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One for the Books Hardcover – October 25, 2012

72 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"[Queenan's] passion for reading is infectious ... It’s so rare to hear such a heartfelt defense of books — it’s one of the most original works we read this year."
~New York Daily News (Best books of 2012)
"A celebration of literature, reading and the call of books from a stylish humorist who has a soft spot for Georges Simenon and a hard time with trendiness and 'astonishing' reviews."
~Kansas City Star (Top 100 books of 2012)
"A passionate, at times hilarious, account of a life spent reading and rereading."
~Minneapolis Star Tribune
"Queenan's goal isn't just to declare his love for books and to list particular books that he loves, but to suss out the customs of book lovers: to analyze what books mean to his friends and acquaintances (not to mention a few enemies), and how books forge or destroy friendships."
~Leah Price, San Francisco Chronicle

About the Author

Joe Queenan has been a columnist for The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, GQ, and Spy. He has written for Time, Newsweek, Rolling Stone, Playboy, Golf Digest, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and The New Republic, and contributes to The New York Times, and The Guardian. He has appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman, Good Morning America, Today, and The Daily Show. His books include The New York Times bestseller and Notable Book Closing Time: A Memoir.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Viking; First Edition edition (October 25, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670025828
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670025824
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.8 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (72 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #842,037 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

79 of 84 people found the following review helpful By TChris TOP 500 REVIEWER on October 25, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Joe Queenan is a columnist/journalist/writer/reviewer. He describes his regular work as "ridiculing nincompoops and scoundrels." To some extent, One for the Books is a collection of funny, book-related stories that do exactly that. He ridicules the inept security guards who detained his bag in a library, the luncheons he has attended to honor writers because "they are still breathing," and the book store employees who treat him like dirt because he isn't searching for their favored titles. More significantly, One for the Books offers an amusing glimpse at the life of a dedicated reader. The last few paragraphs in particular are a wonderful tribute to reading.

Although reading has collateral benefits, Queenan is convinced that most book lovers read books "to escape to a more exciting, more rewarding world," a proposition with which I completely agree. Queenan reads every day and would read more if he could. He reads enduring literature and he reads trash (although less of the latter as he ages). He sometimes reads "the types of books that thirtyish women devour at private swim clubs, often to the dismay of their drowning children," but only years after they have lost their trendy bestseller status. He forms relationships with his books and often prefers their company to the bozos he knows.

Queenan is equally fervent about the books he has read and those he refuses to read, ever. He names names. Yet, for all the titles that Queenan drops (typically several on every page), this isn't a work of literary criticism. He may or may not mention what the book is about or his impression of it, but when he does, he rarely employs more than a few words.
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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Maxine McLister on October 30, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
Joe Queenan is a writer by trade but a reader by inclination. He will read anywhere: on buses, trains, at concerts, at work, even, in his own words "while waiting for people to emerge from comas, while waiting for the Iceman to Cometh". Or Godot, whoever cometh first - no matter, if there's a place, there's a book to be read there.

According to him, readers are people whose reality, for whatever reason, is lacking. In his case, he grew up poor in a Philadelphia housing project with a violent and alcoholic father. Not only did books provide an escape but they allowed him to feel superior to his dad. Interestingly, his dad, despite being a ninth grade drop-out, was also a compulsive reader, something Queenan doesn't explore until near the end of the book.

Beside Queenan's life-long love affair with books is a whole host of things he hates. He hates "Cats', the play not the animals (although he might hate the furry little beasts as well) which, of course, leads to a hatred for Andrew Lloyd Webber; he also hates Ayn Rand and the band, Rush, McMansions, alcoholics, and the New York Yankees. Then there are the book-related things. With a few exceptions, he hates small independent bookstores which are run mainly by smug prigs with bad taste and short memories. He also hates book clubs and mediocre books about popular diseases - according to him, these books should be avoided like, well, said popular diseases. Oddly, he has a fondness for really bad books by people like Pamela Anderson and OJ Simpson which, he claims with only a little irony, are great fun to read. He is also a self-professed Luddite who wouldn't allow a Kindle anywhere near his person and he believes there is a special place in Hell for professional book critics.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By L. Young VINE VOICE on December 2, 2012
Format: Hardcover
If you are a passionate book lover you will adore Joe Queenan's 'One for the Books', his quirky journey through his life's passion - reading. Each book lover has his personal quirks and Queenan has quite a few. He won't read books written by Yankee fans, or books that have ugly covers. He wittily expounds upon his favorite bookstores and has a disastrous but hilarious experience at the New York Public Library attempting to retrieve his bag. He undertakes unusual reading projects like spending a year reading nothing but short books and reads many books at one time, a practice I abhor. Personally I feel I must always be loyal to the one I'm with. I won't even hold it against him that that he thinks two of my favorite writers - Zola and Mann - are bores. I loved every minute spent with this book. It makes a great gift for that special booklover in your life.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Timothy Haugh VINE VOICE on November 4, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Though his name was familiar to me, I can't say I really know Mr. Queenan's work. However, I always enjoy books about books so I decided to give this one a try.

Apparently, Mr. Queenan persona (or personality--who can tell? I don't know him, despite living only a dozen or so miles away.) is that of a curmudgeon. His tone of barely controlled exasperation throughout most of this book can get a bit tiresome, but what fun is a book of opinions if the writer isn't opinionated?

Like most books of this type, I agree with some things Mr. Queenan has to say and disagree with others. I'm not a fan of libraries as Mr. Queenan is but I agree with some of what he has to say about electronic books. I love the way he discusses reading for hours every day, never being without reading material, and reading at inappropriate times and places. I have the same problem (as my wife constantly reminds me). On the other hand, unlike Mr. Queenan, I am generally not the type to fill my books with marginalia, not even to write my name inside.

Also, like most books filled with blustery opinions, he contradicts himself occasionally. He doesn't like people to recommend books to him or give him books and yet many of the books he can't seem to part with are gifts from someone. He seems to relish his hardscrabble upbringing while touting his expertise in French language and literature. He doesn't like to visit author's homes but these visits produce some of his best stories.

The fact of the matter is, there's much to like about this book. I enjoyed many of the recurring themes: his ability to set various reading goals for himself (and then abandon them), and the hold that Eliot's Middlemarch has over him.
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