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One reader’s favorite book to touch

Tomorrow is the final day to enter our Tree of Codes contest. Entering is easy – just tell me about your favorite tactile book, the book you have most enjoyed touching. We have received lots of entries and I’m going to share one with you. It’s from a lady called Karen in California. When I read it, I thought she had captured just how some books can become very special and embedded with meaning.


I’m intrigued by your question about my most favorite “tactile” book of all time–the book I’ve most enjoyed touching. I am 52-years-old and have been reading voraciously since first grade, but can’t recall ever thinking of a book as a provider of pleasure that was particularly tactile. At my age, a new question about my life-long love for books is a valuable thing, and I thank you for it!

Perhaps “Tree of Codes” might be my first experience of a great tactile book? I’m certainly curious about it, now.

concise-treasury-of-great-poemsScanning my bookshelves for any book that I might have unconsciously enjoyed touching more than others, the one that catches my eye is my late father’s college textbook copy of A Treasury of Great Poems: English and American, by Louis Untermeyer. I suspect there may be more than one edition of this book; my father’s copy, which I now own, is copyright 1942, fifth printing.

I spent a good deal of time with this book as an adolescent, particularly when I had read through my latest stack of library books and had to wait some days for the next family trip to the distant library. In a house that contained a modest number of books and magazines, this book’s thickness and variety of offerings was a comfort to which I often returned.

As I write this, I realize that Untermeyer’s prose introductions to the poems may have been my earliest exposure to literary history and criticism. And, in addition to the pleasure and information I gained from all that was actually printed in the book, its existence conveyed to me that there was a wider ongoing tradition from which Untermeyer had only sampled, a tradition that was continuing in my lifetime–the prospect of many more pleasures to be discovered.

During the early years of my adulthood, my father agreed to loan the book to me, for a time, and I came to think of it as my own. Later, in his retirement, he asked me to return it, perhaps because he had begun writing his own poems. With a pang or two, I relinquished the book. After his death, I was fortunate that no-one else in the family particularly wanted the book, and it came to me. I have it now, and can see it as I write this. Among the many books I now own, it is an old and valued friend.

Another person might not notice anything of particular tactile significance about the rather worn navy blue cloth binding and gold lettering on the spine of this book. But as I pull it from its shelf, I realise that my hands welcome its familiar weight, and that I am smiling at the easy way its pages fall open and invite me in.


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