DEAD? The book? Don't bet on it. The old familiar paper and boards artefact we've known and loved for centuries has still got plenty of life yet.
Yes, we all agree, the shelf-load of encyclopaedias is obsolete, thanks to the internet. And yes, it makes more sense to read pot-boilers and airport novels on e-readers and tablets.
But the tactile and visual joy of a well-planned book won't be readily replaced by any digital format.
That's my opinion, for what it's worth, though I won't die in a ditch to defend it.
Now that I've said all that, I can't be certain that A History Of The Book In 100 Books is a work that couldn't necessarily be done very nicely in e-book form. Oddly enough, aspects of its design appear to pay obeisance to digital publications, but maybe that's a good thing.
A good portion of this book's purpose, it seems to me, is to argue the case for the continued existence - especially in libraries - of real, hard-copy volumes.
But, perhaps sensing that many readers will be half-converted to the opposite view, the creators have made an article that will probably make those readers feel very much at home.
Each celebrated "book" (actually, many of the 100 items aren't books, per se) is given a neat double-page spread, where words and pictures work nicely together to create an easily absorbed impression. And each spread provides "connections" - a shortlist of related material and ideas elsewhere in the book. Just like hyperlinks on a digital page.
I picked this book up and started opening pages at random. Some spreads grabbed me. Others didn't. But hours passed before I realised how absorbed I'd become, and I mentally patted the authors on the back for the number of times they got me with "wow!" moments.
The book doesn't only dwell on the Western bookmaking tradition. It skates around the world, pulling in leaves from other cultures, and delving into strange galleries to find the curious, the important, the memorable, the eye-opening. And the page-turning.
If you love books. If you really love books, then this eccentric miscellany will give you pleasure.
Simon & Schuster, $29.99
Kit Lannigan was abducted at age 6 by child pornographers and rescued six years later. We get to know her at 21, calling herself Kick, with exceptional skills in self-defence but still battling confusions of identity, trust and loyalty. Amysterious stranger asks her to help save other children and the plot steams ahead. There is little detail about childhood trauma, but showing the adult Kick’s mind demonstrates enough that you don’t need a graphic description. Plenty of action and suspense, but it was Kick’s psychology that made this memorable to me.
HOUSE & GARDEN: FIFTIES HOUSE
Hachette Australia, $55
This is a colourful, kitsch-filled delight. Drawing on British House & Garden magazine archives, it is the first in the Decades Of Design series. It shows how, in the post-war consumer boom of the 1950s, people began to experiment with colours, patterns, homewares and furniture. We don’t always associate the ’50s with innovation, but it was certainly that when it came to interior design and decoration. Many homeowners and designers were positively daring. The result? That’s for you to judge.
FOXY TALES 2: The Road To Fame And Fortune
Caryl Hart and
Alex T. Smith
Hodder Children’s Books, $12.99
When sly and cunning Foxy Dubois hitches a ride to Jollywood, she has one thing on her mind – to win over her dream TV star Ebenezer Jones. Only one thing stands in her way: Alphonso the Alligator, of course. And he is hungry! Join Foxy and Alphonso in their latest adventure, which is funny, entertaining and awesomely illustrated. Ithink this book suits readers aged seven to nine, and I rate it 10 out of 10.
Julie Williams, 9
BEHIND CLOSED DOORS
Random House, $32.99
Another brilliant story from Susan Lewis, who always gets right to the nitty gritty of these issues. Described as the ‘‘British Jodi Picoult’’, she gets stuck into missing persons reports. Sophie Monroe, 14, vanishes and appears to be a missing person, but a wealth of secrets emerge as the police investigate. Detective Sergeant Andrea Lawrence is finding the investigation difficult because her sister disappeared 20 years earlier and was never seen again. She is the terrier who refuses to accept that this is a simple runaway case. And she is right.
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