A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Love of Books

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A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Love of Books

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Dec 8, 2006, 1:13 pm

I just finished this book yesterday, and I loved it, infact, I'm looking forward to getting my hands on its two sequels. The book, for those of you who don't know, is about rare book collecting, rare book collectors, rare book auctions, how much collectors pay for these books. There's also a quite interesting chapter about a bibliokleptomaniac (someone who steals books) who was arrested in the early '90's after stealing thousands of volumes from hundreds of libraries all over the US. So, who else has read it? What did you think?

Dec 8, 2006, 4:47 pm

I loved it and as a result read all of his other books. I enjoyed each one and was sorry when there were no more to read. I also enjoyed Sixpence House very much by Paul Collins and some others which I can't recall right now.

On the fiction side I have enjoyed the Cliff Janeway series by John Dunning. I love mysteries and when you add books to a good mystery it is almost complete...the missing ingredients for completion being coffee and chocolate but those can be added by the reader :-)

Edited: Dec 14, 2006, 10:28 am

I believe I'm getting Nicholas A. Basbanes' A Gentle Madness book as a gift for Christmas and I'm very excited to read it, and the other books he's written. I've been hesitant to read his books because I'm afraid that Basbanes will lock himself in a niche subject/market and become tiresome, as with what happened in my opinion to Bill Bryson.

Aug 30, 2007, 9:14 pm

Anyone who enjoys books on books should also track down John Baxter';s wonderful memoir A POUND OF PAPER. it's both an autobiography of sorts, and a charting of various books and trends in books (some pulpish) that film critic Baxter enjoyed over the years. A great read!

Feb 4, 2008, 10:18 pm

I just bought A Pound of Paper and can't wait to read it! I have all of the Basbanes books and just bought three of the Cliff Janeway novels. It's so good to see them highly recommended.

May 18, 2008, 3:02 pm

Wow, its been almost two years since I posted this, and I have yet to read either of the sequels. Well, I guess I know what's moving near the top of the TBR pile now, heh.

May 18, 2008, 7:34 pm

Even if you just read Basbanes' books, you won't be disappointed!. I especially enjoyed A Splendor of Letters. It's about a culture's libraries and their fragile existence.

Jul 6, 2008, 4:47 pm

To anyone interested, I've just started reading Manguel's The Library at Night. As much as I enjoy Basbanes, Manguel is as close as we can now get to Borges in terms of an almost fetishistic (is that a word?) love of books.

Sep 12, 2008, 5:43 pm

I just bought The Library at Night over Labor Day weekend. I've barely started it but I think it will be delightful. I've been occasionally dipping into A History of Reading, about 25% into it, but I my put that aside until I can find time to read it through. I'm enjoying it, and would like to concentrate on it.

A Gentle Madness I read quite a while ago and loved it; just recently I read Every Book It's Reader (no Touchstone?) by Basbanes--it has a great chapter on marginalia and I took it to heart. I made notes all through this book and will read it again.

Sep 13, 2008, 12:48 am

Since reading The Library at Night, I've come to realize it is one of my all time favorite BABs.


Sep 14, 2008, 6:40 pm

Good to hear, benjclark. I will have extra reading time week after next--I'll try to put some concentrated time in on it.

Aug 3, 2009, 6:04 pm

I finally got around to starting Patience and Fortitude and am enjoying it immensely. I have a copy of a Splendor of Letters, which I'll probably start next. I was wondering what all else Basbanes has written other than this trilogy? I've greatly enjoyed him so far and would love to read more of his work.

Aug 3, 2009, 6:09 pm

Basbanes' LT author page (http://www.librarything.com/author/basbanesnicholasa) lists his other works beyond the loose trilogy which began with 'A Gentle Madness' ('Among the Gently Mad', 'Every Book Its Reader', 'Editions & Impressions', and 'A World of Letters')

Aug 4, 2009, 4:29 pm

I'm halfway through Patience and Fortitude and loving it - just as I loved Among the gently mad by Basbanes. I enjoy reading books about books because it gives meaning to my own addiction :-) and it comforts me that there are more people crazy about books.
I didn't like A pound of paper that much - sorry 666777 and utah, but Sixpence house is a good read. Here are some of my suggestions:
- Biblioholism by Tom Raabe is quite funny but also a mirror for the more addicted ones among us
- a brilliant book about a single book and its meaning throughout science and history is The book nobody read by Owen Gingerich. Although I'm not into mathematics or other scientific stuff, this was a great read: combining a passion for books with history, suspense, the world of second hand book selling, international politics...
- I don't know if it's available in English, but the German philosopher Walter Benjamin wrote a beautiful little essay about his library while he is unpacking it, and he writes about his thoughts on collecting books, the meaning of books, etc. Very quotable little story! The french title is Je déballe ma bibliothèque.
- A superb book about collecting books, but for an entirely different reason, is Aaron Lansky's Outwitting history, in which he describes his quest for saving all (and I mean literally ALL) Yiddish books in America and in the rest of the world. Yiddish as a language was about to disappear and Yiddish literature was being thrown away because nobody could read it anymore. Lansky describes how he and his coworkers managed to save millions of books. Especially intruiging is the story about the Yiddish language book of which miraculously one volume exists (because the Nazi's burned the rest, but forgot to burn one book), which Lansky has.
- those of you who enjoy reading about hunting down books in bookstores and garage sales, you will enjoy the books by Lawrence Goldstone and Nancy Goldstone, for instance: Used and rare or Slightly chipped. The goldstones tell about their buying of books, meeting booksellers and other bibliophiles, etc.

happy reading!


Jan 18, 2010, 6:57 am

there is a great interview with Nicholas A. Basbanes and a tour of his library on c-span at the following link

Edited: Jan 18, 2010, 10:59 am

Thank you - looking forward to enjoying this. I'm always interested in seeing other peoples libraries. (By the way, if you haven't seen the photos of Neil Gaiman's library that were posted on Shelfari, take a peek.)

Edited: Jan 19, 2010, 6:43 pm

I'm watching it right now. If things go as planned I'll have a house like that some day.

I'm green with envy of Basbanes. Not necessarily the books, not everything is of interest to me (like the plays), but to have a house-wide library like that, and such an interesting collection. Someday I hope to have something like that. Looking forward to his book about the history of paper. Anyone know when it might be released?

Jan 19, 2010, 12:49 pm

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Jan 22, 2010, 9:37 pm

>15 Eramirez156:
Thank you for posting this link. Quite incredible. It is amazing the amount of research that goes into one of his books.

>17 DeusExLibrus:
The video mentioned Spring or Fall of 2010

Feb 24, 2010, 9:59 pm

Just watched the whole clip from message 15. Thank you for posting that. Thanks also to Mr. Basbnanes for allowing the tour of his whole house. I have read several of his books listed above and was engrossed by all of them. I look forward to reading his new book on paper when comes out. He says that he is not too fond of e-books. I also like to have a physical book in my hands, but I have been reading a lot of text here on LibraryThing over the last few weeks. Either one is fine.

Feb 24, 2010, 10:50 pm


I was not too crazy about ebooks either, until I found the amazing wealth of obscure and out of print stuff available for free on Internet Archive. (See my "collection" of online texts.) Now I am quite enthusiastic about them.

Feb 25, 2010, 1:06 pm

Been reading Every Book its Reader and not enjoying it quite as much as Basbanes other books, but then again, its a Basbanes, so its still freaking awesome. Really looking forward to his book on paper. The bit he said about it in the tour has me rather intrigued.

Feb 27, 2010, 5:10 pm

I got an iPhone last night. It was a hand-me-down from the little brother. Promptly put an ereader on it. Stood in line at the post office today for almost 45 mins. Got through a whole collection of short stories by PG Wodehouse. I never forgot I was at the PO, but I wasn't nearly as grumpy by the time I got to the counter.

Mar 1, 2010, 5:37 pm

Apr 17, 2010, 6:01 pm

Ah Ben, who could ever be grumpy reading or listening to Wodehouse. What an obvious but excellent solution!

Apr 23, 2010, 3:45 am

> 15 Thank you for posting this link, I wished I had Mr. Basbanes library and his stunning memory. I immediately ordered every book available. Unfortunately A Gentle Madness and Among the Gently Mad are out of print.

Apr 23, 2010, 3:51 am

> 26 They are? Damn. Always sad to find out good books have gone out of print. Then again, I've got copies of both. :)

Apr 23, 2010, 4:56 am

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Apr 23, 2010, 5:13 am

>27 DeusExLibrus: I found copies on amazon.com, but I've never ordered there and I'm not sure how to order and pay. Living in Germany, it's not that easy to find English/American books. My bookstore can't order them. Well, I'll first read the copies I ordered yesterday, that will take me a lot of time.

Apr 26, 2010, 5:24 am

#29: You might try www.ABEBooks.com which represents booksellers around the world. Another possibility is www.BookDepository.com, although I believe they carry only new books.

Apr 26, 2010, 9:36 am

#30> I think the BookDepository also carries used books, because I collect Virago Modern Classics and I have seen quite a few titles in their catalogue.
It is worth trying.

Apr 27, 2010, 3:48 am

#29 and #30 Thank you both for your advise! BookDepository didn't have them, but I found both Basbanes' at ABABooks.de and ordered them right away. So thanks a lot, now I'll only have to wait about a month before they arrive here.

Apr 24, 2013, 2:43 pm

>17 DeusExLibrus: looks like Basbanes and Knopf finally got it all together... his book 'On Paper: The Everything of its Two-Thousand-Year History' has an official street date of October 15, 2013. No doubt it was quite the task to reduce 2000+ years of the history of paper to 448 pages.

Apr 27, 2013, 6:27 pm

Three years past the projected release date, but doubtless worth the wait.

Jul 20, 2013, 3:11 pm

>34 trav: Basbanes is definitely the one to pull off that task!