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Read Me: A Century of Classic American Book Advertisements Hardcover – November 3, 2009


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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Stare at this book for hours, linger on a single image, and by the end of the weekend, you’ve made a grand excursion through the literary history of the 20th century.” (Chicago Tribune (Printer's Row Blog))

“These small but punchy ads bring back a time when new books were an essential part of the cultural conversation.” (Newsday)

From the Back Cover

This witty and heavily illustrated volume features more than 300 vintage book advertisements—startling and strange, beautiful and funny—that together reveal a kind of secret history of American literature over the last century.

New York Times book critic Dwight Garner brings together original ads for some of the most acclaimed and best-selling books of the twentieth century, including The Great Gatsby, Ulysses, On the Road, Invisible Man, Lolita, Silent Spring, The Joy of Sex, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72, White Noise, and dozens of other classics. These ads show us famous books when they were simply new volumes jostling for attention on bookstore shelves, not yet icons of our literary culture. And the ads capture many beloved authors—Toni Morrison, Cormac McCarthy, Susan Sontag, and Kurt Vonnegut among a great many others—at moments before their careers were assured, before their personas had hardened into those of "famous writers."

In his introduction, Garner explains the changing styles of book advertising; explores the cross-pollination between literature and the world of advertising, in which many writers—including Don DeLillo, Salman Rushdie, and James Patterson—worked before publishing their first books; and makes a convincing case that these vintage ads are important and lasting literary documents.

Read Me is a fascinating and unusual romp through literary history, and an ideal gift for any reader.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Ecco (November 3, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061572195
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061572197
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 0.8 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,451,536 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Boko Botanicals on April 20, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Browsing through this collection of book advertisements, dating back to the 1900s, is like going through the world's coolest high-school yearbook, but one with books instead of people -- you get to see all your favorite books when they were young and fresh-faced, and sometimes a little dorky. ("And the women--what women you meet!" an ad for Joseph Conrad screams, replete with cheesy silent-movie-type illustration of a distressed damsel. And check out the young Cormac McCarthy, from 1968, looking like a sportscaster.) It's an intriguing look at the nature and techniques of advertising (one ad, from the 1940s, wants you to know that the quoted reviews were not written under the influence of marijuana), but, for book-lovers, it's also a really fun romp, with lots of oddball discoveries and familiar old friends.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Jerry Beck on December 24, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed reading Dwight Garner's book. The ads represent how readers first heard of many of these books, and the way these classic books were "sold" to the public. It's fascinating social history - and quite a joy to browse. I highly recommend this. You may quote me: "I couldn't put it down!"
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By John Williamson TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 6, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Dwight Garner's Read Me: A Century of Classic American Book Advertisements is a treasure trove of an area of publishing that's normally overlooked by many: book advertisements. Inside you'll find over 300 vintage book advertisements, many for titles that are celebrated, some infamous, and some that are quite obscure. Starting with ads for "Uncle Tom's Cabin" and "Huckleberry Finn" the author explains, "Together these random advertisements tell a story - a kind of secret history, narrated in public - about America's literary culture over the past century of more."

The author is a literary critic for The New York Times, and for this book, he delved into the archives of his own paper and other periodicals. The ads themselves often expose uneven printing, the results of ink rubbing off paper, and even the shade of a fold here and there.

Garner's commentary is tied to each decade, and helps provide us with a chronicle about the changes in book advertising over the years. The ads usually appeared in the book sections of newspapers, and many of them brought back warm memories of favorite titles over the years, along with some from earlier eras. The black & white reproduced images are by and large quite clear, but the need of putting more than one on a page results in print can be sometime a bit small and somewhat difficult to read without glasses.

With over 300 advertisements, there are too many to list, but some can be comical of you know the book.
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