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This book was the bane of my existence for the five days I spent reading it. I may have felt somewhat differently if I had taken longer to digest its 650 pages, but on the whole I found Jacksons meandering style in desperate need of an editorial hand. In his preface to the reader, he loftily suggests his books aim, like the Anatomy of Melancholy from whom he cribs his title, is to enumerate and reflect upon all of the aspects of books and reading. There is little doubt he manages to do so in the lengthy prose of his work, but he does so by piling source upon quote upon source with no thesis or purpose behind them. The result, at least for my academic use, is that Jackson has composed what amounts to a review essay of basically every thought a person might have had regarding books and reading through the end of the nineteenth century. This is obviously useful territory for me, and I admired Jacksons willingness to include opinions he did not share within his intricate enumerations. However, the overall bias of his prose is clear throughout: books for Jackson are meant to be used, and using them entails reading them. He goes on at great length to this effect, in several chapters, highlighting differences between bibliophiles (who love books for reading) and bibliomanes (who only care for the object). I would have been more eager to accept his contributions had he not written about them at such repetitive length, and in such a way that skimming could easily have resulted in my missing something relevant to my own interests. I have to admit I very much enjoyed some sections of the book -- particularly his insights on books as weapons (literally their use to hit people over the head) as well as the history of reading and the toilet (which didnt go to graphic lengths, but was still suggestive of a potentially interesting field of study). Im glad I have this behind me and under my belt, but unless you are writing a dissertation on books and/or reading, I cant recommend it unless you are looking for a big fat book to hit someone over the head with.

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