Thursday, March 12, 2009

In Praise of Pretty Tomes

I came home from work today to a fun brown box from Amazon! And in it, one of the most beautiful books I have ever seen (the one pictured above, since somehow, it's not allowing me to place the picture below this text). It is City of Laughter: Sex and Satire in Eighteenth Century London, by Vic Gatrell, and it is gorgeous.

I am not reviewing the content of the book here- just its looks. I know you're not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but there's nothing wrong with judgment based on the whole package, right? So allow me to wax lyrical for a few moments.

In this age of mass-market paperbacks, a well-made hardcover book really stands out. I don't have anything against mass market paperbacks (except their propensity for spelling and grammatical errors), but hardcovers excite me. I love the cracking sound that the spine makes when you open it for the first time. I love the smell of a new hardcover. I love dustjackets. I love, in non-fiction books, those pockets of glossy pages with pictures.

Speaking of glossy pages with pictures, City of Laughter is full of them! All of the pages are glossy and several of them have pictures (many in color!). It's almost a small textbook, but one that makes you drool.

I know that my reviews lately probably haven't appealed to a wide demographic, being mainly focused on 18th and 19th century Britain. Such as this book. And such as the book I will next be reviewing. But every book lover has seen a book before that excites her, right? And for me, City of Laughter is one of those books.

Can you name a book that you saw and then just kept itching to open?


  1. I know about that, so you just enjoy your pretty book :)

  2. I think the last time I felt that way about a hardback it was over The Crimson Petal and The White. Which was a really long time ago, come to think of it. I usually buy the soft covers because they are just a bit more affordable, but oh the wonders of a beautifully bound hardcover. Sometimes I go to the bookstore just to fondle them! I am looking forward to your review of this book, it looks like something I would enjoy.

  3. Call me shallow, but the last time I went to a book sale I bought a novel on looks alone! Well, I had formed a vague intention of reading more Australian fiction, and I seem to recall hearing good things about Elizabeth Jolley . . . and Lovesong is utterly gorgeous. I haven't read it yet because I want to savour the anticipation a little longer.

  4. Hi Aarti --

    I didn't buy it on looks alone -- I bought it b/c I know the author -- but I think the cover of The End by Salvatore Scibona is stunning. (The book itself is pretty amazing, too, as its various awards testify. Challenging, sure, but it pays back effort w/ interest.)

    I tend to steer clear of hardcovers, but I did pick up a second-hand copy of Simon Schama's Landscape and Memory years ago largely b/c it looked awesome, and I've been packing it and unpacking it for years w/o actually reading any of it.

    There's a good post about book covers over at the Ploughshares blog that's worth checking out . . .


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