The Outlaw Life

running, reading, blogging, loving

Literary Collywobbles and Readerish Bits: Books Too Pretty to Read

So, I have this book. It didn’t cost a lot of money; its not particularly old, or valuable, or fragile. I don’t even know for sure that I’m the one that bought it – it’s entirely possible that it’s one of the few my husband brought along that manage to survive the Great Move-In Cull of 20-whatever it was. Some of you (probably a lot of you, lets not lie) may even have the same book. Ready to know what it is?

arabian nightsThis is the leather-bound, gilt-edged, ribbon-bookmarked Barnes and Noble volume of The Arabian Nights translated, as you can probably read, by Sir Richard Burton. And it is even more beautiful in person – those lighter blues and golds are inlaid, and it just feels…weighty to hold. And I’ve wanted to read the collection for quite some time – I’ve heard The Arabian Nights described by some professors as the ultimate book about books, the grand ode to stories – but here’s the kicker. I never have. Every time I get the urge to read the book, I sit down, pull this lovely, weighty volume onto my lap and… that’s it. It just can’t seem to get in to reading from the leatherback collection. And this isn’t the only book it happens with. We have some really lovely editions (also leather bound from Barnes and Noble) of Jules Verne, Ray Bradbury(!!), the Little House books, even The Divine Comedy. And I haven’t read a one. And neither has my husband. And it’s not from lack of want – but then why!

I think I figured it out. And I really did spend quite a bit of time thinking about it recently (since I had to do some major book rearranging in order to get some long-stored favorites out of the back closet), and I’ve come to the conclusion that some books are just too nice to read. I realize that this isn’t exactly new news for a lot of people. There are, of course, people out there who collect some of the nicest volumes on Earth just to stick them on a shelf to look at because they’re too valuable and/or too fragile to interact with the common world. But part of me doesn’t wonder if that’s a bit wrong?

ray bradbury

Books are meant to be read, in the ways that plays are meant to be seen and music is meant to be heard. And I, really, don’t care if you have someone read your book to you on a CD, read it in a pixelated form on a tiny screen, or lug thousands of dead trees around with you from apartment to apartment. It’s the story and the reading that matter. But when we take books and make them non-functional art, we begin to do them a disservice. The beautiful blue edition that made my husband and I salivate isn’t actually doing me any good by just sitting there on the bottom of a stack of other leather bound volumes I’ve never read. But then part of me thinks that, maybe just maybe, the book is the point. Owning it. Having it as an option to read. After all, an unread book is still a favorite potential book, right? But if the book isn’t conducive to ever getting around to reading – is it worth having just because it’s pretty and fun to run my hands over and look at the pictures of? If I’d be more like to read the $1.00 paperback version I saw at a used bookshop, does that make it more valuable than the $20.00 volume I now own?

I don’t have any answers. I’d love to know what you think – if you own any books that are just to pretty (or old? or valuable? or that you’re just too protective over) to sit down with and really read – or if maybe I’m just thinking too hard, in this time of limited funds, about the books I spent money on that I haven’t read yet. Guilty as charged.

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Literary Collywobbles and Readerish Bits: Podcasts


It’s December! YAY! While, in all reality, working in retail means that the next month-and-a-half or so will be complete and total living hell, it’s also the only month of the year that can make me go SQUEE just for, you know, happening once every eleven months. I love Christmas. Anyone who knows me knows that I literally just explode red and green plaid from November 30th through January 1st, and sometimes even straight in to February, if the mood strikes.

As I said, I work in retail as a bookseller at one of the big bookstores in the area, so a lot of my supposed “free time” in December involved driving to and from work on an icy highway surrounded by pissy suburban dwellers who don’t understand why EVERYONE NEEDS TO GO TO AEROPOSTALE TODAY CAN’T THEY JUST STAY HOME?! But I digress. One of the things that keeps me sane during these holiday escapades is listening to the amazing reading podcasts who weekly give me tiny doses of hilarity and reading bookishness and more book reviews than I usually know what to do with. What are these amazing bits of sound genius that I let wash over me on the I-435 commute? Let’s present them, shall we?

The Readers is an AMAZING British podcast featuring Simon of Savidge Reads and Gav of Gav Reads (which are both fantastic blogs in their own right, if you haven’t yet checked them out!) where they gather to discuss all kinds of fun book related things! Every week or so they have shows dedicated to a wide variety of bookish topics (recent episodes include an “ask me anything” session, a discussion of the 1,001 books to read before you die, and Halloween reads), they host a monthly book club, and they frequently feature author interview and more in-depth discussions related to more specific books. It’s refreshing to hear their take on the current release book market (it’s interesting to hear what they have to say on American v. British publishing houses, imprints, titles, and to try and keep track of which books they have that we’ve yet to see state-side) and, lets not lie, their silky British accents make it all to easy to just sit and listen to them talk books! Gav has a definite sci-fi/crime slant, while Simon is a diehard fan of Daphne DuMaurier. I encourage you all to give them a listen, and you can find their episodes either through their website (linked above) or, of course, through the Almighty iTunes.

Books on the Nightstand is, as far as I’m concerned, is kind of the grandfather book podcast. It’s one I’ve been listening to for years now, and one of the few that I’ve gotten caught up on, like, literally their entire back catalog of podcasts. Ann Kingman and Michael Kindness work in the book world and publishing industry, and they get together to talk about books, bring on guests who want to talk about books, authors who want to talk about their own books, and they host Booktopia events across the US where various readers and authors get together IRL to, you know, discuss books. What’s most interesting to me about this podcast is getting kind of an even deeper inside scoop on books that are getting ready to come out and are on the horizon. It allows me to plan ahead a bit in my reading, bracing myself for gems or avoiding things that I know won’t be up my alley. Along those same lines, it’s a really cool look behind the scenes of the publishing world, and while details are rarely forthcoming, every now and then Ann and Michael give a glimpse in to their bookish, publishing lives. I’ve yet to go to one of their Booktopia events (they’re always coastal, it seems, and this girls footloose and fancy free budget just doesn’t involve travel right now), but I want to SO BADLY. Until then, I guess it’s just me and my iTunes!

To complete the podcast triumverate, I offer for your listening pleasure the Bookrageous podcast, featuring the lovely talent of Josh of Brews and Books, Jenn of jennIRL, and Rebecca of The Book Lady’s Blog (do I even need to say it? If you don’t read them, you need to. Yes. NEED to.). As they describe it, the Bookrageous podcast team is “serious about books, but not exactly serious”, which couldn’t be more true because listening to these folks ramble about books is often some of the funniest shiz I’ve ever heard on the interwebs. The three shuffle around from time to time, sometimes bringing on guest hosts or talking the subject between just two of them. The part of the show I look forward to the most, though, is always the opening half of the show where the three (or whoever happens to be on the air with them) talk about what they’ve been reading, what they’re reading now, and what they want to read next. It’s always the time I try and keep a pen handy – unless I’m driving, of course – because it seems like damn near every book they talk about I end up wishing I could read right at that moment. Personally, I find Jenn’s recommendations to be most in line with my own tastes, but having three hosts on the show actually offers enough literary personality that everyone can find someone to gel with. Kind of like the March sisters. Or the Ninja Turtles. Go: iTunes it!

Well, my pretties. Hopefully your holiday times are full of squishy good times and “awww” moments. If not, consider plugging those little earbuds, tell the world to eff off, and give these gems a listen. You won’t regret it. Promise. (hopefully).

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