“But you have to smell your own book!”

I’m conflicted. There’s a literary snob inside me. Actually, the literary snob is me. And given that I’m the type of person who will laugh at a person for swirling their wineglass or talking about tannins or insisting on purchasing designer anything–the arts editor at our paper has been known to refer to me as “deliciously low-brow”–it’s something I wrestle with.

I love a well-designed, hardcover book. I love the heft of it in my hand, the promise of it waiting in my car, or office, or tantalizing me from the coffee table in my living room. I love that a book can accompany me on the roof of my house, in a tree, on a bench, on the gargantuan beanbag in my living room, on a plane, on a boat. Wherever I go, a book is generally my companion. And I can’t even begin to express what the smell of a book means to me. I sniff books. I sniff books like I imagine Hunter Thompson huffed lines of cocaine.

When I told Chris White-Sanborn, a longtime intern at the paper, that I was considering self-publishing Scourge of the Righteous Haddock as an e-book, he immediately asked whether there would be physical copies available as well. He said:

“But you have to smell your own book.”

And I knew exactly what he meant, knew that he was right. Of course, I have to smell my own book. As hard as I am trying to adjust to this brave new world in which ideas might just come packaged as a pdf or epub file that you download onto your computer, I can’t help but cling a bit more determinedly to the beautiful, immaculately-designed companions already resting on bookshelves at home. I sniff a little more deeply, linger as I caress their pages. I’m not exaggerating when I use terms like “linger” and “caress.” Books are sensual. If you understand that, then you don’t need me to explain it. And if you don’t understand it, I doubt you ever will. Though, on the off chance that you could be persuaded, I highly recommend paying a visit to Barnes & Noble and ogling the Barnes & Noble Leatherbound Classics Series. I recognize, in making this recommendation, that I might have a fight on my hands. (Please refer to my opening line in which I acknowledge that I am conflicted.)

I love a quirky independent bookstore almost as much as I love a good book. If you’re a reader, what could be better that visiting a place in which thousands of books reside, exhaling their musty scent and occupying stray corners and shelves so effectively that even the slightest movement in the wrong direction can result in a cascade of books tumbling to the floor? We only have one such quirky, independent bookstore in San Luis B&NObispo. And I spend a fair amount of time in Phoenix Books. However, it is organized (or not organized, I should probably say) in such a fashion that if I am looking for a particular author or book there is practically no hope of finding it. On these occasions, I visit Barnes & Noble. And spend several minutes drooling over and petting their Leatherbound Classics Series. Sadly, I already own multiple copies of many of these books, but I recently went through a Neil Gaiman phase (a friend read my book and made some comparisons, so I wanted to read more of Gaiman’s work) and I wound up purchasing a two-in-one copy of American Gods and Anasi Boys. As you can see, it is absolutely beautiful, and I was delighted to bring my new treasure home and place it on my bookshelf. The series is so stunning I almost wish I was once again a child just starting my library, rather than a 29-year-old trying to justify purchasing a second copy of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,  Anna Karenina, and Little House on the Prairie, and a third copy of Wicked.

At the risk of sounding like a corporate shill (which I am not, but pretty books made me giddy), this is what the Barnes & Noble website has to say about the series:

These inexpensive leatherbound editions are Barnes & Noble exclusives, only available in our stores and on our website. Each of these novels is by any standard a classic; from Oscar Wilde’s ominous The Picture of Dorian Gray and Bram Stoker’s eerie Dracula to the strange human mysteries of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights and the nuanced social satire of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Attractively bound and exquisitely readable, these Barnes & Noble Bargain deluxe classics boast a price less than many, if not most paperbacks.

If, caught on a tide of relief that someone is still committed to making gorgeous print books, I have given the impression that I don’t absolutely adore the second, third, and sometimes fourth generation paperbacks that emerge from the confused pile of independent bookstore treasures, well, that just isn’t true. I love my paperback children as dearly as the leatherbound stunners Barnes & Noble is currently selling. If I am gushing over the Leatherbound Classics Series it is out of appreciation for what the series represents. Print. Better yet, print done exceptionally well.



  1. I understand completely. I am also torn between the look, feel, and smell of hard copy books and the tantalizing possibility of carrying my entire library with me in my purse wherever I go. So, will your book be in hard copy?

    • As of yesterday I would have said there’s not going to be hard copies of my book available (which would completely break my heart), or at least not for awhile, but it’s looking like that might become a possibility thanks to the generosity of one of my cohorts.

  2. Awesome! Let me know where/when I can preorder. Of course I’m sure you will be letting the entire world know 🙂

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