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Books: A Memoir (2008)

by Larry McMurtry

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,0214715,064 (3.29)47
In a prolific life of singular literary achievement, Larry McMurtry has succeeded in a variety of genres: in coming-of-age novels like The Last Picture Show; in collections of essays like In a Narrow Grave; and in the reinvention of the Western on a grand scale in his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Lonesome Dove. Now, in Books: A Memoir, McMurtry writes about his endless passion for books: as a boy growing up in a largely "bookless" world; as a young man devouring the vastness of literature with astonishing energy; as a fledgling writer and family man; and above all, as one of America's most prominent bookmen. He takes us on his journey to becoming an astute, adventurous book scout and collector who would eventually open stores of rare and collectible editions in Georgetown, Houston, and finally, in his previously "bookless" hometown of Archer City, Texas--From publisher description.… (more)
  1. 00
    A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for Books by Nicholas A. Basbanes (ALinNY458)
    ALinNY458: This was a wonderful, entertaining book that I recommend highly to anyone interested in books and the people who collect them.
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» See also 47 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 47 (next | show all)
Brief memoir by a writer who is also known for his movies but his real passion was dealing in used books. Especially high end collectibles and rare editions. So of course he tells how he came to be a reader, and his love of books which any bibliophile would enjoy absorbing in these pages. However this volume felt a bit choppy to me, as he tells about part of his childhood, then where that led to or some related aspect of his adult life, then drops back into the chronological narrative again. Every other page nearly, as the chapters are mostly only one or two in length. It didn't bother me too much, though. I've liked before many memoirs written by readers or writers, but this one is really about being a dealer. A book scout. Mingling with wealthy and monied people (they have the best private libraries) and what finds he had (or missed out on). How some copies resurfaced years later, or were re-bought and sold when you wouldn't expect them to be. Lots of titles I recognized fondly, and many many more I didn't (my reading tastes are not quite the same). Loads of name dropping which did nothing for me, but I skimmed through that, interested regardless. Plenty of interesting snippets of stories about curious customers or individuals met while seeking out fine book collections. He tells about when secondhand bookshops were thriving, and how he watched them slowly begin to decline in the seventies. This account wraps up just when online selling was becoming a thing, in fact the last chapter is a sort of obituary list of defunct bookshops- many of which he'd acquired the complete stock when they went under. He also noted how computers are gradually taking over space in public libraries, saying though "Book selling will never quite expire unless reading expires first..."

more at the Dogear Diary ( )
  jeane | Oct 31, 2019 |
I suppose I was expecting something different. This book really feels like a story from my grandpa. McMurtry talks of his childhood, but most of the book covers his life as a bookseller and collector of rare books. He talks about some of them and other stuff like that, and it reads rather easily. He has been in the book business for a while, but seems to not be in it anymore. No surprise really, since he would be in his seventies by now.

Anyway, I thought it was okay, but I won't read it again. ( )
  Floyd3345 | Jun 15, 2019 |
For more reviews and bookish posts please visit: http://www.ManOfLaBook.com

Books by Larry McMurtry is a non-fiction memoir of the author’s time as an antiquarian book seller. Mr. McMurtry is an American novelist, who is known for writing about the Old West such as Lonesome Dove.

I really enjoyed the parts where Mr. McMurtry talked about his love for books, eclectic customers, unique acquisitions, special sales he’d made, and love of bookstores around the country. Once the author veers off the topics of books and talks about the business aspect. The book, however, was disjointed, almost as if the author dictated it and then published the dictation. There is no timeline that I could easily discern, some chapters are barely a paragraph as if it’s a thought the author just wanted to air out.

Besides the captivating world of book dealing, there isn’t much else to this book. It’s not a biography, but a very specific memoir on a very specific subject. ( )
  ZoharLaor | Mar 21, 2019 |
Well, sort of a memoir. The author discusses his time as an antiquarian bookseller - how he got his stock, what happened to it, etc. ( )
  nancynova | Aug 5, 2018 |
Of interest if you're a book shop owner/book buyer. Perhaps better known for his other works of 'Lonesome Dove', co-authoring the screenplay for 'Brokeback Mountain', McMurtry tells the tale of his relationship to books. Specifically, his years as a book buyer/scout, bookshop owner, how he came to love books, etc. We get a short overview of his early years when he learned to read, grew to love stories and books, his education, etc. The book is mostly about his career regarding the purchase or business of books (vs. writing them), told in the form of essays, some of which are not even a page long.
 
That's all there is to it. Unless you're very specifically interested in the work he did or simply want to complete your reading of his work, I wouldn't recommend this. As other reviews note, he starts off really well: the biography of his early years and young adulthood were quite interesting and it made me regret (at that time) for not reading 'Dove', even though I've owned it for several years.
 
But once he leaves college and into adulthood, the book quickly slides downhill. It can be interpreted as a bunch of namedropping about various people in the book business, and some of the bookstores he's been to around the country and the changing business of book selling/buying. Some people might think of it as his love of books and his concerns for the business of books and the model of selling. In any case, I found it really boring.
 
It was really too bad because I would have loved it if he had stayed upon the topic of his love of books themselves and how he read them, acquired them personally (vs. for his business), about selling them to customers, etc. The business aspect doesn't interest me in a book form, at least not like this.
 
Again, would only recommend if you have a very specific interest in the business he talks about or if you're really wanting to complete your consumption of his works. Otherwise, this wasn't at all interesting and I regret buying it even as a bargain book. Library if you're that interested but I wouldn't make a special effort if you're only casually interested. ( )
  HoldMyBook | Feb 11, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 47 (next | show all)
In his own way, McMurtry is no less evasive. “Books: A Memoir” reads like notes waiting to be assembled into a book. Many of its 109 chapters run to under a page, and McMurtry has a fondness for single-sentence paragraphs, a technique that carries a built-in resistance to amplitude.
There is a good book in “Books,” struggling to get past all the “I’m not sures” and “I don’t knows” and the truisms (“choice is a mystery”) that McMurtry’s editors should have saved him from.
 

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For the faithful

Marcia Carter
William F. Hale and Candee Harris
Khristal Collins
and
Julie and Cody Ressell of Three Dog Books
without whose efforts there would be no Booked Up

And from the Bookstop in Tucson, Arizona

Claire
Tina
Kate
Rachel (emerita)

May they ever flourish
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I don't remember either of my parents ever reading me a story - perhaps that's why I've made up so many.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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In a prolific life of singular literary achievement, Larry McMurtry has succeeded in a variety of genres: in coming-of-age novels like The Last Picture Show; in collections of essays like In a Narrow Grave; and in the reinvention of the Western on a grand scale in his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Lonesome Dove. Now, in Books: A Memoir, McMurtry writes about his endless passion for books: as a boy growing up in a largely "bookless" world; as a young man devouring the vastness of literature with astonishing energy; as a fledgling writer and family man; and above all, as one of America's most prominent bookmen. He takes us on his journey to becoming an astute, adventurous book scout and collector who would eventually open stores of rare and collectible editions in Georgetown, Houston, and finally, in his previously "bookless" hometown of Archer City, Texas--From publisher description.

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