Christine Cox

Posts tagged ‘book review’

On Paper: A Book Review

On Paper: The Everything of it’s Two-Thousand-year History
By Nicholas A. Basbanes

This book took me by surprise in several ways. When it arrived I was disappointed to see that it was written by a journalist. I had been expecting a scholarly history of paper written by, say, a hand paper maker; someone with an artistic love of the subject.

My fears were quickly allayed and I have to admit that I’m so glad Mr. Basbanes took up the topic! He used his journalism skills to seek out all kinds of information that I didn’t expect. Yes, there is the very well researched and written section on the history of paper, but there is so much more substance to this book. The author discusses the people involved in papermaking, the inventions of machines, the evolution and uses of paper. He covers the past, the present and the future of the subject and the techniques in making it.

I was satisfied with this book both as an artist who uses paper in bookbinding, and as a curious human who loves receiving the answers to questions I hadn’t thought to ask. My biggest surprise was that it made me cry. Yes, it’s a non-fiction book about paper that had me bawling through the final chapter. I don’t want to give it away, but let’s just say that this book brought home the 9/11 attacks and the human impact like nothing else that I had seen or read before.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who enjoys paper, history, or just a good read. You’ll come away with a greater appreciation of the subject and its affect on our culture.

Purchase the book from Amazon from this link:
On Paper: The Everything of Its Two-Thousand-Year History (Vintage)

Inspiration in a Box


I got a great box full of inspiration in the mail Friday. It’s a wealth of riches; lovely, lovely books!

At the top of my box of treasures, Victoria Finlay’s Jewels; A Secret History, (originally published in GB as “Buried Treasure; Travels Through the Jewel Box”).” I bought it because I had read the author’s previous book Color; A Natural History of the Palette, and because I heard Ms Finlay on RadioLab (an awesome show that you can podcast through iTunes). I’m about half-way into the book now and it’s a thoroughly enjoyable read.

Both of Finlay’s books are travel journals. In both she chooses a personal reason to investigate a jewel or color (depending on the book). Each chapter is a brief but colorful (PTP) history of colors or gemstones and how they were discovered, mined or produced. It’s fascinating stuff, full of unusual characters, beautiful but deadly places and nature’s mysteries.The books are very personal and the author tells us of her failures, as well as her successes. She’s a very brave woman and gets herself into situations I wouldn’t try, like sliding down into ancient emerald mines.

Jewels is arranged by the Moh’s hardness rating of the particular stone: amber is first, diamonds are last. For a woman with a seemingly casual interest in gemstones, the book is full of information that any jeweler would love. It’s also chock-full of ancient history, so history buffs will love it too.

Next in my box of goodies is The Violinist’s Thumb: And Other Lost Tales of Love, War, and Genius, as Written by Our Genetic Code by Sam Kean. Mr Kean’s last book The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements was a really lively history of the discoveries and people around the periodic table. Boring? Absolutely not!!! I got poor marks in high school chemistry, and I just can’t tell you how much Kean’s writing style kept me interested and curious. I got so much out of this book that I use in the studio every day. Oh, and I also learned how electricity works (turns out it’s not magic after all). Unlike a bad movie sequel, I’m not afraid to read “The Violinist’s Thumb.” I have faith in Sam Kean’s writing. I’m sure it will be excellent.

Next up in my haul of books is Mixed Metal Mania by Kim St. Jean. A student recently brought a copy to class and I just had to own it. Ever since watching Harold O’Connor’s DVD on fold-forming, I’ve been on a folding tangent, and Ms St. Jean’s book has several fold-formed projects. Though the photos are small, they’re of excellent quality and there are a lot of them. I’m looking forward to the inspiration I’ll get from St. Jean’s techniques.

My last book is Handmade Photo Albums by Tami Porath. Books on how to make album-style structures are few and far between. The projects in this book look simple and fun and will take a lot of the guesswork out of my future photo albums. I especially like the idea for a folding drawer for folding the edges of papers. I’ll have to give that a whirl.

Now I’m off to the studio to take my inspiration out for a spin and see what it can do today.


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