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Murder by Death

I read cozy and historical mysteries, a bit of Paranormal/UF, and to mix it up, I read science and gardening books on occasion.

The Book: A Cover-to-Cover Exploration of the Most Powerful Object of Our Time

The Book: A Cover-to-Cover Exploration of the Most Powerful Object of Our Time - Keith Houston

I have to start by saying this poor book was an innocent bystander to the just-completed 2017 BookLikes-opoly game.  That is the only reason it took me 2.5 months to read it; it certainly wasn't due to any shortcomings on the part of the subject or writing itself.


The Book is exactly what it says it is on the cover: a history of every physical aspect of the book as we know it today; from the creation of the writing surface (clay, wax, papyrus, parchment, paper) to the development of writing itself, the process of putting one on the other, and the evolution of the useable and practical units (scrolls, codices, etc.) of collection.  Each part of what makes up the book is labeled, as can be seen on the cover itself.  No part is ever labeled more than once so it doesn't become tedious.


Far from being the dry, academic dissertation my description makes it sound like, The Book is really well written and very easy reading.  The author is knowledgeable and just relaxed enough and funny enough to remind you of a really good, relatable professor whose lectures you never mind attending.  Enjoyable enough, even, that a few dropped articles from the text weren't quite enough for me to ding my rating.  For those academically minded, there are very comprehensive notes and bibliography sections at the back.


I have the hardcover edition of this and it is beautiful. As close as you can come, I imagine, to a handmade book on a mass market scale.  My only quibble is that in the spirit of showing the reader what a book is made of, the covers are left as the raw fibreboard; it looks nice but it's not going to be durable unless care is taken with the corners.  I intend to take care, but still, I half wish they'd at least varnished the boards as a way of reinforcing those delicate corners.


If you not only love books for the stories they contain, but for the physical objects that they are, and you enjoy a bit of history, this book might be one for your permanent collection and it's very much worth having the physical hardcover edition - just make sure to watch those corners.