Small Pleasures: Physical Books

These days, most of the books I buy are audiobooks or ebooks, delivered instantly to my digital devices of choice. In many ways, that’s a wonderful thing and I’m grateful to have such easy access to so many books but it’s not the same as having ‘real’ books.

Today, I’ve been rediscovering the pleasure of receiving a box of brand new, beautiful hardback books. I have missed the sensuality of physical books. I love their weight in my hand, their smell, and their beauty. Any one of them is an object to be savoured but when a bunch of them arrive together, their impact is amplified My eyes ranged over them, eager to take them all in. My fingers stroked them. I breathed in their scent. I found the urge to display them irresistible. Just having them arrive was a small celebration, a welcome moment of joy.

My pleasure was increased because all of these books were given to me as gifts. Gift books are special, whether they are chosen for me like the novels in this pile or whether, like the poetry books, I picked them myself. The ones chosen for me are an invitation to read something someone who knows me thinks I will enjoy. The ones I choose myself, grant me an opportunity to buy something that I wouldn’t add to my digital To Be Read pile.

Take a look at how gorgeous the three novels are.

The Man In The Queue’ is the first Josephine Tey book. There wasn’t a hardback copy available but I think this trade paperback captures the period feel well and the text is large enough for me to read comfortably.

‘Mexican Gothic’ has one of the most beautiful covers I’ve seen in a long time. My wife has just finished listening to the audiobook version and was so impressed that we added a hardback copy to our shelves. I’ve been watching Silvia Moreno-Gracia for a couple of years now and I’m pleased that this seems to be a breakthrough novel for her. So, yes, we already had the text but this physical copy allows us to celebrate an excellent piece of writing.

‘A Girl Made Of Air’ is a circus story, set in the mid-twentieth century. Nydia Hetherington’s novel has been compared to Angela Carter, which will be great if it’s apt. I was unaware of the book until it was gifted to me, so now I have the opportunity to read something new and different. That the cover is a delight just increases my anticipation.

As a child, the gifts I treasured the most were Book Tokens. I would wait impatiently for the bookshops to open after Christmas and then spend my Tokens greedily in a little shop called Bookland. The three books above came via the modern version of Book Tokens, a Waterstones Card that let me loose on their online sale with the same glee that I felt as a child.

I have a strong preference to be able to hold my poetry books in my hands. I tend to read poetry when I’m restless. It soothes me to be able to pick up a book and hunt through it for the poem that speaks to me on that day. I’ll go back to the same book many times, rarely following a particular order. I’m delighted with these three books. They look gorgeous. They make me want to hold them and browse them and they each offer something quite different.

‘Dearly’ by Margaret Attwood was a collection I had to have. It’s her first collection of new poems in more than a decade and she sees it a set of ‘Late Poems’, that’s even the title of the first poem in the collection. Margaret Attwood was eight-one when this collection was released and I’m expecting the tone of the poems to reflect the perspective of someone with a long life behind them. I’m a couple of decades behind her but I’m definitely ready for those kinds of meditations.

‘ I picked Off The Coastal Path’ because Jo Fletcher is the editor and I trust her judgement. These days, ten years after she edited this collection, Jo Fletcher runs her own imprint Jo Fletcher Books publishing Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror. I like the talent she attracts. She published ‘Mexican Gothic’ and ‘Radio Life’. ‘Off The Coastal Path’ is subtitled ‘Dark Poems OF The Seaside’, I grew up facing the Irish Sea so this is a topic that calls to me. There are thirty poems, all by different poets. Just scanning the list, I see Ray Bradbury, John Donne, H. P. Lovecraft, Rudyard Kipling, Neil Gaiman, Ursula Le Guin and Jo Fletcher herself. The presentation is beautiful. I’m itchy to get to this one.

‘Grimoire’ is a roll of the dice. I haven’t read Robin Roberston before. I saw that he made the 2018 Mann Booker Prize Shortlist, which was quite an achievement with a long poem, but I haven’t sampled his stuff. I picked ‘Grimoire’ because it seems to be a dark collection of narrative poems, based and Celtic myths and magic and delivered fearlessly. The line illustrations commissioned to accompany the poems have already called to me but I’m saving this book for sleepless nights and dark days. I have a plentiful supply of both.

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