May Book: A Moment In the Sun

A Moment in the Sun coverThis is the easiest New Year’s Resolution I’ve ever made: buy one book a month, by an author I’ve never read before, from an Independent bookshop I love. (If you’re wondering why a starving writer would do such a thing, check out this link).

I’ve just been to Nicholas Hoare to order my May choice, John Sayles‘ A Moment in the Sun. Mr. Sayles is primarily a film-maker, but this is far from his first outing in fiction, and, though it was only published on April 18, it’s already getting a lot of attention (it’s been chosen for IndieBound‘s Indie Next List Great Read). I’ve read the early reviews, and it sounds like a cracking story. Can’t wait to break it open.

Some people have asked how I choose each month’s new title. I chose The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore because I’m fascinated by the publisher – 12. I love their story, but didn’t own any of their books, and this one looked like a cracker. I chose last month’s title – Swamplandia! – because I read an interview with the author, Karen Russell in Tin House. This month I wanted to buy a book published by McSweeney’s, because, again, I don’t have one. I was very tempted by Bill Cotter’s Fever Chart, but, in the end, chose the Sayles book because (looks bashful) of the cover.

Not just for the cover of course. If it hadn’t looked like an interesting read I’d have passed, but I’m sad to say I’m still a sucker for a well-made book. I’m still in love with the materiality of reading, and I love books which have been made by other people who love books.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a book collector. I was put off book collecting forever by a book-fair in the green bowels of Kent – Tenterden. I used to show up every time, but I started to notice how many of the conversations around me were focused on the book as an object – the state of its slip-case, dust-jacket or binding. The foxing on its pages. Nobody seemed to be talking about content, which was, and remains, the only thing I really care about. The experience cured me of any inclination to turn into a collector myself.

Nevertheless, there’s something – some sensual pleasure – which enhances the content when the medium itself has been lovingly designed to complement it. When the paper, the typeface, the binding and the cover come together to make a beautiful book, the pleasure of reading is heightened. For me at least. So when I see a book that has been made with care, I’m more inclined to buy it. That, I’m sorry to say, is why I chose the Sayles over the Cotter. Which is not to say that I won’t buy the Cotter at some point.


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