Phantoms on the Bookshelves

Overview

The enthralling memoir on the art of living with books Phantoms on the Bookshelves considers how our personal libraries reveal our true natures: far more than merely crowded shelves, they are living labyrinths of our innermost feelings. The author, a lifelong accumulator of books ancient and modern, lives in a house large enough to accommodate his many thousands of volumes, as well as overspill from the libraries of his friends. While his musings on the habits of collectors from the earliest known libraries are ...

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Phantoms on the Bookshelves

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Overview

The enthralling memoir on the art of living with books Phantoms on the Bookshelves considers how our personal libraries reveal our true natures: far more than merely crowded shelves, they are living labyrinths of our innermost feelings. The author, a lifelong accumulator of books ancient and modern, lives in a house large enough to accommodate his many thousands of volumes, as well as overspill from the libraries of his friends. While his musings on the habits of collectors from the earliest known libraries are learned, amusing, and instructive, his advice on cataloguing may even save lives. Phantoms on the Bookshelves ranges from classical Greece to contemporary Iceland, from Balzac to Moby-Dick and Google. Rich in wit and wisdom, it will be a lasting delight for all who treasure books.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this slim but charming volume, with an introduction by novelist James Salter, French art historian, editor, and novelist Bonnet describes his obsession with books, which has yielded a library of more than 40,000 volumes. In chapters such as “Organizing the Bookshelves” and “Where do they all come from?” Bonnet ponders the pitfalls of various organizational systems, the practice and art of reading, the intricacies of bookstores, buying new versus used books, and the effects of the Internet and electronic books on a physical library. Identity and books are closely intertwined. As Bonnet writes: “The fundamental character of the librarian will emerge as one’s eye travels along the bookshelves.” While ostensibly about Bonnet’s library, the volume also illustrates the intensely symbiotic relationship between reader and writer, a book and its recipients. Agent: Jane Dystel, Dystel & Goderich Literary Management. (July)
John Sutherland
"This is a charming book full of erudition and wit, and is very nicely translated."
Jerome Garcin
"Part cataloging manual, part homage to books, adventure story and autobiography, this Borgesian account is a promise of happiness."
The Hindu
"In Phantoms on the Bookshelves, Jacques Bonnet has once again invested the humble reading copy, the mode through which we first read, experienced, and encountered our favorite books and writers, with the old affection, respect and awe we had for it."
Library Journal
French art critic and novelist Bonnet (Un jeune homme rebelle) published these ruminations, inspired by his book-gathering habits, in France in 2008. They are now translated by Reynolds (Marriage and Revolution: Monsieur and Madame Roland) and introduced by novelist James Salter (A Sport and a Pastime). In nine pieces plus a preface, Bonnet recalls particular biblio-moments in his life, or glances at a book on his shelves (he believes he now possesses about 40,000 volumes), then takes readers with him as he connects anecdote to anecdote, book to book, insight to insight. He is not a collector in the recent fashion of buying, say, a mint-condition Pynchon and not reading it for fear of lowering its value. He buys to support his interests and to read. He is compelled by the varied human bonds with books, the quandaries that the urge to buy them brings, the ways books can connect us, the criteria (or lack thereof) by which we arrange them on our shelves, and the range of libraries he has encountered, both fictional and real, extant and departed. VERDICT The book's ideal readers will be those who share Bonnet's love of being surrounded by the evidence of their minds' journeys, insatiable readers who love to linger over large and quirky accumulations of the printed word. For those readers, highly recommended.—Margaret Heilbrun, Library Journal
The Washington Post
…Bonnet offers a personal ramble through his own library, coupled with chummy and sometimes idiosyncratic pensees about the literary life…Immensely enjoyable, Phantoms on the Bookshelves pays concise tribute to the pleasures and rewards of—to borrow James Salter's phrase—"a life built around reading."
—Michael Dirda
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781590207598
  • Publisher: Overlook Press, The
  • Publication date: 7/5/2012
  • Pages: 144
  • Sales rank: 1,429,697
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 7.60 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Jacques Bonnet is a publisher, translator and the author of novels and works of art history, including a monograph on the artist.

James Salter is an American novelist and short story writer whose work includes the classic A Sport and A Pastime. He has won the PEN/Faulkner award, and who was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2000.

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Table of Contents

Translator's and editor's note viii

Introduction 1

Author's preface: Pessoa the Librarian 7

1 Tens of thousands of books 11

2 Bibliomania 21

3 Organizing the bookshelves 32

4 The practice of reading 48

5 Where do they all come from? 60

6 Reading pictures 71

7 Real people, fictional characters 80

8 The world within reach 97

9 Phantoms in the library 110

Acknowledgements 124

Bibliography 125

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