Thursday, April 12, 2007

A BOOK ADDICT’S TREASURY by Julie Rugg and Lynda Murphy
Frances Lincoln Publishers (Bookwise International in NZ & Australia) NZ$35

Now here is a book that no book lover should be without. And every bookseller should have their own copy behind the counter to share with customers. It is a stunner

As it says on the inside cover blurb it “throws before the reader a quirky and engaging catalogue of bookish behaviour”.
It also says, and I’m sure they must have had me in mind when they wrote this, “this collection is intended to please anyone who has ever smelled a book before reading it.”
I would certainly never buy a book before smelling it.
Surely that is just part of the process – look at the cover, read the back cover blurb, read the author bio, read the first paragraph, and then open the book wide and have a jolly good sniff !

The two authors, both based in York, have provided an entertaining and explanatory five page introduction as well as two splendid indices- an index of authors and a subject index, as well as a full list of references and copyright notices. All very good but in between this admirable stuff they have gathered together an absolute treasure trove of excerpts from a vast range of books, from a vast range of authors (there must be at least 500) and of course these excerpts are in every case about some aspect of the book. They describe “ the joys and vices of book love”, it is indeed a book “compiled by addicts for addicts.”

Some of the excerpts run to several pages, some, a minority are only a few lines.
It is much, much more than a book of quotations.

Here are a couple of my favourites to give you a taste:

“I keep novels and detective stories in my bedroom, so that visitors shan’t be tempted to borrow them; the sitting room houses the higher forms of literature (and my jazz books, a far from exhaustive collection), while the hall I reserve for thoroughly worthy items, to speed the parting guest.”
Philip Larkin, “Books”, 1972.

“I need fiction. I’m an addict. This is not a figure of speech. I don’t quite read a novel a day, but I certainly read some of a novel every day, and usually some of several. There is always a heap of opened paperbacks face down near the bed, always something current on the kitchen table to reach for over coffee when I wake up. Colonies of prose have formed in the bathroom and in the dimness of the upstairs landing, so that I don’t go without text even in the leftover spaces of the house where I spend the least time. When I’m tired and therefore indecisive, lasat thing at night, it can take half an hour to choose the book I am going to have with me while I brush my teeth.”
Francis Spufford, “The Child That Books Built,” 2002.
Perhaps my favourite piece, too long to reproduce here, is by W.Somerset Maugham from “the book bag”, 1951.

But there are many hugely appealing pieces.
The chapters are themed and I especially like the excerpts in Chapter 5 – Bookish Behaviour- and those in Chapter 6 – Rapacious Readers.

What a joy. A Book Addict’s Treasury already has a special place here in my office/library where I can reach it anytime I need inspiration or cheering up or diversion or an excuse to pause a while.

Thank you Julie Rugg & Lynda Murphy, and thanks too to Frances Lincoln Publishers, for this gem which I shall always treasure.

Frances Lincoln, founder of the publishing company that bears her name died in 2001 aged 55. I recall meeting her on a number of occasions in the late 80’s and 90’s at the Bologna Book Fair when she was active in publishing children’s picture books. Her Kentish Town, London-based company continues to thrive run by her husband John Nicoll. R.I.P. Frances.

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