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Book briefs: Waterproofing the classics

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Classics ready to take a dive
The waterproof synthetic pages of Bibliobath's reprinted classics mean you can take them 20,000 leagues under the sea without worry.
Bibliobath via Kickstarter

Welcome to your weekly roundup of book news and literary highlights from The Thread.

This week, we track books all over the place: in baths, in barbershops and on Broadway.

Iconic book cover designer dies at 91

Paul Bacon crafted the cover by hand
Paul Bacon crafted the cover by hand
Simon & Schuster | Creative Commons via Wikipedia

Even if you don't know Paul Bacon's name, you know his work. He created covers for "Catch-22," "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," "Slaughterhouse-Five" and "Jaws," to name just a few. A design legend in the literary world, he died last week at age 91.

In his 50-year career, Bacon designed more than 6,500 covers. His distinctive style contributed to the "Big Book Look": Covers with large, bold titles and small, conceptual images. He pioneered this style in the early 1960s, favoring typography over literal representations of the story.

Bacon crafted all of his designs by hand, even ripping the famous "Catch-22" red soldier out of a piece of paper. Though he retired in 2000, he continued to take on freelance projects. He designed his final cover for 2013's "Sea of Hooks," by Lindsay Hill. The Guardian has a retrospective of his covers.

Scrub-a-dub-dub, bringing books in the tub?

Great works of literature just went waterproof.

Bibliobath has solved a problem you never knew you had: You no longer have to worry about getting your books wet while you relax in the tub. The English company launched a Kickstarter campaign to print waterproof editions.

Bibliobath's first run pulls right from the classics shelf. You have your choice of selected stories from Mark Twain; "Cloths of Heaven and Other Poems" from W.B. Yeats; "Macbeth" from William Shakespeare and "The Art of War" from Sun Tzu. You know: The kind of books that make you say "more bubbles, please!"

Before this invention, bathtime readers had to battle against splash marks or the possibility of dropping their e-readers under the waves. Not anymore! These synthetic pages will take a soaking and stay legible.

And they're not just for the bath: Readers who love to sail can go overboard with "Macbeth" and still find out how it ends.

Books in barbershops

Last year, Freddie Stokes saw an article about a Florida barbershop that was promoting literacy by stocking free books for its young customers. The Alabama attorney decided to spread the idea around his own community.

Stokes launched "Books for Boys" in May with the same model: Put books where young African-American boys will find them. At first he thought he would stock just two barbershops, but he received enough donations to establish mini-libraries in six locations. He's stocking them with titles he thinks the boys will identify with.

'Son of Promise, Child of Hope'
'Son of Promise, Child of Hope' by Nikki Grimes
Courtesy of Simon & Schuster

"When our boys say they don't like to read, a lot of that is coming from not being interested in reading about characters that don't look like them," he told The Root.

Stokes' collection so far includes "Malcolm Little: The Boy Who Grew Up to Become Malcolm X," "12 Rounds to Glory: The Story of Muhammad Ali" and "Son of Promise, Child of Hope" on Barack Obama. He's continuing to raise donations for the project.

"Fun Home" brings home the Tonys

Alison Bechdel's graphic novel memoir hit Broadway this year, turning her illustrated panels into live performance. The story focuses on Bechdel's childhood with her closeted gay father and her realizations about her own sexuality.

At the Tony awards last week, "Fun Home" garnered five awards, including "Best Musical" and "Best Original Score."

But that doesn't mean the book has escaped controversy. The same week as the Tony nod, a college student in California launched a complaint with her school for having "Fun Home" on the syllabus of an English course. The class included several graphic novels for required reading, but the student said, "It was shocking. ... I expected Batman and Robin, not pornography."

Officials for Crafton Hills College have agreed to put a disclaimer in future class descriptions.