Greetings, my fellow book-bashers!
In case you missed it, last week we hosted
We also hosted our first ever contribution to Fiction Corner —
In other news, one of the benefits for paying subscriber benefits here on BTMU is to have your Substack be recommended on a rotating basis. I’ve been doing this silently in the background for the last couple of months (to great results!), but it occurred to me I should be giving these excellent publications more of a public shout out. So I’m going to start tagging the recommended publications here on the discussion threads every week. This week we’re recommending:
Last thing before we get onto this week’s discussion question — I want to take a snap poll. We’ve had so many brilliant submissions to
So I was wondering whether I should close BTMU to new pitches for a bit. Perhaps until the end of the year? On the one hand, it feels wrong to close off the opportunity to those who are just joining us (even if only temporarily), while on the other hand I feel terrible having to tell writers we are so booked up.
Would love to know the community’s thoughts on this question, so please answer the poll below:
Now onto this week’s discussion question. I’d love to know:
What’s the most beautiful book you own?
It's not beautiful in the sense of a gorgeous cover, but I have a soft spot for the first copy I bought of The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolano, my favourite novel. It's completely battered, the spine has gone, the pages are curled. I bought it second hand so it wasn't in the best condition when I found it, but now from numerous re-readings it looks like it's been left in a hedge for a few weeks. I love it.
Also - on pitches - I reckon close it for a little while just to give yourself a break too! And I agree with your thoughts about accepting a pitch but then it being a 9+ month wait.
All of my books are beautiful!!!
I found an all-Latin set of St. Thomas Aquinas’ masterpiece, The Summa Theologiae, at our local used bookstore for a third of what it sells for online. As a philosophy grad student, I was so psyched. It’s an old, cloth bound set with gorgeous red lettering! Now I just need to learn Latin so I can read it….
A used book. A book with worn-out ends, highlighted and underlined. It shows to other readers this book is of value, for its pages were flipped over numerous times, thoughts were created and imagined, and pages turned quickly in anticipation. That's the most beautiful book.
I picked up a English version of The Divine Comedy in South Korea that’s been heavily annotated by a previous owner in Korean.
Something about the mixing of language and holding a book someone else clearly cherished is incredibly special.
I have been torn whether I should add my own annotations to it, or leave it as is.
Keep the book alive, or preserve it?
There are so many! And they are all beautiful in different ways, old or new or just falling apart.
- the hardcover edition of Piranesi (objectively beautiful)
- an old pocket edition of a Tale of Two Cities that actually fits in your pocket (practically beautiful)
- Herodotus' Histories, so battered the title is worn away, originally from a school library 100 km away (beautiful with age)
- a complete Shakespeare, bought secondhand, which smells like the back of a basement and has my name in inexpert calligraphy on the first page (sentimentally beautiful)
As for my most beautiful book, one that comes to mind is an anthology of UK/Ireland nature writing called "The Wild Isles," which I actually haven't read through (it's THICK) though I've read some of the longer works it excerpts. What makes it really beautiful, besies the lovely woodcut cover design by Angela Harding, is that the inside covers are full of notes and signatures from my friends--it was a parting gift when I left the UK and I couldn't have asked for a more perfect gift.
An old copy of Jane Austen’s Persuasion. It’s a talisman book (thank you @Sal Randolph) in that it’s a wonderful book plus made magical by my long attachment to it.
I think the most beautiful books I have in my collection are the ones that remind me of a time or place filled with love. I have several books from my grandmothers collection, which I can look at now and still see them sitting proudly on her shelf. My sister has several children’s books from our own house growing up which are now being enjoyed by my niece and nephew. Every time I see them, I remember the many hours spent enjoying their pages.
I love all my books equally, and like some have and would say, they are all beautiful... but I would say, an original hard cover of T.E. Lawrence's "Seven Pillars of Wisdom", a large illustrated annotated hardcover of "Reminiscences of a Stock Operator", and last (what seems to be in vogue as a meme on the internet for some reason) a very nice 3 volume set of Gibbons' Decline and Fall of Rome (a used bookstore find, 20+ years old and in perfect condition, with each volume inscribed with a letter from a father to his son, an annual gift over 3 years, which was a mini-story all its own).
This is difficult to answer. I own an illustrated (with lots of pop-up pages) of Harry Potter (the first book). It's beautifully illustrated and so much fun to read. But honestly, all of my books are beautiful. I love to look at them.
photo:box published by abrams, new york
in 512 pages contains 250 photographs by 210 photographers
I don't have a favourite hard-copy book because I've read audio books all my life. So, I'm going to take a bit of interpretative licence and say that the most beautiful book I own is a family Bible with the names of my ancestors in it. I had the spine repaired when it first came to me because it was falling to bits, but otherwise all the pages are intact. The paper is thin and soft, like old cloth handkerchiefs. Best of all, though, is the list of names dating back to 1830, and references to major events that touched the family as a whole. The Bible was gifted to my great-great-grandmother who lived in York, UK and is now with me in South Africa.
Why not post guest posts twice a week? I think closing the submissions opportunity would not be right, given that that is part of the attraction
Dang. I wish one could share pics in here like in Notes. Probably my Folio of Beowulf (that being the more recent edition, I think from ~15 years ago). 1/4 leather with red silk covers with a gold design. Pages are mega-thick with design on every page. Best seven loonies I ever spent.
Some runner-ups would be a volume 1 of the first printing of Amundsen's Sydpolen (ja, i Norsk) which is also a very pretty book and it remains a mystery to me as to what the covers are made out of; The India-paper edition of 'Lord of the Rings'; Easton's Karamazov (not an Easton fan but this one is huge and has amazing lithographs); or a giant hand-numbered special edition 1/4 leather Robert Bateman artbook.
That's a tough question, Mikey, but I'll go with my favorite by Nikos Kazantzakis, for its beautiful poetry and story - The Odyssey: A modern Sequel.
Self praise is no honor, but my most beautiful book is one I wrote and illustrated myself, called The Sad, Strange Story of Al's Cheeseburger. Not only do I own a first edition, but I also own the only edition.
It traces in live action 3D cutouts and vibrant colors the journey of a cheeseburger from the warming rays of the sun to the fertile fields of India where Nalley's pickles are grown, to the pastures of Argentina for beef, to Idaho for French fries and so on until the ingredients are all brought together at a local McDonald's, where Al purchases a Quarter Pounder Combo Meal. Al then thoroughly masticates and swallows the Combo Meal, where it is digested in his alimentary track, with some components diverted into his blood stream as nutrients, while others as by-products that are voided by Al and end up in a toilet connected to septic tank connected to a drain field that is a source of nutrients for soil bacteria, earth worms, and microbes.
What a sad, strange journey.
My other most beautiful book is a huge coffee table pictorial survey of Michelangelo's complete works, which I love, but because the Sistine Chapel ceiling photos are pre-restoration, I was ill-prepared to anticipate when I first saw the ceiling in person the glorious colors Michelangelo chose so long ago.
Note: I edited the final sentence so it didn’t sound as if I saw the Sistine ceiling shortly after it was completed. I am old, but not that old. Moreover, language is a precise tool and must be used with precision, and one does not often get a chance to say “moreover.” Forsooth, too.
My first edition Nancy Drew books of course
For me it is really hard to choose one specific book…I have several books I inherited from my parents’ personal library that include a variety of fiction and non-fiction. A few of these books belonged to my grandmother and I enjoy opening up a book and seeing her handwriting on the inside front cover. When I hold or read these books it takes me back in time and reconnects me with them…a feeling I absolutely love…
I still get excited by especially nice editions of books. It’s nice to have these pleasures isn’t it?! Harmless basically!
I have a beautiful collection of spiritual texts sitting on my bookshelf all right next to each other. There's the Quran in green embossed with Gold, The Tao Te Ching in leather with raised letters on the cover, the Ghita in an old hardcover edition, and a new edition of the Bible (https://www.bibliotheca.co/#about). Every time I look over at them I sit in reverence for a few moments.
Those are my most beautiful in many ways. And they complement all the literature on the shelves above and around them.
I have two - Black Beauty and Emma.
Both are special edition books from Penguin called Threads which has embroidery from Jillian Tamaki on each. It’s really cool. Feels and looks like it was designed in yarn for an easy way to picture it.
Two photos of my favourite printed masterpiece, when you look at the execution of the graphics:
A pair of bilingual Dolphin/Doubleday editions of the Tao Te Ching and The Art of War
I’m going to have to give this some real thought. So so many different kinds of beauty.
Rohinton Mistry - A fine Balance.
I was made for this question.
I’d say the most beautiful is probably my Easton Press Edition of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. It’s also one of my most cherished.
We inherited a collection of antique books though from my husband’s grandmother, and among them is a beautiful, old collection of Shakespeare from the 1800s. That’s a close runner up.
I wrote both my Master’s thesis and my PhD dissertation on ‘Cape Cod,’ one of Henry David Thoreau’s lesser-read books. In celebration of completing the thesis and without breaking the bank, I purchased a first edition copy of ‘Cape Cod,’ that had been rebound in leather. I’ve enjoyed having it on my bookshelf for 25 years now and still find it perfectly beautiful.
I suppose it matters what you mean by a beautiful book. I have a collection of Shakespeare complete works in a beautiful leather bound volume. The cover and binding are beautiful and Shakespeare's words have always been a favorite of mine especially when beautiful spoken out loud.
I actually wrote a short essay inspired by the most beautiful book I own, a combo of mrs dalloway and the hours by Michael Cunningham:
Mine is Pinocchio from 1940. It is cloth-bound and beautifully illustrated in ink by Kurt Wiese. The fact that I got it from my favourite old bookshop for £4 adds to the charm.
What's the old guy, Tolstoy in his night shirt, reading in the painting? Any guesses? A graphic Russian novel, because it's the right size, but thick in a Russian way? The owner's manual for his new chainsaw? The Complete Idiot's Guide to Filing Taxes? An L.L. Bean fall catalog? An autographed copy of Leaves of Grass? 50 Shades of Grey? Mother Earth News?
Help me here, because I'm really curious.
the most beautiful book I own is probably a first edition of H. L. Mencken's _The American Language_ that was given to me by one of my oldest friends.
beautiful? "Griffin & Sabine...an Extraordinary Correspondence"
1950 edition English Masterpieces Modern Poetry edited by Mack, Dean, & Frost. The burgundy cover with silver print is still in mint condition. Inside, the pages have faded to shades of yellow and orange. But it's the old smell that makes it seem even more beautiful.
If you mean that resonates most beautifully then it's a cross between The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova and The Rose Labyrinth by Tatiana Hardie. Hardie's book leans more toward the beautiful in aesthetics and creative packaging - it came with a labyrinth of pages with codes the reader could follow and put together bound inside a box with an elastic band tied around it. It was like opening a present every time I took it off the shelf. I haven't seen such creative packaging before or sense, though I can point everyone in the direction of custom.sprayed.edges for your books. No idea if she has a Substack, but she does have an Etsy shop. Since we're talking about beautiful books....
I only just found out looking at the stats now I'm starting to publish that my first four subscribers were recommendations from you- so thanks so much for that Mikey. I think the most beautiful book I own may be a Star Wars Thrawn Ascendency book, a hardcover with sky-blue-sprayed edges. I do like the little Wooden Book ones that I now own for writing research are pretty beautiful too. The art within a book I got from a recent Tate Modern Exhibition - the only time I've enjoyed one so much I had to buy the book - is a good contender too, just for the lifechanging art inside. I could probably go on but shall refrain
I have two copies of The Halloween Tree that are my most treasured - one with my aunt's signature from the '90s, another I found vintage. The illustrations in the first are insanely cool. I also have a stack of goth looking classics on my nightstand that I keep for vibes and inspo. The best is my illustrated copy of Jane Eyre by Dame Darcy. It's darkly elegant and broodingly Victorian. Pictures are linked below if so inclined.
Books are art.
Fairy Tales From Many Lands, illustrated by Arthur Rackham and formerly published as The Allies’ Fairy Book. The book has a fascinating history, the stories are whimsical, and the illustrations are incredible.
For beautiful writing and leaving aside 'The Great Gatsby', I'd say 'The History of Love' by Nicole Krauss. For illustration then it's Gina Siciliano's 'I Know What I Am' - the life and times of Artemisia Gentileschi
Possibly “Roots” by Alex Haley
Re the pitch question, that's great you've had such good uptake! I confess that I am a newcomer who was hoping to submit a pitch soon, and I'm not sure what to vote. I think it would be nice to be able to submit a pitch and find out if it has traction even if not to come to a fruition for a while, but at the same time I wonder what the long term approach will be. Will there continually be a wait even after you open up the pitches again? Is the idea that you would receive more at once and then sort out which ones to prioritize, like a journal with a submission window? Or will it go back to being first come, first served (for pieces that make the cut of course)?