Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Book - Paper View

Photo by Reinis Ivanovs


[Old English bōc = Old Frisian, Old Saxon bōc (Dutch boek), Old High German buoh (German Buch), Old Norse bók (compare with Gothic bōka letter of the alphabet), from a Germanic base usually taken to be related to BEECH, as the wood of rune-tablets.]

1 A writing, a written document; a charter, a deed. Long obsolete excluding Historical. OE

2 obsolete. A narrative, a record, a list. OE-L17

3 A collection of sheets of paper or other material, blank, written or printed, fasted together so as to form a material whole; especially one with sheets pasted or sewn together at the edge, with protective covers; a literary composition of any kind long enough to fill one or more such volumes. OE

4(a) specifically The Bible. Formerly also, a copy of the Bible. ME

4(b) specifically A volume of blank sheets in which financial transactions, minutes, notes, etc., are entered;
in plural accounts, annals, records. LME

4(c) specifically The script of a play, film, etc.; the libretto of an opera, oratorio, etc. L16

4(d) specifically A magazine. Now colloquial. E19

4(e) specifically A record of bets made with several different people on a particular race etc. E19

4(f) specifically The telephone directory. E20

5 A man subdivision of a literary composition; any of the component works forming the Bible. ME

6(a) Book learning, study, scholarship. Now only in plural, passing into sense 3. ME

7(b) obsolete. Benefit of clergy. E17-E18

8 A set of things bound or collected together to resemble a book,
e.g. sheets of gold leaf, tickets, matches, stamps, six tricks at cards, etc.; an aggregate of laminar crystals. L15

As I continue my journey through the English language, it seems only fitting that I should stop at book, despite it being quite an unremarkable word at first glance. It's of Germanic stock, just one syllable - both common characteristics in English words. That it's likely related to beech, however, from a time when runes were carved into wooden tablets, does give pause for reflection on the breathtaking evolution of the simple book.

Had I been an Egyptian, for example, sunning myself on the banks of the Nile 5,000 years ago, my reading material of choice would have been papyrus. At other points in history I would have been lugging around stone or clay tablets. As for scrolls, I could have been Greek, Roman, Hebrew or even Chinese to have used those. Today, of course, we have the familiar book, although its journey has been one of continual development, from the painstaking process of copying every book by hand, to the process of woodblock printing (which involved carving every page by hand so that it could be printed), and then the invention of movable type so that pages could simply be rearranged for printing, thus dramatically reducing both the labour and expense of making a book.

Today is no less exciting, as we observe the unfolding of the information age, with the internet, blogs, websites and e-readers all giving us new and different ways to read and expand our minds. In fact, there is more opportunity to read now then there ever has been before; that classic you've always wanted to read, or that novel you've heard is life-changingly wonderful - there's really no reason for you not to read it. After all, it's not like you have to carry around a block of carved beech, is it?

Book, E-reader
Photo by Robert Couse-Baker

What book has changed your life?

Which books do you think have been the most influential in history?

What do you think of the current shift from paper books to electronic media?

Your most bookish comments are all welcome.


  1. I'm in lazy-brain mode, so will only respond to the shift from paper books to electronic media.
    Quite simply, I hate it!

    Little bookstores, even the secondhand ones have closed down in the small town near us because not enough people are buying books any more.
    I used to love poring through their shelves to see what delights were hidden in them. Those dang Kindles etc., have taken away my happy!
    My husband brought me an eReader a few years back, and while I will agree they are handy for travelling etc., I just can't get excited about reading on one. I still prefer to curl up with a blankie and read the real thing. Hopefully I will always have that option!

    1. I don't know where you live in the UK jingles, but the biggest second-hand bookshop is Baggins Book Store in Rochester, Kent, although you wouldn't think it to look at it from the tiny rickety shopfront.

      I think it is my dad's favorite place on Earth, endless, winding, creaking corridors and rooms overflowing with books. It's like something out of Dickens, who incidentally grew up in neighboring Chatham.

      I think you'd like it.


    2. Personally, I love my Kindle and the advent of e-readers. I understand the love of books - the feel, smell, weight and look of them; an e-reader can't compete with that. But for me, the real beauty of a book is in its words, and any medium that can transmit those author's words to my mind will work - whether it's a paper book, a Kindle, an audiobook or someone reading to me before they tuck me in for the night (aww).

      I do rue the possible demise of bookshops, however, especially second-hand bookshops. I don't think this is completely down to e-readers though; there are lots of other forces in play, including the general move away from physical retail. If ever the world lost its second-hand bookshops, it would be poorer place for it.

      And C - I didn't know that. I shall be sure to look in the next time I'm in Rochester which ... umm ... may be a while.

    3. I live outside of a small town in northern BC. Canada.
      I would love a Baggins Book Store here!
      Call me jealous!

    4. Oh, and, reading a book to your kids at night?
      How can you replace the delight in the pictures/illustrations that the kids see in a real book (and their mums too!) with a kindle?

    5. Well, for that you can't (yet), but as they get older they move past pictures and the magic comes from the words and the story itself - the Kindle will transmit those perfectly well. The important thing is that the child is being read to full stop.

  2. Most influential: The Bible, the Qur'an, Little Red Book, the book of Mormon, Herodotus the Histories, Scouting for Boys, Tale of Two Cities, Lord of the Rings, How to Win Friends and Influence People, Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care, Fifty Shades of Grey, and my personal favourite, Where's Wally which, I'm fairly certain, is why I now work in Search&Rescue.

    1. Evi asked this question the other day, and my answer was an immediate 'The Bible' - without a doubt, and particularly the KJV. I agree with the Koran and Little Red Book too, but The Book of Mormon? Really?

      There are approx 15 million in the LDS according to Wikipedia; that's more than I thought, as I thought it was about 10 million, but numerically it's still not that big. However, from what I know, it's quite a high-intensity religion, so they're probably more likely to be influenced by the Book of Mormon than your average Christian of any denomination.

      So maybe. I don't know. It's an interesting suggestion.

    2. I once had to research the top 10 best selling books of all time and apparently the book of Mormon was number 9. Can't be just a few proactive bookshops in downtown Salt Lake City.

  3. Not the same question again! I don't know what to answer. I read The Catcher in the Rye last week and I really liked it. It's a shame that I read it at the age of 28 when everyone reads it at 18, but still... I can empathize with young Holden Caulfield.

    1. I've never (for shame!) read Catcher in the Rye, a classic bildungsgroman. Right - that's it - I'm going to do it.

  4. With regard to 'boob', a sincere sorry to everyone for my comments.

    To explain, but not defend, it had been a particularly bad day, culminating in a phone-repair shop in our local town comprehensively ripping me off, despite their adverts claiming they are 'Efficient' (6 weeks wait) are'Professional' (presumably if compared to a phone-repair shop staffed entirely by unhappy yoghurt) and have a policy of 'No fix, No Fee' (which turns out to be applicable in every possible dimensional universe with the regrettable exception of ours, confirming something I read a while back claiming that space and time aren't just curved, they are in fact, completely bent.)

    I now have to take them to court, but might be unsuccessful due to my parting comments to the manager, in which I suggested that when they go out of business, he and his chimps might do us all a favour and enter the bomb-disposal business, and informing him on a personal note, borrowing a compliment from PG Wodehouse, that he looked as though he'd been stuffed by an incompetent taxidermist.

    Anyway, sincerest apologies to the ever-likeable and pleasant Bibi (whose blog is well worth a visit), Paige III or his current incarnation (who's views on 'Shakira' as a name for a child, I concede, ought to be inshrined in law) and ed who's daily posts have intrigued, amused and cheered me more times than I can count (If I had a Euro for every time I'd lost count of something I'd now have...... um ...... damnit)

    On an entirely unrelated topic, if any of you are trained assassins (or preferably untrained, heavy-handed and clumsy assassins ("Oh goodness, look at me today, I'm all fingers and thumbs - give me a hand would you? - which one of these blessed things IS your carotid artery.....")) please do give me a call on 00353 87 9...... actually, no, the phone's not working currently, but you can contact me through ed. I'm not much of a judge of character but I'm fairly sure either Jingles or Evi might be able to oblige.


    1. Hey Clueless, you do realise I'm not angry with you, right? Don't beat yourself up over a little online quarrel. We all have a bad day sometimes, it happens, don't worry about it :)

      I hope everything will turn out fine with your phone. And maybe send your wife next time. It might be very anti-feminist of me, but a helpless female glance and a soft sigh often work wonders. You could try it yourself but somehow I think it won't have the same effect.

    2. Don't sweat it, dawg (I find going a bit 'ghetto' helps to diffuse a lot of situations ... unless of course you're actually in a ghetto).

      By the standards on the internet, that was probably the mildest spat in web history. No swearing? No questioning of one's sexuality? No one even corrected anybody's spelling or grammar. Pah. It's already been forgotten.

      Except ... please no tendering for assassination contracts on Lexi.

    3. I read the whole thing after the fact.
      And honestly C, you have no reason to apologize.
      I personally think it's wonderful to see/read how other people think.
      And if it can be done in an adult fashion, without name-calling, all the better!

      Carry on! :)

  5. Which book changed my life? Hmm, lemme think... Oh, I've got one! I read this pulp novel two days ago, something along the lines of "Lonely Hearts" or "Longing Lovers" or whatever, it was in Dutch and I'm too lazy to go grab it and look for the original English title. Anyhow, it changed my life in a way that now I realise there's good literature, bad literature, good lecture, and then bad lecture. Guess in which category this "Longing Lovers" belongs.

    1. Also, apparently now I'm in charge of Monday dinners. If anyone knows of a book with recipes only using the most plainest of vegetables and meats (don't forget the obligatory potatoes) for the most pickiest father and brother in the world, that'd probably change a whole lot when it comes to the Monday parts of my life.

    2. Plain meat and veg? Any book of traditional Irish recipes would suit your needs perfectly, Bibi.

    3. Ffs blasted phone!

      Anyhow, guess I'll be cooking sausages every Monday from now on.

  6. So, C is looking for a hitman and Bibi for a cookbook? I think Lexicolatry is turning into craigslist.

    Clueless I won't be able to help, sorry! But when you mentioned the taxidermist you reminded me of this:

    Bibi, check this out:

    I bought it from a discount store when I first came and it has some really easy but tasty recipes. (Sorry about the christian website)

    Ed, yes, read Salinger's novel!

  7. That was very very funny, thanks. "Nope!"


  8. The Bible is my obvious first choice of a book that has truly changed my life. On a literary note... there are so many options! Prozac Nation spoke to me in a dark period of life as a teenager...When God was a Rabbit and The Perks of Being a Wallflower both spoke my thoughts on paper... showing me I'm not the isolated individual I sometimes think I am. I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, The Bell Jar, The Catcher in the Rye, Three Day Road, The Glass Castle, Angela's Ashes, Night, The Awakening...

    And who can forget If You Give a Mouse a Cookie?

    1. I don't know "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" - but I want to! Sounds fun.