Paperbacks

While the groundhog is still curled up in his shadow under a snowbank, spring comes with the appearance of the bookworm, who emerges to feast on the spring book catalogs. The early worm this year reports a bumper crop of paperbacks. More than a thousand new entries have been added to the 15,700 editions indexed in last year’s Paperbound Books in Print.

No doubt Washington watches with concern. Should the government launch a paper-bank program to subsidize publishers who will refrain from printing books? Or should book silos be built in Texas?

Already there are disaster areas of paperback flooding. A recent spot-check in a college apartment revealed one chair, three mattresses, one Munck reproduction, and 1,127 paperbacks. The floor was inundated and the rising tide of books was creeping up the walls.

Paperbacks admirably fulfill the specifications of Samuel Johnson: “Books that you may carry to the fire, and hold readily in your hand, are the most useful after all.”

That prophetic description of these handy books suggests, of course, a way to dispose of the surplus. But, contrary to the impression created by the drugstore rack, the paperbacks are gaining in quality as well as quantity. This minor publishing revolution could become a cultural renaissance under the very eye of television. Art, biography, economics, fiction, history, literature, philosophy, poetry, reference, religion, science—they are the classifications of the paperback catalog.

For years I have been filling my windowsills with these paperbacks, and some day I shall begin reading them. What I need, dear Editor, is your organizing genius. You have been spotlighting significant paperbacks regularly. Could you sponsor local CHRISTIANITY TODAY discussion ...

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