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Leah Price - book author

Leah Price is an American literary critic who specializes in the British novel and in the history of the book. She is Professor of English Literature at Harvard University, where at the age of 31 she became the first female assistant professor ever to be promoted to tenure.

Leah Price is the author of books: What We Talk About When We Talk About Books: The History and Future of Reading, Unpacking My Library: Writers and Their Books, How to Do Things with Books in Victorian Britain, The Anthology and the Rise of the Novel: From Richardson to George Eliot, Literary Secretaries/Secretarial Culture, Further Reading

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01
Do you worry that you've lost patience for anything longer than a tweet? If so, you're not alone. Digital-age pundits warn that as our appetite for books dwindles, so too do the virtues in which printed, bound objects once trained us: the willpower to focus on a sustained argument, the curiosity to look beyond the day's news, the willingness to be alone.

The shelves of the world's great libraries, though, tell a more complicated story. Examining the wear and tear on the books that they contain, English professor Leah Price finds scant evidence that a golden age of reading ever existed. From the dawn of mass literacy to the invention of the paperback, most readers already skimmed and multitasked. Print-era doctors even forbade the very same silent absorption now recommended as a cure for electronic addictions.

The evidence that books are dying proves even scarcer. In encounters with librarians, booksellers and activists who are reinventing old ways of reading, Price offers fresh hope to bibliophiles and literature lovers alike.
02

As words and stories are increasingly disseminated through digital means, the significance of the book as object—whether pristine collectible or battered relic—is growing as well. Unpacking My Library: Writers and Their Books spotlights the personal libraries of thirteen favorite novelists who share their collections with readers. Stunning photographs provide full views of the libraries and close-ups of individual volumes: first editions, worn textbooks, pristine hardcovers, and childhood companions.

In her introduction, Leah Price muses on the history and future of the bookshelf, asking what books can tell us about their owners and what readers can tell us about their collections. Supplementing the photographs are Price's interviews with each author, which probe the relation of writing to reading, collecting, and arranging books. Each writer provides a list of top ten favorite titles, offering unique personal histories along with suggestions for every bibliophile.

Unpacking My Library: Writers and Their Books features the personal libraries of Alison Bechdel, Stephen Carter, Junot Díaz, Rebecca Goldstein and Steven Pinker, Lev Grossman and Sophie Gee, Jonathan Lethem, Claire Messud and James Wood, Philip Pullman, Gary Shteyngart, and Edmund White.

03

How to Do Things with Books in Victorian Britain asks how our culture came to frown on using books for any purpose other than reading. When did the coffee-table book become an object of scorn? Why did law courts forbid witnesses to kiss the Bible? What made Victorian cartoonists mock commuters who hid behind the newspaper, ladies who matched their books' binding to their dress, and servants who reduced newspapers to fish 'n' chips wrap?


Shedding new light on novels by Thackeray, Dickens, the Brontes, Trollope, and Collins, as well as the urban sociology of Henry Mayhew, Leah Price also uncovers the lives and afterlives of anonymous religious tracts and household manuals. From knickknacks to wastepaper, books mattered to the Victorians in ways that cannot be explained by their printed content alone. And whether displayed, defaced, exchanged, or discarded, printed matter participated, and still participates, in a range of transactions that stretches far beyond reading.


Supplementing close readings with a sensitive reconstruction of how Victorians thought and felt about books, Price offers a new model for integrating literary theory with cultural history. How to Do Things with Books in Victorian Britain reshapes our understanding of the interplay between words and objects in the nineteenth century and beyond.
04
The Anthology and the Rise of the Novel brings together two traditionally antagonistic fields, book history and narrative theory, to challenge established theories of "the rise of the novel." Covering British novelists from Richardson to George Eliot, this study asks why the epistolary novel disappeared, how the book review emerged, and how editors' reproduction of old texts has shaped authors' production of new ones. This provocative book promises to change the way we think about the future of intellectual property, and the role that anthologies play in the classroom.
05
Secretaries are the hidden technicians of much literary (and non-literary) writing; they also figure startlingly often as characters in modern literature, film, and even literary criticism. Literary Secretaries/Secretarial Culture brings together secretaries' role in the production (and, more surprisingly, consumption) of modern culture with interpretations of their function in literature and film from Chaucer to Heidegger, by way of Dickens, Dracula, and Erle Stanley Gardner. These essays probe the relation of office practice to literary theory, asking what changes when literary texts represent, address, or acknowledge the human copyist or the mechanical writing machine. Topics range from copyright law to voice recognition software, from New Women to haunted typewriters and from the history of technology to the future of information management. Together, the essays will provide literary critics with a new angle on current debates about gender, labour, and the material text, as well as a window into the prehistory of our information age.
06
What does reading mean in the twenty-first century? As other disciplines challenge literary criticism's authority to answer this question, English professors are defining new alternatives to close reading and to interpretation more generally. Further Reading brings together thirty essays drawing on approaches as different as formalism, historicism, neuroscience, disability, and computation. Contributors take up the following questions: What do we mean when we talk about 'reading' today? How are reading techniques evolving in the digital era? What is the future of reading?

This book foregrounds reading as a topic worthy of investigation in its own right rather than as a sub-section of histories of the book, sociologies of literacy, or theories of literature. As our knowledge of reading changes in step with the media and the scholarly tools used to apprehend it, a more precise understanding of this topic is crucial to the discipline's future. This collection introduces new ways of conceptualizing the term's forms, boundaries, and uses. Its contributors bring varied vocabularies to bear on the contested nature and continued importance of reading, within the academy and beyond.