ATG Book of the Week: What We Talk About When We Talk About Books

by | Dec 5, 2019 | 0 comments

Title: What We Talk About When We Talk About Books: The History and Future of Reading
Author: Leah Price
Hardcover: 978-0465042685, $17.99
Imprint: New York: Basic, 2019

“Do you worry that you’ve lost patience for anything longer than a tweet? If so, you’re not alone. Digital-age pundits warn that as our appetite for books dwindles, so too do the virtues in which printed, bound objects once trained us: the willpower to focus on a sustained argument, the curiosity to look beyond the day’s news, the willingness to be alone.The shelves of the world’s great libraries, though, tell a more complicated story. Examining the wear and tear on the books that they contain, English professor Leah Price finds scant evidence that a golden age of reading ever existed. From the dawn of mass literacy to the invention of the paperback, most readers already skimmed and multitasked. Print-era doctors even forbade the very same silent absorption now recommended as a cure for electronic addictions.The evidence that books are dying proves even scarcer. In encounters with librarians, booksellers and activists who are reinventing old ways of reading, Price offers fresh hope to bibliophiles and literature lovers alike.”

REVIEWS

[Price] is not an elegist for print: her extraordinary grasp of every development in book history, from incunabula to beach reads, monasteries to bookmobiles, suggests that a love of printed matter need not be a form of nostalgia…Her radiant descriptions of the physical properties of books, the forensic traces-from smudges to candle wax-of earlier bodies holding them, immediately sent me to the Internet…”—Dan Chiasson, New Yorker

Price’s book-unlike other examples of what she calls ‘autobibliography’-is funny and hopeful, rather than dour and pious…What We Talk About When We Talk About Books is an enjoyable tour, full of surprising byways into historical arcana.”—Jennifer Szalai, New York Times

“A witty, tonic rebuttal to the latest round of doomsday prognostications about the fate of literature.”—Wall Street Journal

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