Editor’s Choice, The Bookseller
A mix of memoir and narrative non-fiction, White Spines is a book about Nicholas Royle’s passion for Picador’s fiction and non-fiction publishing from the 1970s to the end of the 1990s. It explores the bookshops and charity shops, the books themselves, and the way a unique collection grew and became a literary obsession. Above all a love song to books, writers and writing.
‘If you have ever lost hours in a secondhand bookshop. If you keep all your orange Penguins on the same shelf at home. If you have sworn in frustration when a publisher changes the cover design of a series you are part-way through collecting. If you covet thy neighbour's bookshelves. If you can recognise a colophon on a spine from a distance of twenty feet. Then this is the perfect book for you.’ —Scott Pack
‘White Spines by Nicolas Royle is so far up my street it feels like it was written with me in mind. There’s a history of Picador and a quest to collect books, but really it is a relaxed saunter around second-hand bookshops. I share Royle’s fascination with the names and dedications written in books, and with what he terms inclusions; the letters and tickets found tucked inside them. I especially liked the postcard of St Mawes postmarked 1974 in which the sender talks about the view of Falmouth and says they are selling mackerel for 4p each in the harbour. I didn’t want it to end and would like a gargantuan, infinite edition where I could spend the last ten minutes of each day browsing alongside Royle, ever hopeful of finding an exciting inclusion with the pages of an early Picador.’ —Cathy Rentzenbrink
‘A fiercely intelligent memoir of an obsession by one of our leading prose stylists, but also a loving and enormously warm-hearted record of a life lived in books. I adored White Spines and will treasure my copy every bit as much as Royle treasures his beloved Picadors.’ —Alex Preston
‘With apologies to other classics publishers, the truth is I’ve been a bit obsessed with this book since I saw novelist and short story writer Royle tweeting the ultimate in chic shelfies: a photo of his Picador fiction collection, which forms an array of 1,000 white spines spanning the 1970s–90s, and encompassing authors from Chinua Achebe to Fritz Zorn. In this blend of memoir and narrative non-fiction, he explores the bookshops and charity shops where he bought them, the books themselves, and how his collection grew to the point of literary obsession.’ —The Bookseller