Publishers are not keen on publishing little books; you can’t charge a lot for them, so they’re a hard sell. But to the book lover, savoring a story in an afternoon, especially if that story is packaged in a pretty, petite book, is a treat.
“The End of the Alphabet” by CS Richardson is such a book. The cover, doing its job, intrigued me. Designed to look like a travel journal complete with drawn elastic, its simplicity (and the exotic-looking camel) charmed me. When Ambrose Zephyr learns he has a month to live, he embarks on a journey that takes him to destinations beginning with each letter of the alphabet. The chapters, like his life, are short.
Another slim volume, “Ex Libris,” is a collection of essays written by Anne Fadiman on reading and language. Initially, I was again drawn in by the cover, a mint-green paperback with the look of a classic book, but each essay is a gem. The first one, “Marrying Libraries,” describes how two book lovers blend their collections upon marriage. Bibliophiles can completely relate to such delicate negotiations.
Anne Fadiman has another little treasure that came out last year on the familiar essay. In “At Large and at Small: Familiar Essays,” she tackles subjects as light as ice cream to the death of a boyhood friend, taking a subject and making it both personal and universal at the same time.
“Devotion” is a novel by Howard Norman. I’d read anything by him, but the sepia swan on the cover of this gorgeous little hardback made me swoon. As usual, Norman didn’t disappoint. With Nova Scotia as its backdrop, this is an unconventional love story that sticks with you.
Ian McEwan is one author who could and did land a spot on the bestseller list with his slim and heavily marketed little book, “On Chesil Beach.” It’s the story of a couple’s…difficult honeymoon night interspersed with flashbacks of a happier time and how a small decision changes a life.
Finally, I must recommend “Mrs. Caliban,” a novella by Rachel Ingalls that came out in 1982 in which a frog man wanders into the kitchen of Mrs. Caliban, a housewife. I know; I didn’t believe it could be good either, but it’s wonderful. As she shelters him, feeds him avocados, and loves him, you kind of do too.
So there. Pick out your next read based on superficial attributes like the cover or nifty little size, because little books often harbor big rewards. And they look pretty on your nightstand.