We love books. We take them to bed with us. They weigh down our suitcases when we go on holiday. We display them on our bookshelves or store them in our attics. We give them as gifts. We write our names in them. We take them for granted. And all the time, our books are leading a double life.
Books are far more than the words on their pages. Whether we favour leather tomes, dog-eared paperbacks or files on our phones, what we read and how we read it says a huge amount about us. From illuminated manuscripts to the last edition of the Yellow Pages, books tell us stories about who we are.
The Secret Life of Books is about everything that isn’t just the words. It’s about how books transform us as individuals. It’s about how books – and readers – have evolved over time. And it’s about why, even with the arrival of other media, books still have the power change our lives.
In this stylish and thought-provoking meditation, Tom Mole brings the expertise he has gathered running Edinburgh University’s Centre for the History of the Book to write an illuminating account that looks at everything from binding innovations to binding errors, to books defaced by lovers, to those imprisoning professors in their offices, to books in art, to burned books, to those we’ll leave behind. A striking text in a stunning package, it will change how you think about books.
Tom Mole is Professor of English Literature and Book History at the University of Edinburgh, where he runs the Centre for the History of the Book. He has taught at universities in the UK and Canada, and has lectured widely in Europe, Australia and North America. He has written or edited several volumes about books and literature, including What the Victorians Made of Romanticism, which won the 2018 Saltire Prize for Research Book of the Year. He lives in Edinburgh with his wife and young daughter.
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