I am a sucker for books about books, so much so that I once wrote one myself, charting my year of trying to fall in love with literature again.
So when I saw ‘The Secret Life of Books’ on a shelf in Waterstones, I immediately picked it up, knowing I was going to buy it even before I read what it was about.
Written by Professor Tom Mole, Professor of English Literature and Book History at the University of Edinburgh, The Secret Life of Books looks at books as objects and why they are more than just the words contained within their pages.
The author examines how they can become part of our identity, or of our various relationships through giving them as gifts, lending them or coming together to discuss a shared reading experience.
They can chart a person’s own life – perhaps depending on where and when they bought the book, or notes made in the margins which, though forgotten over time, can trigger memories when read again years later. (For the record, I never write in my books. Ever!)
Books, too, in professional life can be more than just a collection of words, and can signify status, authority or knowledge. And in many instances, they can be part of a cultural identity – the example of many great libraries down through the ages is given, as are those instances when books are destroyed as a way of destroying a culture and a people – book burning in Nazi Germany is one obvious example.
This is a wonderful book, and it’s no surprise that the good professor offers an extremely strong argument as to why the physical book offers so much more than an e-reader.
It is available on Kindle, too, but buy the book. You’ll love it.
You can also check out my book, Read All About It. It’s decent, too.