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The Last Bookaneer

3.31  ·  Rating details ·  2,697 ratings  ·  572 reviews

book'a-neer' (bŏŏk'kå-nēr'), n. a literary pirate; an individual capable of doing all that must be done in the universe of books that publishers, authors, and readers must not have a part in

London, 1890—Pen Davenport is the most infamous bookaneer in Europe. A master of disguise, he makes his living stalking harbors, coffeehouses, and print shops for the latest manuscript
Hardcover, 389 pages
Published April 28th 2015 by Penguin Press
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Laurie Carlson The book was offered for review in the Buzz Books Spring/Summer 2015. Anyone could request it from that book. Edit: No one asked me to review this boo…moreThe book was offered for review in the Buzz Books Spring/Summer 2015. Anyone could request it from that book. Edit: No one asked me to review this book, I just wanted to read and review it because it just sounded like SO MUCH FUN, and it WAS!!! I just NOW, May 29th, posted my review. I forgot to post it! Sorry! I put it on my blog, and I've written so MANY reviews lately, I just forgot to post it here and on Amazon, my two places I post my reviews! I still have not talked to anyone about the book, except for my review. It WAS FUN, and I do NOT EVER read adventure books! This adventure is about books, and I LOVE books and loved how this sounded, and I was NOT disappointed!
I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

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Katie/Doing Dewey
Apr 05, 2015 rated it it was ok
In the same way that the phrase “assassin nuns” made me instantly want to read Grave Mercy, as soon as I got to the words “literary pirates” in this book description, I knew I had to read The Last Bookaneer. Sadly, unlike Grave Mercy, The Last Bookaneer didn’t live up to my expectations. Although this book picked up a little towards the end, it was a mostly a very slow read that I was always close to giving up on. Here are a few of the reasons it didn’t quite work for me:

The dry writing style. T
Ray Palen
Mar 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
The author John Milton once said: "To kill a man is to kill a reasonable creature, but to destroy a book is to kill reason itself".

Matthew Pearl clearly loves reading and literary history. Some of his prior Historical Thrillers involved Charles Dickens, Edgar Alan Poe and Dante. With his latest release, THE LAST BOOKANEER, he has created a valentine to books and book lovers. He also exposes the dark side of the publishing world circa 1890.

A young man named Clover commutes by London train each da
Chris Chester
Mar 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nerd-fiction
I've never had the occasion to read anything by Matthew Pearl before, so what drew me to this book wasn't any kind of hype or pedigree, but an earnest fascination with the very concept of a bookaneer.

In short, there existed for a short time in the western world certain ambiguities or blind spots in copyright law that allowed publishing houses on either side of the Atlantic to publish the works of authors without their permission and for the publisher's exclusive profit. Little is actually known
This is my first book by Matthew Pearl. The plot is about a long lost group of literary pirates called “bookaneers”. I have two other Matthew Pearl books but the concept of bookaneers and the beginning of Copyright Laws curtailing this strangely notorious profession fascinated me so much in to reading this book first.

The book opens up in New York with two characters: One is a young man called Mr. Clover and the other is a middle-aged man called Mr. Fergins. The former is a book reader employed
Feb 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
“When they dreamed of turning iron and metal into gold, they called it alchemy. The much more far-fetched dream of turning bound sheafs of plain paper into fortunes, they call publishing.”
Fergins may be only a lowly book-cart seller now, but in a not too long distant past, he was the assistant to one of the greatest bookaneers--pirates who profit on the "high seas of literature"-- in all of Europe. With the copyright laws of Europe and the United States woefully inconsistent, there are plenty of
May 17, 2015 rated it it was ok
Though the premise of this book was fascinating, I struggled at times trying to orient myself within its surprising layers. Even when I did get my bearings, I found myself reading for the sake of reaching the story's conclusion, rather than reading for genuine pleasure.
Cian O hAnnrachainn
Mar 27, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: given-up
The prose was well formed, the voice scented with a hint of Mark Twain.

And yet...

There is an adventure tale in this novel, a preposterous saga that is told by an itinerant bookseller to a railroad porter. The premise revolves around copyright laws before 1900 and book pirates out to swipe Robert Louis Stevenson's last manuscript so they can sell it before the new law kicks in and their manuscript-stealing becomes illegal. Not unlike an unscrupulous literary agent, in a way. Madness, indeed.

Ashley Reading Stewardess
I would like to thank First to Read for the opportunity to read an advance readers copy of Matthew Pearl's newest book. As with many readers, I was first introduced to Matthew Pearl's writing with his novel "The Dante Club" which I loved. Unfortunately I have found his subsequent books that I've read since are hit or miss. "The Last Bookaneer" was a miss for me. The premise of the book sound so wonderful and promising but I found the actual execution to be long winded and at times quite boring. ...more
Jason Pettus
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

Matthew Pearl has made an entire career out of fanciful, action-packed thrillers set within obscure historical corners of intellectualism (his most famous novel continues to be The Dante Club, concerning a sort of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen supergroup of Victorian writers who band together to solve
Laurie Carlson
Do you love to read? Are you a book enthusiast? A voracious reader? Do you just love books? Have you ever wondered about the history of publishing in history? (Although this IS fiction). Like adventure? All of those fit this book and more! You are going to LOVE this book! This book is an adventure about stealing manuscripts from authors and being able to sell these out from under the authors noses. This book is told by a Narrator who takes us and ends up going on this adventure, too, all over th ...more
Jaclyn Day
Jun 08, 2015 rated it liked it
I’m really conflicted about how to talk about this one. On one hand, I can appreciate the creativity, inventiveness, and research that went into creating this story and the world in which it’s set. On the other hand, it can be dry, meandering, and it takes a good portion of the book–most of it, actually–to establish the kind of suspense and intrigue I had expected closer to the start. To Pearl’s credit, when the plot really starts going, it goes. Sucks that it has to be less than 100 pages befor ...more
Jul 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
A highly enjoyable and well-written adventure story that's told in a neo-Victorian style with the boyish innocence of tales like Robinson Crusoe and The Count of Monte Cristo. I love the addition of interesting factoids about Robert Louis Stevenson's life and the bookish themes that revolve around collectors, libraries and the hunt for prized novels that made up for this book dragging a bit towards the end.
Nan Williams
May 21, 2015 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: no one
Shelves: quit, did-not-read
Does this story ever get anywhere? I was about 100 pages into it, but simply couldn't stay awake. It would be great for insomnia.

Boring, boring, boring.

It was difficult to maintain the story line in my head (maybe there wasn't one), but it was so very boring, I didn't care.
Joanne Moyer
"book-a-neer" a literary pirate, an individual capable of doing all that must be done in the universe of books that publishers, authors and readers must not have a part in

Mr. Clover is a railcar waiter for the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad Company in the the late 1800s. Being an avid reader he looks forward to the visits of Mr. Fergins and his cart of books for sale to train riders. Their mutual love of books forges a friendship and Mr. Fergins relates his life story to Mr. Clover,
Read all my reviews on

I'm always interested in books about books, and this book tells about the final days of the bookaneers, people who stole manuscripts from writers for publishers, which is coming to an end with the introduction of copyrights. The main characters try one final time to get their hands on the latest book by Robert Louis Stevenson, which he was writing all the way in Samoa.

The premise was really interesting, but in the execution there was s
Mar 12, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: historical, gift
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
The Lit Bitch
Apr 24, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novel was truly an adventure read. I loved that Pearl kept with the buccaneer spirit of the novel by making the manuscript one by Robert Louis Stevenson, author of Treasure Island. I loved that the characters boarded a boat bound for a mysterious and exotic location and gave them the great title of ‘bookaneer’. Everything about the novel said ‘adventure’. It was superb!

There were times when Fergins kind of annoyed me as a narrator though. At times he seemed like such an unlikely companion t
while this IS in historical context, and interesting premise of per-international copyright, in where for example usa publishers take and sell british authors' works for their own pure profit, and not paying those authors anything, and in where industrial/art espionage plays a great part, that is, stealing the books to publish in a different country, the whole novel is somehow both too much atmosphere and period 'thought' and too flat. a shame. but still interesting, and has a funny twisty endin ...more
Adele Jones
Feb 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
After frequent interruptions and unremarkable reading progress, I was very pleased to finally get into this novel by Matthew Pearl. His mastery of complex plots and the writing craft, ensured it was reading time well invested. I did feel the resolution of this work a little drawn out in comparison to previous reads, but was also impressed by a clever twist, which I was certainly not expecting. As with Pearl's other work, I particularly enjoyed the way his love of literature and history seeped th ...more
Based on truth, but this is completely a fictitious account involving Robert Louis Stevenson. A bookaneer was a person who tried to steal works from authors and taking credit and monies away from the true author. Since Stevenson had moved to Samoa, he was a prime target. If able to get his work, the bookaneer felt positive Samoa-living Stevenson would never hear or know of one of his books being published in England or America with someone else's name on it. Brilliantly narrated by Simon Vance a ...more
Mar 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
In 1890 London, Pen Davenport contemplates his dwindling prospects. For years he has smuggled books out of one country for publication in another, a form of literary piracy dubbed "bookaneering," but new international copyright laws are putting Davenport and his kind out of business. Then his associate Fergins hears something almost too good to be true: Robert Lewis Stevenson, living in Samoa and close to death, is completing one final masterpiece. The adventure begins! This novel mixes historic ...more
Mar 29, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I withheld my review until bookclub was over. BORING book. I was so hoping it to be more about books but I didn't feel the characters even cared about books, more about their opinions about books. The concept was good which is why I even picked it for bookclub. I did feel the characters were developed but it could not hold my interest at all. Never finished the book, which is a rarity for me. Big apologies to the bookclub!
Steven Z.
May 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
In Matthew Pearl’s latest historical thriller, THE LAST BOOKANEER he raises the question of what is a “book’a-neer’ (bŏŏk’kå-nēr’), n. a literary pirate; an individual capable of doing all that must be done in the universe of books that publishers, authors, and readers must not have a part in.” Further he states that it is a person who was part of “the mostly invisible chain of actors that links authors to readers.” These definitions provide the basis for Pearl’s continued ability to design and ...more
Apr 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
During most of the 19th c., copyright laws were lax for books written by authors in different countries. As a result, bookaneers had been stealing manuscripts from authors and auctioning them off to the highest bidder. These bookaneers are the stuff of legend for book lovers everywhere, just as swashbuckling and bigger-than-life as any buccaneer. But it is the end of the 19th c. and things are about to change. Governments everywhere are enacting new copyright laws that will protect international ...more
Jenny Kim
Oct 15, 2015 rated it liked it
After reading a few light fictions I was eager to reading something more literary with substance and interesting characters.I found some of that in this historical fiction.

There were a lot of things I liked about this book. It had famous writers of 19th Century like Mary Shelley and Robert Louis Stevenson, and it had the literary pirates known as Bookaneer, who steals and competes with each other for manuscripts and/or rumored works written by popular authors of the time and sell them to publ
Apr 16, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: arc
3.5 rounded down.

Not too long ago I read Under the Wide and Starry Sky which tells the story of Fanny and Robert Louis Stevenson from Fanny's view. This plot of this book is to get the unfinished manuscript of a dying RLS to a publisher before the advent of new international copyright laws take effect. RLS is in Samoa. Quite a task for the late 1880s!

So I thought the plot was good and the characters well developed, but I was muddling through the middle part. You'd think with cannibals and half
Apr 10, 2015 rated it liked it
Maybe it was just me, but this dragged quite a bit. There were parts I liked (the history of the bookends, the copyright issues, stories of good "gets") but then, in the middle of Samoa, it just stopped. There was too much time spent there, too little going on. The narrative scheme, like the first half of Wuthering Heights, is told by a participant to someone, which mostly works. There is sometimes a hint of the unreliable narrator because of that, but mostly what we get is Clover's listening to ...more
David Schwan
Feb 18, 2018 rated it liked it
I am giving this three stars--but 2 and a half is a closer match. The writing and plot start out very choppy, and they only come together in the last third of the book.

The central premise of a Bookaneer at least partially exceeded credibility; overall the author started building his ediface in quicksand and failed to notice the whole thing sinking as he wrote. Couple that with less than stellar characters and you have a losing formula.
Anis Suhaila
Jun 18, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The story seemed silly at first but it got better towards the end, almost magical even. It seems books can even make people go mad.
Sep 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
London, 1890: "For a hundred years, loose copyright laws and a hungry reading public created a unique opportunity: books could easily be published without an author’s permission. Authors gained fame but suffered financially—Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, Robert Louis Stevenson, to name a few—but publishers reaped enormous profits while readers bought books inexpensively. Yet on the eve of the twentieth century, a new international treaty is signed to grind this literary underground to a sharp halt ...more
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Note from the author:Hi everyone. My newest novel is The Dante Chamber, out May 29, 2018. It's a follow-up to my debut novel, The Dante Club, but you do not have to read one before the other, each stands on its own two feet. Hope you'll enjoy any of books you choose to pick up.

Matthew Pearl's novels have been international and New York Times bestsellers translated into more than 30 languages. His

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