A Light Read

Geoffrey Sokol

Fact: More people visit New York public libraries each year than all the city’s cultural institutions and sports events combined. This enlightening piece of information proves what I have long believed to be true. In this age of BlackBerrys and books on tape, the art of reading remains alive and well. Even for a man like me, whose PDA seems permanently attached, leafing through an art monograph or sinking into a great novel at night is like a lullaby. It is my mission to preserve the ritual of reading, though some nods to modern technology are required. LED lights, which I generally find too bright and cold, are best for bedtime reading—they’re softer on your eyes. Two of these lamps use strictly LED bulbs; all three of them redefine the reading light as design object. Their refined lines work even in the most classic oak-paneled libraries. Tradition carries on in many forms. The practice of labeling the inside cover with the owner’s name—which originated with the advent of the printing press in the 15th century—is continued at Orlando-based Bookplate Ink; there, Karen Gardner creates customized ex libris labels. Mrs. John L. Strong offers engraved paper bookmarks. And in a small studio in East Hampton, New York, Paul Vogel performs the ultimate preservation act: He encases books in imported hand-tooled leather bindings to help keep them safe from the elements. My personal contribution to the cause? I have begun to organize my home library by that most tried and true of systems: the Dewey decimal.

Top Shelves

G. Heywood Hill, London

Connoisseurs come to this bespoke bookseller to finish a collection. It recently sold a complete set of Sir Walter Scott’s novels, some personally inscribed by the man himself, and is currently working on assembling a wall of Penguin paperbacks for a client using only books with orange or green spines—for decorative effect. At 10 Curzon St.; 44-207/629-0647; heywoodhill.com

Archivia Books, New York

This recently opened shop on the Upper East Side provides old-fashioned service while stocking the shelves with more than 3,000 of the very latest titles on style and the decorative arts. At 993 Lexington Ave.; 212-570-9565; archiviabooks.com