Physical pleasures

In the face of the ‘perceived’ threat that digital provides to the publishing industry, you’ll find the internet awash with articles praising the physical and enduring quality of the book – a quality that many people claim to mean that the book will never die. I love books (and am loathe to preface the word book with the word physical) – but I’ve recently discovered that there’s more to this love than the sheer pleasure of handling an object so well designed and intellectually/emotionally loaded. It’s also about exchange, passing things on, handling and then handing over.

I’m a great hoarder of books, and can’t imagine living in a house that doesn’t have a bookshelf on every available wall (aren’t windows and radiators a nuisance?). Conversely, I’m not precious about possessing individual books – perhaps because the home collection has reached a certain critical mass (over 2500 at last count), I seem to be obsessed with recommending books to friends, posting books to people that I think will enjoy them and generally relishing the idea that the books are being read – which is ultimately what they are for (rather than insulating my house). In the main, though, the books I am given tend to be brand new, and I realise that I’m really quite into the physical traces readers leave on books. There’s also the obvious (and sometime problematic) statement of ‘I think you will appreciate this’ from a reader who is passing on something that they are ‘judging from the inside’. Though I haven’t always agreed with the opinion of such a giver, I’ve rather enjoyed the ensuing conversation about the books various merits, and the points where our thoughts diverge.

This desire for bookish conversation (and, yes, argument) was the driving force behind the recent booker club that I tried to co-ordinate to read books from the longlist (and perhaps make wagers…) Unfortunately, the club didn’t quite gather the head of steam I had hoped for, and one of our number selected one book to read that he absolutely loathed. Yet, it didn’t, in the end. feel like a disaster, because of what happened when the same friend handed the book on to me so that I could finish it…

So, without further ado, here are the best bits from that book, which shall remain nameless (caution: may, nonetheless, contain spoilers).

I hope you enjoyed them as much as I did!


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