The Griffin & Sabine Series
by Nick Bantock
We asked for recommendations about the best tactile books, meaning the books you have most liked to touch, and some wonderful suggestions came flooding in. Many of you referred to books from your childhood or picture books designed to be touched that you were currently reading to youngsters.
There were also pop-up books. Sumptuous leather-bound books published by the Easton and Franklin presses. Books with unusual bindings or thicker paper. Heavy books. Dictionaries and encyclopedias. Textbooks, academic books and educational books. Beloved paperbacks that were carried around for years and took a beating.
Touch is clearly an important aspect of the reading experience. To AbeBooks’ customers, books are more than just an object – the weight and feel are important elements. Wear, such as a worn spine, can denote love and companionship. Some books are literally touched to death… until they fall apart.
Enjoy this selection of tactile books, recommended by you, and the stories that go with them.
“The book in the hands of the reader is a maze of footnotes and unconventional typesetting…In claustrophobic scenes, the writing was reduced to a cramped box in the center of the page. Scenes involving falling read vertically, rather than horizontally. Vast spaces in the book were described by sentences with vast spaces between words.”
“It was a standard trade paperback. The book went everywhere. It had been dropped off a balcony, left out in the rain and run over by a car. The cover was cracked and torn on its best days and eventually separated from the pages. I put the increasing pile of loose pages into a shoe box that came to embody the book as a whole and survived for a few more years.”
“My favourite tactile book as a child was a green, leather-bound copy of Longfellow’s poems. It had been handed down to my father from his great-grandfather and subsequently passed into my hands. The cover, embellished with gold lettering and floral designs, the delicate paper, the engravings of Evangeline. I memorized Paul Revere’s Ride.”
“The particular copy I have is one produced by the Franklin Library and was a limited edition in their ‘The Greatest Books of the Twentieth Century’ series. Bound in green leather with gilt decoration to the spine and covers, the book itself is wonderful to touch. Inside you find silk moiré endpapers and the text printed on thick, acid-free paper gilt along the edges.”
“An exhibition catalogue published in 1988. The cover is a handmade paper wrapper, quite rough and bumpy, with ink stamps. The interior pages, while not as unusual as the wrapper, have substantial and porous qualities that make them a pleasure to handle. The physicality of the book is an appropriate reflection of the unpretentious intimate quality of Tuttle’s art."
“This is the Van Gogh story as novelized by Irving Stone. I carried that book with me every day through high school. It was noticeably heavier than similar modern books, and the illustrations were printed on that fabulous paper they used to print magazines on. The spine had been torn and glued back on more times than I can count, the cover faded beyond recognition.”
“Every time my fingertips touched its rich brown cover, I felt like I had my hands on a worn-out copy of the Guide itself. The front cover had a design framing the title, embossed and in gold. You could just trace the subtle grooves and follow them to each corner, where they'd run into an embossed design of the infamous Hitchhiker’s smiley-face-with-the-tongue-out.”
“The first page springs a dentist into the reader’s face, with a spinning drill; to depict the fear of heights they erect a skyscraper at the reader’s chin, dragging his/her gaze way down deep into the urban chasm; the pages showing claustrophobia are bound at the top and bottom, so you can't even open the book all the way to give everyone in the scene some room to breathe...”
“I was working in an auto plant in Pontiac, Michigan and the book fit perfectly into my hands as a subversively small edition of a staggeringly large novel. I would sneak off during breaks between cars on the line to effortlessly bend it open – the binding held for years as the cover became more and more tattered, spattered with oil, and darkened with soot along the edges. “
“This book weighs over two pounds. Virtually every page has a photograph illustration. It is printed on heavy coated paper - what we used to call National Geographic clay paper - and taking it from the shelf feels like adjusting a bookend on the mantelpiece. The smell of those old pages is a maple-glue smell I associate with the house I grew up in.”
“A hefty and very metal-like hard-cover, Full Metal Jacket Diary has a unique quality that I like very much. I have always been a fan of books as objet d'art. Whenever I find a book of this nature, I pick it up.”
"The cover is supreme. Bas-relief inviting one to touch and feel it; splendid colors; fabulous characters - Devil with Horns as Magician, along with other magician, a true visual feast. Can’t keep your eye or your hands off the book."
"One book that always elicits a smirk every time it catches my eye is The First Masochist published in 1967. It was released with a most appropriate, but bizarre and somewhat daring for the time, black PVC dust jacket designed by Peter Constable Pope. The jacket has shrunk somewhat, making it hug the book even more snugly (constricting?). Seems fitting!"
“My favorite tactile book is one we shared with my daughter when she was very young. Go Away Big Green Monster is a fun book where the monster comes and is made to go away little by little. The book has bold colors, simple text, and die-cuts to reinforce the monster going away. I enjoyed sharing it with her. She loved it for several years and we still keep it.”
“Illustrated by Arlene Klemushin, the story is about a moose with a loose tooth and all of his adventures as his friend the goose endeavors to rid him of the pesky tooth. An actual string winds through the book, playing a part in each miniature tale where it pokes through the pages.”
“My daughter just turned 17 months. Our favorite of favorites is That’s Not My Dragon. She loves flipping the pages, as she does with any board book. But one dragon’s claws are too knobbly, another’s tongue is too scratchy, another’s wings are too scaly. Very well made, and my baby girl loves to touch all of the feely spots.”