"My judgments may differ very far from yours, and my likings may be your abhorrence; but the mere thinking and talking of books is in itself good, be the upshot what it may. "
Was it the future we were looking at last week, as we passed around the first Electronic Book to arrive in our offices? Big changes may indeed be heralded by the plastic high-tech gadget we perplexedly examined; but they won't, I feel sure, really have anything to do with what we unregenerate readers mean when we say we love bookslove reading them, yes, but also love holding them in our hands, turning their pages, having them, and keeping them intimately present in, and as expressions of, our lives in those testaments to our bookishness, our personal libraries. The myriad significances of a serious reader's collection of books is warmly and evocatively demonstrated in a relatively unknown little work by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle which was brought to our attention by George MacDonald Fraser (see his Introduction to our edition of The White Company & Sir Nigel). Through the Magic Door is Conan Doyle's casually eloquent, heartfelt tour of some of the cherished books on his own shelves"no volume there which is not a dear, personal friend"and I can't recall reading anything which better conveys a sense of what it means to take books to heart. The battered old volumes purchased when to buy one meant going without a meal; the flawless stories which awakened an interest in becoming a writer; the classic biographies or histories which opened the past to an eager imagination: each book prompts an essay in appreciation, reflections both personal and literary. Thus as we gain insight into the mind of Holmes's creator, we also partake in bookish talk of the first order, reminded about works we've already read, guided enthusiastically to others that have eluded us.