A splendor of Letters: The Permanence of Book in an Impermanent World, by Nicholas A. Basbanes. HarperCollins. 464 pages. $29.95.

The is the final volume of Basbanes' trilogy on the culture, history and vulnerabilities of books -- following the celebrated A Gentle Madness and Patience & Fortitude. As before, it is anecdotal, wide-ranging, awesomely literate readable. From sncient Europe to the impact of digital storage on libraries with great richness in between, Basbanes explores and reports on a grand variety of events, influences, trends and circumstances having to do with books, in the broadest sense of the subject. For anyone even remotely interested in the past, present and future of publishing and literature, this is a fascinating volume. For any prefessional involved -- whether librarian, writer, scholar or editor -- it is obligatory reading.

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