Friday, January 22, 2010

Among the Gently Mad

The full name of this book is Among the Gently Mad: Strategies and Perspectives for the Book Hunter in the 21st Century.  I read this one for my morning reading program, where I read a book every workday morning for about 20-30 minutes before I drive to work.  These usually tend to be non-fiction as it's easier to read those in little doses without losing  the thread of a plot line or character motivation, etc.  This book, by Nicholas Basbanes is a sort of follow-up to his lengthy but amazing 1999 book, A Gentle Madness, where he goes through the history of bibliofilia and provides numerous examples of book collectors throughout history. 

This time, the book is much shorter but no less interesting as Mr Basbanes focuses a bit more on how to collect books, emphasizing that book collecting is not just about finding and collecting rare and valuable books but also about accumulating that which interests any particular collector.  In other words, for every book afficianado out there that is looking for a quality first edition of Catcher in the Rye there is also a collector of pop-up children's books through history or a collector of all books with the name "Billy" in the title.  He sprinkles numerous anecdotes about the collectors themselves, many of whom he had interviewed for the first book and also offers lots of tips for how to go about starting a collection of your own.  He examines book fairs, auctions, catalogues, etc. and also provides a thorough discussion on the pros and cons of the impact of the internet on modern book collecting.

Just as when I read the first book, I found myself wondering if I am a book collector at all.  I am first and foremost a book reader and consequently I tend to accumulate lots of books but I can't say I've ever searched for a book based on its monetary value and I probably never will.  It would be fun to do so, especially for some area I really like, perhaps the early pulp fiction era, but I suspect I'm too frugal to spend the kind of money I would need to do so.  I certainly don't mind if others choose to collect books that they have no intention of reading but that's just not me.  After I read a particular book, I do tend to cherish it and I love looking at my book shelves, reminiscing about the memories.  I suppose I could categorize myself as a collector of "books I like to read" but that seems rather silly, even though I own and catalog over 7,000 books in my house. (Yes, I fit the description of a "gently mad" person).  I think it's pretty good that I only have ~300 still unread although I can't seem to get that number much lower.

Anyway, I very much enjoy Mr Basbanes' books; they leave me with a deep sense of satisfaction and I always love books about books or book people.  He has more published so I hope to add them to my "collection" one day.


  1. Thanks so much for the great post. I've been searching for blogs like this now for 30 minutes and i finall found one
    that's worthwhile. I'm really into video games, do you have any information on the new Call of Duty? I know this
    is off topic, but I thought I'd ask. Thanks...oh also, I have some video game writings if you want to check them
    out. Here are a few of them

    WoW Warlock
    Arms Warrior Build


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  • "Name of the Wind" by Patrick Rothfuss
  • "River God" by Wilbur Smith
  • "Mortalis" by RA Salvatore
  • "Ender's Game" by Orson Scott Card
  • "Centennial" by James A Michener
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  • "The Wild Blue" by W. Boyne & S Thompson
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