Bibliophile by Jane Mount (Book review)
Bibliophile – Over the past 20 years or so, there has been an ever-growing trend of appreciating books. Not just the fact that we like to read a certain book or literary genre, but why we like to read them (sometimes reading certain titles over and over again).
This literary appreciation that has turned us not into just bookworms, but bibliophiles, has been exemplified by the multitude of book clubs, book readings and author appearances at bookstores, and book appreciation programs like PBS’ recent series “The Great American Read”.
American illustrator Jane Mount knows how to appreciate books, both as a literary and aesthetic masterpiece. Her website (and companion book) “Ideal Bookshelf” takes an individual’s list of all-time favourite books and turn them into a personalized painting that resembles how it would look like it they were placed on a typical bookshelf (and for most part, she portrays the books in question quite faithfully according to their respective original dust jacket artworks).
And now, Ms. Mount has put together a volume that combines the literary and artistic appreciation of great books that bookworms and avid readers alike must have on their bookshelves, Bibliophile.
From cover to cover, it’s a colourful, eye-catching celebration of the books we read and loved over the years, the people who wrote them, the places where they are stored and bought, and some various nuggets of literary and book trivia.
Most of the book is taken up with recommended books to read in a wide range of genres (such as history, kids’ picture books, graphic novels, novels about food, regional cookbooks, novels of the early 1900s and Dystopia, to name a few). Each highlighted genre gets the Ideal Bookshelf treatment, with a stack of selected titles lovingly and accurately illustrated according to current or original dust jacket artwork, along with interesting factual tidbits about some of the selected books (my favorite deals with Barbara W. Tuchman’s classic 1962 account about the beginnings of the First World War The Guns of August, especially how it influenced President John F. Kennedy on the way he handled the on-the-brink Cuban Missile Crisis; Kennedy liked the book so much that after the crisis, he gave out copies to friends and visiting dignitaries).
As well, you find out about a number of beloved bookstores from around the world (including my favourite The Strand in New York City; even Montreal’s Drawn & Quarterly bookstore on Bernard Street gets a mention); libraries that are just as striking for their architecture as their book collections; the private, customized rooms where such literary greats as James Baldwin, George Bernard Shaw and Jane Austen did their writing; the top 10 best selling books of all time (by the way, Don Quixote is at #1, not The Bible); the anatomy of a physical book; the all time iconic book cover designs; memorable literary cats; pets of famous writers (including John Steinbeck’s pet poodle Charley); and songs that were based on great books (such as Bruce Springsteen’s “The Ghost of Tom Joad”, which was inspired by The Grapes of Wrath).
Bibliophile is a book that every avid reader and book lover must own, and deftly serves as both a visually stunning coffee table book and reader’s reference. It not only shows that the physical book is a thing of beauty both aesthetically and prose-wise, but opens so many doors to what other titles you haven’t heard about before – or have wanted to read for so long but never had the time to do so – and explore much deeper into the wonderful world of books and the people who have written and appreciated them.
(Chronicle Books, $34.95)