Books: A Memoir

Books: A Memoir

3.4 9
by Larry McMurtry
     
 

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Now in paperback, Larry McMurtry’s fascinating and surprisingly intimate memoir of his lifelong passion of buying, selling, and collecting rare antiquarian books: “a necessary and marvelous gift” (San Antonio Express-News).

• Acclaimed author: Spanning a lifetime of literary achievement, Larry McMurtry has succeeded at a wide variety…  See more details below

Overview

Now in paperback, Larry McMurtry’s fascinating and surprisingly intimate memoir of his lifelong passion of buying, selling, and collecting rare antiquarian books: “a necessary and marvelous gift” (San Antonio Express-News).

• Acclaimed author: Spanning a lifetime of literary achievement, Larry McMurtry has succeeded at a wide variety of genres, from coming-of-age novels like The Last Picture Show, to essays like In a Narrow Grave, to the reinvention of the “Western” on a grand scale like the Pulitzer Prize–winning Lonesome Dove. Here at last is the private McMurtry writing about himself: as a boy growing up in a largely “bookless” world, as a young man devouring the world of literature, as a fledgling writer and family man, and above all as one of America’s most prominent “bookmen.”

• A work of charm, grace, and good humor: reading Books is like reading the best kind of diary—full of wonderful anecdotes, amazing characters, spicy gossip, and shrewd observations. Like its author, Books is erudite, full of life, and full of great stories. Yet the most curious tale of all is the amazing transformation of a reluctant young cowboy into a world-class literary figure who has spent his life not only writing books, but rounding them up the way he once rounded up cattle. At once chatty, revealing, and deeply satisfying, Books is Larry McMurtry at his best.

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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)

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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:
9781451607673
Publisher:
Simon & Schuster
Publication date:
06/01/2010
Sold by:
SIMON & SCHUSTER
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
272
Sales rank:
558,497
File size:
3 MB

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.

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What People are saying about this

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

Meet the Author

Larry McMurtry is the author of twenty-nine novels, including the Pulitzer Prize–winning Lonesome Dove, three memoirs, two collections of essays, and more than thirty screenplays. He lives in Archer City, Texas.

Brief Biography

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

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Books 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
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read123LF More than 1 year ago
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.
bookreaderman More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago