Paperback or hardcover? Used or new? Let’s talk about our book habits.

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From The Washington Post:

Over time, all readers acquire an array of personal, often bizarrely eccentric rules and routines that govern — or warp — how they interact with the printed word. For example, some people will buy only crisp, new trade paperbacks and wouldn’t touch a used book on a bet. Fear of cooties, perhaps. Do you remove the dust jacket when you sit down with a novel? I always do. Can you read (or write) while listening to music? I find this impossible, which is why you’ll never see me working at a coffee shop. What follows is a list, in no particular order, of some of my other reading habits and “crotchets,” to use an old-fashioned term. Perhaps you will recognize a few of your own.

Hard- vs. softcover

I almost always prefer a hardcover to a paperback and a first edition to a later printing — except in the case of scholarly works, when I want the latest revised or updated version of the text.

Typeface troubles

My heart sinks when I see a desirable book printed in eye-strainingly small type. Publishers must imagine that only eagles will read it.

Books as gifts

I will spend any amount on gift books for my three grandchildren, now ages 8, 6 and 4. Those same grandchildren exploit me mercilessly when we visit Powell’s Books in their hometown, Portland, Ore.


Deciding what to read

These days, I expend preposterous amounts of time dillydallying over what to read next. Like Tennessee Williams’s Blanche Dubois, I want magic. It might be found in the enchantments of a novel’s style, the elegance of a scholar’s mind or simply the excitement of learning something new. So I try a few pages of this book and that, restlessly hoping to start one that finally keeps me spellbound.

What I look for in used book shops

In secondhand bookshops, I always look for sharp copies of 1940s and ’50s paperback mysteries, especially Gold Medal titles featuring sexy women on the cover — the best illustrations are by Robert McGinness — or Dell “mapbacks,” which show the scene of the crime on the back.


Books aren’t commodities

I despise — viscerally, perhaps irrationally — the people one sometimes sees at used book stores scanning every title with a handheld device to check its online price. They regard books strictly as products and usually don’t know anything about them, only caring about what they can buy low and sell high on Amazon or eBay.


Kondo-ing books

One of my favorite daydreams — I know how pathetic this sounds — is imagining a month in which I do nothing but cull my books, then properly arrange or even catalogue those that remain.

Link to the rest at The Washington Post

PG’S impression of the author is: dilettante, poseur, and too precious for words. But PG could be wrong.

3 thoughts on “Paperback or hardcover? Used or new? Let’s talk about our book habits.”

  1. I understand completely. I can’t really embrace a book until I use my little stamp to brand it as my own. “This book is the property of…”

  2. No, he’s not.

    But he forgot clueless.
    Case in point: when publishers send a book out in an illegible font it is for very valid (to them) reasons. Typically to reduce the paper cost or make it fit a “standard” page count or both.

    The comment that only eagles can read the book misses the point that publishers literally don’t care if nobody reads their books; all they care is that they buy it. Prefrably at the highest possible price. Which is why holiday gift sales are so important to them. And, of course, price checking has to be ended to ensure books only sell at full cover.

    It all adds up to the usual literati world view: Books are special. They *have* to be.
    After all if books aren’t special, then neither are they.

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