tiny book

What is your recommendation for an incredibly small book? And then also for a very large book. I’d like to start reading books that give me the sensation of being a very eccentric noblewoman in my country estate where I collect only two things: very tiny and elephant-like books.  This is not a joke.

Best regards,



I am loving this question. I must be honest with Hildegard and everyone else- I needed a little time to really dig into answering this question. And, in fact, I’m only going to answer half of it today. This question is worth two Book Dr. columns so we’ll start small- with collecting tiny books.

It turns out that you’re in good company, Hildegard. Not only can you collect diminutive books, you can actually join societies of people who also collect tiny volumes.

Here are my recommendations for you:

First, I would decide how small you want to go. Do you want to collect books that actually have words on the pages? Or does that not matter? If it doesn’t, then you can collect books that are designed for dollhouses. If you’re a bit more avant garde, you can invest in a copy of the world’s smallest book, which was printed on a microchip and measures just 70 microcentimeters by 100 microcentimeters. This technical marvel is blessed with the riveting title “Teeny Ted from Turnip Town” and retails for an easy $10,000, a steal compared to the $15,000 it originally retailed for on Kickstarter.

However, if you want to get into the books with words on the pages, you have to get into the serious collectors. I was charmed by this piece on the NY Times blog about a tiny book collector, 77-year-old Neale Albert. He is described as the most serious miniature book collector living in New York. I think it would be worth reaching out to him. Apparently he began as a dollhouse aficionado and amassing a library for a miniature house hooked him on tiny books. It sounds like you are well on your way.

As a first foray into the world, I might check out this album of beautiful tiny books. The array of options for books this small is astounding. I expect a full report as you build your tiny literary empire, Hildegard. Do send us updates!

Stay tuned- I will not leave you hanging on the elephant-like portion of your question. I will return next week with a prescription for those.

Happy reading and happy hunting,

the book dr.

  • July 1, 2015 - 15:56

    Dal - I just love this question too, so funny! Tiny books – very important with potentially great impact. I loved the humour in this post and the committment to a considered answer. Wonderful!ReplyCancel

    • July 1, 2015 - 17:00

      caroline - I love some humor in my book dr. letters as well. I am grateful to have silly readers. I do hope others will be inspired by this and send similarly outlandish questions. Bring it on! I love researching on any topic related to reading and books. Glad you enjoyed it, Dal. xoReplyCancel

  • July 2, 2015 - 00:26

    Claire - oh that’s a darling question with a darling answer. The links to the pictures are so sweet. I can tell you had fun answering this one 🙂ReplyCancel

  • July 2, 2015 - 03:10

    masha - WOW what an interesting question. I never thought of tiny books as collectibles. thanks for this great answer.ReplyCancel

  • July 2, 2015 - 04:09

    Sara Aurora - What a fun idea
    I have just visited the nano bible museum…
    I think humans are always fascinated by things that are on a different scale than our own. We tend to assume that if it’s not the perfect size for us it’s unusual or strange. But we are probably the anomaly – a very small number if you compare with the number of giant stars in the universe or the amount of braincells between our ears…ReplyCancel

  • July 2, 2015 - 11:45

    Caroline - Claire and Masha-
    This was a ton of fun. AND I get to do part 2 next week…

    I hope everyone will be inspired to let loose with wild questions on here. No question too far out, I say!


  • July 14, 2015 - 09:26

    [Dear Book Dr.] The World's Largest Book. - the book dr. - […] week, we had a fantastic letter from Hildegard, in which she requested recommendations for both tiny books and enormous books. We covered tiny […]ReplyCancel

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Mary Dog Walk

If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.
–Haruki Murakami

  • June 30, 2015 - 15:53

    Freddy - Yes!

    This is good.ReplyCancel

  • July 1, 2015 - 01:57

    Sophia Roberts - Oh, that’s an inspiring thought; particularly as it justifies why I read the weird and wonderful things I do!ReplyCancel

    • July 2, 2015 - 17:44

      caroline - Absolutely! Keep going…ReplyCancel

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Rodin Hands

What makes nature natural? It’s a quintessentially Anthropocene question. Nature thrived long before cities did, long before we coated the Earth with an immensity of humans. Wild animals live among us. Our toil and our machines are entwined in their fate. Even our densest city is a permeable space, although we try hard to live a world apart. We decide the limits of the wild and where a city begins and ends. Suburban sprawl has replaced the overgrown buffers we used to have, transitional land between the two worlds. Now wild and urban animals encounter one another daily.

-Diane Ackerman, The Human Age

First a confession and then a definition.

Confession: I was already a huge Diane Ackerman fan when I began to read this book.

Definition: Anthropocene, as Ackerman explains, is the potential name for the current age we are living in. Since the theory is that humans are the most significant change agent at work this word translates in layperson speak to human age.

And now, down to the book itself. As I mentioned, I am a big Ackerman fan. I adored A Brief History of the Senses in particular. That was a game changer read, with the language and the topic getting deeply into my brain.

I wasn’t as immediately wooed by this book. I loved the premise and in many places, like the quotation above, I loved her writing. But it isn’t quite as natural a pairing for her, given that this aims to be much more of a science journalism book than a poetic creative non-fiction like she has written in the past. Still, it won me over.

What is ultimately the most engaging about this book is the hope it provides. Most science books I have read boil down to shouting at you about the very real and terrible things that are happening (or have already happened) to our world. They are largely terrifying and leave me fearful about whether or not I will make it to the end of my life without boiling to death in my bathtub from the climate change or drowning in the street because of the ocean level shift.

And I am a reader who is convinced of climate change, recycles, and eats local and sustainable food as much as possible.

It’s hard to read gloom and doom all the time for me. It makes me feel there is nothing I can do to make anything better. I find myself wanting to curl up in a ball under the bed.

Once I got into Ackerman’s book, however, I realized her aim was something entirely different. She provides snippets of all kinds of ways we have made a tremendous impact on the planet, but many of them are ways we are improving things right now. Kelp farming, living wall gardens both on top of and inside buildings, and novel ways to save and improve the lives of endangered species are just part of what she explores.

I found myself breathing a sigh of relief that I didn’t even know was clenched up as I had been reading. I want to help when thinking about these things. It’s so helpful to be told what has been effective and what people are trying to improve.

This is the sort of approach I would like to see more of in science writing going forward. I think it’s necessary to share how important this is, but I have seen and felt myself how easy it is to switch off once i know I’m going to get a lecture. I don’t want a lecture about what we’ve already screwed up. I want to know what I can do now to make it better.

Pair that with beautiful writing and lots of wonderful and strange stories I’ve never heard about before and you’ve got me.

I think she’ll win you over, too.

Have you read this one? Let me know what you thought in the comments. I’d love to discuss with you.

  • June 29, 2015 - 16:09

    David - Caroline,

    I hear you when you say, “It’s hard to read gloom and doom all the time for me. It makes me feel there is nothing I can do to make anything better. I find myself wanting to curl up in a ball under the bed.” I went to a weekend conference a few months back looking at creating a more sustainable, resilient (I like that word better than sustainable) future, but it really threw me. To my way of thinking there was too much regurgitating about the mess that we have created for ourselves and not enough solutions focus. The other thing that was missing was “joy.” I remember someone saying to me that if you can create a compelling vision of the future that includes joy, fun and community, people will join you.

    Over the years I have found the work of Joanna Macy helpful in how we hold our pain for the world. If you don’t know her work, she calls it ‘The Work That Reconnects” http://www.joannamacy.net. She speaks about connection and pain being two sides of the same coin.

    I am currently reading “Minding the Earth, Mending the World” by Susan Murphy. She brings in her Zen background to explore how we hold the enormous questions that the situation of the world presents human kind.

    I think that I will have to had Diane Ackerman to my reading list.

    Thank you,

    • June 29, 2015 - 16:26

      caroline - David-

      Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment. I have been to so many events like this and had so many conversations on many topics- not just the environment and I couldn’t agree with you more about creating a compelling future with joy, fun, and community. That is something I want to be part of. I am excited about your book suggestions as well- thank you for sharing them! I will take a peek… Have a wonderful day.ReplyCancel

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Today’s roundup celebrates the end of school and the joys of summer. I remember mid June being the time my mom took me to the bookshop after school let out, my stapled summer reading sheet in hand, which I had pored over since the minute the teacher passed it out as we finished another year. By the time I was actually picking out my books, I had circled and crossed out twice as many books as I would have time to read before school started again. Here’s to another summer with that sense of discovery…

  • I loved this discussion of bibliotherapy (perhaps this is my title!) and whether reading makes us happier in the New Yorker.
  • Who doesn’t love a fairy tale, really? Cicadas plagued my college graduation but even so, this stunning animated short made me cry the other day. Just brilliant.

Happy reading! what are your reading goals for the summer? I am going to follow the lead of a recent book dr. letter and dive into a lot of fiction. Can’t wait…

  • June 29, 2015 - 11:30

    Angela - I thought of you when I read the piece in the New Yorker and I was all prepared to send it your way, but thought I should check here to make sure you hadn’t already seen it. It’s good, isn’t it? Love the Cicada Princess too!ReplyCancel

    • June 29, 2015 - 13:16

      caroline - Funny! Thanks so much for thinking of me. So glad you loved the Cicada Princess. It’s a beauty. I love that they kickstarted it to finish the animation as well.ReplyCancel

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French library

I love the library. I might go so far as to call myself a library junkie. Just look at this pinterest board I have been obsessively creating. The library and I have true love.

But there is only one thing I love more than wandering the stacks in the downtown LA library and perusing all of the old card catalogue that they still have- it really is amazing and worth seeing if you come to LA. What I love more is being able to check out a book from wherever I am and read it or listen to it immediately for zero dollars.

I first realized I was way behind on this tech when I logged a bunch of books when visiting a friend in Spain who was living there teaching English. She loves reading as much as I do. I had visions of being the conquering hero bringing her all these books.

She smiled when I presented them to her, waiting for the whoop of joy.

“Um,” she said. “You know I can check out anything I want from the library at home on my Kindle, right?”


So… cut to my terrible commute and the fact that I used to go through about an audio book every week or week and a half. With one Audible credit a month at the time, Seymour was not feeding me enough books. So I did some digging and discovered Overdrive.

People are always asking me how I listen to audiobooks on my phone, so here is my quick tutorial.

  1. Download Overdrive. It is available for iOS iPhone, android, Windows phone, Windows, and Chromebook. You can also use it to put books on your Kindle, but more on that later.
  2. Once you’ve downloaded, add your library. There are over 40 countries worth of libraries so, if you’ve got a library card, it’s pretty likely you can download books. Start at the main menu and follow the steps here: IMG_7190        IMG_7191      IMG_7172
  3. Once you’ve selected your library, you’re ready to add content. At this stage, you will be searching inside your library’s database, so it might look a bit different than my images, which are for the Los Angeles Public Library. After you search and find a book, click “borrow” or “Place a hold” if holds are available at your library. :  IMG_7194     IMG_7193     IMG_7173
  4. Once you’ve clicked on “borrow,” you’ll be able to download the files:                                             IMG_7174
  5. The files begin downloading into the “files” area in Overdrive. Make sure you are connected to the internet. It will take a few minutes for the files to download completely. The longer the book, the longer the download. IMG_7195
  6. Once the files are downloaded, you can simply open Overdrive, click on “Bookshelf” and click the book you’ve checked out to play.                                                                                                                                              IMG_7197
  7. The actual player is a lot like Audible’s, but can be a little glitchy. (Read, sometimes it loses its place and takes you back to the beginning of a section.) To avoid issues, when you pause the book, make sure to add a bookmark so that you can always find your place quickly.                                                                                                          IMG_7198

And that’s it! I know it seems a bit complicated when it’s all broken down like this, but I wanted this to be completely clear. Many people have had trouble getting content onto phones and have asked me how to make it work, so here is a handy reference guide for the ages. Or at least until phones are completely redesigned and nothing works the same way anymore.

I’m hoping this will at least be good for the next six months. Enough time for you to listen to Yes, Please. Which is really excellent, by the way- definitely check it out. Amy Poehler reads it herself along with special guests, so the audio is worth it, much like it was with Bossy Pants.

  • June 25, 2015 - 06:45

    lola - Whuuuuuut? Okay, will have to look into this app. Just checked out the website, and my local (Australian) library is on there. Apparently their most popular audiobooks are pulp romances – suburban Sydney, how you fail to surprise me.

    Yes, Please had some pearls of wisdom in there, but seemed to me to ramble a bit, like her editor could have pushed her to really drill down to the point a bit more. Perhaps it was lost in cross-cultural translation…? I like AP, though, and what she’s doing for gender equality and empowering young women.ReplyCancel

    • June 25, 2015 - 08:34

      caroline - Yay! So glad that Overdrive is a new discovery… and delighted to hear you can check out books in Australia. I think the romance thing is quite common- LA’s library is full on them as well.

      I think Yes, Please worked quite well as an audio- felt more like she was having a conversation with me rather than how it might have felt in a physical book. I can see where that might feel like rambling.

      Let me know how you go using Overdrive!ReplyCancel

  • June 26, 2015 - 02:29

    Dal - Book Doctor, this is absolutely fantastic, I didn’t know we could do this so when I have a moment I’ll see if I can connect to my local library…oh the anticipation. I love this because most people have a phone but not everyone can afford audio books etc (even trashy romance, why not eh?!!). This is what it’s all about, sharing good stuff. Good on yer Book Doc!ReplyCancel

    • June 26, 2015 - 12:01

      caroline - Thanks, Dal! I think a library in your area should be available. I know that England is certainly on the list of countries. Do let me know how it goes. This has been a huge help in fulfilling my need for more books without spending all of my money on them. A girl does have to eat after all. So glad this is useful!ReplyCancel

  • June 26, 2015 - 09:01

    Julia - Great post~ Overdrive *is* wonderful. My library membership was dormant for years until I put Overdrive on my iPad. And yes, the romance thing is a global (human?) thing… it’s the same here in Singapore. Btw, if you haven’t written about books that are better listened to than read, maybe you could share your thoughts with us in a post! 🙂

    btw, not sure if you’ve seen the State Library of Victoria (Australia), I loved going there when I was in uni.ReplyCancel

    • June 26, 2015 - 11:59

      caroline - Julia! I am so glad you are an Overdrive lover as well. Agreed on the dormant library membership- I wasn’t able to get to the library because my terrible commute meant I was leaving for work and getting home outside of library hours. But Overdrive let me check out audiobooks to enjoy on the way.

      I love your idea about books that are best as audiobooks versus read. I will put a post together on that topic. Maybe even today… stay tuned!ReplyCancel

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