I am delighted to share my thoughts today on The Secret Life of Books – why they mean more than words by Tom Mole. My huge thanks to Alison Menzies for the invite to join the Blog Tour and also for arranging for my gorgeous copy of the book from Elliott & Thompson.
This is a book that is not about books but about the role books play in our lives and it is a fascinating read. Let me show you what the Synopsis says about it…
‘Probably the most compulsive text ever penned about what it means to handle and possess a book’ – Christopher de Hamel, author of Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts
‘A real treasure trove for book lovers’ – Alexander McCall Smith
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.
This is a book about books, not about the stories in the books but the books themselves. Books can be read, looked at, studued, referenced and of course be sat on a shelf unread. They can be bought, passed on, donated, found, lost, discarded and recycled. They can be free and given away as part of a promotion or giveaway or they can go to auction for the collectors to bid on.
I like the way this Author has looked at the role books play in our lives, what impact they can have, how they are part of history and of the future. Throughout the book the author makes observations and I have to say he made me realise how right he is about many of the things he has looked at.
A favourite book can fall open at a favourite page, the reader may have made a doodle or folded the corner or left a note or has a bookmark in it. The book has become personal to that reader and becomes different to other prints of that book.
The author provides a fascinating and yet brief history about how books came about and their transition from scrolls. Historical facts are littered throughout this book and include mentions of authors, painters and, collectors. As books have become easier to access than many years ago. It’s not just books though, its all the accessories that may also be bought, so think about bookmarks, notebooks and pens, reading lights, bookscases, reader lights. As books have become more accessible then the market for accessories has developed.
The author uses a few analogies to show similarities between books and other everyday objects and this really helps to see books from a different perspective. It helps to see them as an object and not something that readers use to learn or escape from or into.
This is such a fascinating read and it makes observations that many readers will be aware of or maybe only subconsciously aware of. The author has explored books and the role in society, how they are seen and used. They have been burned, banned, championed and used as propaganda because of political or religious viewpoint.
My review for this book is just the very tip and there is so much more to discover. It is a thoroughly enjoyable read that I only planned on reading in short bursts, well that didn’t happen. Once I started it and recognised some of my own habits in it and discovered how their presence has evolved and developed. I think the author has pretty much covered every aspect of books and I cannot think of anything he has missed, but then I also discovered things that I had not realised!
This is a small book but my goodness there is a lot packed into its 256 pages, I am still surprised that it is only 256 pages as there is so much in it! Prof Tom Mole definitely knows his book history.
This is a book that I would definitely recommend to readers, yep All readers! It is fascinating and I found it completely addictive. Loved it!
Tom Mole is Professor of English Literature and Book History at the University of Edinburgh, where he runs the Centre for the History of the Book. He has taught at universities in the UK and Canada, and has lectured widely in Europe, Australia and North America. He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. He has written or edited several volumes about books and literature, including What the Victorians Made of Romanticism, which won the 2018 Saltire Prize for Research Book of the Year. He lives in Edinburgh with his wife and young daughter.
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