My first book of original epigrams, I Thought So, is lacking an index. The epigrams are arranged in chapters -- Manners, Attitude, Life, Death, etc. Indexing seemed unnecessary to this novice. But many of my miniature essays cross these neat boundaries, and believe it or not, and I'm sure you will, I have found myself thumbing numbly through my own book looking for a quote I know is in there. I Thought So - Volume 2 will be out in a few months and it will definitely have an index.
I read a lot of non-fiction, and it is surprising how many new books are lacking vital organs. The colophon is a nice touch, but it seems to be going the way of broadcast TV and corded telephones. Introductions and dedications are holding their own, but not prefaces and forwards and afterwords. And it is shocking that a book that required original research would be published without chapter notes, but it happens. Or a book that contains unusual technical or foreign words would not have a glossary. Or that there would be a scanty line or nothing at all about the author on the last page.
Browsing the new books shelf in the San Rafael library is a high point of my week because I often (until the recent budget crisis) discover something new and unexpected. But sometimes I find a book that is intriguing, and yet it is so badly made that I can't bring myself to take it home. Bad could be a binding that looks like it is about to drop out pages, tiny print, type that runs into the gutters, minimal borders, pale ink, san serif typefaces or those missing organs.
Kindle may be the future, and some are reading their thrillers on their iPhones, and you are reading this on the web, but a book is a material object that should be as well-made, in every respect, as any object that you allow into your life. You spend some time looking for a well-designed toaster oven and agonize over your choice of a new car. It matters to me that my books are well-designed and well-made, and have all their necessary parts. Isn't writing a craft?
Causes Michael Lipsey Supports
Marin Agricultural Land Trust, Nature Conservancy