Beyond Words & Bookish Catalogues

Political discussions can wreck online book groups.  Even if you’re on the same side, and you, like me, are a liberal,  I don’t want to talk politics with you.  We’re not political commentators, and anyway, just you wait, it will turn out we supported Bernie Sanders for completely different reasons.

I used to be a co-moderator of an online book group that splintered over the critic Edward Said’s brilliant memoir, Out of Place. Those of us who loved it as a memoir of growing up in Palestine were baffled, and the crazy thing was that only three or four  had even read the book.  As soon as they heard the word Palestine, a pro-Palestine faction and a pro-Israel faction emerged, accusing each other of genocide and anti-Semitism.  We co-moderators tried to get back to literature, but the group never recovered from this horrifying battle.

One of my favorite memoirs: who knew it would be controversial?

Dissension occurs in Goodreads groups and Yahoo groups.  One group was discussing, I believe, Tennyson, when the members began to fight about climate change. Every time I read the posts, I thought, “Yeah, climate change is happening:  deal with it!” And so I learned to skip the posts by the more irascible participants, because they upset me (and anybody else who has lived through Midwestern floods, Texas hurricanes, Mexican earthquakes, and more.)..

Another group became obsessed with racism in the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Gone with the Wind during a discussion of a Russian novel. How did that come up?   If you like Margaret Mitchell’s trashy 1936 best-seller, and I’m not a big fan, you realize that the book is not in the least literary, that it is a romance set during the Civil War, that the heroine is a very nasty woman named Scarlett O’Hara, and, yes, many of the black slaves are stereotypical. It’s not Uncle Tom’s Cabin!


I wonder if we blog these days to avoid  inimical online conversations.


I love book catalogues.  There are so few these days.

The Autumn 2017 Folio Society catalogue recently came in the mail.  This 99-page catalogue is almost as good as one of the books.  The paper is high-quality and the catalogue includes illustrations from the books.  I am not buying at the moment, having shot my wad, but some of you might like the following.

Virginia Woolf fans might be interested in the new edition of A Room of One’s Own,  with the original woodcuts by Vanessa Bell.

And how about the new edition of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, illustrated by Jonathan Burton?  But honestly I already have three copies of Northanger Abbey!

I also like the Persephone catalogue, the Dover catalogue, and the Dedalus catalogue.  The Dover and the Dedalus offer cheap, and often very strange  books we can all afford! I especially like to support the Dover catalogue, with its unusual collection of of  obscure mysteries, science fiction, classics, and coloring books.  Few bookstores stock them anymore, so I sometimes order at the Dover book site.

What are your favorite book catalogues?

12 thoughts on “Beyond Words & Bookish Catalogues

  1. I have stayed out of the Gone with the Wind discussion because they weren’t listening to each other any more. They had more areas of agreement than disagreement, but they could not recognize that. Why so heated? I think it was because the book — whatever its faults — was and is a popular page-turner. Millions were hooked on it and enjoyed it, so therefore it was dangerous and its bad attitudes must be refuted.


    • Nancy, you are so right! I didn’t participate because I know where these heated discussions go–nowhere–and it is very hard to get too worked up over GWTW. Yes, the discussion was a bit puritanical–as you say, “bad attitudes must be refuted.”


  2. I’m still mourning the demise of The Common Reader. They used to have obscure but interesting books on many subjects, including fiction. I was just looking for a mystery on Dover’s website the other day. You’re right, they used to be readily available, but I don’t often see them in stores these days. I think I’d like their catalog. I have a hard time with on line catalogs.


    • I, too, loved The Common Reader. It was so well-written, and introduced me to books by Alice Thomas Ellis. I remember they were pushing the Poldark books before they were rediscovered by PBS. And I found books for Christmas gifts that people actually liked, strange little travel books, etc.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I have my views and beliefs but I kind of try to keep extreme politics away from what I write (although stufff does creep in). Wherever you go online there are usually people who want to have a fight. As for catalogues, I think Persephone’s is rather lovely, though I crave the Folio (and that Woolf)


  4. Oh The Common Reader too was a wonderful catalog. The Alice Thomas Ellis books were so special…what a discovery! At this time, I like Folio, Persephone and Bas Blu, but BB has lots of “gifts” listed too some of which are pretty nice.


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