In Praise of Small Books

worlds smallest book

Let me be clear up front on what I mean when I say “small books.”  I don’t necessarily mean short ones but, rather, copies whose printed format has small height and width dimensions, regardless of how many pages the binding contains.

little-fur-familyThe first book I remember loving both for its content and the aesthetic qualities of its format was a copy of Little Fur Family by Margaret Wise Brown that I came across when I was four.  Not only was the book bound in (faux) fur like the fuzzy bodies of the bear-like characters within, but it was also tiny, perfect for toddler-sized hands.  While I already loved stories at that point, I adored Little Fur Family as an object, something tactile that just felt right to hold.

Since that early memory, my attraction to small books has continued. I still enjoy buying hardbacks and other large formats, especially when I want to make sure that my copy of a book will last, but I get a special satisfaction from small format paperbacks and the, somewhat rarer, small dimensioned hardbacks.  When a book has many pages, I often prefer to read it in smaller formats as it’s easier to hold open one-handed.  Since I almost always carry a book with me, I also enjoy the fact that small books fit into more of my bags and purses.

I know I’m not alone in this attraction as I remember one colleague telling me of a friend who would only read a title if it fit in his shirt-front pocket.

I’m not sure if it’s based on reality or simply imagined, but I’m pretty sure smaller format books smell better too…must be something about the type of paper or the higher density of ink to the page…  Small format paperbacks are also the only ones where I feel okay, even a little satisfied, folding back the cover and putting a bend in the spine.

If the measure of your love for a hardback is how pristine you keep it, the measure of your love for a small format paperback is how kicked-around it looks. And, with the way a book can change us, it only makes sense that, by the end of the read, the book would be changed too.

Liz Gillett


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