Ambling around the nearest chain bookstore today, I picked up a fabulous story anthology called Poolside for under $5 (that's CAD!). Hemingway, Oates, and Cheever inclus.
It was on the bargain table 'cause the season for poolside reads (in Toronto) is long gone, but what's cool is how much research the publisher put into this niche waterbaby market. The whole book is waterproof . While I do not intend to submerge it, it's great to know that I could read it in the tub with wet thumbs and not warp the pages. The publisher has some tub-specific books out too. Held dry, the pages feel super-smooth, but not laminated or glossy - more like extra-thick prayerbook pages. This is not your toddler's bath book.
The other cool thing I saw - which I could not help but peruse for 20 minutes despite the teeny-tiny print and my burgeoning headache - was the new and huge coffee table book, The New York Times: The Complete Front Pages (1851-2008).
As someone who would spend hours scrolling through (aka procrastinating) on the microfilm of 19th century Toronto newspapers at the Reference Library, the NYT collection (complete with 3 DVD-ROMS) is right up my alley. I say that as a fan of history and ephemera, not necessarily of the NYT (though I will take the Sunday edition if someone buys it and then leaves it at the coffee shop).
The NYT book comes with a moderately useful magnifying thingy too. I read about the shirtwaist factory fire in New York's lower east side, various struggles in the British colonies, the Munich Beer Hall Putsch. The articles on the Stock Market crash of '29 are particularly unnerving in their resonance, as various leaders/experts attempted to reassure the general public that things were not as bad as they seemed.
I find it so difficult to read the news that I often wait a day or three before I can "fill up" on current events. Reading (or watching) the news daily can leave me in a depressive funk or an existential crisis, and neither state is really useful. But reading the news of the past is informative in a different way, and much more "digestible". We already know what happened (and either arrived later or survived it already). We can evaluate ourselves as reporters, readers, skeptics or believers, as we respond to the way the events were reported. In 1941, American Jews were already organizing to call attention (peacefully) to the concentration camps in Germany. A futile effort, but one that stands in contrast to the post-war European mutterings of "we didn't know what was happening".
It would be fun to flip through the book with a better magnifying glass and someone from an older generation and record their memories and impressions.
I didn't look at the NYT's September 11th coverage, but it is included. It would be so fascinating to know how those pages hold up in a hundred years' time.
NPR's audio feature on the NYT Front Pages book here.