
Serendipitous Discoveries in Used Bookstores
How Indie Bookstores are Thriving
Bookstores are Full of Stories
Who Will Save Our Bookstores?
The Sections of a Bookstore

A Book is Not Only a Friend, It Makes Friends for You

alex atkins bookshelf quotations“A book is not only a friend, it makes friends for you. When you have possessed a book with mind and spirit, you are enriched. But when you pass it on you are enriched threefold.”

From The Books In My Life (1969) by American author Henry Miller (1891-1980), best known for hissemi-autobiographical novels — which delight adolescents for their explicit language and very detailed sex scenes — Tropic of Cancer (1934), Black Spring (1936), and Tropic of Capricorn (1939). These three books had to be smuggled into the United States, where they were banned on the basis of obscenity and pornography. Nevertheless, these books truly made Miller many friends. Moreover, the books made a huge impact on the new Beat Generation of writers, like Jack Kerouac (On the Road), Allen Ginsberg (Howl), and William Burroughs (Naked Lunch). Reflecting on Miller’s legacy on the centenary of his birth, Ralph Sipper of the Los Angeles Times notes, “Miller’s revolution, though, was not a political one. It was the wedding of his life and his art. Actual and imagined experiences became indistinguishable from each other. ‘I am the hero and the book is myself,’ he says in Tropic of Cancer. In the hands of a less-gifted writer, such blurring of narrative voice invites disaster. Miller pulls it off seamlessly. Exactly how is not so easy to describe. His fictional persona is many things–graphically erotic, elliptically surrealistic, unevenly anarchistic, combatively philosophical, abidingly romantic, downright funny–and always deeply felt. He resoundingly deplores patriotism, modern medicine, financial responsibility and organized religion, presaging emulation by such latter-day iconoclasts as Norman Mailer and Lenny Bruce… Like Walt Whitman and Henry Thoreau, two authors whose work he loved, Henry Miller sang his own song, marched to his own gait. Like those noble literary dissenters, he remains an American original.”

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: Weird Things Customers Say in Bookstores
Types of Book Readers
Signs at an Indie Bookstore: Why Not Try a Book?
Serendipitous Discoveries in Used Bookstores
How Indie Bookstores are Thriving
Bookstores are Full of Stories
Who Will Save Our Bookstores?
The Sections of a Bookstore

For further reading: Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller
The Books in My Life by Henry Miller

The Most Amazing Private Library in the World

alex atkins bookshelf booksYou are a passionate book collector and have unlimited resources to build the library of your dreams — what kind of library would you build? What would it look like? How many books would it contain? Meet Jay Scott Walker (born 1955), an extremely successful inventor and entrepreneur, who founded Priceline, Synapse Group, and Walker Digital, and worth an estimated $1.6 billion. As an inventor, one of the question that Walker has always faced is: How do we create? To this Walker responded: “Part of the question that I have answered is — we create by surrounding ourselves with stimuli: with human achievement, with history, with the things that drive us and make us human — the passionate discovery, the bones of dinosaurs long gone, the maps of space that we’ve experienced, and ultimately the hallways that stimulate our mind and our imagination.” To that end, Walker, a long-time bibliophile, built the library of his dreams at his home in Ridgefield, Connecticut in 2002. He calls it, appropriately, “The Walker Library of the History of Human Imagination.” 

The private library, that is connected to his home by a long hallway, holds more than 25,000 books, manuscripts, historical objects and artifacts in a 3.5-level, 3,600 square-foot space. Historical artifacts include an actual Sputnik, a meteorite, dinosaur bones, model Saturn V rocket, Enigma code machine, an Edison phonograph, and a facsimile of the Gutenberg Bible — to name a few. But what makes this library truly spectacular is the completely integrated audio-visual experience. When Walker steps into the library, it wakes up; that is to say, the library begins to glow with carefully directed theatrical lights; glass panels, depicting key moments in the timeline of human invention, that light up with LED lights, and a custom soundtrack begins to play — all of which are computer-controlled. In this unique traditional/high-tech playground for the mind, Walker is able to walk around the books shelves, where books are organized randomly by height and color, and find items by either serendipity or recollection. Interestingly, despite his extraordinary wealth, Walker is not a complete bibliophile snob. Of course, he owns some extremely valuable works, like early-20th-century books with jeweled bindings (containing gold, rubies, and diamonds) that were handcrafted by Sangorski & Sutcliffe that are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. But, refreshingly, he also owns hundreds of leather-bound works by Franklin Press and Easton Press that are worth anywhere from $75 to hundreds of dollars.

The suspended main platform has several wood counters and work areas, a giant lit globe, and a comfortable couch, two chairs, and tables for reading. Directly above is a giant glass chandelier that is lit by 6,000 LEDs from the James Bond movie, Die Another Day. The walls are lined with wood bookshelves from floor to ceiling, and the interior is filled with 25 staircases that lead to balconies and platforms. This maze-like, multi-level design was inspired by the work of M. C. Escher, famous for his impossible realities, like Relativity (1953), House of Stairs (1951), and Waterfall (1961). In fact, the wood tiling throughout the library echoes the multi-shaded triangles that appear in Escher’s works. Walker admits, “It is designed to be intentionally disorienting.” At the far end of the library is a massive three-story window with a planetarium, featuring a Clyde Lynds sculpture, a Andrea Cellarius celestial atlas (1660), Quester 7 telescope, and a globe of the moon signed by 9 of the 12 astronauts who walked on the moon. The exhibits change all the time because Walker enjoys the ideas that spring forth from interesting juxtapositions, like placing a 16th-century map next to a modern map or globe, or an Enigma code machine next to a early computer.

Building such an incredible library had its challenges. The architect, Mark Finlay (Mark Finlay Architects), known for designing stunning stately country houses, explained the process and construction. Walker directed the architects: “Think of it as a theater, from a lighting and engineering standpoint. But it’s not a performance space. It’s and engagement space.” To meet this objective, the architects initially built a 7-foot long model and used miniature cameras to get a sense of the experience of moving around the stairs and suspended walkways and glass bridges. To build the main floor and intersecting stairs and walkways, the exterior walls had to be constructed with a steel exoskeleton to hold up the room. In addition, the floors and walls required steel framing to support thousands of pounds.

Sadly, the library is not open to the public. However, Walker, as a philanthropist, does conduct tours for school-aged children and used as a setting for raising funds for local nonprofit organizations. Fortunately for curious bibliophiles, David Hofman has filmed a dazzling documentary of the library, tiled “Experience the Walker Library of Human Imagination” that can be seen here:

Walker is also a patron of the TED talks, and is often speaks about inventions. You can hear him talking about some of the historical objects in his library, in addition to a quick tour of the library:

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: The Power of Literature
Exploring Carl Sandburg’s Library of 11,000 Books
The Lord of the Books: Creating A Library From Discarded 
I Am What Libraries Have Made Me
If You Love a Book, Set it Free
The Library without Books
The Library is the DNA of Our Civilization
Related posts: William Faulkner on the Writer’s Duty
A Beautiful, Inspiring Letter to Borges, the Patron of the Great Library

For further reading:

%d bloggers like this: