It’s a fact that book people are superficial. There are a few books in my library that I love just a bit more because of how they look: my row of new Nabokov editions (which Vintage still hasn’t completed!), the shimmery Fitzgerald editions designed by Coralie Bickford-Smith (that have perforated bookmarks on the reverse flap that, of course, I’ll never, ever rip out), and every single Melville House novella.
I’m very gentle with my books, and just a little bit more gentle with the books in the aesthetically-pleasing camp. But there’s no more practical beautiful book I own than the two minibook poetry collections I have: The Branch Will Not Break by James Wright and Silence in the Snowy Fields by Robert Bly.
The books, published by Wesleyan University Press, are so small you can put them in your back pocket, your shirt pocket, or maybe even that little vestigial pocket inside the pocket of your jeans. They’re so small that I’ve used them as temporary bookmarks for other, regular-size books.
Here are some stats. For comparison, I’ll use hardcover leviathan 1Q84:
1Q84: 6.4 x 1.8. 9.4 inches
The Branch Will Not Break: 2.2 x 0.4 x 3 inches
1Q84: 2.8 pounds
The Branch Will Not Break: 1.4 ounces
Wright’s collection (which is better than Bly’s, but let’s not get into that) was published as a special 50th anniversary edition. I wouldn’t recommend it for people who have any sort of eye problem, but for my two years in grad school I kept it in the front pocket of my backpack and took it out to read on subway rides a few dozen times. There’s something comforting in waiting for the L train and realizing that the best poem of all time was on my person. And because the tiny Wright book has probably traveled (literally) with me more than any other book, it’s one of the most beat-up books I own, and also one of my favorites.
Now, if we could only get Wesleyan to do some more of these…