Monday, December 19, 2011

Real books

I have bought a good few novels recently. During my last decluttering episode I decided to get rid of a number of novels, the ones I was sure I wouldn't read again. I thought I would try to mostly borrow novels from the library instead of buying them. And, if I were to buy any, then there are charity shops, bookcrossing, and passing them on to friends or family.

I don't want to start reading on a kindle. It may be great for travelling, and the minimalist in me likes the idea, but I love physical books -their smell, look and tactility, even the sound of turning pages- too much. I like being able to open a different page to check something while still having the current page open, to have it all there at once, not just one page at a time.

I don't see books as visual clutter, as filled bookshelves can look very decorative, but I don't like the idea of "dead" books - books that sit there never to be read again, when someone somewhere might like to read them. So generally that is my criteria - those books have to go.

The reason I did buy piles of novels again, without knowing whether I would like them enough to reread, is that they were beautiful. There are several books I own that I display as works of art, and I don't tire of looking at them. And I love dandelion seed heads, so I had to get the hardback edition of The Sense of an Ending (I also had heard great things about it).

Apparently making visually beautiful books is big right now (I love that Barnes thanked his book designer in his Booker acceptance speech), when e-readers are becoming more popular, in the same way that in recent years a lot of musicians have released CDs in elaborate packages, with extensive booklets and extra material, as an answer to the rise of digital music.

Now that I think of it, I don't have many ugly books. I don't like neon colours, and sometimes I find bright-orange spines with black and white writing a bit too much. I don't like it when a non-chick-lit book gets the chick-lit treatment (including a swirly candy-coloured font and often some cringeworthy illustration of The Modern Woman), and I was very disappointed when I saw what one English edition has done to Pippi Longstocking (it involved glitter on the cover, and Pippi looked sort of sexualised). But most of the books I own I actually really like the look of.

So perhaps I will never be a minimalist when it comes to books and instead will end up with the big library I used to dream of having one day, dust and all.


  1. I'm so with you on this.

    When it comes to books, dusty, yellow, stained pages are just as important as clean white pages still smelling of the printing press. For me, the story of a book goes beyond the story written inside - I love it when I get a second hand book and find a note in there, or some scribbles from the original owner. That is something that the digital age just doesn't offer!

  2. Oh yes, I agree! I have one book, bought second-hand, that apparently had been gifted to someone, and the first few pages were full of handwritten quotes for the receiver - I treasure this book so much and love the glimpse into its previous owner's life.