Pre-Christmas Book Haul

So I went Christmas shopping today (for other people, mind you) and then this happened …

Book Stack 2

I knew it was dangerous to walk into a bookshop when I really only have enough money at the moment to buy gifts for others, but is it my fault that some of those gifts can only be found in a bookshop? I admit it’s suspiciously convenient, but it wasn’t a deliberate excuse to wander around one of my favourite bookshops. Honest. Anyway, after picking up the presents I was looking for, I decided to treat myself to a book … and then another, and another, then I put one back (Eleanor & Park, I regret that now), then, oops, two more jumped into my hand! Others were calling to me with their bookish siren song, but I somehow managed to tear myself away and avoid being wrecked on the financial shoals. For now!

Here’s what I bought:

Falling into Place by Amy Zhang: I had almost made it to the counter to pay when I spotted this one on the corner of a table (like it was waiting for me). It was featured in my second Friday Finds post so I already knew I wanted to read it without having to check out the synopsis, hence the snap decision to buy it. Yay!

Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman: Many of you will have heard of the hugely popular and successful Netflix show which is based on Kerman’s account of the 15 months she served in prison. I absolutely LOVE the show and I’ve wanted to read the book for ages, so I’m really excited to have it. I had planned to wait until I could get the original cover rather than the Netflix one, but it was sitting right there on a shelf and I couldn’t help myself. Plus, my favourite actress ever is on the cover as she plays Galina “Red” Reznikov on the show (Kate Mulgrew, who I have raved about before on this blog), so I’m okay with this version. I can’t wait to read about the real story behind this awesome show.

When She Woke by Hillary Jordan: This one was featured in my third Friday Finds post and has been near the top of my TBR list since then. It was the book I picked up first and was supposed to be the only one I bought for myself today. Oh well! I’m super excited to finally have this one in my collection and it will probably be the one I read next after I finish the two I’m reading now (The Book Thief and my ARC copy of Things Grak Hates).

The Rabbit Back Literature Society by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen: I’ve seen this on Goodreads several times over the past few months but I only recently added it to my TBR list. The synopsis sounds very odd, but in an interesting way, so I definitely want to read it. The cover is beautiful and the UK version has snow on it, so it’s perfect for this time of year. It makes me want to grab a hot chocolate and curl up with it on the couch. Ahh, bliss!

I’ll be reviewing all these once I read them, so stay tuned!

The Cartoon Story of Print Books vs. e-books

I don’t know about you, but I’m a little tired of reading the same arguments surrounding the printed books versus e-books debate. I’ve accepted that there are differences in opinion and I’m not really interested in trawling over old ground. Only time will decide the fate of the printed page, and in the meantime everyone who loves to read is free to do so in whatever format they choose.

After reading this article and coming across an old image I found on my laptop, I had a surge of creativity and got the idea to make this little cartoon. It’s not an argument for one side or the other; it’s just a harmless bit of fun. I wish I could take credit for the cartoon images, but they are the work of other creative minds. The words are mine, though, and I hope they make you laugh.

Once upon a time, print books ruled the roost. They were the main source of knowledge and the only way people read stories.

Tower of books

Apart from the odd bookworm attack …

Bookworm to worm regarding book: 'Are you going to finish that?'

… books were happy and content.

Happy Book

Then, one day, e-books rolled into town. They were the cool kids on the block, with their fancy features and cheaper prices. These e-books had a bit of an attitude, and reckoned they were better than the printed page.

'And here's a look at our ancient ancestor after being thrown on a door step.'

Some printed books worried that they would go the same way as CDs did when MP3 players rolled in.

Bloody book and CD

Others just felt like giving up.

'I used to be somebody. . . I used to be a contender. . .'

They started to fear a future where they wouldn’t exist anymore.

                    'Remember to charge your ebook readers overnight. Tomorrow we have reading class.'  Signing ebook

But then, something wonderful happened. Printed books began to feel the love from their readers, and started to stand up for themselves. Some even got a little sassy …

Book insults ereader

… while others just got smart.

book and ebook insults fight

They were encouraged by the support of other “out-dated” inventions.

Funny book vs. e-book picture

Eventually, print books realised that they didn’t have to be enemies with e-books. After all, they both brought joy to millions of readers across the world, so they might as well be friends.

Book and ebook holding hands

In a world full of readers, there’s enough room for both of them.

The End


Future Library Project

Forest Image

“A forest in Norway is growing. In 100 years it will become an anthology of books.”

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while, but I’m only now getting around to it. I love interesting and unique projects involving how the public interacts with and experiences books, and I think this one is absolutely wonderful.

The Future Library Project comes from the mind of Scottish artist Katie Paterson and is based in Norway. During the summer 1,000 trees were planted in Nordmarka, just outside of Oslo. Over the next 100 years one author per year will be asked to contribute an unpublished, unread manuscript to a collection which will be held in trust by the New Public Deichmanske Library in Oslo. In 2114, the trees planted this year will be cut down and turned into paper on which the complete collection of 100 manuscripts will be published and released to the public. They are a message in a bottle to future generations.

Man Booker prize-winning author Margaret Atwood has been given the honour of contributing the first manuscript. It will never be read in her lifetime, and it is unlikely that any of her current fans will live long enough to read it either, but that’s kind of the point. Atwood herself has said that she finds it “delicious” that she has the freedom to write whatever she wants without the worry of what her publisher, readers or critics will think about it. She is bound by contract not to reveal a word of what she has written to anyone. Only those alive in 2114 will ever know what story she has left to the world.

Paterson described her feelings about Atwood’s contribution beautifully: “I imagine her words growing through the trees, an unseen energy, activated and materialised, the tree rings becoming chapters in a book.” As the trees grow, so will the medium by which Atwood’s words, and those of 99 other authors, will eventually be revealed to readers of the future. Paterson has some more wonderful things to say about the project, which you can read here.

Tree Rings Image

With the unrelenting march of technology and the proliferation of e-books already in full swing, who can really say for certain that we will still have printed books 100 years from now? I sincerely hope we will, as the thought of my great-grandchildren never having the pleasure of holding a book in their hands, or being forced to squint at them through glass in a museum exhibit, makes me desperately sad. I have a feeling the printed page will still be with us, though. It’s too well loved to die out completely. Whatever happens in the future, at least we know one thing; the readers of 2114 will have 100 new stories to read, and they will come to them on paper.

I don’t know about you, but I think that’s a beautiful thing.

If you want to find out more about the project, which I really hope you do, then you can check out the links below.

Project Website

Project Video



Katie Paterson’s Website

Second-Hand Sentiments

The inspiration for this blog came from an unusual place, at least for me. I was working on a job application and one of the requirements was that I write about what I considered to be the most interesting publication of the last year. My first thought was S.  by J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst because of its original (and very cool) concept, but that’s not the one I landed on. I had to be concise and professional in the application, and my creativity felt a bit stifled, so I decided to write about the book I chose here. I didn’t get the job, but at least I got this blog post out of it.

I ended up choosing a wonderful little book I had sitting on my desk waiting to be gift wrapped for my friend’s birthday. It’s called Dedicated to… The forgotten friendships, hidden stories and lost loves found in second-hand books and is a beautifully designed collection of inscriptions discovered inside second-hand books which author W.B. Gooderham has spent years compiling and preserving. Each inscription is faithfully reproduced in the original handwriting, transcribed where necessary, including full colour cover images of the books in which the dedications were found. The book cover is beautiful and the author’s introduction is presented on aged and worn looking paper. In case you hadn’t noticed, I think the design and production team over at Bantam Press knocked this one out of the park!

Cover Image

I find it interesting for several reasons. In the age of the ebook and digitised content, it underscores the continued significance of books as physical objects which can be given as meaningful gifts inscribed with the giver’s sentiments. It nurtures the idea of second-hand bookshops as treasure troves of the personal histories and memories of the books’ former owners. These inscriptions reveal additional layers of meaning to these books which transcend, and sometimes seemingly conflict with, the content within. For example, in a copy of George Orwell’s dystopian masterpiece 1984, is a dedication not of fear and oppression, but of hope and love. It reads: “This book was published in 1949, it was about the future 1984. I have given it to you with love in 1994, the start of our future.” Sentiments such as this provide a fascinating insight into the different ways in which books are interpreted and valued by their readers.

1984 Dedication

You can click on this for an enlarged version to see the text better.

Not all books are given with such romantic intentions, however. Imagine opening a copy of A Book of Surrealist Games given to you by your girlfriend that simply reads: “For Ted – my period is 3 days late. Xo. d.” Not the most sensitive way of dropping that bombshell! Of course it could all have been a joke, given the choice of book it was written in, but that’s one of the great things about these inscriptions: you can’t know for sure what the writer’s original intentions were.

Some inscriptions are more obvious, and some are just plain cute. One of my favourites was found in a battered old copy of the British children’s classic Worzel Gummidge. It read “If this book should ever roam, box its ears and send it home.” It may not have made its way back to its original owner, but at least W.B. Gooderham gave it a good home and shared its message with other readers.

I have to wonder why these books were given away in the first place. Did the relationship which inspired the 1984 dedication break up? Did Ted discard the reminder of an insensitive joke or the beginning of an unplanned journey into fatherhood? How did good old Worzel lose his way? These questions will most likely never be answered, so, like many great books, this one will leave it up to the imagination to decide.

I wrote my own dedication to my friend when I gave her this book. It seemed appropriate. I’m sure she won’t mind if I share it.

My Dedication to Becca

Author W.B. Gooderham continues to collect inscriptions from second-hand books and posts them to his blog. You can check it out here.

The Book Hive of Bristol

Bristol Central Library ©Bristol Post.

Bristol Central Library ©Bristol Post.

I came across an interesting article last month about a project which has been created in Bristol Central Library, England. In celebration of the 400th anniversary of Bristol libraries, a team of engineers and artists has turned a collection of 400 out-of-print hardbacks into an interactive, hive-like structure.

The idea was to enable physical books to interact with the digital age, and for visitors to interact with the books themselves. Controlled by a series of sensors, the books open and close depending on the movements of the people in proximity to them. As visitors walk by, the pages rustle and send wafts of that classic musty old book smell into the air, giving the feeling of strolling through the packed shelves of a second-hand bookshop. The creaking of the machinery as the books come to life only adds to the effect. As Andrew Cox of Bristol Central Library put it:

“We embrace the digital but we all still love books and the book hive is a wonderful blend of art and engineering, reminding us of the intrinsic beauty and love affair we have with books as tangible items.”

Unfortunately, the project is temporary, and will only be available to the public until March 17th 2014. Still, it has been very popular, and was extended from its original end date due to public demand. There are some people who believe that physical books are destined to share the place of Victorian furniture and Fabergé eggs as nothing more than collectable antiques. The thought of a world without physical books does not sit well with me, and to be honest I would rather not dwell on the prospect. If, however, the digital child should ever completely supplant its ink and paper parent, I hope that projects like this one will be around to display these beautiful and timeless objects in interesting and imaginative ways for the enjoyment of generations to come.