New Books, Old Books

There is kind of a prejudice among library users to always look for new books. They enter the library and head straight to the new book shelves. But there is an old saying among librarians: Every book is new until you’ve read it. Among 50,000 books in the library, aren’t there some older ones that you haven’t read and yet might be interested in?

Recently I have been doing some research about music. In pursuit of that I found a book from 2012 that I had not seen when it came out all those years ago. It is called The Story of Music: from Babylon to the Beatles, How Music Has Shaped Civilization, by Howard Goodall. The author is an English musicologist, and though his learning and knowledge are very evident, his prose style is casual, welcoming and informative.

I have never read a book which, in the course of just a few hundred pages, taught me so much about how Western music developed, from the simplest flutes, drums, and stringed instruments to the full symphony orchestra. It deals with how notes, chords, harmony, and finally concerto and symphony form developed. It also helps you understand why people you may not have heard of, such as Guillaume de Machaut, Josquin des Prez, and Arcangelo Corelli may be more important in the development of musical form than Mozart, Beethoven, or Tchaikovsky. And the author takes us right up to modern times, with examples of popular song composition from Adele, the Beatles, Sting, and more. A highly recommended read.

So the next time you’re in the library looking for something to read, remember—the new shelves are only about 1 or 2% of our collection. Every book is new until you’ve read it!

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