Book Reviews | September 2019 | Rebecca Rego Barry

Autumn 2019 Crop of Books About Books, Part II

Courtesy of Basic Books

Here we are back to the books. Earlier this week, I posted part 1 of this Autumn 2019 books about books roundup. Now, without further ado, part 2:

Leah Price’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Books (Basic Books, $28) has been the talk of the book world for the past few weeks, with popularly shared excerpts like “Books Won’t Die” making the rounds. Price, also the author 2012’s How to Do Things with Books in Victorian Britain, makes a compelling case against the simplistic digital vs. print reading divide, which tends to view e-reading as shallow or ‘bad,’ and print reading as deep and ‘good.’ Her foray to the NYPL to see the first vegetarian cookbook in English especially satisfies the general reader, as does her chapter on bibliotherapy.

Courtesy of University of Texas Press

Beyond Market Value: A Memoir of Book Collecting and the World of Venture Capital by Annette Campbell-White (University of Texas Press, $29.95) was recently published to coincide with an exhibition at the Ransom Center called Modernist Networks. This collector’s coming-of-age tale is a pleasure to read, from her itinerant childhood in Commonwealth countries to her wildly successful career in finance during the tech boom of the eighties and nineties that allowed her to follow her bibliophilic passions. About her first rare book purchase in London in 1972, when she had no job and few prospects but bought a signed limited edition of T.S. Eliot’s A Song for Simeon anyway, she writes, “In the midst of my uncertainty, the terrible loneliness I had felt since arriving in London, and, most of all, my fear about the future, a hand, Eliot’s hand, reached out from the past.” It’s a sentiment shared by many bibliophiles, and her sincere reflections on the rare book world (book fairs, auctions, finding a focus) are likewise congenial. The related exhibition, featuring Campbell-White’s rare books and manuscripts, is on view in Austin through January 5.

Bibliophiles cheer anytime Alberto Manguel, author of The Library at Night, Packing My Library, and several other books about books, releases something new. His latest, Fabulous Monsters: Dracula, Alice, Superman, and Other Literary Friends (Yale University Press, $19.95), is yet another occasion for celebration. Here Manguel introduces us to the literary characters that have stayed with him and inspired him throughout his reading life, accompanied by his own charming doodles which open each chapter.   

If fiction is your bag, there’s a trio of new titles with bookish undercurrents to keep you up at night.

Book lovers and trivia nerds, look no further than The Bookish Life of Nina Hill (Berkley, $16) by Abbi Waxman. This cleverly written romp has everything to like and nothing to dislike (unless a little colorful language puts you off). The main character is a millennial bookseller navigating some family drama while trying to find love and enough spare time to keep reading.

Courtesy of Baker Publishing Group

The Words Between Us (Revell, $15.99) by Erin Bartels also focuses on the life of a young female bookseller, but in a more contemplative style, and it’s tame enough to share with a teenage reader. Bartels weaves a dual narrative, slowing bringing to light a story of young love, betrayal, and loss. When an old flame begins mailing Robin copies of books they shared in high school, she wonders if her past has caught up with her.

Finally, if a high-spirited whodunnit set in New York City during the 1920s featuring talk of Eric Gill engravings and W.A. Dwiggins letters, appeals, then Relative Fortunes (Lake Union Publishing, $24.95) may be just the thing. The author, Marlowe Benn, certainly knows her way around a Kelmscott — like her protagonist, she has practiced letterpress printing. Benn also has a master’s degree in the book arts from the University of Alabama and a doctorate in the history of books from the University of California, Berkeley.