Category Archives: books

Buying Books Again

“I have decided that I will buy books again, that I will live in a house full of books again even if it means I cannot move as nimbly through the world. Because I love books. It’s as simple as that.”

—Rebecca Toh, “Buying Books Again”

(Via Patrick Rhone.)

Good Movies as Old Books

These, an “ongoing personal project” by Matt Stevens, are spot on.

Don’t Ask Him Why

“Driver wasn’t much of a reader. Wasn’t much of a movie person either, you came right down to it. He’d liked Road House, but that was a long time back. He never went to movies he drove for, but sometimes, after hanging out with screenwriters, who tended to be the other guys on the set with nothing much to do for most of the day, he’d read books they were based on. Don’t ask him why.”

—James Sallis, Drive (2006)

Ten Good Reasons the Book is Important

Here’s Timothy Young over at Design Observer:

  1. It is a piece of technology that lasts.
  2. It needs very little, if any, extra technology to be accessed.
  3. The book retains evidence.
  4. Books are true to form.
  5. Each copy of a book is potentially unique…
  6. Printed items are consumable goods…
  7. A book is an object fixed in time.
  8. A book can be an object of beauty and human craftsmanship.
  9. When you are reading a book in a public place, other people can see what you are reading.
  10. The Internet will never contain every book.

I made some of these same arguments five years ago on this blog. Alan Jacobs, on Twitter and elsewhere, has expressed his exasperation with pieces like this, arguing, essentially, that they do little to advance the whole “books vs. ebooks” debate because they’re just making the same points over and over again as if they were the first to ever make them. Jacobs has a point, but I’m inclined to give a list like this a pass because I feel like, in a technophilic culture besotted with the new, some points, like some books, are worth pressing on people.

(Via Austin Kleon.)

Belated Bohemianism

“The life-style of belated bohemianism forced on the non-academic philosopher is itself enough to give him a fatal affinity to the world of arts-and-crafts, crackpot religion and half-educated sectarianism.”

—Theodor Adorno, Minima Moralia (1951)

Time to Read

Prison is a great place to get reading done:

“I started out with books that helped me make sense of the situation around me,” Genis recalled, meaning books on imprisonment: he read Papillon, Dostoyevsky’s The House of the Dead, Gulag narratives by Solzhenitsyn and Shalamov, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Albert Speer’s memoir of Spandau, and Ted Conover’s Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing (four pages of which were removed by prison authorities). Then he boned up on authoritarian regimes (“Awful stuff that made me feel better by comparison”): biographies of Pol Pot, Mao, and Pinochet; histories of the Khmer Rouge and the Cultural Revolution; and Goebbels’s diaries. Having entered prison as an atheist with a moral-relativist bent, Genis next took up the problem of good and evil, scouring Pascal, Rousseau, Schopenhauer, Crime and Punishment, and Knut Hamsun’s Hunger. Lubricated with an ample dose of science fiction by William Gibson, Frederik Pohl, and Philip K. Dick—“for relaxation”—Genis’s journal was just getting going.


Related reading: Corey Robin’s “My Dirty Little Secret: I Ride the Rails to Read,” wherein he reveals that contemporary, Internet-everywhere life has become so distracting he rides the subway just so he can read:

After I drop off my daughter at school or summer camp, I jump on the subway. I ride the rails for three to four hours. Maybe the F train: out to Coney Island, back through Brooklyn, into Manhattan, out to Forest Hills, and then back. Or if I’m pressed for time, just the Q train: again out to Coney, back through Brooklyn, into Manhattan, out to Astoria, and back. Or if I’m in the mood for a change, the B or the D trains: they ultimately take me to the Bronx and back.

I take nothing with me but my book and a pen. I take notes on the front and back pages of the book. If I run out of pages, I carry a little notebook with me. I never get off the train (except, occasionally, to meet my wife for lunch in Manhattan.) I have an ancient phone, so there’s no internet or desire to text, and I’m mostly underground, so there are no phone calls.

See also: Nicholas Carr.

Figure Out What the Impediments Are and Remove Them

From Creativity, Inc., a book about Pixar:


(Via Holly Brockwell.)


From Louis Simpson’s Air with Armed Men:

Screen Shot 2014-04-27 at 11.15.11 AM


Accruing Authority

“I take a lot of notes when I read, particularly in this initial phase of research. I highlight everything I find interesting, and then type out everything I’ve highlighted, and then print out everything I’ve typed, and reread these printed notes as often as possible. In addition to non-fiction, I began reading as much 19th‑century fiction and crime fiction as I could, highlighting idioms, period details and ingenuities of plot. Most of the notes I took never made it into The Luminaries—at least not directly—but I could never have begun writing the novel without them. In many ways I see this initial phase as a process of accruing authority, of finding a perspective on the raw material of the future novel’s world. I’ve always loved that ‘author’ derives from the Latin augere, to increase. This phase of reading and researching lasted for nearly two years, but it wasn’t until the very end of it that the idea for the novel was really born.”

Eleanor Catton on how she wrote The Luminaries


“I think undergraduates should be kept away from Theory at all costs. I don’t think people should be allowed to even hear the word ‘theory’ until they’re doing graduate work—for the very good reason that it’s impossible to theorize about texts before one has deep familiarity with them (not that that stopped anyone in the 1980s when I was in grad school). Undergraduates should be taught to have a clean appreciation of what texts say and how they say them, and learn how to write intelligently and clearly about that. If undergraduates had to have a model of criticism it ought to be popular criticism rather than traditional academic criticism.”

Daniel Mendelsohn