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The Geographer's Library

3.02  ·  Rating details ·  2,845 ratings  ·  428 reviews
The literary history suspense novel has long been a genre appreciated by a small subset of general readers. It is currently enjoying a new vogue and a wider readership with the publication of such novels as The Da Vinci Code, The Rule of Four, and Codex. What these books have in common, and what The Geographer's Library can also claim, is a set of characters in the here an ...more
Paperback, 374 pages
Published February 28th 2006 by Penguin Books (first published February 3rd 2005)
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3.02  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,845 ratings  ·  428 reviews


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Jim Fonseca
Oct 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
Way back when, before Grandpa was a boy (1154 AD to be precise), an Arab geographer assembled a collection of jewels, rocks, scientific instruments and tiny art objects, which he kept in a strongbox. Some items even had magical properties. The box was stolen, also way back then, and each item went its separate way. Surprisingly, almost all the objects ended up in the hands of the Russian mob. (Could Putin be involved in this?)

description

An obscure New England professor of obscure Eastern European origin i
...more
Marisa Mangione
I thought this book would be an intellectual thriller, but it turned out not to be much of either. The interesting part of the narrative are the short descriptions of the 15 objects that make up the geographer's library. These brief but vivid stand-alone chapters kept me reading this book through the first 200 pages where nothing much happens. I kept waiting for someone in the frame narrative to discover one of the objects, or to make some connection to the library, but that didn't happen until ...more
Dave
Mar 20, 2007 rated it did not like it
Horrible. To be fair, I stopped a little short of halfway through. Seriously, this reads like a marginally talented junior-high student's rough draft of a story. Lot's of good ideas that go nowhere and a complete inability to properly characterize the participants that I'd chalk up to a lack of maturity and life experience except (I assume) Mr. Fasman is an adult.
Blair
The Geographer's Library is a novel with two threads. Every other chapter follows the story of Paul Tomm, a newspaper reporter in modern-day America investigating the mysterious death of an old university professor; the alternate chapters describe the origins of fifteen arcane objects thought to hold the key to eternal life. So this is a present-day adventure with strong historical influences, and as such has inevitably attracted comparisons with best-sellers like The Da Vinci Code. These associ ...more
Sandie
Jul 15, 2008 rated it did not like it
I bought this book filled with high hopes, since I am a lover of historical fiction. My hopes were dashed and all I came away with were the following observations/complaints.

Complaint #1: Okay, I suppose this book was supposed to be "brainy" with the in-depth descriptions of nine hundred year old stolen artifacts and the fate of the people who had owned them. Personally, I found myself skipping over the descriptions by the time I got to "Ferahid's Silver Ney". What did all of those disjointed f
...more
Noel
Apr 10, 2009 rated it really liked it
Smart, laid-back,, almost to the point of lazy recent college grad reporter, Paul Tomm, meets Russian/Albanian/Estonian jewel thieves, keepers of a secret, alchemy magicians, thugs and murderers. Not the kind of book that I usually read, but the title drew me in, I thought for sure it was some sort of book about a guy's library. Not quite. Paul is a self-deprecating anti-hero who gets curious after a professor at his old college shows up dead. He's supposed to write an obituary, but when he can ...more
Nate
May 16, 2012 rated it did not like it
Ugh. Honestly not sure how this got published. I really like one character but mostly because she reminded me a woman I used to date (everything is more interesting and appealing in the rear-view mirror). The story doesn't come together at all, the characters aren't believable or interesting and the resolution is laughable. Glad I'm done.
Alison
Dec 10, 2008 rated it it was ok
I need to read something else, not a mystery, by this author. I was pleasantly surprised when bits of his writing were clever and slyly funny, especially in the main character's first person assessment of himself. But the mystery aspects of this book were not great. The first couple hundred pages are slow going, though interspersed with interesting vignettes about various alchemy-related antiquities. At first, these side stories are the most engaging part of the book, but the early stages of the ...more
John
Apr 15, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a book I salivated over before reading. In the event I enjoyed it quite a lot, though it didn't fully live up to my probably somewhat overinflated expectations. Paul Tomm is a junior reporter for and in fact almost the entire reportorial staff of a small-town Connecticut newspaper. He's told to do an obituary when reclusive and distinctly odd local university professor Jaan Puhapaev dies, and his nascent journalistic antenna goes into overdrive -- or whatever it is journalistic antennae ...more
Marisa
Feb 20, 2009 rated it really liked it
Very interesting book. I really liked the main character-he just seemed completely real somehow. The dialog was very down to earth and smart w/ a little sarcasm thrown in-very much my taste. I know that some readers would probably find these parts a little boring, but I actually really enjoyed reading about the different and strange objects listed throughout the book. Even though the plot line was slowed a little by the many little storylines connected with these objects, I found it fascinating. ...more
Wayland Smith
I think this is a great example of wonderful concept and an execution that didn't quite match. The idea is intriguing-- a story split between a small town newspaper reporter covering the increasingly odd death of a local college professor, and chapters about mysterious objects being collected from hiding spots all around the world, mostly in Europe.

The reporter stumbles into intrigue and mystery as he researches what starts off as a simple obituary. Who was this professor really? Where was he b
...more
Christine
I fell in love at the first sentence of this book. I'm a huge Terry Pratchett fan, and one of his quirks is the use of capitals to add grandeur to an otherwise ordinary event. So when Fasman had his journalist refer to printing day as "The Day the Paper Comes Out"(3) I was certain this was going to be the beginning of a long and beautiful friendship. Turns out I was wrong. The first couple of chapters were pretty good, but once the honeymoon phase wore off the relationship soured quickly. Quirks ...more
Lisa
Oct 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
Just out of a prestigious (and fictional) New England college, but without a girlfriend or a life plan, Paul takes a job as a writer for a biweekly paper in a sleepy Connecticut town. When a reclusive professor from his alma mater dies, Paul is assigned his obituary and soon discovers that the professor's life--and the manner of his death--were not as ordinary as they seemed.

The chapters alternate between telling the story of Paul's investigation and recounting the history of artifacts that onc
...more
Melissa
Nov 13, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: challenge-fall09
This is a story of a young reporter who, while writing an obituary for an elderly professor, stumbles on to something bigger. In the course of investigating, of course a beautiful woman becomes involved, vague threats are made, and creepy mobster-types lurk all over the place. Every other chapter leaves the main narrative and tells the history of an object once belonging to an Arabian geographer in the service of a king.

This is a really interesting premise but I think the book on the whole is fa
...more
Reid
Dec 19, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Anyone who expects a grand work of literature with a mystery like this will be disappointed. This is a light read, an airport book, albeit one that has high pretensions, written by a skilled magician who conveys the excitement of the chase. The faults of the main character are a little overexpressed, especially as most of the book is supposedly written from Paul's perspective. The narrative layers and the brief dossiers on each of the artifacts are excellent, as are the interposed memories which ...more
LJ
THE GEOGRAPHER'S LIBRARY (Amateur Sleuth-International-Multiple Periods) – Poor
Fasman, Jon – Standalone
The Penguin Press, 2005- Hardcover
Paul Tomm is a young reporter in a small Connecticut town. When a local professor dies, Paul is asked to write his obituary. What starts as a simple assignment, leads to more than expected and others who die. Somehow tied into this are 15 priceless artifacts scattered throughout the world.
*** What started as an interesting plot, with a appealing, guileless prot
...more
Chewtastic
Mar 25, 2009 rated it it was ok
When this was returned to me, I had forgotten I read this already. Partly because I read rather quite a bit of it when drunk, and partly because despite the semiplausible magical realism of the alchemy theme, it was still sort of forgettable. And weird in an ordinary way.

So it's a do-over.

If you're looking for magical realism, try A Trip to the Stars, by Nicholas Christopher (I think; can't be bothered to fact-check). That one is pretty darn awesome despite its near-equal implausibility. Come o
...more
Kelli
Jun 30, 2011 rated it liked it
Every other chapter was irrelevant (at least to me) and it was difficult to switch from present to past. The main characters were weak and underdeveloped. The ending was boring. BUT, it is "historical fiction-ish" and I liked that. The basis for the story was great but it could have been more developed. I didn't love the book but I'm glad I read it.
Paul Weiss
Oct 18, 2018 rated it liked it
A puzzling and ultimately unsatisfying ending!

The Geographer's Library has aspirations to that lofty genre, the literary thriller, which is attracting so many hopeful authors and readers of late. For a debut novel, Fasman's efforts come very, very close indeed to success but ultimately a puzzling and cryptic ending left me feeling like I had just dined on that proverbial gourmet Chinese food - you know that old one about eating lots and enjoying it but, when the ending arrives, you're not really
...more
HanLing Petredean
Oct 23, 2017 rated it liked it
Strong beginning and steady development but rather lackluster towards the end.
Anne
Oct 16, 2007 rated it it was amazing
There are still seven good reading weeks left before the end of the year, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say this is my favorite read of 2010. This is a strange mystery about a collection of objects all pertaining to alchemy, and collected hundreds of years ago, only to be stolen, sold-off, or otherwise lost to history. Fasman gives some historical background of the objects and then intersperses tales throughout the book of each individual piece, it's use, value, and known whereabouts. Th ...more
Keeley
Jun 29, 2011 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: really bored Dan Brown fans maybe?
As mystery novels with medieval back-stories go, this one is pretty inept. I picked it up because, well, I like mystery novels with medieval back-stories (Eco nut, not going to waste my time on Dan Brown), and the author is a blogger for The Economist. As is appropriate for an Economist writer, Fasman's English is articulate and pretty interesting, but the plausibility of his characters is highly variable. He spends a lot of time in the plot showing off his (journalist's) knowledge of obscure So ...more
Bonnie Wilson
Nov 01, 2016 rated it did not like it
My personal category name for this sort of book is a "puzzle" book. They are always formulaic (take one part mythical object such as the Grail, add one part secret society, then mix in bits of actual history for verisimilitude and add an icing of appealing characters). They are silly but can be fun and entertaining.

In this, the pace is way too slow, most of the characters are unappealing, and the author lumbers the text with way too many metaphors and similes - in fact, he can scarcely write a
...more
Debra
A very interesting premise and a great cover drew me in. It started all so well with the unusual objects and a mysterious geographer who seemed to have been everywhere and living way longer than any normal person. The modern day story of Paul Tomm, small town newspaper reporter, gave a nice balance to the mystery. Paul sets out to write an obituary of a little known college professor and stumbles into a series of odd incidents that awakens his journalistic nose. The objects of antiquity sprinkle ...more
Amanda
Dec 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
One of the best da vinci esque books I've read in a long time: the narrative switches between a main, current story and sections that deal with different characters, times, locales, and an investigative list, that all supplement the story's mystery. Some pretty interesting characters, but the main attraction was attempting to piece together where the author was going with the nonsequential portions in relation to the narrator's investigating. Although the mysteries are solved in a decently clima ...more
Matthew Catania
Jan 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
If you’re looking for a companion piece to Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum, grab The Geographer’s Library by Jon Fasman over The Prague Cemetery. It’s an engaging murder mystery revolving around alchemical objects. (This isn’t a spoiler if you read the dust jacket.) The international vignettes about these artifacts’ provenances complement the charming characters in the present thread. There is still some ambiguity by the conclusion, which is acceptable as the tone skews closer to the drollness ...more
Lucia Alocchi "LucyOwlArt"
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kathy Hiester
Jun 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
Paul Tomm is an intelligent but directionless college graduate who accepts a job as a reporter at a weekly newspaper in the small town of Lincoln, Connecticut. When a professor from his college dies, he is assigned to write the obituary, but soon finds that the professor is not as quiet and calm as he seemed. Soon Paul is involved in an extraordinary account of murder. The story itself was a very pleasurable read, what really drew me in was my understanding of Paul because his observations and r ...more
Tom
Dec 10, 2011 rated it liked it
In my continuing quest for enlightenment on the Fiction shelves of the Alameda Free Library with authors' whose names begin with "Fa" I picked this book because the title appealed to me. Started out great, but ended with the recounting of a long silly conversation in which the hero is told the facts. In the end it was just another morality play about how someone gains secret knowledge, misuses it, and needs to get rubbed out. Or, maybe I read this book before ... not sure.
Ellen
Nov 13, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Paul Thomm, the young journalist protagonist, is immediately compelling and likeable. The book started well. Initially, the vignettes, dating back centuries and presenting various esoteric tales, fascinate. Later on, they become distracting and finally annoyingly parallel and dull. About halfway through the book, I skipped over them.

I liked aspects of this book and thought Fasman has potential; the editors at Penguin didn't do their job.
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I am the author of "The Geographer's Library" (2005) and "The Unpossessed City" (2008), both published by The Penguin Press.
“They call it 'the whispering of the stars.' Listen," he said, raising a finger for silence. I could still hear the tinkling and craned my neck to see what it was. Zhensky laughed. "No, here. Look." He formed his mouth into a wide O and exhaled slowly. As he did, I saw the cloud of breath fall in droplets to the ground. That was the sound I heard: our breath falling. "It's a Yakut expression. It means a period of weather so cold that your breath falls frozen to the ground before it can dissipate. The Yakuts say that you should never tell secrets outside during the whispering of the stars, because the words themselves freeze, and in the spring thaw anyone who walks past that spot will be able to hear them.” 5 likes
“Shall I tell you a joke about languages? Abulfaz asked.
A joke. Yes, okay.
What do you call a Russian who speaks four languages?
I don't know.
A Zionist. What about a Russian who speaks three languages?
I don't know.
A spy. And two? ... No? A nationalist. And only one? ... An inter-nationalist.”
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