What We Talk About When We Talk About Books: The History and Future of Reading by Leah Price - review by Bill Bell

Bill Bell

From the Abattoir to Amazon

What We Talk About When We Talk About Books: The History and Future of Reading

By

Basic Books 214pp £22.99 order from our bookshop
 

What do we talk about when we talk about books? Over the course of five chapters, Leah Price takes us on an excursion through the hidden trails and forgotten routes of books and reading during three centuries, uncovering the relationship between the printed cultures of the past and more recent developments in the media landscape, which some believe have overturned the old order. Don’t expect any conventional arguments from this part memoir, part history, part cabinet of biblio-curiosities. If you are anticipating the usual defence of the traditional book against the challenges posed by Kindles, iPads, audio books and all of the other pretenders at the library gates, you will be sadly disappointed.

In fact, anxieties about the fate of books and reading appear to be nothing new. While commentators in these days of information overload might bemoan the decline of ‘slow reading’, authorities in the past cautioned against the morally corrosive effects of wasting time on leisurely book consumption, particularly among

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