Published: 15th August 2017
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Format: ebook (read via Scribd)
For anyone who’d rather be reading than doing just about anything else, this book is the ultimate must-have. In this visual ode to all things bookish, readers will get lost in page after page of beautiful contemporary art, photography, and illustrations depicting the pleasures of books. Artwork from the likes of Jane Mount, Lisa Congdon, Julia Rothman, and Sophie Blackall is interwoven with text from essayist Maura Kelly, bestselling author Gretchen Rubin, and award-winning author and independent bookstore owner Ann Patchett. Rounded out with poems, quotations, and aphorisms celebrating the joys of reading, this lovingly curated compendium is a love letter to all things literary, and the perfect gift for bookworms everywhere.
As someone whose life is consumed by books, I should have been the ideal reader for this book. Unfortunately I was left underwhelmed, disappointed and just meh about the whole experience.
I’d Rather Be Reading pitches itself as THE book for booklovers. It’s a book for anyone who rather be reading than doing everything else, which is definitely a category I fall into. I realise that this book is depicted as a library of art for book lovers, and as such I didn’t go in with high expectations for any text. I wanted to wowed by beautiful images of books, libraries, bookshops, people reading and everything books… what I found was two amazing book essays, a further essay that I felt personally attached for reading and liking fiction, and a lot … and I mean A LOT of book memes that are free online. There was a handful of truly beautiful bookish pictures, but overall, the art work for me was underwhelming.
I didn’t think I went into this book with too high expectations, but maybe I did. After all, art is subjected and while I was left underwhelmed maybe the next person to read it would be blown away. I’m disappointed that that didn’t happen to me to be honest. Yes, this is a stationary line of gift books for book lovers, so it’s the kind of gift you give someone you know likes books and know next to nothing else about.
Now that I’ve said my piece of the ‘art’ of this book, I want to tell you the reasons why you SHOULD read this book. Booklovers will be comforted by the first essay titled “I’d rather be Reading: the autobiography of a bookworm’ by Guinevere de la Mare, a humorous journey on how de la Mare led a rebellion against learning to read and fell in love with books. This piece truly embodies de la Mare’s life in books, and how they changed her as a reader and a person in turn. It was full of heart, soul, and many book recommendations should you be in the market for one or two (or many, many, many more). I seriously loved reading this piece.
The second essay, “A Slow Books Manifesto” by Maura Kelly, urges readers to take a slower reading journey, where we nurture and learn from what goes in our minds in the same manner we do so for our bodies with food. I’ll admit, this essay was somewhat confronting to me as Kelly dismisses fiction in regards to what she feels is the right type of books one should be reading (literature) as it “make[s] us smarter, [… and] it makes us us, shaping our consciences and our identities.” However, Kelly does agree with research that suggests that fiction “hones our social skills” and allows us to “empathize with [others].” I found myself nodding along with many of Kelly’s arguments and agreeing with her assessments of particular literature books as I have read them; but as a devout fiction reader I couldn’t help the sigh that escaped when I felt my reading preferences looked down upon in a book aimed at booklovers.
The third essay, “Cheating” by Ann Patchett was a profound essay whereby Pratchett was asked in an interview to name her top twenty-five books and how she struggled to choose the list. She speaks about how our reading preferences change day by day, and how no list can ever be “definitive nor true” as something is always missed. I related to this piece so much, and loved the interview questions Patchett answered in her essay.
Lastly, “13 Tips for Getting More Reading Done” by Getchen Rubin is an enlightening piece for anyone who has ever found themselves asking ‘how can I read more’ or ‘how does someone read so much’. Rubin’s main take away from this piece, is to remember to do things that are fun, not that you think you should be doing and don’t be ashamed of how much, or how little, your read, for you read for yourself and no one else. For many of us bookworms, majority of these tips will be common practice, but it was still a fun essay to read and nod along with.
While all four essay’s have been published elsewhere previously, it was lovely to have these compiled together. Especially when they were bookended with poems by famous writers such as Emily Dickenson, Elizabeth Barret Browning, William Morris, and quotes from the likes of L.M. Montgomery and Jane Austen, just to name a few.
So yes, this book certainly has merit and will be book of some booklovers dreams. Unfortunately, as it’s marked and even titled as “a library of art for book lovers”, this book fell short of achieving it’s intended goal for me, personally and as such I’ve rated it the way I have.
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