The ‘shadow line’ is a term Royle uses to describe the faint line on the top edge of the text block that allows him to see whether a book on a shelf contains an inclusion – those items inserted into books and long forgotten.
The shadow line is a constant reminder of how Royle started to think of books as more than just the printed stories or information they contain. He is always looking for shadow lines when scanning the shelves of second-hand bookstores, charity shops, hotels, Little Free Libraries and Airbnbs.
He’s no longer only looking for books that are just books. He’s looking for the book that contains a hand-drawn map of an unnamed town in Ireland that he can try to identify so he can read the book while walking the streets depicted on the map. He’s looking for the book that contains a 1957 delivery note for an address in Bristol, so that he can send the book, complete with delivery note, to whoever lives there now and invite them to welcome it back into its former home.
He's also looking, beyond the bookshelves, for books dumped in the street, for books used as props in art installations, for books left on bedside tables in films. He’s looking for books that are Doppelgängers of other books, for books that are named after places (where they might not be set), for books with two-word titles the first of which is London. He’s looking for books that don’t exist.
This follow-up to White Spines, Royle’s instant classic published in 2021, shows his search takes many forms, giving a shape and a structure to this compelling new work, just as the search for the Picadors informed the former. Strange, haunting, comic and poignant, Shadow Lines is the perfect book for those who love physical books and the stories beyond their pages.
‘What keeps this assortment of reflections and reminiscences hanging together is Royle’s delightful accounts of his trips to charity and secondhand bookshops across the UK: Goldmark Books in Uppingham; George Kelsall Booksellers in Littleborough; Southend; Coventry; Wigtown in Scotland. Over the years, Royle has been everywhere. White Spines is a sort of Bill Bryson for book lovers, wry, cosy and full of amusing asides and lovely cameos.’ —Ian Sansom, The Spectator
‘This summer’s must-read for all book lovers.’ —The Irish Times
‘It is Royle’s knowledge and ability to write with enthusiasm that draws the reader in. An enjoyable window into the life of an unapologetic collector. A call to appreciate books for more than their words.’ —Jackie Law, neverimitate
‘Light, breezy, and impossible to put down. It’s a beautifully made book, replicating the classic Picador style (a brave move from Salt!). All of which makes it a book that’s well worth collecting.’ —Joe Darlington, Manchester Review of Books
‘This book is many things: a travelogue, a guide book, a history of a significant imprint, and a slender autobiography … The covers of his Knut Hamsun’s lead into reflections on art and publishing. He is as happy explaining how key figures, such as Sonny Mehta and Peter Straus worked with the Picador imprint, as finding a new bookshop or a book that he didn’t know was a white spine … As bookselling has become overshadowed by Waterstones, Nick reminds us that second hand bookshops are an important part of our literary culture and that an affordable library is not out of the reach of anyone. The last couple of pages include a defence of fiction that is as surprising as it is profound, worth the price of the book alone.’ —Richard Clegg, Bookmunch