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The Rabbit Hole #003: When Did the Book Become a Brand?

Merch for Sally Rooney's Beautiful World, Where Are You?

Hey there Story Made stans, welcome to the third and better-late-than-never installment of The Rabbit Hole—a blog series where I share my favorite links from the firehose of information we call the internet. Here are my favorites from the past week.

  • Sam Anderson is one of my favorite working writers. His book, Boom Town, was one of my absolute favorite reads of 2021 and I tell almost everyone I know to read it (just ask Matt). His pieces for the New York Times Magazine are always fantastic and this one is no exception. A story about gaining and losing pandemic weight becomes a meditation on the purpose of bodies, diet culture, and death. If you read one thing I've shared so far, it should be this.

  • Roman Mars was on it. Patrick H Willems was on it. A bunch of other amazing guests are on it. Now I just listen to it for the sake of listening to it and the great, funny commentary of Griffin Newman and David Sims. You probably don't need another podcast where nerdy white guys talk about movies, but in case you do, check this one out. Blank Check covers the filmography of directors who are given a series of "blank checks" to make whatever passion projects they want. Sometimes they clear, sometimes they bounce, bab-y.

  • This week I watched an AIGA webinar based on this Eye on Design post from last year. For better or worse, books have become brands (hello, Sally Rooney merch). As a designer and a reader and someone who finds "personal branding," oxymoronic and distasteful, I'm not sure how I feel about this. Branding helps readers find what they want and helps authors stand out and earn money, arguably good things. But it's also hard not to be cynical when presented with a Sally Rooney—one of the most popular contemporary writers—bucket hat (not that this was her decision, to be clear. We're talking about publishing corporations). Stories are so personal to their writers and readers. There is a depth there that a brand can never capture. And there are so many examples of books worth reading that don't get the "branding" treatment.

  • Salvador Dalí via @__nitch on Instagram, one of my favorite accounts to follow.

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