While browsing for a Christmas present for my wife at a local independent bookstore (Little City Books in Hoboken, New Jersey, which deserves its own review), I happened upon a counter display of tiny books published by Biblioasis, a small, independent publishing house in Windsor, Ontario, Canada.
The books belong to the Christmas Ghost Stories series with titles by Edith Wharton, Charles Dickens, M.R. James, and other authors. Each pocket-sized book includes cover art and illustrations by Seth (Gregory Gallant), the cartoonist behind Palookaville. I picked up one of the exquisitely-designed volumes. While leafing through the stitched–yes, stitched, not glued–pages, I marveled at the quality of the paper stock and the heft of the publication. This felt like … well, a true book. A valuable object unto itself.
The series is attempting to revive the Victorian tradition of family and friends sharing ghost stories during the Christmas season. The most famous and beloved of this genre being A Christmas Carol by Mr. Charles Dickens. Each volume in the series consists of a short story by a masterful tale-teller. One can sit alone and quietly read the book in an hour. Friends can pass the volume around the dining room table or parlor in the time between dinner and dessert.
Admittedly, the size and subject of the series were designed to market to highly-literate holiday shoppers, who are just as gullible and impulsive as any devotee of big-box stores. T
hese books are affordable, and one can be slipped into a jacket pocket while heading out the door in the morning. A volume makes the perfect surprise tucked beneath a loved one’s pillow or slipped into an envelope addressed to a distant friend.
Books and bookstores are defying the expectations of our electronic age. Sales of print books have grown each of the past three years. Independent bookstores continue to open and thrive. Such a promising business environment with its stable and loyal customer base allows creative publishers, such as Biblioasis, to experiment with the size, length, content, and design of their offerings. Additionally, independent bookstores appear to be more willing to stock books unconventional in appearance and format.
After looking through all the titles in the series, I decided upon Afterward by Edith Wharton. In this story by Ms. Wharton, a wealthy American couple purchases a manor house in England. Soon thereafter, a mysterious figures appears on the grounds. Any further words might reveal the plot. The book made a perfect stocking stuffer for this past Christmas.
One hopes that a second installment of Christmas Ghost Stories will appear in bookstores next winter. Any guesses on which authors and spine tinglers might make the list?