Why Do We Never Get Tired Of Books?

Books are magical. As Carl Sagan once said, a book is “a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you're inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years.”

September 27, 2023 06:09 EDT

Dear Book Enthusiasts and FO° Readers, 

Every year, between 500,000 and one million books are published in this world — up to four million, if we count those that are self-published. The US is champion of the publishing game, with China the runner-up and the UK third. The whole world can’t seem to get enough books. As many as we have, we keep writing and printing more.

Credit: RAW-films / shutterstock.com

So why do we never get tired of books? 

Writing is so much more than a simple system to reproduce the sound of language. Writing allows us to organize our thoughts and knowledge, to convey and construct meaning. A book is a unit of that meaning.

What an astonishing thing a book is. It’s a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you’re inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years.

— Carl Sagan 

The printed book brought an immense revolution to humanity, and what the internet is bringing is potentially even more extensive. The ability to store information was a leap forward; the ability not only to store that information, but transmit it instantly to potentially all of humanity is another qualitative leap. But in spite of the constant presence of screens, we keep buying books. The book, the little or large bundle of pages, be it flattened wood pulp or precious parchment, remains a shrine and symbol for human achievements, intellectual, moral and scientific.

Take the time to read something on the printed page — perhaps print out a copy of the latest Fair Observer Monthly, which we produce just for this purpose — and experience the intimacy of being alone with the text, away from the chatter of the internet, just as our predecessors did for hundreds of years.

But it’s not just the sensory experience of the physical medium that we enjoy. In reality, we keep buying books because we love them. Because we are not only social animals, but storytelling animals. We connect through stories. The book is a vessel for stories.

The unread story is not a story; it is little black marks on wood pulp. The reader, reading it, makes it live: a live thing, a story.

— Ursula Le Guin

Humans love stories so much that after we have told all of the stories that there are to tell, we make up more. But even “fiction” is not false. It communicates truths that perhaps cannot be expressed with bald, simple statements. It speaks to parts of the psyche that are more complicated than the straightforward processing of logic and statements of fact. Fair Observer has recently collaborated with the brilliant writer Doe Wilmann to explore the mysteries of human consciousness and emotion through the power of fiction.

Fair Observer is not interested in being just one more website to fill your screen with content. We make it our mission to connect you to the wider world: to what is going on in the world, sure, but also to other people and to other ways of experiencing life through culture. One of the best ways to do this is through books. This is why we are beginning a new adventure. Fair Observer will be working together with Princeton University Press to bring your original book reviews. Our goal is to help you choose your next compelling read and navigate the deluge of books published around the world.

A team member or one of our authors or perhaps you will choose a book and tell us what it has to say. Our reviewers will reveal what they liked or disliked about the book and then you can make up your mind whether you want to read it.

I am reading and reviewing Failures of Forgiveness written by philosopher Myisha Cherry. Our sage Peter Isackson will review 24/7 Cable Television and the Fragmenting of America from Watergate to Fox News written by Kathryn Cramer Brownell. What book would you like to review?

Princeton University Press publishes a range of books from history and art to science and economics. We would love to hear your perspectives on these magical insights into other people’s minds.


Roberta Campani
Communication and Outreach

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