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.
Larry McMurtry is an experienced writer with a very good sense of storytelling. He carries the story along in clips and sometimes longer strolls with the comfort of someone who doesn't need to hurry or censor himself.
It is lovely to read a writer writing confidently, telling stories that are and are not about himself because they are about something that he does and so must include him quite naturally. The book trade is one that he's been in since around the time that I was born and he writes comfortably about it. I particularly enjoyed the little clauses of acknowledgment to the readers who may not be avid book lovers or collectors. It's like a very kind 'thank you' to someone who has been nodding and smiling and is about to doze off if you don't do something right now.
The end of many bookshops around the nation and the closing of many library branches has redistributed the wealth of books in the US, but it has not erased it and it has not made books or the people who live with them any less vital or vibrant or valid.
It is not a given that the Internet or eReaders will be the 'death' of books. These are different media with different strengths and do not exist in a state of mutual exclusion. It matters that the book trade exists because with that trade there is an established infrastructure to rely on when the trend toward larger collections in a few hands turns once more to smaller collections in many hands.
This is a refreshing book, and it was an enjoyable read. I plan to scour it once more before I return it; there are some titles I want to jot down.
McMurtry's clear open and easy going prose was a pleasure to read, and only a few repeated phrases and details distract.
His is a fortunate and fascinating story, given that he came from a Mid-West farming family without books to the present day where as a bookseller he has now changed the economic geography of his small home town after years of successful business on the east coast.
I found his musings towards the end on the possibility of the death of 'reading' highly relevant and a reluctance for buyers to bid for large lots sobering. The issue of reading is once again going to be open to debate with the launch of i-Pad and Kindle.
Since finishing the book my views about some of Melbourne's booksellers here in Australia have been for even changed. And for that, I thank you Larry.
This book could have been a very dry book about a very specific subject matter, but as a testament to his success as a writer, I found it very informative and written in an interesting and entertaining way. A good read for anyone who loves books.
I enjoyed the sections where he talks about his love of reading much more than those that specific details of buying and selling. His thoughts about book auctions, vintage erotica, comics and buying personal libraries quickly became tiresome. Unless you deal with those things in your own life, it wasn't very interesting to read about. McMurtry excels in writing fiction much more than memoirs.
I might have said I was crazy to pick up a book all about books and “bookman”, but I do love books and the cover photo of a library is alluring. I found McMurty’s book to be great fun, much like his book “Roads”. I found myself drawn into this story about “bookman” and the process of buying and selling of personal libraries and collections. And so I had to keep going to the next chapter.
To try to explain why this book is hard to put down would be time consuming, so suffice it to say that if you’re a lover of books, you’ll probably enjoy this memoir. And like “Roads” there are a rich set of book references that you might have never known about and when you start reading those, you can’t imagine having missed them.
See Taste and Technique in Book-Collecting by John Carter.
See Clegg's dictionary of the world book trade
I would really love to make a trip to Archer City TX to see his book store in person. One day perhaps, one day...