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16+ Works 8,393 Members 101 Reviews 65 Favorited

About the Author

Nicholas A. Basbanes was literary editor of the Worcester Sunday Telegram from 1978 to 1991, and is a former president of the Friends of the Robert H. Goddard Library of Clark University.

Works by Nicholas A. Basbanes

Associated Works

The Quotable Book Lover (1999) — Foreword — 390 copies
Modern Book Collecting (1980) — Introduction — 305 copies
Rare Books Uncovered: True Stories of Fantastic Finds in Unlikely Places (2015) — Foreword, some editions — 181 copies
Evermore: The Persistence of Poe (2014) — Contributor — 7 copies

Tagged

anthology (27) authors (32) Basbanes (34) bibliography (42) bibliomania (218) bibliophile (152) bibliophilia (236) biography (43) book collecting (533) book collectors (44) book history (115) books (997) books about books (1,386) books and reading (191) collecting (146) culture (25) essays (64) first edition (113) hardcover (40) history (306) interviews (28) libraries (221) library (55) literary criticism (52) literature (89) NF (33) Nicholas Basbanes (42) non-fiction (863) own (47) paper (47) paperback (27) quotations (81) read (99) reading (193) reference (105) signed (64) to-read (492) unread (56) wishlist (48) writing (93)

Common Knowledge

Canonical name
Basbanes, Nicholas A.
Legal name
Basbanes, Nicholas Andrew
Birthdate
1943-05-25
Gender
male
Nationality
USA
Birthplace
Lowell, Massachusetts, USA
Places of residence
Lowell, Massachusetts, USA
North Grafton, Massachusetts, USA
Education
Bates College (BA|1965)
Pennsylvania State University (MA|1969)
Occupations
journalist
author
lecturer
Relationships
Basbanes, Constance (wife)
Organizations
United States Navy (Vietnam)
Awards and honors
National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship
Short biography
A native of Lowell, Massachusetts, Nicholas A. Basbanes graduated from Bates College in 1965, received a master of arts degree from Pennsylvania State University in 1968, and served as a naval officer aboard the aircraft carrier Oriskany in the Tonkin Gulf in 1969 and 1970. An award-winning investigative reporter during the early 1970s, Basbanes was literary editor of the Worcester Sunday Telegram from 1978 to 1991, and for eight years after that wrote a nationally syndicated column on books and authors. He is a former president of the Friends of the Robert H. Goddard Library of Clark University, which has established a student book collecting competition in his honor. In addition to his books, Basbanes has written for numerous newspapers, magazines, and journals, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, Smithsonian, Civilization , and New England Quarterly among them, and lectures widely on book-related subjects. In 2004, he began writing the "Gently Mad" column for Fine Books & Collections magazine. With his wife, Constance Basbanes, he writes a monthly review of children's books for Literary Features Syndicate, which they established in 1993, and which appears in a dozen newspapers. They are the parents of two daughters, and live in North Grafton, Mass.

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Discussions

Nick Basbanes' library in Other People's Libraries (April 2016)

Reviews

Summary: A celebration of those who compiled book lists and made recommendations, the impact of books on various individuals, and the reading lives of famous individuals.

For bibliophiles, Nicholas A. Basbanes is a godsend. He has published at least five books about books and those who are dedicated readers and collectors. I’ve previously reviewed A Gentle Madness, Basbanes celebration of book collectors. This, I believe has a wider appeal. The premise of this work is to explore the impact books have had on their readers and he takes us on a fascinating tour of the lives and libraries of the famous.

He begins with the history of those who recommend books and it was delightful to find that Bob on Books follows a long and honorable tradition. We learn of the great popularity of May Lamberton Becker and her “Readers Guide” columns of the late 1800’s, spanning a wide array of interests. Most delightful is the story of a rural reader with limited access to books asking for books that “had made her [Becker] sit up at night” that she could order by mail order. Becker sent her a package of books that arrived after she’d had surgery for a terminal condition. She wrote back, “With books I slip out of my life and am with the choicest company.”

Basbanes discusses the various attempts to compile lists of “greatest books,” a literary canon, including the efforts of Anita Silvey, who has read over 125,000 children’s books and compiled a list of 100 best books for children. We learn of the efforts of the Lilly Library to identify and collect the books people will be reading in 300 years.

Much of the book is concerned with famous readers and how they interacted with their books. We learn of “the silent witneeses,” the notes Henry James jotted in his books. Basbanes goes on with this theme in a whole chapter on “Marginalia,” the notes readers jot in the margins of their books–a horror to librarians and a trove of information for those studying the history of reading.

We’re introduced to David McCullough, an ardent reader who tells the story of Nathaniel Greene and Henry Knox, brilliant Revolutionary war leaders who learned strategy and tactics from books! We learn how Lincoln, Adams, and others carried books with them wherever they went. Basbanes traces the artistry of translators. He chronicles the biblical scholarship of Elaine Pagels. He introduces us to the child psychologist Robert Coles, a former literature major who came to recognize the power of stories for children and the rest of us. We meet Daniel Aaron, the man responsible for my bookcase full of Library of America volumes, doing for American writers what other series have done for Europeans. We visit the libraries of Thomas Edison and the Wright brothers, inventors nourished by their reading.

The book concludes by featuring the Changing Lives Through Literature program, and the transformative influence books have had on the lives of the imprisoned. (Sadly, access to literature for prisoners is being curbed in many states.) What Basbanes does throughout is explore the significance of books on our lives. Reading him both confirms my own deep sense of the value of reading and inspires me to grow as a reader, to truly attend to what I read.
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BobonBooks | 7 other reviews | Dec 24, 2023 |
Because I am a bibliophile interested in books as cultural objects per se, as well as sources of edification, I really cannot say enough good things about this book, as well as the two the precede it, A Gentle Madness and Patience and Fortitude. Nicholas Basbanes is hands down the best contemporary writer of books on books I have encountered (if you look at my "Books on Books" shelf, you'll see I read a a fair amount of this stuff), and this is among his best work. Very highly recommended.… (more)
 
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Mark_Feltskog | 6 other reviews | Dec 23, 2023 |
Yet another fascinating account of the world of books and ideas from Nicholas Basbanes, who has become, by any objective standard, the leading chronicler of print culture. Very highly recommended.
 
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Mark_Feltskog | 10 other reviews | Dec 23, 2023 |

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Statistics

Works
16
Also by
6
Members
8,393
Popularity
#2,872
Rating
4.0
Reviews
101
ISBNs
36
Languages
2
Favorited
65

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