A love letter to paper
What’s more romantic than warm morning cuddles and soft hugs? If your love language is physical touch, very few things surpass casual shoulder squeezes. But perhaps, one might agree that there is an inherent sexiness in a crisp, well-bound book. This February, The Michigan Daily Book Review recaps the top seven hottest and most enjoyable paper types for the tactile and literate lover.
— Elizabeth Yoon, Daily Book Review Editor
Paper One: Thin, gas-station paperback
Economical and lightweight, this paper is not meant to last. The writing is cramped on the 4 x 6 page with almost transparent pages. However, the ergonomic book size suits busy road trippers seeking risqué thrills and mysteries. The paper is unassuming while diligently compressing 700-page novels into a packable square. There is no pomp and circumstance. Despite physical inadequacies, the thin, gas-station paperback paper feels solid in one’s hand. Running a single finger along the spine of the paperback inevitably provokes one’s palm to tingle with budding sweat. Practical and uncomplicated, gas-station paperbacks are the blue-collar Joe for the interested everyman.
— Elizabeth Yoon, Daily Book Review Editor
Paper Two: Glossy magazine paper
While there is a certain romance to the utilitarian design of books, magazines have their own magic. The crinkle of their thin pages entices you to flip through them first with zest, and later with patience to indulge in their rustling flutter. Their silky pages rival the stale feel of books both new and old, and their shine reflects light in a manner that is unparalleled. The glossy covers of fashion magazines like Vogue, Vanity Fair and Elle are alluring, and their smooth feel combined with their sleek design is undeniably extravagant. For those who prefer a more muted experience, magazines like Magnolia Journal use matte pages for a crisper texture and thicker consistency. Though the luxury of glossy magazines is unequivocal, matte magazines have great character, championed by their high quality and soft finish. Whether you’re seeking grandeur or comfort, there’s a magazine waiting for you, its fresh, crisp pages one flip away.
— Lilly Pearce, Daily Arts Writer
Paper Three: Musty, old paper
I have a soft spot for reference libraries, if only because of the smell. When the University of Michigan’s campus was accessible, I would regularly frequent the Hatcher Graduate Library’s Reference Room or the tiny Titiev Library in West Hall to study in a sea of old books. My breaks from work were spent perusing the old collections amid the stares of other confused students. Why would anyone want to rifle through an anthropology journal dated in the 1960s? Many reasons. I love to feel the rough pages and imagine who turned them before me, to smell the passage of time, to revisit my childhood reads. I grew up reading the “classics” and many of the books in my childhood home were inherited secondhand. I remember being handed a huge box of Maeve Binchy novels in high school and devouring the romances written on mildewed pages on stifling summer days. Try losing yourself in an old novel one afternoon, and tell me you don’t feel the same rush that I do.
— Trina Pal, Daily Arts Writer
Paper Four: Paper humbled by time (similar yet distinct from the garden variety Musty)
This is old paper, older than Grandpa and Nonna. This is paper printed in a time gone by, by people since passed. It announces “Strange Victory” in gold print on the cover, set back so that you feel the canyon of each letter under your finger. It murmurs “Sara Teasdale” in smaller print below the title. Inside the cover, someone has written “Christmas - 1933” in even, antique script — beauty marks of a gift passed from one hand to another. Each poem reclines on heavy paper, paper with a tactile grain, yellowed at the edges. When I first read this book, my fingers tiptoed through the pages until I found a note taped onto page 17. Someone had copied the poem there for themself in a hearty script, not the same as inside the cover. It was morning when I first ran a fingerprint over that blue ink, spiking and diving and twirling around itself. It was morning, around seven, when at my touch the page gave way and I shook the hand of that past calligrapher. It was morning when I read, “It may be, with the coming-on of evening / We shall be granted unassailed repose.”
— Julian Wray, Daily Arts Writer
Paper Five: Heavy paper, borderline cardboard
You lift the corner of the page to progress deeper into the story, but the weight of the page fights back. It beckons: “Do you have the strength to turn me after that scene’s intensity?” Or perhaps “Pssst … I think you’ve overlooked some details, consider staying here a while longer.” While you’re hesitant to put these sorts of pages down — since they single-handedly turn stories into journeys — eventually it comes time to, and you fold down the top corner of the page knowing full well that an industrial iron could not remove the crease from such a texture of paper. If you can even call it that. Each narrow slice of cardboard extends a different distance out of the spine to create a peaked and valleyed side profile, echoing the tumultuous plot inside. You hang on tight to the heft of the pages at every turn.
— Andrew Pluta, Daily Senior Arts Editor
Paper Six: Gold-edged paper
Gold-edged paper instantly elevates a book. It’s the pinky-up-while-drinking-a-La-Croix of paper; the Martinelli's-apple-juice-in-a-champagne-glass of paper; the walking-around-Bergdorf-Goodman-as-if-you-could-actually-buy-something of paper. It brings you up to a level of luxury that makes the experience of reading extravagant and lavish. In true English nerd fashion, my Christmas present this year was a box set of Jane Austen’s complete works; the only thing that heightened my joy was the fact that when I took “Sense and Sensibility” out of the box, I discovered its gold-edged pages. This kind of paper, soft, thin and unspeakably elegant, provides the perfect way to read almost any book. It reminisces on a long literary tradition. It calls back to a time when books were more precious objects than they are now. Of course, I would never disparage cheap paperbacks — I am a Stephen King fan, after all — but gold-edged paper reminds me that reading is an art. It turns the physical object of the book into a thing to be admired in and of itself, which only adds to the enjoyment of the literature within.
— Emilia Ferrante, Daily Arts Writer
Paper Seven: Paper that makes that satisfying noise/feeling when you rub the paper between your finger and thumb (if you know, you know)
Let me take you back to my middle school years, when I cracked open the “Geronimo Stilton: The Kingdom of Fantasy” special edition. I rubbed the smooth, glossy page between my index finger and thumb, resulting in an indescribable sensation on my fingertips, followed by that sound — at that moment, I knew the book would be good. A perfect rub of paper between the finger and thumb adds to the overall value of the book. But it doesn’t have to be glossy paper — the paper that “The 39 Clues” is printed on, an effective mix between regular paper and a smooth coated finish, brings about that satisfactory rub. The thin, soft paper that books like “The Poppy War” and “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” are printed on are contenders that fulfill the perfect rub. Just imagine — absentmindedly rubbing the paper between fingers while reading, running your fingers over the smooth finish: chef’s kiss.
— Zoha Khan, Daily Arts Writer
The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown challenges at all of us — including The Michigan Daily — but that hasn’t stopped our staff. We’re committed to reporting on the issues that matter most to the community where we live, learn and work. Your donations keep our journalism free and independent. You can support our work here.
For a weekly roundup of the best stories from The Michigan Daily, sign up for our newsletter here.