In the age of NPR, book festivals, and on-demand podcasts, it’s relatively easy to connect off the page with our favorite authors. Sadly, those same opportunities don’t exist with beloved writers who passed away long before mass media became ubiquitous.
That’s why I was excited to hear about the new CD collection of rare recordings of great writers from the 20th century, selected by the sound archivist at the British Library. Among the material featured on Spoken Word: British Writers and American Writers are interviews with authors like John Steinbeck, who discusses his reasons for writing The Grapes of Wrath, and Arthur Miller, who dishes about his marriage to Marilyn Monroe. The collection also includes the sole surviving recording of Virginia Woolf, who talks about the way words are often ripe with memories and associations, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who shares his interest in the mystic religion of spiritualism.
I can’t wait to give this gift to all of the bibliophiles on my list this year! Another gift I’ll be giving, which is something I stumbled across while researching Novel Destinations, is the adopt-a-book scheme at the British Library. You can choose from a huge list of classic works in need of conservation and make a donation in your recipient’s name. (For instance, I’m adopting an 1857 first edition of Little Dorrit for my husband, a huge Dickens fan.)
Depending on the donation level, your recipient will receive a personalized certificate with details of their “adopted” book, a bookplate with an inscription placed in the book, or even a chance to view it on a behind-the-scenes tour of the library’s world-renowned conservation center. Many local libraries in the U.S. also offer adopt-a-book programs, so be sure to check with yours–adopting a book is an inexpensive but heartfelt gift for the bibliophile in your life.
Watch this space for more bookish gift ideas in the weeks to come.