We love books. We take them to bed with us. They weigh down our suitcases when we go on holiday. We display them on our bookshelves or store them in our attics. We give them as gifts. We write our names in them. We take them for granted. And all the time, our books are leading a double life. The Secret Life of Books is about everything that isn’t just the words. It’s about how books transform us as individuals. It’s about how books – and readers – have evolved over time. And it’s about why, even with the arrival of other media, books still have the power to change our lives.
In this illuminating account, Tom Mole looks at everything from binding innovations to binding errors, to books defaced by lovers, to those imprisoning professors in their offices, to books in art, to burned books, to the books that create nations, to those we’ll leave behind.
It will change how you think about books.
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Advance Praise for The Secret Life of Books:
“The printed page survives – in spite of all the predictions of its electronically-triggered demise. In this extraordinarily interesting survey, the author takes the general as well as the specialist reader through the fascinating history of the book. This study is as readable and approachable as it is erudite. It is packed with fascinating facts – a real treasure trove for book lovers.” Alexander McCall Smith
“Open this book and read at random anywhere, anywhere at all, and every sentence is utterly captivating: it is a book, about books, and it is probably the most compulsive text ever penned about what it means to handle and possess a book. Possess it and read it; and then keep it and shelve it and show it and share it and even wear it out, but let it live as a book.” Christopher de Hamel, author of Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts
“As Tom Mole argues in this wonderfully insightful essay, the bond of readers with their books is an amorous one. Like relationships of flesh and blood, those with books – whether paper and ink or electronic – are passionate, quarrelsome, companionable, truly vital.” Alberto Manguel, author of A History of Reading
“In our pixelated age here’s an absorbing book for book-lovers that explores the value, the durability, and the history, of the printed word. A treat for bibliophiles everywhere.” Gavin Francis, author of Shapeshifters
“Tom Mole’s enthusiasm for books is infectious. If you also love books as physical objects and as the furnishings of your life, you’ll want to discover The Secret Life of Books.” Sam Jordison author of Literary London
“The Secret Life of Books is a treasure-chest, filled with bookish wonders: any bibliophile worthy of the name will want a copy.” Adam Roberts, author of Swiftly
“Reading this taught me things I knew, without knowing I knew. I suspect I’ll never look at a book the same way again. Now there’s more than just the words, there’s the moment it was first read, the memories that brings, the significance of the choice of edition, the personal meaning…” Jon Courtenay Grimwood, author of The Exiled Blade
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