What We’re Reading This Week — Josh
As I mentioned on the most recent episode of the podcast, I’ve been doing an embarrassingly small amount of reading lately. Luckily, the reading I’ve managed has been very, very good.
Last week, Dustin from Melville House visited Maine and brought all kinds of goodies, including a copy of The Haunted Bookshop. The book was one of Jenn’s favorite books of 2013 (the world’s best endorsement, basically), and Dustin mentioned that it was “the best book about bookstores” he’d ever read. And it is! You guys, this book is so good. It is, as Jenn said on that episode, a delight. It’s funny, and well-paced, and exciting, and surprising, and I just loved it so much. While the book was written in 1919, it feels modern and reads at a speedy clip - I nearly finished the whole thing in a single sitting at a bar. More than anything, it is truly a love story to booksellers, bookstores, and most importantly books. I’m just going to leave a few quotes here as proof.
On lending books;
ON THE RETURN OF A BOOK LENT TO A FRIEND
I GIVE humble and hearty thanks for the safe return of this book which having endured the perils of my friend’s bookcase, and the bookcases of my friend’s friends, now returns to me in reasonably good condition.
I GIVE humble and hearty thanks that my friend did not see fit to give this book to his infant as a plaything, nor use it as an ash-tray for his burning cigar, nor as a teething-ring for his mastiff.
WHEN I lent this book I deemed it as lost: I was resigned to the bitterness of the long parting: I never thought to look upon its pages again.
BUT NOW that my book is come back to me, I rejoice and am exceeding glad! Bring hither the fatted morocco and let us rebind the volume and set it on the shelf of honour: for this my book was lent, and is returned again.
PRESENTLY, therefore, I may return some of the books that I myself have borrowed.
On being a bookseller;
The beauty of being a bookseller is that you don’t have to be a literary critic: all you have to do to books is enjoy them.
I wish there could be an international peace conference of booksellers, for (you will smile at this) my own conviction is that the future happiness of the world depends in no small measure on them and on the librarians.
On the explosive power of books (a metaphor that plays into some of the intrigue later in The Haunted Bookshop).
Printer’s ink has been running a race against gunpowder these many, many years. Ink is handicapped, in a way, because you can blow up a man with gunpowder in half a second, while it may take twenty years to blow him up with a book. But the gunpowder destroys itself along with its victim, while a book can keep on exploding for centuries.
Ah, so great! I suspect that every line of this book has already been tweeted and tumbl’d by booksellers everywhere.
On the comic front, I’m reading The Last of the Innocent, the sixth volume of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ long-running series Criminal. The volumes, always self-contained but in a shared universe, are a great take on (and sometimes a thumb to the nose of) the tropes and cliches of crime writing. While the stories have been fantastic across the board, this one is definitely my favorite. The reason? Without spoiling too much, the book could be roughly described as “Archie Goes Bad.” Main character
Archie Andrews Riley Richards, unhappy with his life and saddled with gambling debts, returns home to Riverdale Brookview and finds it’s not quite as idyllic as in his memory. It’s a stellar crime story - perhaps the pair’s best - and a few scenes aping the classic Archie style make Phillips’ typically great art even better.