Object Lessons is a series of short, beautifully designed books about the hidden lives of ordinary things.
You might think that its name says it all. A bookshelf is just that - a shelf for books. It's the stuff of libraries, offices, and the bane of movers' existence. But every shelf is different and every bookshelf tells a different story. One bookshelf can creak with character in a bohemian coffee shop and another can groan with gravitas in the Library of Congress.
Bookshelf takes an almost meta-approach to the object studies aim of Object Lessons: exploring the stacks as well as our bedside tables, writer and historian Lydia Pyne unpacks not just the material parts but the secret lives of bookshelves. Pyne finds bookshelves to be holders not just of books but of so many other things: values, vibes, and verbs that can be contained and displayed in the buildings and rooms of contemporary human existence. With a shrewd eye toward this particular moment in the history of books, Pyne takes the reader on a tour of the bookshelf that leads critically to this juncture: amid rumours of the death of book culture, why is the life of bookshelf in full bloom?
Object Lessons is published in partnership with an essay series in the The Atlantic.
An absorbing meditation on an object of lasting cultural significance. * Sydney Morning Herald *
As the page is to the book, so is the bookshelf to our culture, that is the lesson of this delightful and stimulating essay. Anything can happen on a page, so too, we learn, a bookshelf partakes of that astonishing range of possibility, circumscribed only by rectilinear geometry, a mode nonpareil of storing, displaying, distributing, assembling, categorizing and contextualizing knowledge. Even virtually, it continues unabashed, as a metaphor, like browsing. A lovely glimpse of the joy and scale of human culture endeavour, its forms and functions, contexts and containers. * Richard Nash, Publisher, Red Lemonade *