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Phantoms on the Bookshelves Hardcover – October 1, 2010

4.2 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

'This is a charming book full of erudition and wit, and is very nicely translated' John Sutherland, Literary Review. Literary Review 'Part cataloguing manual, part homage to books, adventure story and autobiography, this Borgesian account is a promise of happiness' J r me Garcin, Nouvel Observateur. Nouvel Observateur

About the Author

Jacques Bonnet is a publisher, translator and the author of novels and works of art history, including a monograph on the artist Lorenzo Lotto. Si n Reynolds is the translator of Fernand Braudel, and of CWA award-winning crime novels by Fred Vargas, amongst others. She is the author of several books on French culture and society.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 156 pages
  • Publisher: Maclehose Press Quercus; Second Impression edition (October 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1906694583
  • ISBN-13: 978-1906694586
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.6 x 7.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,485,049 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By R. M. Peterson TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 7, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book has a very specific audience - bibliophiles with their own library, to which they devote their life reading, organizing, and maintaining. And within that select group, it is targeted not to collectors of rare books but rather to those who actually read and use their books (or might want to read and use a book in the future, which is why they buy it even though they don't really have room for it). If you are one of that breed, I predict that PHANTOMS ON THE BOOKSHELVES will be an enjoyable five-star read. If not, you can safely pass on it.

Jacques Bonnet is a French publisher, translator, and author. For forty years he has been acquiring books, so that, as of the time of writing this slim book, he had a private library of more than forty thousand volumes. It is "a working library, the kind where you don't hesitate to write on your books, or read them in the bath; a library that results from keeping everything you have ever read - including paperbacks and perhaps several editions of the same title - as well as the ones you mean to read one day. A non-specialist library, or rather one specialized in so many areas that it becomes a general one."

Much of the book is devoted to problems of classification and organization. That might sound staggeringly dull, except to those of us who have encountered those sometimes vexing problems and are curious about how others address them - and for the likes of us, Bonnet's discussion is thorough and thoughtful, yet light and witty and anything but dull. The point of organization, of course, is to be able to readily retrieve a specific book when one thinks one needs it.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Speaking as a retired Librarian, I enjoyed this book immensely. The author's description of his library: books read over and over again; books read once; books to be read; books which probably never will be read, but still... The practical problems of storing all those books. I don't share the author's mania. But it was a lot of fun reading (!) about it.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Phantoms on the Bookshelves by Jacques Bonnet is a slim book (133 pages) and smallish so it fits comfortably in your hand, just right for reading in bed.

I was enchanted by the subject...people who can count their personal libraries in the tens of thousands and their idiosyncrasies. While I'm only halfway to my first ten thousand, I felt Bonnet was speaking directly to me about book collecting and the whys and wherefores of acquiring a book - you like the cover art, someone recommended it, the book had an interesting title. And the downside, they cost a lot of money are aren't worth much in resale. He especially hit home with the comment that even if the book is terrible, it's hard to get rid of. Once part of the library, always part of the library.

The upside, of course, is the pleasure of knowing the books are there waiting for the right time to be read or re-read or just thumbed through for favorite passages. Then there is the obsession of collecting itself and the hunt through used book shops looking for the one volume you're missing.

There is even a chapter on how to organize your collection and a bibliography of the books from his own collection that he discusses in the book.

A charming book fo anyone who loves books.
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A bit erudite for me but still delightful, light and clean prose. Because he's French many of the books and authors were unfamiliar to me, but his love for books, his helplessness as they take over the house any reader will appreciate and relate to. Though he is an intellectual and writing superior, the shared life with books is a bond that makes him a soul mate. I loved it.
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Format: Hardcover
This 123-page book was translated from the French language by Sian Reynolds, a translator of Fred Vargas novels, and she herself has written about French culture, but I have not read her other work so I am not sure if the dry, pedantic style was that of the author's or the translator's. The references to books were mostly to French books, but that does not detract from the substance of this book. It read like a short memoir of a book collector, explaining why people collect books and giving his own reasons - the influence of his father's library and a desire to read all the books in the world to gain knowledge. Jacques Bonnet writes about his encounters with other book collectors, libraries, book shops, and inquisitive questions posed to owners of large libraries - "Have you read all these books?" - and the subject of people, places, and things in books, and the habit of reading. Unless you too have a love for reading and books, this book may not interest you, and a rating of three stars may be a more accurate one for this book.
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Oh my word! No really, his word or words as it were. This was delightful!!!! I only have a mere thousand or so books, but I feel very validated with our relationships now. :) All the great words for this one, smart, funny, insightful, charming, informative, educational, feel-good, curious, thought-provoking and oh, very well written! From Phantoms to Tennessee Williams and Ludovico Zorzi. Thank you Jacques Bonnet :)

ENJOY
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