ATG Book of the Week: Bookishness: Loving Books in a Digital Age

by | Aug 17, 2021 | 0 comments

Title: Bookishness: Loving Books in a Digital Age
Author: Jessica Pressman
Paperback: ISBN: 9780231195133, $30; Hardcover: ISBN: 9780231195126, $90; E-book: ISBN: 9780231551199, $29.99
Imprint: New York: Columbia University Press, 2020

Twenty-first-century culture is obsessed with books. In a time when many voices have joined to predict the death of print, books continue to resurface in new and unexpected ways. From the proliferation of “shelfies” to Jane Austen–themed leggings and from decorative pillows printed with beloved book covers to bookwork sculptures exhibited in prestigious collections, books are everywhere and are not just for reading. Writers have caught up with this trend: many contemporary novels depict books as central characters or fetishize paper and print thematically and formally.

In Bookishness, Jessica Pressman examines the new status of the book as object and symbol. She explores the rise of “bookishness” as an identity and an aesthetic strategy that proliferates from store-window décor to experimental writing. Ranging from literature to kitsch objects, stop-motion animation films to book design, Pressman considers the multivalent meanings of books in contemporary culture. Books can represent shelter from―or a weapon against―the dangers of the digital; they can act as memorials and express a sense of loss. Examining the works of writers such as Jonathan Safran Foer, Jennifer Egan, Mark Z. Danielewski, and Leanne Shapton, Pressman illuminates the status of the book as a fetish object and its significance for understanding contemporary fakery. Bringing together media studies, book history, and literary criticism, Bookishness explains how books still give meaning to our lives in a digital age.


Fizzing with ideas and sparkling with finds, this analysis of the digital age’s love affair with print shows Pressman’s keen eye for the paradoxes of contemporary cultural practices. — Leah Price, author of What We Talk About When We Talk About Books: The History and Future of Reading

Jessica Pressman’s great strength lies in her wonderful touch for the material. Her expansive command of exemplars runs the gamut from the high literary to cultural kitsch. Bookishness offers that rare and enviable combination of fascinating source material and an easily transportable take-away―the title term itself, which is sure to become widely adopted and relied upon. — Matthew Kirschenbaum, author of Track Changes: A Literary History of Word Processing

Jessica Pressman has written an eloquent book on our attempts, at once kitschy and inspired, to maintain a sense of attachment to reading during the book’s twilight. A profound reminder of the continued hold books have on our imaginations. — Andrew Piper, author of Book Was There: Reading in Electronic Times

Ultimately, both hobbyist and scholar will take bookishness seriously after reading Bookishness by Jessica Pressman. ― Society for U.S. Intellectual History blog

A brainy exploration of what it means to be a book lover in the 21st century. ― Everything Zoomer


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