Do you remember the first book you read and your first bookshelf where you stored it?
My earliest memory of reading books is from when I was a toddler and had a stack of large-format Hans Christian Andersen tales in thin paperbacks. Every day, I’d grab them from the low shelf of the white cabinet with its pull-out writing table (which had a tendency to fall open on my head) and read them with my mother. As I grew older, so did the number of books, as did the bookshelves in which they were stored. A couple of years ago, we moved our entire collection of fiction into a new set of shelves and I was delighted to flip the pages of those first storybooks.
My reading tastes have evolved since, but one thing has remained. I refuse to lend, sell, or discard any of my books. Once they’ve entered my home, that is where they shall remain. Nor do I allow anyone the privilege to browse my shelves. Call it heart-breaking episodes of lesson well learnt, but our home library, boasting of a physical collection numbering in the four figures is strictly for personal consumption.
As people grow older, they shed their beloved books for new ones. But some of us surround ourselves with books. We collect them, decorate with them, are inspired by them, and treat our books as sacred objects. It is no secret, as the pandemic and multiple zoom calls have proved, all bookshelves are open to judgement. In this light-hearted collection of one- and two-page comics, writer-artist Grant Snider explores bookishness in all its forms, along with the love of writing and reading.
I lined this book up on my TBR as soon as I finished reading his first collection, The Shape of Ideas, a few weeks ago. Some of the comics strips are familiar from his social media handles but it is the story woven together, here, that draws you in.
Snider starts with what seems to be a confession about his bookish habits. However, once you start reading, you realise this isn’t just a confession or, for that matter, an introduction to the book but also an index of the topics he illustrates. Within each, he captures the thrill of reading, discovering new books and authors, the struggles of reader’s or writer’s block and, most important of all, the precarious balance of relationships directly related to the judgement of our bookshelves.
The creativity in Snider’s art and expression is stunning. Every panel grabs your attention with its simplicity in colour and design and the profound meaning it delivers. You will nod in agreement, drop your jaw in shock, and laugh wholeheartedly when, with page after page of every possible bookish situation, a new realisation dawns on you about the kind of relationship you have with books. His illustrations are like a checklist or a game of bingo where you can’t help but mentally tick all the options that apply to you.
Then, I went back to the confession/index and decided to check the ones that applied to me. What do you know, I got 12 out of 15.
Whether you’re a reader, writer, someone who’s discovering their bookish identity, adding to it, or in the process of evolving from one identity to the other, there is something for everyone to relate with. And even if you have no bookish loyalties, this might just be the thing you need to develop one.
Book 16 of 2021.
Aquamarine Flavours Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟.
Available on Amazon*.
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