Paper World

The Card Catalog / How to Eat a Lobster

Books That Belong On Paper Issue No. 21

Books That Belong On Paper first appeared on the web as Wink Books and was edited by Carla Sinclair. Sign up here to get the issues a week early in your inbox.


The Card Catalog: Books, Cards, and Literary Treasures
by The Library Congress
2017, 224 pages, 7.5 x 1.0 x 9.0 inches, Hardcover

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When I was an eggheaded teenager growing up in a sleepy Southern Baptist town, I lived for my little local library. It was like a desert oasis to me and I spent hours in it, perusing the books and magazines, browsing the card catalog, and requesting strange and obscure books that made my librarian frown and twist her lip up funny.

Of the many features of the library, it was the card catalog that held a unique fascination for me. Being a budding information junkie, the card catalog seemed almost magical, my gateway to all sorts of exotic ideas and adventures, buried amongst the mundane, waiting to be unearthed by the eager flicks of my fingertips. I loved everything about the card catalog: the thick oak cabinet with numerous tiny drawers that slid out easily with their heavy loads of often crammed-tight 3×5 cards. The knurled brass knob and rod that held the card stacks in the drawers. The cards themselves, sometimes neatly and perfectly typed out, other times, hand-written or heavily annotated, struck through, and carefully painted with white-out. Some cards seemed to have acquired plots and stories of their own. I can even remember the satisfying thunk the drawers would make when you pushed them back in. And the smell! The thought of that smell is a like a Proustian moment that easily invokes this part of my childhood.

So you can imagine how excited I was when an unsolicited review copy of The Card Catalog: Books, Cards, and Literary Treasures showed up on my doorstep. If the subject-matter and the lovely cover, with its card catalog half-wrap (featuring Whitman’s Leaves of Grass), didn’t win me over, they had me after I opened the book up to discover a pocket and library check-out card on the inside front spread.

The book includes a history of the card catalog, the Library of Congress, and the automation technologies that eventually killed analog card systems, but the heart and soul of this book are the photos of the actual cards of famous books in the Library’s collection and covers of the books themselves. The majority of The Card Catalog is a series of facing pages with a photo of the book on one side and the catalog card on the other. There are also pictures of library supply catalogs of the turn of the century (showing catalog cabinets, typewriters, and various types of date and other stamps), and plans and photos of the Library of Congress under construction. There are also lots of interesting facts and trivia throughout the book. Like, I had no idea that, from 1901 to 1997, the Library of Congress actually produced library catalog cards and supplied them to local libraries. So, many of the cards in my local library were likely not produced on-site, but rather, came from Washington.

The Card Catalog: Books, Cards, and Literary Treasures was released this week to coincide with National Library Week. Now, more than ever, we need to be celebrating book-learnin’ and a culture of intelligence, truth, and inquiry. This lovely volume will likely be a potent reminder of the power of learning and exploring ideas, at least for bookworms of a certain age.

– Gareth Branwyn


How to Eat a Lobster: And Other Edible Enigmas Explained
by Ashley Blom, Lucy Engelman (Illustrator)
Quirk Books
2017, 160 pages, 5.0 x 0.7 x 6.6 inches, Hardcover

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Say you’ve ditched your frozen dinners, gotten swept up in foodie culture, and, with new found enthusiasm, eat out and order seafood. You wax poetic about the merits of sustainable fish farming, but your smile suddenly wanes when your server brings the fish — whole. Or maybe you’re a college student embarking on your very first unpaid internship company lunch meeting. You arrive at the office looking sharp in that smart new number you scored off the clearance rack, only to discover that the boss has a hankering for barbecue. Or maybe you simply love food and self-improvement and are dying to find a new book to meet your niche! Whatever the case may be, How to Eat a Lobster has you covered.

The book’s guidance is served up in three courses, each packed with easily digestible bites of how-tos. Tricky Techniques covers dissecting and devouring everything from escargot to pig’s head. Etiquette Enigmas finesses table manners like sipping soup and dividing up a bill. Foodie Fixes goes inside after the bite with tips for handling spicy food and bad breath. It’s even small enough to fit neatly in your bag in case any unanticipated food adventures pop up and leave you scratching your head over which fork to use. If you plan to sneak away to reference check your etiquette in a bathroom stall, just be sure to read the How to Excuse Yourself section before you take your seat at the table.

– Mk Smith Despres


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