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Review of The Clothing of Books by Jhumpa Lahiri

April 15, 2017

Review of The Clothing of Books by Jhumpa Lahiri
Reviewed by Fiza Pathan

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This nonfiction piece was the very first book that I read, penned by Pulitzer Prize winning author Jhumpa Lahiri. I discovered the book in one of my favourite bookshops, tucked away between other good classic works, and I bought it immediately.

The Clothing of Books may be only seventy-one pages long, but the author Jhumpa Lahiri opened my mind to the importance of a book cover, where a writer as well as a publisher is concerned. Have you ever been disappointed by a book with a really good cover? If you are a writer, have you ever been disappointed by the cover of your own book chosen by the publisher? Have you ever felt that the cover of your book misrepresents the matter of your story? If you have felt anyone of these emotions, and if you are a person who picks up a book to read because of nothing else than the attraction you have towards the cover of the book, then this book is meant just for you. Jhumpa Lahiri, who always manages to put into words the most soul searching questions in her other books, does the same in this tiny book as well. I am a publisher, so I get to choose and sometimes design the covers I believe best brings out the main idea of a book. Yet, could I be wrong? Could my judgement of a book’s content be inaccurate and thus I shouldn’t really design covers without consulting a lot of other people, especially the writer of that particular book? Jhumpa Lahiri manages through this book to put into focus the fact that at all times, it is important for book publishers and book cover designers to also involve the writer of the book in the process of designing the cover, for who better knows the pulse of his book than the writer himself? The Clothing of Books also shows us the reality behind the designing of book covers today, where reviews, awards won by the author, etc., also have to be printed on the book cover for the reader to pick up the book to read at the bookstall or library. This tiny container of soul searching questions and answers about the covers of books also states that it’s no longer a norm that ‘a book should not be judged by its cover.’ No! In fact in today’s modern book business, the cover is everything else than just a book cover! However, that’s only for regular hardcovers and paperbacks. What about eBooks and Kindle editions? Does a book cover play any importance at all for the reader or the writer? All these and more questions are deliberated upon and answered by Jhumpa Lahiri in her usual down to earth style that we have all started to admire and love. After I finished reading this book I immediately started reading Jhumpa Lahiri’s much acclaimed novel The Namesake, and then her first nonfiction book In Other Words. I read these books one after the other within two weeks’ time and I am so glad that I did.

If I’m not mistaken, then right now Jhumpa Lahiri is undecided, whether she should continue to write in Italian, or return to writing in English. Whatever her decision maybe, I know from The Clothing of Books that Jhumpa Lahiri is a writer who doesn’t let her brain rule over the decisions of her heart and soul. Therefore, whatever be her decision regarding the language through which she wants to express herself, Jhumpa Lahiri will always be read by me. Kudos to The Clothing of Books, so small and yet so impactful.

Copyright ©2017 Fiza Pathan

5 Comments
  1. Reblogged this on Don Massenzio's Blog and commented:
    Check out this review of The Clothing of Books by Jhumpa Lahiri, from the Insane Owl blog.

  2. A very intriguing review. I’ll have to check this one out.

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