Summer 2019 Books about Books Roundup

Courtesy of William Morris

The Binding, a novel by Bridget Collins.

For many people summer brings at least a short break from the workaday world, time to be spent chipping away at personal projects and hobbies or simply reading a great (bookish) novel. Five recently published books about books speak to these priorities. So if you’re seeking a stack of summer reads, look no further!

Courtesy of Chatwin Books

For those looking to start or continue building a book collection, Matthew Budman’s much-needed guide, Book Collecting Now: The Value of Print in a Digital Age (Chatwin Books, $17), is a handy, illustrated paperback. Budman, a longtime book collector, shares his wisdom amiably, offering definitions of odd terminology, fresh strategies for book hunting, and quotes from experts. His new book, an updated version of one he wrote in 2004, is a terrific resource for bibliophiles who answer to this call: “You have the power to curate a book collection to make it more than the sum of its parts. That’s the ultimate reward of collecting.”

Courtesy of Rizzoli

David Schulson certainly answered that call as he built an immense collection of autographs, sketches, and scribbles by influential people. In Scrawl: An A to Z of Famous Doodles (Rizzoli, $39.95), we get a glimpse at this wonderfully whimsical private collection. The volume was put together by the collector’s wife, Claudia, and their children, Caren and Todd Strauss-Schulson. “This book is a tribute to him, his legacy, and his treasures,” writes Caren in the book’s preface, and the publisher has delivered on that aim with pretty endpapers, thick paper, and 150 color illustrations.

Courtesy of Thames & Hudson

A more hands-on hobbyist might be interested in Calligraphy & Lettering: A Maker’s Guide (Thames & Hudson, $29.95), published by the Victoria & Albert Museum. This fully illustrated handbook takes a practical approach to lettering and book arts, providing an overview of the tools and materials one would need, instruction in creating certain letterforms, and examples from various media, including medieval manuscripts. Specs for fifteen projects inspired by V&A collections are supplied as well.

Courtesy of William Morrow

If fiction—particularly the fantastical type that can be truly transportive—is your bag, The Binding (William Morrow, $26.99) by Bridget Collins is heartily recommended. A pithy plot summary won’t do it justice; there is love and mystery and rumination on the precariousness of memory. In this truly original tale set in a dystopian, pre-Industrial English countryside, Collins exalts the art of bookbinding and endows it with mystical power. Bibliophiles will find themselves utterly enchanted. 

Courtesy of Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill

The title of Tim Mason’s new novel, The Darwin Affair (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, $27.95), tips you off that a historical thriller awaits. Indeed it is the publication of Charles Darwin’s groundbreaking On the Origin of Species that sets in motion a series of assassination attempts, kidnappings, and body mutilations that London police inspector Charles Field must piece together before a serial killer gets the famous naturalist. With cameos by Charles Dickens, Prince Albert, and other Victorian luminaries, the book is a brisk, satisfying read.

For more books about books, see our spring 2019 edition of this column.