This is a brilliant ramble of a book, and I felt as though I were on a long meandering walk-and-chat with one of the smartest, most thoughtful people I know. I've been lucky enough to met Manguel a few times and every time we bump into each other I'm struck by what a scholar and a gentleman he is. These attributes are evident throughout the work. I love all his books, for they make me think, and if I leave their covers asking more questions, filled with more curiosity about the world and book and language than I was before, I think this is all to the good. Manguel trusts his reader to be engaged with the world, to question and to read and to drawn his/her own conclusions, even as he encourages the reader to think, read and live more deeply. In this collection of essays on the power of language and story, Manguel’s erudition shines on every page. He ranges from the Epic of Gilgamesh to the writings of the ancient Greeks, to the Bible to Stanley Kubrick’s movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. This is a trek through literature’s relationship to society and the self and it is full of the most marvelous digressions—Inuit conceptions of space and time, the myth of Cassandra, Don Quixote---and all of them interesting. At the core is Manguel's belief that storytelling is an essential and fundamental aspect of being human. Consider: "Stories are our memory, libraries are the storerooms of that memory, and reading is the craft by means of which we can recreate that memory by reciting it and glossing it, by translating it back into our own experience, by allowing ourselves to build upon that which previous generations have seen fit to preserve."and:"Under certain conditions, stories can assist us. Sometimes they can heal us, illuminate us, and show us the way. Above all, they can remind us of our condition, break through the superficial appearance of things, and make us aware of the underlying currents and depths. Stories can feed our consciousness, which can lead to the faculty of knowing if not who we at least that we are, and essential awareness that develops through confrontation with another’s voice. "His discussion of the historical idea of the 'other' and how it has haunted us from the earliest writings of the Greeks, to present day political policies, is alone worth the price of the book. Highly recommended.