Larry McMurtry, The Last Book Sale

In a summer when the shoreline temperature in the Little Arkansas River reached 98 degrees—bad news for catfish—should I really have attempted to bring a bunch of citified northerners into the heart of the heat, which peaked locally at 116?

Well, yes. It’s just weather, as my popular hero Captain Woodrow Call often said if he heard a complaint. So I threw a book sale.

Photo: David Woo/Dallas Morning News/Corbis

Larry McMurtry, The Last Book Sale

In a summer when the shoreline temperature in the Little Arkansas River reached 98 degrees—bad news for catfish—should I really have attempted to bring a bunch of citified northerners into the heart of the heat, which peaked locally at 116?

Well, yes. It’s just weather, as my popular hero Captain Woodrow Call often said if he heard a complaint. So I threw a book sale.

Photo: David Woo/Dallas Morning News/Corbis

Eve Bowen: A Treasure Trove of Edward Gorey

Whether they are Edwardian ladies, fur-coated gentlemen, ill-fated children, or unusual animals, Edward Gorey’s characters are almost always on some kind of journey. His stories often unfold in wallpapered rooms, on barren estates, or among statues, beast-shaped topiaries, and urns. “Few seem to return from the borders to which I’ve sent them,” he wrote. Perhaps this is what gives Gorey’s work its talismanic power: his books and drawings, which are so often about imagined deaths and disasters, turn into lucky charms for his readers.

Image: ‘Lady Under Elephant Table’ (Edward Gorey Charitable Trust)

Eve Bowen: A Treasure Trove of Edward Gorey

Whether they are Edwardian ladies, fur-coated gentlemen, ill-fated children, or unusual animals, Edward Gorey’s characters are almost always on some kind of journey. His stories often unfold in wallpapered rooms, on barren estates, or among statues, beast-shaped topiaries, and urns. “Few seem to return from the borders to which I’ve sent them,” he wrote. Perhaps this is what gives Gorey’s work its talismanic power: his books and drawings, which are so often about imagined deaths and disasters, turn into lucky charms for his readers.

Image: ‘Lady Under Elephant Table’ (Edward Gorey Charitable Trust)

Do we need to finish books? Is a good book by definition one that we did finish? Or are there occasions when we might choose to leave off a book before the end, or even only half way through, and nevertheless feel that it was good, even excellent, that we were glad we read what we read, but don’t feel the need to finish it? I ask the question because this is happening to me more and more often. Is it age, wisdom, senility? I start a book. I’m enjoying it thoroughly, and then the moment comes when I just know I’ve had enough. It’s not that I’ve stopped enjoying it. I’m not bored, I don’t even think it’s too long. I just have no desire to go on enjoying it. Can I say then that I’ve read it? Can I recommend it to others and speak of it as a fine book?
Tim Parks, E-books Can’t Burn

The e-book, by eliminating all variations in the appearance and weight of the material object we hold in our hand and by discouraging anything but our focus on where we are in the sequence of words (the page once read disappears, the page to come has yet to appear) would seem to bring us closer than the paper book to the essence of the literary experience. Certainly it offers a more austere, direct engagement with the words appearing before us and disappearing behind us than the traditional paper book offers, giving no fetishistic gratification as we cover our walls with famous names. It is as if one had been freed from everything extraneous and distracting surrounding the text to focus on the pleasure of the words themselves. In this sense the passage from paper to e-book is not unlike the moment when we passed from illustrated children’s books to the adult version of the page that is only text. This is a medium for grown-ups.

Photo: Jacqueline Rush Lee, Little Red Book (Devotion Series), 2008

Tim Parks, E-books Can’t Burn

The e-book, by eliminating all variations in the appearance and weight of the material object we hold in our hand and by discouraging anything but our focus on where we are in the sequence of words (the page once read disappears, the page to come has yet to appear) would seem to bring us closer than the paper book to the essence of the literary experience. Certainly it offers a more austere, direct engagement with the words appearing before us and disappearing behind us than the traditional paper book offers, giving no fetishistic gratification as we cover our walls with famous names. It is as if one had been freed from everything extraneous and distracting surrounding the text to focus on the pleasure of the words themselves. In this sense the passage from paper to e-book is not unlike the moment when we passed from illustrated children’s books to the adult version of the page that is only text. This is a medium for grown-ups.

Photo: Jacqueline Rush Lee, Little Red Book (Devotion Series), 2008

Charles Simic, A Country Without Libraries

I don’t know of anything more disheartening than the sight of a shut down library. No matter how modest its building or its holdings, in many parts of this country a municipal library is often the only place where books in large number on every imaginable subject can be found, where both grownups and children are welcome to sit and read in peace, free of whatever distractions and aggravations await them outside. Like many other Americans of my generation, I owe much of my knowledge to thousands of books I withdrew from public libraries over a lifetime. I remember the sense of awe I felt as a teenager when I realized I could roam among the shelves, take down any book I wanted, examine it at my leisure at one of the library tables, and if it struck my fancy, bring it home.

Photo: Hartland Four Corners, Vermont, 1994. Robert Dawson’s photos of libraries are currently on view in the exhibition Public Library: An American Commons at the San Francisco Public Library.

Charles Simic, A Country Without Libraries

I don’t know of anything more disheartening than the sight of a shut down library. No matter how modest its building or its holdings, in many parts of this country a municipal library is often the only place where books in large number on every imaginable subject can be found, where both grownups and children are welcome to sit and read in peace, free of whatever distractions and aggravations await them outside. Like many other Americans of my generation, I owe much of my knowledge to thousands of books I withdrew from public libraries over a lifetime. I remember the sense of awe I felt as a teenager when I realized I could roam among the shelves, take down any book I wanted, examine it at my leisure at one of the library tables, and if it struck my fancy, bring it home.

Photo: Hartland Four Corners, Vermont, 1994. Robert Dawson’s photos of libraries are currently on view in the exhibition Public Library: An American Commons at the San Francisco Public Library.