The Art of Books

Many will say a book, or story is a work of art. This post discusses a more literal rendering of the art of the book. All articles are from Atlas Obscura.

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These two articles explores the mysterious world of ink blots in the Victorian era. They gained popularity when a German writer popularized them as an eerie and inspirational art form. Here is a book collection of ink blots made of autographs and signatures, and here we see how klecksography features in the Victorian game “Gobolinks”, using inkblots as inspiration for weird poems.

Spider monkeys from a fore-edge painting on The Natural History of Monkeys (1838)

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Here we see a trend of painting detailed landscapes on gathered edges of the pages of a closed book.

And if you’ve ever been curious about the gorgeous art designs of the end paper of older and rarer  books check out this article for a variety of delightful endpaper art, and the mesmerizing video above on the art of the end paper marbler from 1970.


Letters from Authors

Letters between authors can be hilarious, sharp-witted, and often vicious. No one else has quite the same way with words as a writer. What follows is a variety of articles which shares these real (and sometimes fictional) literary correspondences.

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Here Lit Hub has a curious assortment of telegrams to and from famous authors. My favorite is the one from Edith Wharton to Theodore Roosevelt.

Lit hub has an article of the top ten Literary Diss Tracks, including Simone de Beauvoir’s portrayal of Nelson Algren, Arthur Miller’s portrayal of Marilyn Monroe, and of course our boys Hemingway and Fitzgerald in literary feud.

Here in a Brainpickings article, Ernest Hemingway politely tears apart his friend F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night.

This telegraph article shares how C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien bonded over a mutual hatred of Walt Disney.

While male author correspondences are a fond subject of literary legend, it’s more often than not that female author friendships are forgotten. Here’s Lit Hub’s article, which shares The Little-Known Friendships of Iconic Women Writers.

And for humor’s sake, here’s the Clickhole hilariously fictionalizing a correspondence between Fitzgerald and Hemingway and C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien.


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In my experience I’ve found writing to authors an amiable exchange though so far I’ve only written to five: Karin Tidbeck, Thalia Fields, Victoria Sweet, David Cayley and Marilyn McEntyre. They’ve all written back with enthusiasm and a bashful humility that’s been kind of shocking because I hold them in such high esteem.



The Power

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The Power by Naomi Alderman

A genetic mutation gives women a new strength, an electric power which leads to the fall of patriarchy and the rise of a global matriarchal society. This book is so well conceptualized.  From a completely feminist reinterpretation of predominantly masculine Christianity to ruthless female militia gangs and terrorism during a world war for global matriarchy, this book is original, well thought out, and delivered spectacularly. It’s a collection of interwoven narratives of diverse characters and their incredibly real stories during this climactic overthrow of societal norm. It’s a story in a story, the novel is written by a man (now the subservient gender) 5,000 years in the future of a stabilized matriarchy, and it’s also delightfully interspersed with speculative drawings and descriptions of archaeological discoveries–of feminine religious figurines, power enhancers, mass male graves, rock drawings of male mutilation rituals, etc–from the early days of the shaky, stabilizing new world.  So poignant, so relevant, timely and timeless. Felt almost like the inverse of Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale. This story will take you for a ride. bell hooks has written “Patriarchy has no gender”, and this story gets at the root of how corruptive power can be, regardless of the gender wielding it.

Books, trees, pages and leaves


The NY Times explores this debate about how environmentally unfriendly a lot of publishers are who refuse to use recycled paper to print books. There’s a lot of books out there, which does mean a lot of dead trees. Some try to demand recycled paper, others ask their books to be printed in plastic. Read more here in Saving the Planet, One Book at a Time

It takes a lot of trees to make a lot of books, and Atlas Obsucra shows us a forest of one hundred thousand trees planted to be used as paper for books one hundred years in the future. Read more about the Forest of the Future Library

You can’t have a book without trees, but this article from Atlas Obscura takes that a step further. Artist Katie Holten has collected famous writings and poems about trees in her book About Trees. This anthology is remarkable too because alongside each piece of writing is a tree-translation. How is this possible? Holten has created a tree typeface, assigning a unique tree to each letter of the alphabet. Check it out over here in Read the Tree Leaves, With an Artist’s Invented Tree Font

This article from Atlas Obscura lists the 7 best famous literary trees from such books as A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Alice’s Adventures in WonderlandHarry Potter, etc. Illustrations accompany detailed descriptions of these remarkable imaginary trees. Read about them in the article 7 Nominees for the Best Trees in Literature.  Not featured in this list is The Giving Tree, but Lit Hub’s article Literary Treeson?: A Revisionist Take on a Beloved Children’s Classic explores problematic messages in Shel Silverstein’s memorable tree tale.

Interested in reading more about trees? There’s a book for that! Check out one of our more popular titles at Browsers:

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Books and Treasure

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Here’s a collection of articles on the treasures found in books. While most of us bibliophiles will agree that a book is a piece of treasure in itself, there are plenty of literal treasures that can be found in, among, or around the pages of a book.

Atlas Obscura shows us glittery jewel-backed bindings of some of history’s more elaborately embellished books. Head over to their site to See the Most Luxurious Medieval Manuscripts in Existence

Reader’s Digest chronicles a curious miscellany of treasures found within the pages of books. Liberians share their discoveries ranging from money to risque pictures to crumbled Cheetos. Check out their article Bizarre Things Librarians Have Found in Returned Books

Atlas Obscura has a similar post to Reader’s Digest, where readers shared hundreds of stories about their surprising discoveries. Check it out here: The Best Things Found Between the Pages of Old Books

And here’s a blog called Forgotten Bookmarks– the blog curator is a rare bookseller, and every post is a photo and explanation of a new discovery (personal, funny, heartbreaking or weird) found within the pages of old books.

At Browsers, I’ve found a lot of sweet treasures, old recipts (from the 20s!) and photographs but my favorite things to find in books are pressed leaves.

There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate’s loot on Treasure Island
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On Reading: aloud, in quiet, being read to, and forgetting how

From our newsletter, here are a handful of articles on the nuanced nature and history of the reading act.


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Quartzy’s post explores the history of reading. Originally a communal engagement, reading was done out loud. Silent reading was taboo–it suggested idleness and allowed for thoughts and reflections to form uncensored by religious scruple. Read more about how The Beginning of Silent Reading Changed Westerners’ Interior Life

After you contemplate reading silently for a moment, check out LitHub’s article on another form of reading out loud, but not communally. Pronounced legally blind at 16, LitHub contributor James Tate Hill grapples with another literary taboo–Do Audio Books Count as Reading? (We here at Browsers say yes they do).

Finally The Globe and Mail discusses a modern phenomenon–a kind of illiteracy we get from our swipeable, scrollable, saturating screen. Cell phones, computers, all our digital modern technologies, (you know the drill), restructuring our minds over-saturated by the omnipresent screen. Read Michael Harris’ article: I Have Forgotten How to Read 

PS If you find yourself nodding along in horror with this last article, there’s a book for that! Check out Catherine Price’s How To Break Up With Your Phone
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