A Life In Books

The Rise and Fall of Bleu Mobley

Written and Designed by Warren Lehrer

Winner of the 2014 Independent Publisher's IPPY Outstanding Book of the Year - "Most Original Concept"


An illuminated novel containing 101 books within it (replete with cover designs), all written by a controversial author who finds himself in prison looking back on his life and career.


7.5 x 9.5"
Trade Cloth
Publication date: 
Rights world: 

A Life In Books: The Rise and Fall of Bleu Mobley is an illuminated novel containing 101 books within it, all written by Lehrer’s protagonist, author, Bleu Mobley, who finds himself in prison looking back on his life and career.

Nearly a year after the controversial author is thrown into a federal prison for refusing to reveal the name of a confidential source, he decides to break his silence. But it’s not as simple as giving up a name to the grand jury. Over the course of one long night, in the darkness of his prison cell, he whispers his life story into a microcassette recorder, tracing his journey from the public housing project of his youth, to a career as a journalist, then experimental novelist, college professor, accidental bestselling author, pop-culture pundit, and unindicted prisoner. 

In A Life In Books, Mobley’s autobiography/apologia is paired with a review of all 101 of his books. Each book is represented by its first-edition cover design and catalogue copy, and more than a third of his books are excerpted. The resulting retrospective contrasts the published writings (which read like short stories) with the author’s confessional memoir, forming a most unusual portrait of a well-intentioned, obsessively inventive (but ethically challenged) visionary.

Written and designed by award-winning author/artist Warren Lehrer, A Life In Books is an extraordinarily original, funny, heartwarming and heart-wrenching exploration of one man’s use of books as a means of understanding himself, the people around him, and a half-century of American/global events. Rich with stories that spring from other stories, this genre-defying novel orchestrates a multicultural symphony of characters from Bleu’s life and books: lovers, mothers, children, friends, enemies, teachers, students, runaways, rebels, thinkers, dreamers, believers, skeptics, the displaced and dispossessed. It celebrates the mysteries and contradictions of the creative process, and grapples with the future of the book as a medium, and the lines that separate truth, myth, and fiction. This four-color, full-length novel—containing over 101 hilarious and scrumptious book cover designs (and book-like objects)—fuses art and literature, and distinguishes itself as one of those books you’ll want to hold in your hands, feast your eyes on, read and re-read, share with friends, and treasure for years to come.






About the author: 

Warren Lehrer is a writer, designer, and multimedia artist known as a pioneer in the fields of visual literature and design authorship. His books, acclaimed for capturing the shape of thought and reuniting the traditions of storytelling with the printed page, include: Crossing the BLVD: strangers, neighbors, aliens in a New America; The Portrait Series: a quartet of men (four-book suite); GRRRHHHHH: a study of social patterns; French Fries; I mean you know; and versations

He has received many awards for his books and multimedia projects including: the Brendan Gill Prize, the Innovative Use of Archives Award, three AIGA Book Awards, two Type Director’s Club Awards, the International Book Design Award, a Media That Matters Award, a NY Book Show Best of the Best Award, and a Prix Arts Electronica Award. He’s received fellowships and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, New York State Council and Foundation for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and others. His work has been exhibited widely and is in many collections including MoMA, LA  County Art Museum, The Getty Museum, Georges Pompidou Centre, and Tate Gallery. 

Lehrer is also a performer, and has co-written four plays, one opera, co-composed two audio CDs, and he co-produces public radio documentaries and audio works with his wife Judith Sloan. Lehrer is a professor at the School of Art+Design at Purchase College, SUNY, and a founding faculty member of the Designer As Author grad program at the School of Visual Arts. Together with Sloan, Lehrer founded EarSay, a non-profit arts organization dedicated to uncovering and portraying the lives of the uncelebrated in print, on stage, on radio, in exhibitions, electronic media, and through educational programs in public schools, community centers, and prisons. 


WINNER 2014 IPPY (Independent Publisher) Outstanding Book of the Year Award for Most Original Concept
“A stunningly unique take on the novel that unabashedly explores the relationship between the narrator and reader. Mind-blowing... reality bending... a laugh riot and a visual feast.”

Winner 2014 Best New Fiction Award (USA Best Books)

Winner 2014 CBAA Biannual Exhibition Award

Winner 2014 Print Magazine Regional Design Award (NYC)

Winner 2014 National Indie Excellence Award

Winner 2014 Next Generation Indie Book Award

“In A Life In Books, Warren Lehrer has written a profound commentary on this nausea-inducing unique moment in the grand transition from Silly Mind to Machine Mind. Amusingly and smartly enough, he may have helped transition ‘the last great American novel’ to the first ‘great illustrated novel’ which is how novels started. A Life In Books is brilliant, beautiful, delicious for eyes and mind.” 
Andrei Codrescupublic radio commentator, editor Exquisite Corpse, novelist, poet

"In Warren Lehrer’s ingenious, one-of-a-kind novel, A Life In Books: The Rise and Fall of Bleu Mobley, we see all the covers of all 101 books supposedly written by the narrator over the last several decades... A tour-de-force!"
Kurt AndersenSTUDIO 360

"For anyone who has ever resisted judging a book by its cover, now's your chance: In A Life In Books, author and graphic design visionary Warren Lehrer crafts a vivid kaleidoscopic odyssey that frames one man's life through not one, but one hundred different books—and book jackets. In this quirky, yet unmistakably modern evocation of the illuminated manuscript, Lehrer's book reminds us that we are what we do. And, for that matter, what we publish."
Jessica Helfand, writer, designer, founding editor DESIGN OBSERVER

“A meticulously illustrated chronicle… Lehrer’s 101 cover designs for Mobley’s books are pitch perfect. And like the best film title sequences, which establish moods or introduce plotlines, these fictional covers are vehicles by which Lehrer illuminates Mobley’s tale of success and failure. By no means a portfolio; Lehrer has created a parallel art world”
Steven Heller, THE ATLANTIC

"A tour de force of graphic design, illustration and writing. Exploiting a wide range of illustration styles to delight the eye, Lehrer offers a funny, thought-provoking and refreshing twist on the graphic novel... Guaranteed to bring a smile."

A book-lover's fictional treat of books that never were. At first this extraordinary book looks like it's going to be a funny book, with crazy, zany events. But A LIFE IN BOOKS is ultimately about survival, compromise, finding the line at which you won't compromise, and transforming the sadness of life into art. Bleu Mobley takes us from his junior high school print shop where he falls in love with everything about books, to his reinvention as a writer of best sellers in order to support his daughter’s medical expenses, and his ultimate refusal to sell out a confidential source... As Whitman said, ‘I contain multitudes,’ and Bleu Mobley contains 101 books and a belief in the bounty of life. Wonderful!"
Michael SilverblattBOOKWORM, KCRW

“Warren Lehrer has spent a decade writing and designing a book that is way more than a book. A blend of writing and design, which extends to performance art... A Life in Books: The Rise and Fall of Bleu Mobley is a typographical and design tour de force.”

"Warren Lehrer's novel A Life In Books is a masterpiece of visual storytelling, boldly integrating illustration and typography into its engaging story." 

“In A Life in Books, Lehrer has designed a sort of Chinese puzzle whose myriad ideas, stories and characters—from all parts of the globe—intersect, overlap, and dovetail... [It is] a tale of growing up, marriage, fatherhood, physical incapacity, healing, poverty, financial success, incarceration, and continuous self-reflection. Lehrer is adept at representing our multicultural society, which for him means not a sociological construct but the lives and struggles of real people. Like Art Spiegelman, Chris Ware, and Ben Katchor, Lehrer participates in the search for fresh and innovative ways to show, as well as tell, his many stories. Astonishing.” 
--Robert Berlind, The Brooklyn Rail

"An ingenious first novel filled with over 100 provocative titles all written by Lehrer's protagonist author who finds himself in prison looking back on his life and work, fictions and realities. Mobley recalls his life growing up in a public housing project in Queens, becoming a journalist, professor, best-selling author, pundit, and finally prisoner for refusing (timely enough) to reveal a confidential source." --Sam Roberts, The New York Times Close Up

"Warren Lehrer has built a career collapsing the boundaries that most of us take for granted. Blazing a new path, A Life in Books proves that motion design and literature (among other things) need not be strangers...Creating an 'illuminated novel' today could be interpreted as nostalgic, but the hardcover book, enhanced by animation and a multimedia performance is decidedly high-tech, a hyperlink mosaic of multimedia." --Justin Cone, Motionographer

"An entertaining and provocative work that combines text and graphic art in a fascinating way. Splendid. Marvelous!" --Pradeep Sebastian, The Hindu

 “In the era of cookie-cutter books and rubber-stamped stories, Warren Lehrer’s A Life in Books is fresh, original, idiosyncratic, beautiful, and important.”
Rabih Alameddinenovelist and painter, author of Koolaids, I, the Divine, The Perv, Hakawati

“Warren Lehrer’s invented bibliography is a brilliant, ambitious, and compelling novel... A bold work of the imagination, A Life In Books is an “illuminated novel,” in the sense of Mobley’s memoir being lit up by a retrospective monograph of his work, and so many visual touches that make dipping into the book so much fun. The essential backstory turns out to be about what the future holds for books as material objects. I truly hope this audacious novel gets the attention it so richly deserves.”
--Nicholas Basbanes, Fine Books & Collections

“Warren Lehrer is witty, ingenious, sly, serious, a graphic wizard and literary innovator. His crazily ambitious illuminated novel uses art and artifice to test our assumptions about how life is supposed to be in modern America... So much more than a book, A Life In Books is an experience... at once revealing and mysterious, a commentary on ego, celebrity and American society... It plays like literary jazz: Lehrer’s fingers pumping up and down on the keys, laying down pungent notes, sparkling phrases, lilting tunes about who we are and where we are going.”

"A Life in Books: The Rise & Fall of Blue Mobley, a gorgeously produced multi-color “novel,” is a brilliant meditation on the state of publishing in the 21st Century. What is truth? What is fiction? Who is “me,” am I my nom de plume, and how can I turn us into a franchise... or maybe even into two?! By the time you reach page 330 with pictures of Bleu’s Book Lamps, you’ll be laughing through your tears... I can’t think of a better gift."

"In scope, execution and ambition, A Life In Books is an extraordinary book. Like a monk’s painstaking production of an illuminated manuscript, it took Lehrer seven years to pull off. There’s also a contest, a travelling exhibition with video, and a performance/reading tour... Lehrer’s books are like nothing you’ve ever seen before.”
Lucy SismanWWWORD

"The coolest book ever." 

"Stories told with humor, pathos, poetry, drama and the absurd…” 

"In scope, execution and ambition, A Life In Books is an extraordinary book. Like a monk’s painstaking production of an illuminated manuscript, it took Lehrer seven years to pull off. There’s also a contest, a travelling exhibition with video, and a performance/reading tour... Lehrer’s books are like nothing you’ve ever seen before.”
Stephen Farrell, design innovator, Vas An Opera In Flatland and Toc: A New Media Novel

“Writer/artist Warren Lehrer is a pioneer in the art of the book. His most recent funny and beautiful novel helps expand the possibilities of the book format as a way to tell stories."
--Keith Shortall, Maine Things Considered, MPBN

A Life In Books is a literary multimedia satirical romp through the last half century of publishing with all its conceits and marketing tricks from ‘Outsourcing Grandma’ to toilet paper poems and a children's books on capital punishment ‘How Bad People Go Bye Bye.’ Wonderful!”
EDGY LITSelected Best Books of 2013

"An amazing book—A LIFE IN BOOKS—is unlike any book I’ve every read before. For anyone who loves books, ALIB is a fascinating look at the life of an author, and how the books that he has written grew out of his life experiences. You will encounter books within A LIFE IN BOOKS that you will wish were real books... And very beautifully designed." 

"A genre-defying night that fuses art and literature, prose and design into a multi-media presentation unlike any other."
--Skylight Books

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