This concept of a place for scholars to gather, read, discuss, and learn is deeply rooted in history (hence Athena at Athens!), and played a large role in making libraries what they are today. The Redwood Athenaeum in Newport, Rhode Island epitomizes the amazing value that athenaeums have held in the US, before it was even a country of its own.
However after finishing it, I was absolutely entranced that such a complicated topic could be written about so elegantly and effortlessly. It has stolen my heart ever since and is now one of my all-time favorite books. With years in between each of the few times I have read this book, it has still managed to pleasantly surprise me with its breath-taking storyline and mesmerizing characters.