Saturday, 11 October 2014
Review: Book by John Agard
Publisher: Walker Books
Format: Hardcover / eBook
Released: October 2nd, 2014
"My name is Book and I'll tell you the story of my life." Quirky and humorous, part poetry, part reflection, this is the story of the book told by none other than Book himself! This extraordinary character begins by reminding us of his origins in oral story and clay tablets, then ponders on papyrus, parchment and paper, and on being a scroll who finally gets a spine. We see him lovingly illuminated by monks in medieval monasteries, then witness the massive changes brought about by the invention of the printing press, and the coming of paperbacks and e-books in the 20th century. But Book's not a straightforwardly chronological chap; he can't help musing - and his musings, whether they're on the evolution of the alphabet, libraries, book-burning or blurbs, are delightful and thought-provoking. Years of reflection and observation have gone into this charming title - John Agard signed the contract with Walker 16 years ago!
Aside from it's fantastic title, Book is also a great read that details the historical origins of the book, from before writing was even born up until now and the age of the eReader. It goes through time telling its own story, from papyrus to paper to screen, including relevant quotes and poetry along the way. For any book lovers, this is a book that rightfully deserves to be on your shelf!
I didn't know a lot of the history included in this book, but I'm glad I do now - it's fascinating. I knew about the Egyptians Hieroglyphics and the printing press from school, but I'll admit I knew nothing of the Sumerians or how papyrus and parchment were made. The book really has come a long way, and been through a lot, to get to where it is today. We take bound books for granted, but they weren't always like that. At one point, there wasn't a single spine in sight!
John Agard has done a great job of writing this book as if book itself is telling the story. It makes it so easy and fun to read, especially knowing that the books we read today all have ancestors, just like we do. It's also illustrated in stark black and white images by Neil Packer, whose art really stands out against book's journey through time. A Roman reading in the bath is my personal favourite!
Book is a book-lovers dream. Whether you want to know the history of the alphabet or the origins of the word 'blurb', it's a treasure trove of information that can only add to a bibliophile's already massive library. The historical side of me enjoyed it for its historical content, but the book lover in me just wanted to hug it and thank it for all its hard work over the years. Words are life, after all.