Nonfiction · review · Review Copy

The Thing The Book: A Monument to the Book as Object by John Herschend, Will Rogan: A Rambling


Hardcover, 156 pages
Published September 23rd 2014 by Chronicle Books
Source: Raincoast Books

What you’re holding now is a thing called a book. An e-book an be read, but it is neither a thing nor a book. It is immaterial code that ironically, can be harder to share than its physical inspiration. As novelist Nicholson Baker wrote in a 2009 New Yorker piece about the Kindle 2, “Here’s what you buy when you buy a Kindle book. You buy the right to display a grouping of words in front of your eyes for your private use with the aid of an electronic display device approved by Amazon….Kindle books aren’t transferrable. You can’t give them away or lend them or sell then.. You can’t print them. They are closed clumps of digital code that only one purchaser can own. A copy of a Kindle book dies with its possessor.” Kindle e-books are the libri cantenati (chained books) of the 21st century.

The above quote is from an essay by Andrew Hultkrans that is included in the book. The quote is just one illustration of the things you will find in The Thing The Book which is devilishly difficult to categorize. My friend Yash wrote her thesis on The Thing Theory which, from what I understood about it, is about people’s relationships to inanimate objects in their lives. If one applies the same vein of thought to The Thing The Book, the book is an ode by various artists about their relationships to objects called books. The Thing The Book separates the traditional book into its parts such as cover, table of contents, index, even the cloth bookmarks or the warning usually pasted in the beginning of the book etc., and various persons recreate these parts in their own way. For instance, the table of contents is clearly not listing the contents of this book but of some other book or perhaps not even an actual book but just a meandering of the author’s mind.

This book is meant for people who unabashedly love the printed word. Who love poring over the texture of the cover, the smoothness of the pages, the smell that is in every new book, you know the smell of possibilities. This book is a result of high culture thinking; it is a work of art and it brings up several things about books and reading that book lovers will probably have thought of before without articulating their thoughts.

An essay in the book talks about a person’s book collection and how at one point in his life, he knew how and where each and every book in his life had come from.  Another section has pictures of modern readers while yet another is an essay about physical books and ebooks.

I recommend this novel for people who love books, and to whom books are more than just pages that contain stories. I enjoyed the reading experience. You may too.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s