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Every Book Its Reader: The Power of the Printed Word to Stir the World

3.96  ·  Rating Details  ·  308 Ratings  ·  32 Reviews
Inspired by a landmark exhibition mounted by the British Museum in 1963 to celebrate five eventful centuries of the printed word, Nicholas A. Basbanes offers a lively consideration of writings that have "made things happen" in the world, works that have both nudged the course of history and fired the imagination of countless influential people.

In his fifth work to examin
Paperback, 400 pages
Published December 12th 2006 by Harper Perennial (first published 2005)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,814)
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Sasha Martinez
Sep 30, 2011 Sasha Martinez added it
Shelves: 2010, yes
This is a book-lover’s dream. Or dream dictionary, to be more technically correct about it. This has always been in my “Currently Reading” pile—whenever I am plagued with that terrible hiccup I’ve dubbed Bibliophilic Purgatory, I skim the pages of this book, picking out choice anecdotes, lingering over highlighted quotations and images. It’s a book crammed with information and trivia about books, writers of books, collectors of books, readers of books, lovers of books. It made me giddy. In some ...more
Apr 29, 2009 Jeanette rated it it was amazing
When you read this one be prepared to add another 1000 tbr's.
Dec 29, 2012 Pam rated it really liked it
Recommended to Pam by: Found in bookstore in Moab
Depending upon your reading style, you will find this book captivating or boring. For me it was captivating and exciting. I loved it! I am enthralled with books as history-makers in themselves, and that is exactly what this book is about. You will learn how books influenced America's founding fathers, Thomas Edison, Malcolm X. You will learn the effect that books have upon six month old children. You will discover the importance of the book collections that belonged to famous writers, politician ...more
Jun 29, 2008 Amanda rated it it was amazing
I picked this up on a whim at the Harvard Book Store sometime early last spring when I was feeling like I wasn't reading enough grown-up books. I read the first half and really enjoyed it, but then got distracted by some other book that needed to be read. I picked it up again when I needed something to read while I waited for the next group of requests from the library. I picked up where I left off a year ago, and slipped right back into it.

I particularly enjoyed the first few chapters, which di
Apr 20, 2008 Karen rated it really liked it
Shelves: bibliophilia
Since I am a reading freak, I am always enthralled by Nicholas Basbanes books about bibliophilia, bibliomania, book collectors of all ilk, and lost libraries. In this book, he enters the realm of famous readers who have left commentary in the margins of the books they read. He discusses the keeping of commonplace books and interviews well-known readers of today, including David McCullough and Harold Bloom.

It is a fascinating book. However, I could not give the book five stars because he does su
Feb 04, 2011 dusty.rhodes rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book, even though at times it feels like forced lists of books that important folks read.

Most interesting were bits on Marginalia, the Unabomber (See Chuck Klosterman's "Eating the Dinosaur for a further treatment of this topic that is definitely interesting), Translation (Godel Escher Bach alert!), and a continuing compendium of "books to read" woven throughout the 316 pages.

This is a great book if you like to read about reading. If you like to comb books for other books to read.
Jun 06, 2009 Oliver rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Bibliophiles
Shelves: misc
I really enjoyed this book at first but lost steam towards the end. The last few chapters especially. One of my favorite anecdotes from the book was a story where Abigail Adams learned that her son, John Quincy Adams, was getting a little full of himself. She quickly wrote him a letter that contained the following:

"If you are so conscious to yourself that you possess more knowledge upon some subjects than others of your standing, reflect that you have had greater opportunities of seeing the worl
Oct 13, 2014 Brian rated it really liked it
For all who really love books, not just reading but collecting, holding, gaining understanding, to escape to worlds of another time, to use them to whatever ends you do, you will surely enjoy this book by an author who ranks high as a bibliophile. He's written many books about all things books and this one is very fun to read to identify with great readers of the many books that have no end.

As the page turns, we are met with the experiences of reading by many great authors, politicians, rulers,
Oct 16, 2007 Diskojoe rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Emily
For my first book here at good reads, it's appropriate that it's this one. I have read the author's previous books & have found him interesting. This book was no exception. It deals with such topics such as what famous authors had in their own libraries, notes written in books and other topics relating to books and reading.
Mar 28, 2008 Zoe rated it liked it
I don't remember much about this book except it made me want to keep at my project of reading the classics that I hadn't even started yet since I was still at the stage of reading about reading the classics. And I found good quotes for my new commonplace book.
Jan 19, 2012 William rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2007
A seemingly fascinating topic (judging a person by the books he/she has in their "library") made a bit tedious by Basbanes tendency to write in a stream-of-consciousness style.
Mar 08, 2008 Len rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There are times when I think my bibliomania is an insane waste of time. Then I go back and reread portions of this book. Insane--maybe, waste of time--no way.
Jan 08, 2008 Alan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was a little disappointed. Basbanes has written several in this series, and I thought the first, A Gentle Madness was the best.
Aug 24, 2011 BJ rated it really liked it
Fascinating information on books and people to whom books are important.
Jan 05, 2010 Debi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A book about reading books. What could be better than that?
This was an interesting concept for a book, but way to dense for me.
Well written but I found the topic rather dull.
Aug 10, 2008 Jessica rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bibliophilia
A little dry.
Mar 25, 2012 Ngaire rated it really liked it
Shelves: about-reading
Who knew that writing in books could actually be a good thing? Not me, for sure. I learned a lot from this, and it certainly made me feel good about being a reader - lots of incredibly talented and brilliant people made reading the center of their lives. Coleridge, for example, was notorious for reading like it was going out of fashion and for writing in the margins of his books, to the point where his friends were kind of reluctant to lend him books. Now, of course, there's a huge collection of ...more
I know what you're thinking - how do you give two stars and a DNF to a book that you add to your list of "best non-fiction"? Well, I'll tell you.

This is an interesting book. An important book for book lovers. A book chock-full of educational, thoughtful and challenging information about books and their importance to the world. That said, it is also a book that, at times, reads more like a text-book than anything else, and not in a good way.

I didn't so much not finish this book, as put it away fo
Mark Fallon
Feb 07, 2014 Mark Fallon rated it really liked it
A book for people who love books. Brisbane shares thoughts – from himself and other readers – on how and why books matter. The sections on canons, collections, translations and margin notes were wonderful. The chapters that celebrated specific readers and critics, like Harold Bloom, seemed a bit out of place. Overall, a very good read.
Feb 24, 2012 Ami rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I tried to love this book because it felt as if it should be loved. Alas, I could only 'merely' like it.
There were two problems in this book for me. First, it doesn't have a clear organization to it. Mr. Basbanes writes this book in a type of sophisticated stream of consciousness that makes it difficult to predict what topic will come next. At times I was pleasantly surprised with his choices. In fact the section of what the U.S. presidents read was probably my favorite. But the meandering did
I had something different in mind for this book. I was hoping it would tackle the books that truly affected the world, i.e., the general population. I expected to learn about books I'd never heard about before that were very popular in their time. Instead, the book takes a far more intellectual approach -- "the world" seems to mean the scholarly world.

Another review mentioned that you'll be adding a lot of books to your to read list, but unless you haven't heard of most classics, probably not. I
Aug 30, 2015 Jennifer rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction-read
This book covers a large variety of topics. One chapter is spent discussing what can be learned about historic figures by studying what they wrote in the margins of their books (aka marginalia). The author analyzes how translating a work into a different language can completely change it. One topic I found very interesting was how the meaning of a document can change based on who reads it and at what time in history. The example given is how the Bible and the Constitution have been interpreted d ...more
Nov 23, 2015 Hayley rated it liked it
I lost interest and then got pulled back in about 10 times. Lots of interesting things in here but you have to slog through some fussy, detailed, rambling passages. Also, the jury is out on how inclusive this was of women, people of color and queer people. Although there was some debate, in the end, it seems that the author and most of the people he interviewed think that "dead white guys" are more important than the expanding experience and perspective of the written word in today's world. That ...more
Dec 11, 2012 Kiri rated it liked it
Shelves: library-science
I mainly picked up this book to supplement my studies of marginalia for a term paper I was writing. That occupies only one chapter from the book, and I found that the chapter was primarily a recap of Marginalia, so it didn't add a lot of new information. The rest of the book does look interesting -- focusing on how the books that people read have influenced their lives and actions -- but I didn't have time to delve deeply.
Lindsay Hickman
Feb 10, 2014 Lindsay Hickman rated it it was amazing
Absolutely one of the best books I've ever read! Brilliant transition between chapters and a great history of book reading!! Wonderful book a must read for any Bibliophile.
Corey Nelson
What are others reading? I ask strangers and friends all the time. It give a hint into what people find interesting, what influences them. This books does the asking for me towards some of history's interesting people. The notes discovered in the margins that peek at sparks of thought peeks my interested even more. I personally can't bring myself to write in a book (no idea why) but glad that others felt strong enough to write slips of thoughts.
Marla Glenn
Jan 11, 2013 Marla Glenn rated it it was ok
Shelves: perused
This is fun to flip through, but he can get bogged down in boring details. Also, I found it annoying that so many "best" lists contained only male names/writers. It gets old.
Sep 17, 2012 Gospodyina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It felt a bit like he just wanted a place to collect a bunch of old interviews, but that's fine with me: he's good at it.
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Nicholas A. Basbanes is an award-winning investigative journalist and was literary editor of the Worcester Sunday Telegram. His articles have appeared in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, and Smithsonian, and he is a recipient of a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship. Basbanes lives in North Grafton, Massachusetts.
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