I had this tome buried in one of those K-2’s of books that festoon my abode for a few weeks, and I repeatedly passed it over before cracking it open. My bad.
I expect this is a book that won’t appeal to a wide swath of readerswhich points to its subtlety. It is a brilliant bit of cultural anthropology and literary and publishing history. Garner explains:
Read Me is to be sure, not a comprehensive survey of American book advertising. I’ll leave that to scholars. Some readers may be disappointed not to find their favorite authors, books or ad campaigns in this volume, but I have tried to provide as wide a selection as possible. There are ads here from every decade and for every sort of bookbooks on etiquette, self-help, finance, sex, celebrities and sports heroes. However I can’t deny that I have focused especially on literary books. Read Me has a special interest in gazing at the ways high art has been marketed to this country. There is an aesthetic bias at work here too. I have tried to pluck out those that are most attractive and attention grabbing.Garner points out the current commonplace of video book trailerswhich may not be a bad thing, except for that they contribute to the dollars draining from the periodical book sections and publications, which at this end of the tunnel doesn’t look like a promising happenstance.
Publishing mogul Dave Eggers contributes a foreword which exhibits a distinctly Eggerian point of view:
The range of work here is startling and so much of it is wildly eccentric but in a way it’s all kind of unsurprising. It’s unsurprising that publishers have been grabbing people by the lapels promotionally and otherwise for centuries trying to spread the word about books that matter to them. It’s even unsurprising how personal some of the ads are, how pleading and even intimate. Books are personal and intimate things, this we have established, so it follows that the ads promoting them would be personal, eccentric, that the ads would be full of passion and even hyperbole. The makers of these ads have been engaged in nothing less then the preservation of the written word and salvation from the mole men who would like nothing better than, in a bookless world, to feast on our flesh. So consider this book about the most essential undertaking ever by humankindthe creation of ads promoting booksand that, by extension, this book, which collects all the best book ads ever, is the most essential of all books yet created by humans.