Friday, March 20, 2015

Novel ideas involving books, from books, near books, and with books

Novel Living
Lisa Occhipinti

Quite a useful manual for the nascent book collector, Novel Living begins with a concise introduction to the ins and outs of casual book hoarding with handy tables containing definitions of terms, a book condition guide, and websites for further inquiry. Interspersed throughout this book you will find tidy advice for the care and feeding of books. While some of the book decorating and displaying ideas are a bit impractical (see the head-scratching "book sling" project), overall they will be visually inspiring and appealing to book lovers, and the chapter handling book repair is full of practical and easy to follow instructions for anyone with quality glue and an Exacto knife to take on tipping in, repairing hinges or replacing covers. And if a book just can't be saved, the chapter on conservation is followed by clever crafts to make from the books, and a few that are inspired by books. This book is well-arranged, useful, and to-the-point. Highly recommended for those looking for inspiration, just one more book, or something to liven up the coffee table.

Jessica Pigza

Jessica Pigza, NYPL librarian and venerate crafter, has created a "modern crafter's guide to using library resources to jumpstart creative projects." I love this idea and am consumed by sadness at her beating me to it. I am constantly being inspired to start projects while browsing the shelves, though perhaps less inspired to actually finish them...
Anyhow, Ms. Pigza has assembled incredibly inventive projects from her own work and that of other artists which draw inspiration from unusual resources that many folks would probably overlook. Take for instance the "Soil Profile Growth Chart" project which finds its roots in illustrations from a 19th-century geology textbook, and her darling embroidered "Cuts of Meat" table runner inspired by butcher diagrams in Mrs. Owens' New Cook Book and Complete Household Manual.

She even gives great tips on how to use the library, which is invaluable information for anyone, really.
And check her out at

Novel Interiors
Lisa Borgnes Giramonti

Interiors described in the pages of your favorite books as inspiration: cool idea, right? Imagine your home looking straight out of West Egg. Picture enjoying a little Brideshead Revisited in your very own Brideshead mansion. A Dickensian home? The chapter titled "Shall I put the kettle on?" goes ahead with that idea, apparently with zero irony. The designs are very loosely inspired by literature, appearing more to allude to the time and taste of the authors, rather than any specific setting.

Armed with only this book and probably a lot of new furniture, paint, hardware, blood, sweat, and tears, you'll be transported to the home of your favorite author's imagination, provided all of your favorite authors are late 19th- and early 20th-century English and American novelists. Or you can check the book out and flip through the pages on your futon, next to your milk crate bookshelves and dream.

The Novel: A Biography
Michael Schmidt

Pop some legs on it and picture this handsome 1172 page tome as your next coffee table. The Novel: A Biography traces the 700 year life so far of the novel in English (though the actual first novel is widely considered to be the 11th-century Japanese work, The Tale of the Genji, a bit more than 700 years ago). Michael Schmidt, a poet and professor of poetry at the University of Glasgow, has created a "bildungsroman" (defined as dealing with one person's formative years or spiritual education) of sorts of the English language novel, from its birth up to now, I suppose at whatever stage of life 700 years would be for a thing like a novel. Puberty? It seems to be in pretty good shape still so I would count on a few more years of robust health.

A 1200 page biography? If you were around for 700 years, give or take, your life might cover many pages as well. And as far as interior decorating with books goes, this one has a pretty snazzy cover.