Books: A Memoir

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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 ...
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Overview

"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." In this work of extraordinary charm, grace, and good humor, McMurtry recounts his life as both a reader and a writer, how the countless books he has read worked to form his literary tastes, while giving us a lively look at the eccentrics who collect, sell, or simply lust after rare volumes. Books: A Memoir is like the best kind of diary - full of McMurtry's anecdotes, amazing characters, engaging gossip, and shrewd observations about authors, book people, literature, and the author himself. At once chatty, revealing, and deeply satisfying, Books is, like McMurtry, erudite, life loving, and filled with excellent stories.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

McMurtry (Lonesome Dove) calls this "a book about my life with books." He begins with his Texas childhood in an isolated, "totally bookless" ranch house. His life changed in 1942 when a cousin, off to enlist, gave McMurtry a box of 19 adventure books, initiating what eventually became his personal library of 28,000 books. "Forming that library, and reading it, is surely one of the principal achievements of my life," he writes, deftly interweaving book-collecting memories with autobiographical milestones. When his family moved to Archer City, Tex., he found more books, plus magazines, films and comic books. In Houston, attending Rice, he explored the 600,000 volumes in the "wonderful open-stack Fondren Library... heaven!" In 1971, after years of collecting, he opened his own bookstore, Booked Up, in Georgetown, Tex., relocating in 1996 to Archer City, where he created a "book town" by filling five buildings with 300,000 books. McMurtry offers opinions on everything from bookplates and audiobooks to the cyber revolution and 1950s paperbacks: "Paperback covers, many very sexy, were the advance guard of the rapid breakdown of sexual restraint among the middle classes almost everywhere." While there are anecdotes about bookshops and crafty dealers, McMurtry is at his best when he uses his considerable skills as a writer to recreate moments from his personal past. (July)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

In this fast-paced volume of reminiscences, acclaimed author McMurtry (Lonesome Dove) shares his lifelong love affair with books-not those he has written but those he has scouted, purchased, traded, kept, or sold. Starting with a gift from his cousin of 19 books, McMurtry has amassed a personal collection of about 28,000 books and estimates that in his career as an antiquarian book dealer he has owned approximately one million books. With remarkable clarity, he gives his readers a glimpse into the world of a bookman-its eccentric characters (one dealer would allow him to look at his books only through binoculars), its thrills (landing a copy of The Great Gatsby for $12 and years later learning that a similar copy sold for $168,000), and its disappointments (finding a perfect copy of a Nathanael West novel only to realize that the back cover had been gnawed away by rats). McMurtry notes sadly the decline of secondary booksellers, the increased use of audiobooks, and the growing presence of computers in libraries. Yet he expresses his belief that the love of books and the love of reading will never die. Anyone who reads this memoir will surely agree. Recommended for all libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ3/15/08.]
—Anthony Pucci

Kirkus Reviews
Having written about other aspects of his life, novelist and screenwriter McMurtry (When the Light Goes, 2007, etc.) finally gets around to his bibliomania. Just about the time his first novels were appearing in the 1960s, McMurtry was setting up shop as a book scout and dealer, working thrift shops and garage sales and other booksellers' stock to make, by his account, a pretty decent living. That he had long since become a voracious reader was not something anyone might have predicted. As he writes, he grew up on a little ranch nearly 20 miles away from the nearest library, with parents who apparently did not reach much beyond cattle-trade journals. "It puzzles me how totally bookless our ranch house was," he writes, though he did borrow the occasional cowboy book from a wealthy neighbor whose mansion McMurtry now owns and has filled with a library of-he tells us more than once-28,000 volumes. Rather frustratingly for his bibliophile readers, he doesn't go into much detail about what that library contains, save a smallish collection of 20th-century pulps. ("I'm hanging on to them," he writes, "against the day when I might want to write something Legmanesque about violence in American popular culture.") Like all booksellers, McMurtry is rueful about the rare book that got away, which, he counsels, is about the best way to learn. Yet, since his own early catalogues are rarer than most, he is fairly content to keep at his trade, which, when he is not winning book prizes and Oscars, involves keeping up a "book village" on the English model, but located on the high plains of north Texas. Elsewhere he writes of bookish eccentrics (though, as he warns, this book is mostly "personality-free"),deals gone right and wrong, chain stores, the Internet and the decline of reading, sticking to his guns even as he cautions that "it didn't take electricity long to kill off the kerosene lantern."A pleasant amble in Bookland and a treat for the bookishly inclined, as well as for McMurtry buffs.
From the Publisher
"[McMurtry] expresses his belief that the love of books and the love of reading will never die. Anyone who reads this memoir will surely agree." —-Library Journal Starred Review
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781416583349
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 7/8/2008
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Larry McMurtry

Larry McMurtry is the author of twenty-nine novels, including the Pulitzer Prize–winning Lonesome Dove.

William Dufris has been nominated nine times as a finalist for the APA's prestigious Audie Award and has garnered tweny-one Earphones Awards from AudioFile magazine, which also named him one of the Best Voices at the End of the Century.

Biography

Back in the late 60s, the fact that Larry McMurtry was not a household name was really a thorn in the side of the writer. To illustrate his dissatisfaction with his status, he would go around wearing a T-shirt that read "Minor Regional Novelist." Well, more than thirty books, two Oscar-winning screenplays, and a Pulitzer Prize later, McMurtry is anything but a minor regional novelist.

Having worked on his father's Texas cattle ranch for a great deal of his early life, McMurtry had an inborn fascination with the West, both its fabled history and current state. However, he never saw himself as a life-long rancher and aspired to a more creative career. He achieved this at the age of 25 when he published his first novel. Horseman, Pass By was a wholly original take on the classic western. Humorous, heartbreaking, and utterly human, this story of a hedonistic cowboy in contemporary Texas was a huge hit for the young author and even spawned a major motion picture starring Paul Newman called Hud just two years after its 1961 publication. Extraordinarily, McMurtry was even allowed to write the script, a rare honor for such a novice.

With such an auspicious debut, it is hard to believe that McMurtry ever felt as though he'd been slighted by the public or marginalized as a minor talent. While all of his books may not have received equal attention, he did have a number of astounding successes early in his career. His third novel The Last Picture Show, a coming-of-age-in-the-southwest story, became a genuine classic, drawing comparisons to J. D. Salinger and James Jones. In 1971, Peter Bogdonovich's screen adaptation of the novel would score McMurtry his first Academy award for his screenplay. Three years later, he published Terms of Endearment, a critically lauded urban family drama that would become a hit movie starring Jack Nicholson and Shirley MacLaine in 1985.

That year, McMurtry published what many believe to be his definitive novel. An expansive epic sweeping through all the legends and characters that inhabited the old west, Lonesome Dove was a masterpiece. All of the elements that made McMurtry's writing so distinguished -- his skillful dialogue, richly drawn characters, and uncanny ability to establish a fully-realized setting -- convened in this Pulitzer winning story of two retired Texas rangers who venture from Texas to Montana. The novel was a tremendous critical and commercial favorite, and became a popular miniseries in 1989.

Following the massive success of Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurtry's prolificacy grew. He would publish at least one book nearly every year for the next twenty years, including Texasville, a gut-wrenching yet hilarious sequel to The Last Picture Show, Buffalo Girls, a fictionalized account of the later days of Calamity Jane, and several non-fiction titles, such as Crazy Horse.

Interestingly, McMurtry would receive his greatest notoriety in his late 60s as the co-screenwriter of Ang Lee's controversial film Brokeback Mountain. The movie would score the writer another Oscar and become one of the most critically heralded films of 2005. The following year he published his latest novel. Telegraph Days is a freewheeling comedic run-through of western folklore and surely one of McMurtry's most inventive stories and enjoyable reads. Not bad for a "minor regional novelist."

Good To Know

A miniseries based on McMurtry's novel Comanche Moon is currently in production. McMurtry co-wrote the script.

The first-printing of McMurtry's novel In a Narrow Grave is one of his most obscure for a rather obscure reason. The book was withdrawn because the word "skyscrapers" was misspelled as "skycrappers" on page 105.

McMurtry comes from a long line of farmers and ranchers. His father and eight of his uncles were all in the profession.

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    1. Hometown:
      Archer City, Texas
    1. Date of Birth:
      June 3, 1936
    2. Place of Birth:
      Wichita Falls, Texas
    1. Education:
      B.A., North Texas State University, 1958; M.A., Rice University, 1960. Also studied at Stanford University.

Read an Excerpt

Books A Memoir
By Larry McMurtry
Simon & Schuster Copyright © 2008 Larry McMurtry
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9781416583349


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.

In this work of extraordinary charm, grace, and good humor, McMurtry recounts his life as both a reader and a writer, how the countless books he has read worked to form his literary tastes, while giving us a lively look at the eccentrics who collect, sell, or simply lust after rare volumes. Books: A Memoir is like the best kind of diary -- full of McMurtry's wonderful anecdotes, amazing characters, engaging gossip, and shrewd observations about authors, book people, literature, and the author himself. At once chatty, revealing, and deeplysatisfying, Books is, like McMurtry, erudite, life loving, and filled with excellent stories. It is a book to be savored and enjoyed again and again.

Continues...


Excerpted from Books by Larry McMurtry Copyright © 2008 by Larry McMurtry. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 9 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 9 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 19, 2008

    I'd sooner watch paint dry

    I would sooner watch paint dry than be forced to read Books by Lary McMurtry again. In fact, I couldn't even force myself to finish it, a first for me for a McMurtry work. I have read all of his fiction, and adore his prose. His sardonic charm is addictive. Too bad not a scintilla of that charm is evident in this tedious book. It reads like stock quotes or the telephone directory. Page after page of names which mean nothing to me, and books of which I have never heard. Maybe the worst part of all is the cavalier way in which dismisses his own writing. He makes it sound as if his novels were grudgingly tossed off in between his incessant searching for books to collect and sell. Somehow his marginalizing of his own works makes me feel almost foolish in my enthusiasm for them. That's sad.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 30, 2008

    Okay, I liked it!!!!

    I'm thinking that I liked reading this book because it let me tip toe around in a world of book sellers. Granted, it didn't have a fancy plot to grab you by the seat of your pants, but it was just plain pleasant to gather a little insight into the world of booksellers.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 6, 2009

    Boring

    I expected something more enjoyable than this dry read. I did finish it but i was counting pages to the end. I would not recommend it at all.

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  • Posted August 9, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Books Worth Reading

    Books: A Memoir is worth reading. If you enjoy collecting and reading good books then you will enjoy this. McMurtry is knowledgable in his field. He has been around in the book business and shares much of what he has gleaned over the many years of buying and selling.

    Engaging style. Chapters short and pithy. I plowed through it in a couple of readings.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2010

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    Posted November 21, 2009

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    Posted October 26, 2008

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    Posted December 19, 2009

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    Posted May 17, 2010

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