CBR11 Bingo – Listicle
If you look this book up on Goodreads, it ends up on several of their book lists, including “Best Experimental Books Ever”, “Books With Innovative Designs”, and “Books You Can’t Read On A Kindle”. All of these categories hint at the unique design concept which makes this book the amazing piece of work that it is (and with JJ Abrams (yes, that one) as the co-creator, it’s not a shock).
The story is about Jen, a university undergrad who works at the campus library. One night as she is shelving books, she comes across a novel called Ship of Theseus, which has a note inside the cover with instructions as to where to leave it if it is found. She skims a couple chapters, writes a note to the book owner under the return instructions, and shelves it as directed. The book’s owner, a grad student named Eric, disagrees with her assessment of what she’s read, and returns the book to her with a note of his own. Thus begins a back-and-forth correspondence that takes place almost exclusively in the margins of this book that is passed back and forth on the shelf of the library. They get to know each other this way, while also working together to solve the mystery of the book’s author – naturally, danger and romance ensue.
The wow-factor lies in the fact that the book we hold as readers is the library book that Jen and Eric pass back & forth. It IS the novel Ship of Theseus, and it is filled with their margin notes as the only commentary. Production cost for this book must have been out of this world, as each page has their multi-coloured pen markings, as well as tons of inserts that the two characters have passed back and forth. Newspaper clippings, postcards, scribbled-on napkins, photos, etc, all tucked in the pages of the book that is made believable by so many details (weathered pages, a library label, and check-out stamps in the cover). Visually, it’s a STUNNING piece of work, with realism that is out of this world.
Reading the book itself is mind-bending as you need to determine on your own just how you want to read it… do you read the novel itself, and then go back and read the notes? Do you read the the notes in the order they are written, or by page? The margin notes are written in chronological chunks (eg – at first hers are blue ink, his are black… then they switch to green and orange inks… then to red and purple… and finally to black). I personally ended up reading everything on each page as I went (the novel and all the corresponding notes), and liked that plan.
The story itself I’d probably give a 3/5, just in details that were never fully resolved, and because the novel itself isn’t something I’d normally enjoy a ton. But the concept itself kept me hooked, and it’s worth picking up for that reason alone. For anyone looking for a unique reading experience, this is hands down the coolest book I’ve ever picked up.