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Every Book Its Reader: The Power of the Printed Word to Stir the World Hardcover – November 29, 2005
This month's Book With Buzz: "The Lying Game" by Ruth Ware
From the instant New York Times bestselling author of blockbuster thrillers "In a Dark, Dark Wood" and "The Woman in Cabin 10" comes Ruth Ware’s chilling new novel, "The Lying Game." See more
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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.
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
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Top customer reviews
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.
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.
in the discussions. I always look forward to his next book.