What I Just Finished Reading

Just because I finish reading a book does not mean that I’m through with it. Look at the amount of sticky notes that I’ve put in the last three books that I read. If it’s a library book, I’m often marking something that I want to photocopy before I return it. If it’s a book I own, it’s something I have a feeling I’ll want to refer back to. I’m so glad I do that. When I didn’t used to do that, I would get so frustrated by wanting to show someone something I’d read and then I couldn’t find it again. Big lesson here: Don’t trust an index—some are great, but most are mediocre.

One of the books here is The Library by Stuart Kells and one of the things I photocopied before taking it back to the library is part of his references—it’s got several books I think I’d like to read. One of the quotes that I marked to remember is by Tim Munby and it’s about book lovers who are sometimes derogatorily referred to as bibliomanics: “To be thought a lunatic by one’s fellow men is an insignificant price to pay for a lifetime’s enjoyment.” Another is from 1607 by Cardinal Borromeo, when shown an exquisitely beautiful copy of Cicero’s writings: “I should like it better if it were a little less clean and a little more used.” (The publisher neglected to put any index in the book, so if I hadn’t marked the quotes, I’d have had a hard time finding them again.)

I often tear my sticky notes into pieces to make them go further and to save trees. When reading my final volume of A History of Book Publishing in the United States, Volume III, The Golden Age Between Two Wars 1920 – 1940 by John Tebbel, I used over 30 markers—I kept tearing the notes into smaller and smaller pieces. I discussed this set of books earlier this year. It’s taken a very long time to get through all four volumes, but oh, so worth it! I wish I had thought to use sticky notes when I was reading the other three volumes. One of the things I marked was a quote from a 1935 issue of Fortune magazine in a myopic review of the publishing industry: “Its tumultuous little world has an unhealthy quota of fussy old men and effeminate young ones.” Sounds great to me!

The third book is Books Make a Home by Damian Thompson, a British writer who is the books editor for The World of Interiors magazine. It’s a very nice book with lots of color photos of how people store and display books in their homes. I do get the impression that he knows more about books than interiors—either that or he got someone else to write his photo captions for him. A lot of the captions are just flat-out wrong—in strange and silly ways. I marked all the wrong captions (that I noticed) and detailed them in my Amazon review of the book. The review is titled “Fun & Funny.” One of the funniest captions is on page 27 which shows a stunning Art Nouveau Dutch tiled stove in a room with two walls full of books. The caption refers to the stove as being from the 18th century (that’s the 1700’s). That’s 200 years before Art Nouveau, and there is almost no historical style that is more recognizable than Art Nouveau (plus it’s my very favorite style). The signature motif of Art Nouveau is a line that’s called a “whiplash curve” and there is the whiplash right at the top of the stove.

What are you reading and do you have any habits when reading?

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