First, the context. Literary critics, book historians, publishing types, and cultural spectators and speculators have spent a lot of time of late kicking around “the book” as an idea and as a phenomenon: its past, its hybrid e-and-print present, whether it has a future and what that future might look like. (Things look pretty good in that regard, if you ask me, though fretting about the Death of the Book has kept a goodly number of commentators busy in recent years.) In spite of alarms raised about the fading away of old-school review outlets, there’s still plenty of conversation–perhaps more than ever, given the rise of online homes and platforms for litchat–about individual books as stories or arguments.
And now the personal angle. As a reader and writer and reporter, I think a lot about “the book” and about books in their individual narrative incarnations. I have also started to pay more attention to books as physical presences, as travelers and migrants and visitors that move among us and sometimes (often, in my house) take up permanent residence with us. Few other objects exist on so many different levels (cultural, physical, intellectual) and are both so valued and so taken for granted at the same time. They’re everywhere–and yet we worry that they’re going to disappear. They’re vessels for the best of human thought and creativity–and yet they pile up and get in the way and are left out in giveaway boxes in the rain and sold off for a quarter apiece at yard sales and library sales.
How we live with, handle, acquire, share, use, abuse, give away and do away with books fascinates me, and I’ve set out to try to understand it better. As part of that project, I’m taking pictures of books in their everyday settings, their habitats–in the wild, as it were. You can find those pictures over at my Instagram account and posted on Twitter with the hashtag #booksinthewild.
I’ve begun by photographing the books that are, quite literally, closest to me, on my nightstand (see right) and on my bookshelves and lying around my house. (Above, the family reading in bed–one of our favorite readerly spots.) I’ll be working outward, though, looking for books in my neighborhood and my city and beyond. Want to share your #booksinthewild? I’d love to see them.