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Every Book Its Reader

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About the Author

Nicholas A. Basbanes has worked as an award-winning investigative reporter, a literary editor, and a nationally syndicated columnist. The author of five books, he also writes a regular column for Fine Books & Collections magazine and lectures widely on book-related issues. He and his wife, Constance, live in Massachusetts.


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. Agents, Glen Hartley and Lynn Chu. (Dec.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

"If Oprah would only join the ranks of Cervantes's fans, he'd have a chance at today's bestseller list." -- Brigitte Weeks, Washington Post Book World "Every Book Its Reader reminds us that books, in all their myriad forms, are necessary equipment for living." -- Los Angeles Times "These essays...occupy a corner of the grand salon of the history of ideas." -- Amanda Heller, Boston Globe "`Affection, laughter, argument'--aptly characterize the work of this great contemporary celebrant of the common, and the uncommon reader, Basbanes." -- Michael Dirda, Weekly Standard "First-rate reporting....[EBIR] allows us to step away from our myopic fixation on writers and consider the reader." -- Karen Long, Cleveland Plain Dealer "No living person has thought more about the extraordinary power of books than Nicholas Basbanes." -- Ellis Henican, Newsday "[An] admirably wide excursion into literature, history and biography." -- Kathleen Burke, Smithsonian Magazine "Nicholas Basbanes is the Pied Piper of bibliophiles." -- John Harper, Orlando Sentinel

Basbanes (A Splendor of Letters: The Permanence of Books in an Impermanent World) borrows the title and theme of his new book, inspired by a 1963 exhibition at the British Museum documenting five centuries of the printed word, from one of S.R. Ranganathan's Five Laws of Library Science ("Every book his reader"). Taking "prevailing fashion into account," he focuses on peoples' reading habits and on the books they have read, both obscure and renowned, as well as on the importance of particular books in specific contexts. Basbanes begins by interviewing some of the best-read people alive, among them David McCullough, Harold Bloom, Helen Vendler, and Elaine Pagels; he also mentions a wide variety of contemporary and historical personages. The loosely related stories are often inspirational, making this an engrossing read. Recommended for all bibliophiles and libraries. (With 26 pages of endnotes; index not seen.) [See Prepub Alert, LJ 8/05.]-Martha Stephenson, Univ. of Wisconsin Lib., Whitewater Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

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