A book is a number of pages (usually printed or written) fastened together and fixed inside a cover. A book can be handwritten or printed and may contain works of fiction, nonfiction or blank sheets for notes. Physical books can also feature drawings or engravings, photographs, crossword puzzles and other items in addition to pages for writing.
In the history of hand-held physical supports for extended written compositions or records, books have evolved from scrolls to codexes – in which individual pages are fastened or bound together on one side and held between covers of some other durable material. Codexes supplanted the earlier pagan Hellenistic and Roman scroll-shaped manuscripts and, later, the Etruscan Liber Lintei – although the latter is more correctly considered a folio rather than a book.
Whether printed or written on loose paper, books are generally segmented into parts and chapters to aid assimilation and reading. Often, these divisions are used for structural purposes, such as chapter titles or subtitles or to denote specific themes or topics.
The most popular books are novels and, in particular, those that are highly readable. The best examples of literary genius are those that transcend genres and awe the reader with their scope and power. A great novel is capable of resonating with any age group, race or gender and can speak to the human condition regardless of its historical context.
Among the most popular of these are To Kill A Mockingbird and The Catcher in The Rye, which are widely recognized as American classics. The former depicts a southern town in the wake of racial discrimination and the latter is a tale of family betrayal, loss of faith and tragedy.
Other books on the list of the best ever include The Sound and the Fury, which was a breakthrough novel for William Faulkner. The story revolves around the dissolution of a powerful Southern aristocratic family in Jefferson, Mississippi. The novel features multiple narrative styles and is considered a groundbreaking work of modern literature.
Many modern books are published in digital form, where they can be easily distributed and accessed. The availability of these digital editions has contributed to a decline in paper publishing, although this trend is not yet complete. Increasingly, some print books are printed on demand, where the book is not printed until it has been ordered by a reader.
Books can be made out of many different materials, including cloth, leather and hardboard. Modern printing is often done on web presses, which are fed continuously from a roll and can print more copies in less time than traditional sheet-fed offset presses. Afterwards, the book is trimmed and folded into signatures, and it is put into a case before being shipped to the binding line.