The Book

the_bookthree-and-a-half-stars /5

In the introduction, Pico Iyer points out that books maintain a beauty that transcends modern cover art. There is something that intrinsically speaks to you before you even open the books, something you can appreciate without even looking at it–maybe just feeling the weight of the pages when you close your eyes.

The Book is a photography collection that shows how books can be seen as and transformed into alternative art. It is a celebration of everything that makes a book a book – not just the works printed on the pages.

Some of the pictures are close ups of old pages that have been creased and folded until they no longer lay flat when the book is closed – the fibers have begun to fray and you can almost feel how soft they must be. Others juxtapose the human made nature of a book with forces of the natural world: water and fire. It evokes a string of emotions to see the waterlogged pages and the burning spines, but in the end you must acknowledge the alternative beauty in the images – even if it pains you to see books destroyed.


Originally published on San Francisco Book Review.

Very Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination

very_good_livesstars /5

It is unlikely that someone would find themselves unable to identify J. K. Rowling’s accomplishments in the wide genre of fiction, but Very Good Lives dips into Rowling’s own life—failures and successes—as she helps see off Harvard University’s 2008 graduating class. Rowling’s speech is perforated with stunningly heartfelt advice and words of wisdom. Vividly honest about her own experiences, Rowling speaks to fears of failure and grounds you in reality. She addresses two themes throughout the speech: the benefits of failure and the importance of imagination.

Perhaps it’s my love of Harry Potter or my idolization of J. K. Rowling—maybe it’s just the fact that I have aspirations much like her pre-Harry Potter success—but in any case, Rowling’s commencement address is an incredible 70 pages of hope and encouragement. I quickly gave up on highlighting passages, because I realized that the entirety of the text would have been yellow. Because it so clearly and concisely addresses common doubts of young adults—and likely every other age of adults that find uncertainty creeping through the shadows and into their lives—this book is sure to find its way into the hands of every stressing college senior and I know I will find comfort in its pages time after time.


Originally published on San Francisco Book Review.