When we look back to what we imagine to have been the golden age of reading—say, before the invention of the smart phone—could it be that we’re really misreading book history? That’s what literary critic and Rutgers professor Leah Price argues in What We Talk About When We Talk About Books, using material history and social history to explore both how people read in the past and how most of us read today. Gutenberg printed more papal indulgences than Bibles, and until the past century or so, most reading was done aloud—in fact, too much reading was discouraged because of the deleterious effect it supposedly had on one’s character! Price joins us this week to discuss how, just maybe, social media and books aren’t enemies after all, but merely different forms of the same literary tradition.
Go beyond the episode:
- Leah Price’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Books
- How does your Zoom background stack up against those on Bookshelf Credibility?
- For those of us who always check out a new friend’s bookshelf first, look no further: https://bookshelfporn.com/
- The Book of Kells is sadly offline right now, but you can learn about the hundreds of hours that went into digitizing it
- You could page through the British Library’s digital copies of Gutenberg’s Bible … or gasp at the papal indulgences he printed to pay for it
- The Library of Congress has an entire digital reading room for rare books and special collections, including some wild medieval medical books
- Need dinner ideas? Check out Martha Brotherton’s 1833 recommendations from Vegetable cookery, with an introduction, recommending abstinence from animal food and intoxicating liquors
Tune in every week to catch interviews with the liveliest voices from literature, the arts, sciences, history, and public affairs; reports on cutting-edge works in progress; long-form narratives; and compelling excerpts from new books. Hosted by Stephanie Bastek and sponsored by the Phi Beta Kappa Society.
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