There are many pleasures to reading that go beyond the words on the page. For me, the words tend to fade away, replaced by the story being told, whether fiction or nonfiction. Audio books add another dimension. A good voice actor can add a dimension to even the best books that doesn’t exist in the book alone.
Bibliophiles know the smells of books. Libraries have wonderful smells, when the air conditioning isn’t working overtime. It is a joy to wander around the stacks of used bookstores. I especially enjoy those stores that are put together haphazardly, with additions being clapped on here and there like a child’s Lego assembly. Narrow aisles and tall shelves with an occasional grotto containing an old sofa and older cat are the hallmarks of my favorite used book stores.
But there is a also a great pleasure in feel of a well-crafted book. Over the weekend, I have been re-reading Stephen King’s ‘Salem’s Lot. I’m listening to the audio book, perfectly narrated by Ron McLarty. But I am also following along in my limited edition Cemetery Dance copy of the book, the second volume in the Stephen King Doubleday Years collection. The book itself is a work of art. The pages are thick and textured. The book is large and easy to read, but the texture of the pages, and the artwork within makes it something special.
I’ve been ordering copies of Cemetery Dance books for years, and have every one of the Doubleday Years collection produced thus far. (And I’ve already pre-ordered the remaining two volumes in the collection that have not been produced: The Stand and Pet Sematary). There are other special edition Cemetery Dance books I’ve collected over the years, including an amazing version of Stephen King’s It.
I collect books, of course, but these books are real works of art. Sitting down and actually holding a volume in a my hands while I read it is a rare treat. Reading is often about seeing words and allowing your imagination to translate the words into images and stories. Combining the audio book version of ‘Salem’s Lot with the Cemetery Dance edition of the book, brings to bear nearly all my senses: the sound of McLarty’s narration; the sight of the words on the page; the heft of the book in my lap, and feel of the thick textured pages as I turn them; and the smell of the book and accumulated dust. It makes for a truly immersive reading experience.
Often, when I hold an old book in my hands, I think as much of the history of that physical book–where it has been, who has touched it, how many times it has been read–as I do of what the book has inside. There are a thousand smells inside my 1954 copy of Will Durant’s 1935 book Our Oriental Heritage. I’ve had the book for 20 years. Who possessed it for the near half century before me?
Holding the Cemetery Dance edition of ‘Salem’s Lot, I think of the time and effort and artistry that went into creating such a beautiful edition of the book. It is clear that the bookmaker knew what they were doing. As I said, book are more than the words on the page. To me, books are an experience to be felt by all the senses, as much as to be read. I’m grateful to Cemetery Dance for putting out such great works of art.