Maria Popova

Writer / United States / Brain Pickings

Maria Popova’s Notable Books of 2013

1 book
Irma Boom
Introduction by Rem Koolhaas
Text by Mathieu Lommen

“A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic,” Carl Sagan memorably asserted, and nowhere is the physical making of a book more akin to the making of magic than in the work of Dutch book designer and artist Irma Boom—the youngest-ever recipient of the prestigious Gutenberg Prize and a denizen of the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art, which includes more than 50 of her books. The Architecture of the Book is a design memoir of sorts that offers a complete overview of her work in 800 tiny pages that measure 1.75 inches by 2.15 inches.

Observing the rise of digital text and e-books, Boom defies the typical dystopian narrative of print-traditionalists and instead argues that the competition between these two media “encourages us to explore the intrinsic characteristics of the printed book more intensely.” Rather than a challenge, she sees in this an opportunity for a kind of Renaissance and argues that “we stand on the verge of a new flourishing of the classic book.”

And, indeed, what Boom has created here is a micro-manifesto for the printed book at its most alive. In an era when e-books boast interactivity and responsiveness as an advantage over the static printed page, Boom reverses this proposition. Her books, while physical, are highly interactive—they offer a reason for reflection and bear a responsive relationship between the content and the empathic form, the former always dictating the latter. For, as Susan Sontag wrote in her diary, “all great art contains at its center contemplation, a dynamic contemplation”—and what Boom brings to the book is precisely this: a dynamic contemplation.

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