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BookBrowse Reviews Portable Magic by Emma Smith

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Portable Magic

A History of Books and Their Readers

by Emma Smith

Portable Magic by Emma Smith X
Portable Magic by Emma Smith
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  • Published:
    Nov 2022, 352 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Tasneem Pocketwala
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BookBrowse:


Amusing, informative and reverential, Portable Magic is an invitation to dwell on and celebrate the book in its physical form, resulting in nothing short of a reader's delight.

Portable Magic begins with an alluring narration of the fairy tale "The Master and His Pupil," a story featuring a book with the power to summon demons. Pointing out that "It's the book that summons the demons, not its clumsy reader," author Emma Smith lays out her central argument: "the book itself, as much as its contents,…has agency."

Maintaining a razor-sharp focus on the materiality of the book — more precisely, the "undersung inseparability of book form and book content," which she terms "bookhood" — Smith explores familiar as well as new topics and themes. She brings scholarly vigor to issues around the reading, publication and usage of books and sets them in geographical, temporal and historical contexts. All this is done with a conversational levity that is both beguiling and surprising: I did not expect to be laughing out loud at this book.

Each of the ...

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