Tuesday, March 29, 2011

In the Mail...

Today's mail delivery included a nice surprise: a new book from Oxford University Press.  This one has a publication date of April 14 and  is called How Literature Works: 50 Key Concepts and it is authored by John Sutherland.

The first thing I noticed about the book is the feel of its cover.  This is a paperback but the book's front and back covers feel as if they have been plasticized, giving them a slick texture that I could not help running my fingers across while trying to figure out how the publisher got this effect.  Too, the book's turquoise color jumps out at you.  That's about it for cosmetics, however.  As you can see from the picture, other than the color and texture of the cover, the book has a relatively generic look to it.

But, of course, it's what's inside the covers that really counts.  The book's introduction describes it as a "toolkit," one that "the well-equipped reader will want to have."  The 200-page book encompasses 50 "big ideas" about literature, each individual section presented in an easy-to-read format illustrated with offset quotes, timelines, and a one-paragraph summary/definition of its particular "big idea."  The book is further organized into six major sections  (each containing a few of the 50 ideas): Basics, How It Works, Literature's Devices, New Ideas, Word Crimes, and Literary Futures.

The very last piece in the book, Idea 50, is titled "Literary Inundation," and it addresses the tsunami of the written word facing today's readers.  It offers suggestions as to how to cope with the great deluge and notes the ironies of the situation - such as the fact that books are being published at a faster clip than at any time in world history just when more and more bookstores are closing their doors.

How Literature Works looks like fun, and I can't resist delving into it despite the fact that I'm already reading four other books.  Some books just feel right from the second you pick them up.  For me, this is one of those.


  1. When you finish with it, I'd love it if you gave your opinion on the "Literary Inundation" bit - there are times I just can't seem to help but be swamped by all the things I still have to read. I've been keeping a grueling reading pace this past week, trying to get caught up on ILL books before they need to be turned in. It's not just the number of new books being published that increases my TBR, it's all the older books that I heard of and still intend to get to and all the interesting older stuff I find at used bookstores.

    If the book gives some good strategies for that kind of problem, I'd love to read it for that alone.

  2. I'm suffering from literary inundations as well! The book sounds interesting, and I'll be eager to read your review.

  3. Library Girl / Jenclair, I managed to put the book aside for a few days, but I'm looking forward to reading it when it hits the top of the TBR stack. I'm overly inundated at the moment. :-)