Reading print books

It’s pleasing to see what kinds of books used bookstores in different places have. Chicago’s Myopic Books has a “history – labor history” section, which I’ve never seen before and half-ran over to, and Green Dragon in Ashland, OR has shelves of scripts and acting technique books marked up by Oregon Shakespeare Festival alumni.

I’m in Ashland for my best friend from college’s wedding, and yesterday we went out wine tasting with the wedding party. One of the bridesmaids works for an audio book publisher, and her company has recently started putting out print books. “Interesting time to be getting into print!” someone commented ironically. But it turns out her publisher’s print books have sold very well, and – for example – in the UK, also, print sales are rising and e-book sales are falling. (Overall book sales are also rising which is reassuring!)

Most books I read are still e-books, mostly because I do a lot of reading on my commute and it’s much harder to keep a paper book open and at eye level when you’re clinging one-handed to the pole on the Northern line, but I’ve been making more time to read for pleasure and those are usually print books.

Books I’ve read in print lately

Syriza: Inside the Labyrinth, Kevin Ovenden. Of course it’s always fun to read a Left Book Club book in public, because it makes you feel very smug and intellectual and right-on, which is great as long as you don’t let it run on too long. I’ve been able to put little stars next to the points that are especially striking, in blue Uniball ink. I use my finger to ‘highlight’ things like that on my Kindle, but never find myself going back to look for them. It’s been pleasing to flip through the still-new-feeling white pages and see what I’ve told my future self is interesting.

Memoirs of an Early Arab Feminist, Anbara Salam Khalidi. I bought this last month in Beirut, at Librairie Antoine, the English-language bookshop in Hamra, because I wanted something to read at the coffeeshop and didn’t have anything appropriate with me. The type was smallish, attractive, set close together and made it feel like her words were rushing to get onto the page. Her sentences are short and clear, and it was a clean, beautiful book.

Theatre Criticism, Irving Wardle. Bought for £1 at Oxfam, and some parts highlighted in yellow by someone else. I also underlined some parts. It was one of the earliest editions (possibly first but I don’t have it with me and can’t check), from the year it was published, 1992. Wardle’s writing is friendly and easy to read, and he’s a little mean in the right places, and it was reassuring to know there was another potential theatre writer between 1992 and now reading this exact text and thinking about it the way I was trying to think about it.

The Return of the Soldier, Rebecca West.

In the liquefaction of colors which happens on a summer evening, when the green grass seemed like a precious fluid poured out on the earth and dripping over to the river, and the chestnut candles were no longer proud flowers, but just wet, white lights in the humid mass of the tree, when the brown earth seemed just a little denser than the water, Margaret also participated.

Chris explained this part of his story stumblingly; but I, too, have watched people I loved in the dusk, and I know what he meant.

! Isn’t that astonishing? My mouth genuinely fell open when I read that. I had to close the book and think about it for a long time, and open it up and reread it. The print on the page was large (it was a Virago Modern Classics edition I’d borrowed from Ewan’s shelf, with a green cover and thick weight paper fading slightly into paper-bag brown). It felt like an older edition than it was.

I don’t know whether it would have had the same whammy on a screen as on that page, but it was a striking and wonderful way to discover those sentences.

3 thoughts on “Reading print books

  1. Lisa says:

    Solidly on the side of the Greek people who have been on the sharp end of European austerity. This book charts the rise of Syriza, it’s battle with the EU institutions, and crisis that it caused within the party. The battle in Greece is far from over

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