Fiction Titles – A Shoutout to the 1990s (approximately)

Landscape of Lies by Peter Watson

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  • This is a page-turning thriller based on an enigmatic message from a medieval painting. Set in 1989, it’s also a entertaining trip down memory lane. Check out more reviews on Amazon.com, but beware, this link is to a new edition from 2005, so I don’t know how much editing has occurred in it.

The Eight by Katherine Neville

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  • The Eight is truly epic, spanning centuries and the entire globe. Also set around 1990, this book is a page-turner thriller. Check out more reviews on Amazon.com.

An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears

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  • I read this book in my early twenties and found it a very intense read, but I was proud of myself when I finished it.  Another work that falls firmly into the ‘epic’ category, it is a fascinating account of seventeenth-century science and a riveting mystery with a very unexpected ending. Highly recommended! Check out more reviews on Amazon.com.

Book Art: Altered Books

The Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini

Having newly discovered the art of people like Su Blackwell, I thought I would give it a try myself to see if common folk can really create something new and interesting out of an old book. I found The Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini in a used book store just up the road, and then I went to an art supplies store and bought an Exact-o knife and a cutting board, and once I got home, I set to work.

Before I even got started, however, I realized that this book was perfect for several reasons. First, all the illustrations were on the right-hand side of the book. Also, the illustrations weren’t so intricate that a novice cutter couldn’t follow the lines. Also, there were just the right number of illustrations spaced throughout the story so that the outline of each picture went deep enough for the desired effect.

1. I opened the book, and placed my cutting mat above the second illustration. I cut around the parts of the first image that I wanted to highlight, down through each page all the way to the mat.

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This shows the cutting around the first two illustrations.

2. I then followed step one until I reached the end of the book. It was very simple, and very rewarding!

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I hope you can find a similarly suitable book to make your own altered books. Even though a lot of the text is now missing, the text that does remain, in the forms of an image, tells a much different story. Good luck!

A Book’s Worst Enemy #3

Number Three – Mold and insects

There are always mold spores floating around in air, so if your books are in a warm, humid place, you can safely assume that mold will be growing in them soon. If it isn’t already. The air doesn’t have to be warm for mold to grow if the air has a very high moisture content, as you may have seen in some refrigerators, but I admit, the likelihood of the air around the average person’s book collection being that high, is low. But stagnant air will certainly increase the chances for mold development, so, as mentioned in my previous Healthy Books post, make sure to keep your books well-ventillated.

Mold stains paper very quickly, and it is next to impossible (if not actually impossible) to get most mold stains out of paper. Mold can also weaken paper, and if it is left to its own devices, it can take over and erase pictures, and even eat away the actual paper. I have seen a book where the mold made several consecutive pages inseparable. There was no paper left in that area, just one big lump of mold.

Now for bugs. My first encounter with the bugs/books combination was as a very naive, newly-arrived Texas resident. I put a box of books in a storage unit off my porch (climate very much not controlled), and when I looked in again a few months later, the roaches scattered, shocked at being disturbed from the feast they had been enjoying for so long. After my shrieks died down, I noticed that the leather cover on my great-grandmother’s traveling letter case had been eaten, along with the glue that held it together, and many pages of the other books had their corners eaten. Roaches do not mess around! Silverfish, termites and some beetles also enjoy a tasty meal of paper. Insects tend to prefer warm, dark, damp places, so keep your books off the floor, try to keep the temperature cool, and make sure your books aren’t near any plants, or food particles.

Just as a final fyi, bird and rodent droppings are also bad for paper, as they are corrosive.

More Non-Fiction Titles

The Earth Moved by Amy Stewart

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  • I know this is not the most gripping-sounding book, but I really enjoyed it. However, I have a soft spot in my heart for worms, so if you don’t, I have to admit this may not be as enjoyable as all my other recommendations. (I was being ironic about my recommendations.) But if you also stop to save worms that are drowning in puddles after it rains, this is most definitely the book for you! It’s full of facts that will change your understanding of the world around you. For more reviews, check it out on Amazon.com.

Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling by Ross King

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  •  Amazingly, this book tells a gripping story, despite being comprised of research about 16th century politics, Michelangelo’s odd habits, and fairly detailed information about the actual painting of the Sistine ceiling. I was given this book as a gift, because speaking frankly, I would not have picked up a non-fiction book about a work of art unless there were some fantastic scandal associated with it. However, I could not put it down, and then read more by Ross King, including Bruneslleschi’s Dome. Intrigue, political scandal, and really cool facts about how the ceiling was done, this book was a really good read and is very highly recommended. For more reviews, check it out on Amazon.com.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan

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  • Again, not a book that screams “action!” or “suspense!” but undeniably fascinating and horrifying. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. For real information on what organic means today and for anyone interested in sustainable foods, this book is for you. And for people who eat food from the grocery store and think you know what you’re eating: Read this book! For more reviews, check it out on Amazon.com.

Under the Banner of Heaven: A story of violent faith by Jon Krakauer

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  • When I read this, it was the last thing I thought about before falling asleep and the first thing that entered my mind when I woke up. Fascinating is an understatement. Meticulously researched and entwined with a murder trial from the 1980s, this book was also a gripping page-turner and impossible to put down. For more reviews, check it out on Amazon.com.

A Book’s Worst Enemy #2

Number Two – Light

This post is going to be brief, because the message I hope to convey is really simple: Damage from light is cumulative and irreversible

With that important tidbit in mind, be sure to keep books you care about away from a lot of light. Archives, museums and libraries that have rare and/or culturally significant books keep them in cool, dark places unless they have to be on display, in which case they make sure the light in the display area is low, and they put ultraviolet filters over windows if they can. Books that have to be open are not kept open at the same page for the duration of the display because of the damage that would occur to the open page.

While all light isn’t great for books and paper, it’s the ultraviolet radiation in light that is the most active and therefore the most potentially damaging. Light bleaches paper and will cause inks and dyes to fade. Conversely, light can also make poor-quality paper darken. In addition to the aesthetic damage that occurs when paper is exposed to ultraviolet radiation, light speeds up paper’s oxidation, making it weak and brittle. Did you know that along with natural sunlight, fluorescent light contains ultraviolet radiation as well?

Just to review:

  • Light (especially ultraviolet radiation) is damaging to paper and books
  • Keep your books away from light as much as you can – apply UV filters to windows if you really want to protect those books
  • Light will weaken, bleach and/or darken your books

Romance for book-lovers

Here’s another great idea for giving a dusty, old book a new lease on life.

Step One: Find someone you want to marry.

Step Two: Find a hard-cover book that is rarely used and largely considered “boring” or uninteresting (a soft-cover book might work, but it’s not really recommended).

Step Three: Carve a big square out of the centre of each page of most of the book.

Step Four: Buy a beautiful engagement ring that will cause your favorite person in the whole world to swoon and wear a perma-smile for days.

Step Five: Cut a slit in the pages above the square you cut in Step Three.

Step Six: Thread a lovely satin ribbon through the slit from Step Five, put the ring from Step Four on the ribbon, and tie it so that the ring hangs in the square cut in Step Three.

Step Seven: Write the words, “Will you marry me?” under the ring.

Step Eight: Step back, enjoy your handiwork and pat yourself on the back. You are a book-lover’s Casanova. In other words, Irresistible! A “yes” is guaranteed.

The Ring

A Book’s Worst Enemy #1

Number One – Temperature and Relative Humidity

Heat speeds up chemical reactions and thus paper decomposition. Lower temperatures are actually very good for paper, but not for humans to live in, so a low temperature is not really practical advice here. High humidity means there is a lot of moisture in the air, and when there is a lot of moisture in the air, mold and mildew can form on paper. Low humidity, on the other hand, can cause paper to dry out too much and become brittle. In an environment where relative humidity fluctuates, paper expands and contracts with moisture gains and losses, and it experiences structural stress, becoming unstable and easily susceptible to damage. Therefore, fluctuations in both temperature and relative humidity should be avoided. Lower temperatures and stable (ideally 35-45%) relative humidity are best for books.

  • Do not place your books on an outside wall that will be cold in the winter and warm in the summer.
  • Do not place your collection near heating or cooling vents so hot or cold air blows directly on them.
  • Make sure your books are not jammed in too tightly together on a shelf. Good circulation helps prevent pockets of still air, which allow for mold to grow more easily.

 

Book Art

A book’s story can be told through the words on its pages. But the story can change when a book is altered. Here are just a few examples of what artists can do with a traditional book to make something extraordinary:

The Folded Page

Recycled Reads on Etsy

Madame Memento on Etsy

I hope these links have inspired you, but if they haven’t yet, here are some books on the subject that might help create inspiration:

Art Made From Books: Altered, Sculpted, Carved, Transformed

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Book Art: Creative Ideas to Transform Your Books...

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Playing With Books: The Art of Upcycling, Deconstructing, and Reimagining the Book

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My Inspiration – Su Blackwell

Here is the video about Su’s work that not only made me see the artistic potential that books have, but also made me think that maybe I could produce something interesting from an ordinary book too.

Su turns books into works of art and gives them new meaning, and a new lease on life.

Click on Su’s blog, so you can see what she’s up to!

In her book, The Fairy Tale Pricness, Su’s work illustrates seven classic fairy tales: Cinderella, The Frog Prince, The Twelve Dancing Princesses, The Princess and the Pea, Snow White, Rapunzel, and Sleeping Beauty.

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Su’s work inspired me to create my own book art. I hope you will be inspired too!

Non-Fiction Titles You Might Enjoy

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

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  • Okay, yes. There is a little fiction thrown in here to make the story really come alive, but it’s a true crime read that will not disappoint. I originally read this for a book club and was reluctant to read it. Wow, was I in for a shock. This is a gripping page turner that educates at the same time. Highly recommended! Check out more reviews at Amazon.com.

The Massey Murder: A Maid, Her Master and the Trial that Shocked a Country by Charlotte Gray

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  • Toronto, 1915. A bit dry at times, but a very interesting look at how Toronto (and Canada) were a century ago. Check out more reviews on Amazon.com.

Midnight in Peking by Paul French

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  • A fascinatingly educational, gripping page-turner. Written about an event that took place in 1937, this book provides a glimpse into a bygone Peking as well as a satisfying solution to a grisly unsolved murder. Check out more reviews on Amazon.com.

Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper – Case Closed by Patricia Cornwell

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  • A very convincing case, I really believe Cornwell solved this one. Thoroughly researched with lots of photos, this is highly recommended! Check out more reviews on Amazon.com.

Red Star Rogue: The Untold Story of a Soviet Submarine’s Nuclear Strike Attempt on the US by Kenneth Sewell

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  • This book was amazing. Very well written and thoroughly researched, you won’t believe it’s true – but it is! Check out more reviews on Amazon.com.

Shattered Dreams: My Life as a Polygamist’s Wife by Irene Spencer

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  • Absolutely fascinating! The title pretty much says the rest. Check out more reviews on Amazon.com.