I ♥ books…

This isn’t news, but it struck me on the tube this morning just how much I love to have my nose stuck in a good book. Today I got a seat immediately (a bonus of running late), opened up a brand new book – the last of the gorgeous books – and got stuck in.

Immediately, I was in heaven. The pages felt just as the pages of a book ought to – heavy, textured, full of promise; the jacket was firm in my hands; the story unfolded before of my eyes…84 Charing Cross Road has been on my ‘to read’ list for a good number of years, and because it was the only one of the pretty books I’d come across before, I’d left it till last. I’m barely 30 pages in, but it’s a beautiful tale told simply via correspondence, I’ll probably review it properly when I’m done.

Leaving my seat in something of a daze at Baker St (always a sure sign that I’ve been completely immersed) I congratulated myself on having such a nice way to spend 20 minutes at the start of the day. Making myself read ‘proper’ books on the tube as opposed to trashy free papers was my advent mission the year before last and as a general rule I’ve stuck to it. Without this 40 minute daily haven, I’d probably end up reading next to nothing which would be a travesty. [My handbags therefore always have to be large enough to hold a book comfortably, I couldn’t bear to be stuck somewhere with nothing to read!]

It’s not just the act of reading I love, it’s the books themselves. One of the reasons I’ve immediately connected with today’s new read is that it’s the tale of an American woman searching out specific editions of books. The discovery of beautiful publications sends her into ecstasy. Of one first edition, she writes:

The Newman arrived almost a week ago and I’m just beginning to recover. I keep it on the table with me all day, every now and then I stop typing and reach over and touch it. Not because it’s a first edition; I just never saw a book so beautiful. I feel vaguely guilty about owning it. All that gleaming leather and gold stamping and beautiful type belongs in the pine-panelled library of an English country home; it wants to be read by the fire in a gentleman’s leather easy chair – not on a secondhand studio couch in a one-room hovel in a broken-down brownstone front.

A few months ago, I found myself sat at a lunch table with a bookbinder and got incredibly excited. (She probably thought I was fantastically weird.) Coming from France, she said that she found British books to be a lot more interesting in terms of their style of binding and beauty – I think my contribution was to ask whether she got upset (as I do) when people leave books open spine down, as it can damage their binding beyond repair – can’t remember if I got an answer, but I felt as though I’d found something of a kindred spirit.

I love meeting people who work (or have worked) with books. Whether it’s bookbinders, those in publishing,  fellow booksellers or even authors, it’s a joy to have the opportunity to share a passion. Despite all it’s frustrations, I can still honestly say that I was incredibly happy during my bookselling days. Crap wages it’s true, but at least I spent the days surrounded by piles of books.

Lately, I’ve discovered a few book-related blogs – enough almost to have a ‘literary blogs’ tab on my google reader. They’re all a little different, some written by writers, others simply by book lovers, but each is a great source of potential new reads. So, just to spread the love, here’s my selection:

Tea Stains – A British woman, living in Bangkok who’s currently writing her first (?) novel. It’s not solely about writing or books and can generally be relied upon for amusement. [I actually discovered her because she was one of the people who commented after my unfortunate remark about a Bravissimo on Mrs WF’s blog!]

Sassymonkey Reads – Canadian woman who reviews tons of books (also writes a non-book related blog too). She also sets herself interesting book-reading goals relating to the colour of books…

Nose in a Book – a new blog by a friend of a friend who I first met at New Year. So far it seems to be a source of well-written, thoughtful reviews and I highly recommend it. (Fabulous name for a blog too!)

Abidemi’s blog – I couldn’t write about literary blogs without mentioning the esteemed Abidemi, author of several novels, most recently Eyo – short listed (Africa’s best book) for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. Although she didn’t win, I would like to state publicly that I’m fantastically proud of her & next time we do lunch, the Argentinian red will be on me… Excellent destination for tips on writing and other wise gems.

And my conclusion – do I even have a conclusion? Or a point?

I suppose I just wanted to share a little of my specialness, (friends know that I’m an utter geek when it comes to books, it’s one of my endearing characteristics!) as well as some book love. In this day and age of 24/7 multimedia entertainment, it’s easy to forget the humble book – God forbid they should ever be completely replaced by e-readers. They’re art, both inside and outside, and deserve to be appreciated as such.

All I want now is the prospect of a lovely holiday, somewhere relaxing, where all I’m expected to do is lie somewhere pretty reading book after book….bliss.

Comments

  1. I want one of those book-printing machines.

    I went to the printers today because the little book (pamphlet really) I’d been given by a friend was in a bookfold pdf format, and really needed to be printed for the order to make sense. Printed doublesided with bookfold. I didn’t mind; I wouldn’t have taken the information in if I was reading on screen, but paper makes all the difference. I can read, I can digest. I can underline sentences and make notes in the margin.

    But even so, it isn’t the same, having paper from a glorified photocopier. It doesn’t sit in your hands right. There’s no cover; no weight, no texture. No value. Wouldn’t it have been great if I could have printed it and had it properly bound myself. Preferably without leaving the house…

    With a book printer, I’d sign up to Project Gutenberg and print off classics of English and American literature. Or the works of new writers. Or maybe other strange pamphlets and articles. But they would be there, and tangible, and thumbable and digestible. And have New Book smell. And crisp pages…

    I’m going to stop now…

  2. I know exactly what you mean. I particularily enjoy getting 2nd hand books and wondering who has had them before.

    Recently got Webbs a history of trade unions (circa 1929) which had a dedication and list of trade union(?) comrades so think i’m going to do some social history researching online.

    Fustratingly the more recent census isn’t online yet and the place the people signed (the Potteries) isn’t quiet a place!

    I’m currently re-reading a book – What a carve up – which, according to the bookmark train ticket I last read 4 years ago to the month.

    Most fun

    John

  3. Oh I’m completely mortified that I didn’t know until today that you’d linked to me…

    I just wanted to say – three months too late – thank you very much for the link. And yes, my first book!

    Thank you.

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