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A Passion for Books: A Book Lover's Treasury of Stories, Essays, Humor, Lore, and Lists on Collecting, Reading, Borrowing, Lending, Caring for, and Appreciating Books Paperback – January 23, 2001

4.5 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Rabinowitz (Pushing the Envelope: Airplanes of the Jet Age) and Kaplan (an editor at HarperCollins) have put together a delightfully eclectic collection of anecdotes, stories, essays, humor, cartoons, quotes, and lists written by writers, critics, booksellers, and book collectors, as well as by the editors themselves. The material speaks not to the activity of reading but rather to the pleasure derived from choosing, holding, and having books. This subject matter makes the work truly unique. Book collectors will smile and nod in agreement again and again as their obsession is legitimized by everyone from Christopher Morley to Ray Bradbury to Norman Mailer to Petrarch. (Umberto Eco's "How To Organize a Public Library" should be required reading in all MLS programs.) A "Bibliobibliography" is provided. This superbly edited collection is highly recommended for all libraries.AAngela M. Weiler, SUNY Libs. at Morrisville
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Inside Flap

"When I have a little money, I buy books. And if any is left, I buy food and clothing."
--Desiderius Erasmus

Those who share Erasmus's love of those curious bundles of paper bound together between hard or soft covers know exactly how he felt. These are the people who can spend hours browsing through a bookstore, completely oblivious not only to the passage of time but to everything else around them, the people for whom buying books is a necessity, not a luxury. A Passion for Books is a celebration of that love, a collection of sixty classic and contemporary essays, stories, lists, poems, quotations, and cartoons on the joys of reading, appreciating, and collecting books.

This enriching collection leads off with science-fiction great Ray Bradbury's Foreword, in which he remembers his penniless days pecking out Fahrenheit 451 on a rented typewriter, conjuring up a society so frightened of art that it burns its books. This struggle--financial and creative--led to his lifelong love of all books, which he hopes will cosset him in his grave, "Shakespeare as a pillow, Pope at one elbow, Yeats at the other, and Shaw to warm my toes. Good company for far-travelling."

Booklovers will also find here a selection of writings by a myriad of fellow sufferers from bibliomania. Among these are such contemporary authors as Philip Roth, John Updike, Umberto Eco, Robertson Davies, Nicholas Basbanes, and Anna Quindlen; earlier twentieth-century authors Christopher Morley, A. Edward Newton, Holbrook Jackson, A.S.W. Rosenbach, William Dana Orcutt, Robert Benchley, and William Targ; and classic authors such as Michel de Montaigne, Gustave Flaubert, Petrarch, and Anatole France.

Here also are entertaining and humorous lists such as the "Ten Best-Selling Books Rejected by Publishers Twenty Times or More," the great books included in Clifton Fadiman and John Major's New Lifetime Reading Plan, Jonathan Yardley's "Ten Books That Shaped the American Character," "Ten Memorable Books That Never Existed," "Norman Mailer's Ten Favorite American Novels," and Anna Quindlen's "Ten Big Thick Wonderful Books That Could Take You a Whole Summer to Read (but Aren't Beach Books)."

Rounding out the anthology are selections on bookstores, book clubs, and book care, plus book cartoons, and a specially prepared "Bibliobibliography" of books about books.

Whether you consider yourself a bibliomaniac or just someone who likes to read, A Passion for Books will provide you with a lifetime's worth of entertaining, informative, and pleasurable reading on your favorite subject--the love of books.

A Sampling of the Literary Treasures in A Passion for Books

Umberto Eco's "How to Justify a Private Library," dealing with the question everyone with a sizable library is inevitably asked: "Have you read all these books?"

Anatole Broyard's "Lending Books," in which he notes, "I feel about lending a book the way most fathers feel about their daughters living with a man out of wedlock."

Gustave Flaubert's Bibliomania, the classic tale of a book collector so obsessed with owning a book that he is willing to kill to possess it.

A selection from Nicholas Basbanes's A Gentle Madness, on the innovative arrangements Samuel Pepys made to guarantee that his library would survive "intact" after his demise.

Robert Benchley's "Why Does Nobody Collect Me"--in which he wonders why first editions of books by his friend Ernest Hemingway are valuable while his are not, deadpanning "I am older than Hemingway and have written more books than he has."

George Hamlin Fitch's extraordinarily touching "Comfort Found in Good Old Books," on the solace he found in books after the death of his son.

A selection from Anna Quindlen's How Reading Changed My Life, in which she shares her optimistic view on the role of reading and the future of books in the computer age.

Robertson Davies's "Book Collecting," on the difference between those who collect rare books because they're valuable and those who collect them because they love books, ultimately making it clear which is "the collector who really matters."

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Three Rivers Press; Reprint edition (January 23, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812931130
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812931136
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,151,559 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By debra crosby on June 29, 2001
Format: Paperback
This is a charming, amusing, often poignant glimpse into the mind of the bibliophile, and I, for one, was reassured that I am certainly not alone in my addiction to books (even the smell of them!). I have far more books than I can ever read in one lifetime, unless I am held prisoner in my home for the next 50 years and have nothing else to occupy my time (come to think of it, that doesn't sound half bad), but I must keep buying them, because I not only love to read, but I love the heft, the texture, the smell, the look of a book, and have ever since I can remember. I was heartbroken when I had to give back my first textbook (which I thought was a gift to me!), a reader called "Spot," and perhaps that childhood trauma is still with me! So I surround myself with MY books, and my husband does the same, and we read as much as we can, and it gives us great pleasure. This book has essays, stories, lists (I felt guilty when I hadn't read enough of the books, or, horrors! hadn't heard of some of them!, and even the gentle angst of the guilty book thief or two. Each writer has his own perspective on his addiction to books. Anyone who doesn not care to read has a gaping hole in his soul, I think, and will not care for this book. The rest of us can take consolation in reading the well-chosen words of those who can articulate what this gentle madness feels like and how life-enriching it truly is.
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Format: Paperback
This book is an absolute necessity for book lovers. The editors have put together a wonderful collection of essays, stories, lists, and cartoons all about books. Every aspect of books is covered: collecting, reading, borrowing, lending, caring for, the history of, and much more. If you are the type of person who can spend hours in a bookstore, if you feel as if you are losing an arm or leg when you lend out a book, or if you don't understand why nobody else around you shares your love for print, this book is for you. Enjoy.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I thoroughly enjoyed this collection, and saw myself--a true bibliophile--captured in many of the pieces. It is interspersed with fun cartoons (booklovers will want these on your bulletin boards) and lists that will make you think "what would my picks be for this list?". The two pieces by the editors also capture two different types of book collectors - the methodical, organized (maybe a little obsessive) type and the collector whose collection almost overruns his life, while expressing in a concrete way, his interests and passion for the subjects covered.
This book should be of interest to collectors of all types because it shows the devotion, the passion and the energy invested in accumulating something you love.
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Format: Paperback
I love this book. I borrowed a copy but quickly decided that I needed to buy my own. How else could I dip into the essays, enjoy the quotes and debate the lists?

This book is both a self-contained banquet and a guide to all manner of bibliofeasts. This is a book for those of us who like possessing books as well as reading books. I am heartened to know that I am not alone in my reluctance to lend books except in the most exceptional of circumstances. No, rather than lend a book I'd rather gift a copy.

If this book is revised, I think the editors should consider including a paean to Post-it notes as a means of marking important quotes and passages. Wait, we probably should research the properties of the adhesive first. I don't want to damage my books.

Highly recommended.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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Format: Paperback
I have an addiction to buying--possessing--books that I want to read. There are some bibliophiles who are in it for the money or the history of the specific book they own. Not me. Regardless, this collection of fictional stories and personal anecdotes is relevant to book lovers of all types. If you need to buy books, then buy this one too.
Yet, the collection was not wholly satisfying. Some of the stories were too long and others too short. The young Flaubert's story "Bibliomania" about a murdering, book-loving monk is a must-read, and was the highlight of the collection. If you're new to the world of bibliophilia and all its strange inhabitants and their stories, this is a good book to begin with. For the seasoned bibliophile, this book can be overlooked (though if you're a bibliophile, I trust you won't be able to do that...).
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Harold Rabinowitz and Rob Kaplan have compiled a wonderful collection of stories, essays and poems that anyone with a passion for books is sure to find wonderful.
Ray Bradbury, in his foreword, helps to explain this passion...
Including contributions from current and previous writers who have explained their passions for books, this collection is witty and intelligent, and perhaps a bit over-the-top for those who do not share a similar passion.
Umberto Eco explains both how to organise a public library, and how to justify a private one. On the former, suggestions such as exceeding complex call numbers, mysterious locations of books and periodicals, and the attitude of librarians to patrons...These would seem enough in themselves to justify a private library, but Eco has yet a further purpose. A private library ensures that one can discern in visitors if they have a sufficient feel and appreciation of books...Further comment showed astonishment, in that my reviews (several hundred strong by that point) didn't include many 'cheap' books, but where all 'high priced hard backs' -- I do confess that a larger proportion of my income goes toward book-buying, but then I consider, I will keep these books all my life...Even the cost of a volume (and thankfully, most of my books are only half that amount), amortised over time, becomes a very good deal indeed; far less expense in time and petrol than running to the library to then be disappointed because the volume isn't there.
However, one of the sticky issues of having a private library becomes lending privileges. Christopher Morley wrote a wonderful thanksgiving to one of his returned books...
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