Thursday, February 17, 2011

Beautiful Books. . .

In the midst of all the panic about e-books and how they might herald a crisis in the book industry, I'm always looking (and perhaps more crucially now) to celebrate beautiful print books and publishers who are still coming up with some creative ways to package and design books so that they remain valuable objects that real bibliophiles will always lust after. Case in point is Melville House which I blogged about here.

But I've also recently discovered Visual Editions, a new British publisher devoted to exploring creative ways to play with text, and I immediately ordered both of their inaugral books, which I can confirm are every bit as beautiful to hold as they look in the photos.  The first is an edition of the perfect book to experiment with - Laurence Sterne's Tristram Shandy, in which visual elements were used to "highlight and exaggerate what Laurence Sterne intended when he first wrote Shandy."  You can see some of the pages here.   I love it!

The second is The Tree of Codes by Jonathan Safran Foer.  This is just the coolest thing ever.  He's taken one of his favourite books - Bruno Schulz's The Street of Crocodiles (which I also ordered and will read first) and actually cut away letters and words to carve out his own separate story.  Check out pages (and a video of readers' reactions) here.

And then I'm loving this set of 50 Mini Modern Classics that Penguin UK has put out to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Modern Classics line.  They can be bought separately or in this classy box set and consist of novellas or small collections of short stories. You can see the full list of titles here (and the guinea pig they use in their promotional book trailer is pretty cute).  I will certainly be getting my hands on two stories about addiction by Hans Fallada, published under the title Short Treatise on the Joys of Morphinism. Here's a line from one of them:
…I stare at the coffee I poured myself, and I think: caffeine is a poison that stimulates the heart. There are plenty of instances of people killing themselves with coffee, hundreds and thousands of them. Caffeine is a deadly poison, maybe almost as deadly as morphine. Why didn’t it ever occur to me before: coffee is my friend!

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