Price's study examines several samples of what 19th-century readers and non-readers did with books and the effects of those activities on the books themselves as well as its larger social context. Chapters consider things like the "Repellent Book," which for example a husband uses as a means of avoiding conversation; and, the "Absorbent Book," where a character derives a sense of self from a book.
She examines the "Book as Agent" by looking at narratives in which books become central characters (It-narratives). Her second section analyzes the "Book as Burden," the "Book as Go-Between," and the "Book as Waste." She emphasizes the way books in all these roles function in relation to gender, class, and economic status.
This is a scholarly study. It is not aimed at a general audience. While Dr. Price writes with wit and precision, she also writes in what to the general reader may well read like a foreign language.
I am reminded of the first time I tried to read Jacques Derrida's Of Grammatology. The translation may well have been English, but it could just as well have remained in French for all it meant to me. I wonder, if in some sense, academics sometimes use language to create their own version of the "repellent book."
At any rate, How to Do Things With Books in Victorian Britain raises interesting issues, especially in a world where the book as a physical object may be going the way of the 8-track, for the literary scholar and even an elderly disciple of New Criticism.