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Every Book Its Reader: The Power of the Printed Word to Stir the World Hardcover – November 29, 2005

4.1 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

As in A Gentle Madness and other books, syndicated columnist Basbanes again proves his fascination with the minutiae of bibliophilia, relating with relish how many volumes were in various famous readers' collections, who wrote in their margins, who kept commonplace books, and other book-related ephemera before getting to the heart of this book: his discussions with well-known readers of today. These include Harold Bloom on Shakespeare and the politicizing of literature in the academy; Helen Vendler on her experience of poetry from adolescence on; and the impressive Robert Coles on his literary relationships with writers such as William Carlos Williams and Walker Percy, as well as his own call to action for children around the world. This volume is like a pot in an overenthusiastic cook's kitchen: a little bit of everything has been thrown in. As in cooking, however, too many notes spoil the palate. Basbanes writes fluidly and there are intriguing tidbits—the chapter on the development of religious texts is especially strong—but the book as a whole has no central argument or philosophy to make it cohere. Illus. not seen by PW.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

No one writes with more verve and fluency about the history of books and reading than bibliophile Basbanes. In his fifth lively, original, and free-flowing book, Basbanes wonders about what books Shakespeare might have read, and he explicates the source for bowdlerize: Henrietta and Thomas Bowdler published a sanitized, family-safe edition of Shakespeare's plays in 1807. A fascinating survey of writers' libraries, including those of Edward Gibbon and Henry James, leads to a consideration of the practice of keeping "commonplace books," or notebooks in which writers copy "significant excerpts" from books they read. A conversation with historian and biographer David McCullough engenders discussion of the reading habits of American presidents, while Elaine Pagels offers useful analysis of how people view the Bible, and visits with literary scholar Matthew J. Bruccoli inspire thoughts on the value of collecting writers' artifacts. Basbanes also insightfully profiles passionate book lovers and sages Robert Coles, Helen Vendler, and Harold Bloom. A reader's delight, Basbanes' work testifies to all that literature does for the human spirit. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Harper (November 29, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060593237
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060593230
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,192,540 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The announcement of a new book by Nicholas Basbanes is an occasion of joy for any devoted reader who loves reading about books. My copies of Basbanes' works are the backbone of my collection of books about books, and it is he who introduced me to the dazzling world of the "gently mad."

Since reading A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for Books, I eagerly await each installment to discover what secret corridors and closed doors he will open next. Basbanes' works act as a secret handshake that allows entry to a world any serious bibliophile longs to enter, a world devoted to the care, handling and love of the printed word.

In Every Books Its Reader, the social history of the book is explored from the perspective of the reader. Basbanes explores the meaning readers give to texts through their personal experiences, and how that experience helps connect with others. He says, "We are not only the product of what we read, we are in association with others who have read the same things."

Early I discovered 84 Charing Cross Road, a book that became a dear friend to be revisited often. Helene Hanff showed what a love of reading can truly bring to a life, the journey one can take through books with a helpful guide. Nicholas Basbanes easily fills this role. His pages resonate with quotes and stories and his love of books fairly bursts off the page. He carries the reader to a new path that leads to books, "a book casually encountered by an imaginative mind, lighting a spark that ignites a flame of creativity...."

At the start of Every Books Its Reader, Basbanes shares a story that ends "...if ever I go to Heaven I know where to find her. I shall go straight over to the corner by the bookcases." When I get there, I shall expect to find Nicholas Basbanes there, holding court.

Armchair Interviews says: IF you LOVE books, you will love this one.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I can never get my fill of Nicholas Basbanes. His love of books, libraries, and reading echo so many of my own traits, making his books treats that will bear innumberable rereadings and savorings.

Every Book Its Reader continues Basbanes' familiar theme of the continuing importance of the printed word in today's society. It expands it by focussing on studies of the libraries of eminent booklovers of the past such as Edward Gibbon and through interviews with great living writers/readers like David McCullough and Harold Bloom. Basbanes branches into fascinating discussions on the art of translation, for example, that illuminate obscure but valuable corners of the world of books.

In other words, there is a wealth of information about books and reading in Every Book Its Reader, but the most important reason to read it is its evocation of the joy of reading. Basbanes and his readers will undoubtedly echo the sentiment of May Lamberton Becker, one of his subjects in Every Book Its Reader, in saying that if we get to heaven, we will meet each other in the corner by the bookcases.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought and read this book because I much enjoyed Basbanes' previous trilogy, especially PATIENCE AND FORTITUDE. But compared to his trilogy, this book looks too hurried and thrown together. There has been too little care with the organization and an occasional major gaff intrudes, such as his assertion that some of Goethe's poetry was "set to music by Mozart and Bach" (p. 279). Starting with high expectations, I was disappointed.

Even so, this is a book I will keep, and probably return to, because it still has much to offer. Like his previous books, this is addressed to bibliophiles and deals with topics dear to them. In particular, it deals with readers, many of whom are famous, but some of whom are convicts and some of whom are small children. The book finds a dozen ways to emphasize the value and influence of books. The chapter on physicians and their books should appeal to every doctor on the continent.

Basbanes interviewed a good number of legendary American readers--Harold Bloom, Helen Vendler, Daniel Aaron, Robert Coles--collecting comments that will make this book of interest to common readers and fulltime scholars. Though Basbanes is too much of a gentleman to make much of it, some of these learned people come across as amusing fools, and some flatly contradict each other. Thus Basbanes provides expert testimony that books can be beloved by wildly different people because they read books differently, and because they love different books.

The only author I can compare to Basbanes is the wonderful Holbrook Jackson (an author Basbanes admires, too), because both allow their passion for books to be motive enough: they do not let themselves be distracted (at least not for long) by peeves or pieties. The personalities that guide their readers along are congenial, even affectionate, glad to have your attention and trying to repay it with every page.
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Format: Hardcover
Books create or mold the reader intellectually as well as creatively. The power of perception has an affect on an individual, and reinforces who people are and what they want to be. Nicholas A. Basbanes shows readers in his book, Every Book Its Reader: The Power of The Printed Word to Stir the World, that one's desires can be accomplished by exposing oneself to the reading of literature. He takes into account the lives of eminent scholars, such as David McCullough, Robert Fagles, Helen Vendler, Elaine Pagles, Daniel Aaron, Matthew Bruccoli, and many others who were inspired to interpret and translate the greatest literary works of the past, which varied from history to religion. Basbanes explores the world of the book reader, collector, and serious bibliophile.

EVERY BOOK ITS READER is not a tribute to the greatest books ever written. However, Basbanes reminds readers the effects those books have had on people. There are many highlights present within the book, but one worth mentioning was the discussion of James Joyce's serious approach to the reading and writing of FINNEGANS WAKE. Joyce exclaims that for every reader that attempts to read the text, each and every one of them should read at the same rate in which it was written in order to effectively get the gist of the semantics and sentence construction. Despite his recommendation, the book remains one of the most challenging to read.

From another perspective of the meaning and significance books have on the reader is Robert Coles's commentary about his friend and colleague, writer Walker Percy. This most likely is the theme of Basbanes's book. It may sound sentimental, but it may also ring true to those who have read an enormous book, and it has left a lasting effect.
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