Title: The Book: A Cover-to-Cover Exploration of the Most Powerful Object of Our Time
Author: Keith Houston
Hardcover: ISBN: 978-0-393-24479-3, $29.95
Imprint: New York, Norton, 2016

We may love books, but do we know what lies behind them? In The Book, Keith Houston reveals that the paper, ink, thread, glue, and board from which a book is made tell as rich a story as the words on its pages—of civilizations, empires, human ingenuity, and madness. In an invitingly tactile history of this 2,000-year-old medium, Houston follows the development of writing, printing, the art of illustrations, and binding to show how we have moved from cuneiform tablets and papyrus scrolls to the hardcovers and paperbacks of today. Sure to delight book lovers of all stripes with its lush, full-color illustrations, The Book gives us the momentous and surprising history behind humanity’s most important—and universal—information technology.



“A lovingly designed and illustrated deep history of the book.” (John Williams – New York Times)


“Mr. Houston savors evocative detail. . . . As befits its subject, The Book is pleasingly designed―with an offbeat self-consciousness about its sturdy appearance―and Mr. Houston’s unapologetic nerdiness is matched by a jaunty style. . . . Mr. Houston is an eager, affable guide, and his detailed history is a welcome reminder that this ‘unrepentantly analog contraption’ is one of the truly great pieces of technology.” (Henry Hitchings – Wall Street Journal)


“A love letter to the physical book, this is a fascinating and erudite telling of how it came into being. . . . Hugely enlightening.” (Tory Lyne-Pirkis – The Yorkshire Post)


“Keith Houston’s deft history of the object wraps entire civilizations into the telling, propelling us through the evolution of writing, printing, binding and illustration with gusto.” (Barbara Kiser, books and arts editor of Nature magazine)


“If you love books, love the feel of a book in your hands, the heft and smell, the swish of a turned page and the satisfying thump of the cover — and you must or you wouldn’t be reading this — have I got the book for you. . . . The bookiest of books. . . . Houston. . . writes with zest. He’s an enthusiast if not an obsessive, with a voracious appetite for details, from the daily grind in a medieval scriptorium to the intricate workings of a modern offset press. . . . The Book is nothing if not user-friendly.” (Bill Marvel – Dallas Morning News)


“Invitingly tactile. . . . Sure to delight book lovers of all stripes with its lush, full-color illustrations, THE BOOK gives us the momentous and surprising history behind humanity’s most important―and universal―information technology.” (Book Reporter)


“Erudite, playful, and illuminating. . . . Houston is both witty and intensely detailed, thus appealing both to general readers and to bibliophiles who will wish to know the specifics of making papyrus, of stitching together pages, and of learning how we arrived at today’s paper sizes. . . . A splendid, challenging mixture of information and fun.” (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))


“Houston’s fixation with this object is a delight, and his understanding of how history is written and his clear delineation between speculation and established fact are very refreshing.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))