Ah, books. My favourite. I was reminiscing earlier this week about the time years and years ago that I did a holiday internship at a publishing house and I got all doe-eyed and nostalgic over copywriting blurbs, editing recipes and compiling indexes for history books. One of my colleagues called me ‘bookish’ and they weren’t wrong. I refer to my spare room (only half-jokingly) as ‘the library’, which conjures up images of wingback chairs and rich mahogany and not a tiny cupboard of a room which also houses my vacuum cleaner. But you know, I am bookish. So there.
I want a book to read, obviously, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t also want something pretty to adorn my shelves (so torn: lugging a doorstop-style hard back on the bus is not my idea of a great time, but SO PRETTY). I love the idea of books as objects. I am one of those
old souls weirdos who romanticises picking them up and leafing through them, inhaling that new book smell, that old book smell, like I can absorb the contents through my fingers by osmosis. It’s part of the ritual of reading, for me, to hold a book in my hands. There is a satisfaction in turning the pages or reaching the end that can’t be matched by e-readers or tablets no matter their convenience.
I love a plain old paperback as much as the next girl, but as a collector of quirky things, I am especially in love with books that do something a little extra, a little special, a little bit inventive. Not to judge a book by its cover, but you will win me over almost instantly with clever publishing quirks. It’s not all gilt-edged pages and embossed covers (though, admittedly, sometimes it is). I am nothing if not sophisticated: basically I want pop-up books for adults.
Anyway, here are a handful of books from my collection that do interesting things…
Survivor – Chuck Palahniuk
In Palahniuk’s Survivor, the pages are numbered backwards, counting down to page one, chapter one, as protagonist Tender Branson narrates his story to the black box of a hijacked 747.
One of the coolest gifts I’ve received in recent times is a thing called a ‘novel journal’. It’s a note book, right, but the lined pages are actually a classic novel in tiny, tiny print. Who comes up with this stuff? I don’t know, but they sure had my number. (Mine is Dracula, by the way – thanks, Rose!).
Ella Minnow Pea – Mark Dunn
Not so much a publishing quirk as a conceptual one, the premise of Ella Minnow Pea is that it becomes unlawful to use certain letters of the alphabet. One by one they fall from a memorial statue on the fictional island of Nollop, and one by one the totalitarian Council bans their use. The cleverest part: as the letters are banned, they also disappear from the novel.
Vitalogy – E.H. Ruddock
As any good Pearl Jam fan knows, Vitalogy is a pretty great album named for a home medical encyclopedia first published in the 1890s. I have an edition of this veritable BRICK of a book from 1940 and among the questionable and hilarious health advice it offers there are amazing flip out anatomy charts. Flip out anatomy charts?! I am so there.
Girl Waits With Gun – Amy Stewart
I caught Amy Stewart at Adelaide Writers’ Week recently and really enjoyed her panel (with Kate Summerscale) on writing about real figures in history. Girl Waits With Gun is a fictionalised account of real-life Constance Kopp, the first female deputy sheriff in the US. Ever a fan of a signed edition, I was especially stoked that Stewart co-signs with a stamp of Constance Kopp’s actual signature. Oh, and she also had super cute temporary tattoos of the cover art. It was like book-signing Christmas.
‘Til next time,