Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

A Passion for Books: A Book Lover's Treasury of Stories, Essays, Humor, Love and Lists on Collecting, Reading, Borrowing, Lending, Caring for, and Appreciating Books

Rate this book
"When I have a little money, I buy books. And if any is left, I buy food and clothing." — --Desiderius Erasmus — Those who share Erasmus's love of those curious bundles of paper bound together between hard or soft covers know exactly how he felt. These are the people who can spend hours browsing through a bookstore, completely oblivious not only to the passage of time but to everything else around them, the people for whom buying books is a necessity, not a luxury. A Passion for Books is a celebration of that love, a collection of sixty classic and contemporary essays, stories, lists, poems, quotations, and cartoons on the joys of reading, appreciating, and collecting books.

This enriching collection leads off with science-fiction great Ray Bradbury's Foreword, in which he remembers his penniless days pecking out Fahrenheit 451 on a rented typewriter, conjuring up a society so frightened of art that it burns its books. This struggle--financial and creative--led to his lifelong love of all books, which he hopes will cosset him in his grave, "Shakespeare as a pillow, Pope at one elbow, Yeats at the other, and Shaw to warm my toes. Good company for far-travelling."

Booklovers will also find here a selection of writings by a myriad of fellow sufferers from bibliomania. Among these are such contemporary authors as Philip Roth, John Updike, Umberto Eco, Robertson Davies, Nicholas Basbanes, and Anna Quindlen; earlier twentieth-century authors Christopher Morley, A. Edward Newton, Holbrook Jackson, A.S.W. Rosenbach, William Dana Orcutt, Robert Benchley, and William Targ; and classic authors such as Michel de Montaigne, Gustave Flaubert, Petrarch, and Anatole France.

Here also are entertaining and humorous lists such as the "Ten Best-Selling Books Rejected by Publishers Twenty Times or More," the great books included in Clifton Fadiman and John Major's New Lifetime Reading Plan, Jonathan Yardley's "Ten Books That Shaped the American Character," "Ten Memorable Books That Never Existed," "Norman Mailer's Ten Favorite American Novels," and Anna Quindlen's "Ten Big Thick Wonderful Books That Could Take You a Whole Summer to Read (but Aren't Beach Books)."

Rounding out the anthology are selections on bookstores, book clubs, and book care, plus book cartoons, and a specially prepared "Bibliobibliography" of books about books.

Whether you consider yourself a bibliomaniac or just someone who likes to read, A Passion for Books will provide you with a lifetime's worth of entertaining, informative, and pleasurable reading on your favorite subject--the love of books.

A Sampling of the Literary Treasures in A Passion for Books

Umberto Eco's "How to Justify a Private Library," dealing with the question everyone with a sizable library is inevitably asked: "Have you read all these books?"

Anatole Broyard's "Lending Books," in which he notes, "I feel about lending a book the way most fathers feel about their daughters living with a man out of wedlock."

Gustave Flaubert's Bibliomania, the classic tale of a book collector so obsessed with owning a book that he is willing to kill to possess it.

A selection from Nicholas Basbanes's A Gentle Madness, on the innovative arrangements Samuel Pepys made to guarantee that his library would survive "intact" after his demise.

Robert Benchley's "Why Does Nobody Collect Me"--in which he wonders why first editions of books by his friend Ernest Hemingway are valuable while his are not, deadpanning "I am older than Hemingway and have written more books than he has."

George Hamlin Fitch's extraordinarily touching "Comfort Found in Good Old Books," on the solace he found in books after the death of his son.

A selection from Anna Quindlen's How Reading Changed My Life, in which she shares her optimistic view on the role of reading and the future of books in the computer age.

Robertson Davies's "Book Collecting," on the difference between those who collect rare books because they're valuable and those who collect them because they love books, ultimately making it clear which is "the collector who really matters."

384 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1999

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Harold Rabinowitz

10 books7 followers
Harold Rabinowitz is director of the book packaging firm, The Reference Works, & has served as executive editor of the McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Science & Technology & science editor of the Encyclopedia Americana. He is the author of books on aviation, on the Old West, & on Judaica. He lives with his family & library in Riverdale, New York.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
363 (26%)
4 stars
473 (34%)
3 stars
401 (29%)
2 stars
91 (6%)
1 star
34 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 145 reviews
Profile Image for JimZ.
1,022 reviews460 followers
April 18, 2020
This was on the whole a delightful read. It is aptly described as “A book lover’s treasury of stories, humor, lore, and lists on collecting, reading, borrowing, lending, caring for, and appreciating books.” There were 31 pieces that were longer than 3 pages. I would have to say that 27 of them were very good-to-excellent. I think what made this 342-page book a very good read is that the pieces were written by different people, rather than one person, and these pieces were culled from probably 100s and 100s of pieces on the subject of “books”, and the editors chose some real gems. There were many 1-3 pagers interspersed with the longer pieces that consisted of either funny cartoons (mostly from the New Yorker and many of them by Sid Gross), lists connected with books (see one below for example, Biblilexicon), or literary ephemera (e.g., short essays or observations by different folks including John Updike and Susan Sontag).

There was one essay that was exceptional (‘Bibliomania’ by John Michell), and it was about bibliophiles who took matters to the extreme. Four of them were Thomas Rawlinson, M. Boulard, Richard Heber and Sir Thomas Phillipps. Here are some choice sentences that I pulled from the essay about them:
• “Some truly horrid examples are recorded of fanatical book collecting, and of those who had been ruined by it, alienated wives and families, and even been driven from their homes by their own libraries. Thomas Rawlinson, a collector of the early 18th century, stuffed his rooms at Gray’s Inn so full of books that he had to sleep in the passage. He then moved into a large mansion which he shared with his brother and did the same things there. By the time Thomas died, aged 44, there was scarcely a place where the brothers could sit among the books, papers, and dust of their collection.”
• M. Boulard: “A bibliomaniac of Paris, M. Boulard, bought books indiscriminately until he owned more than 600,000 of them. Shelf space in his house had long given out, so he filled trunks and cupboards with books, and then the attics, cellars, storerooms, and the floors of every other room. The weight was so onerous that the house began to collapse, so Boulard bought more houses, six in all, which he filled entirely with books, gradually driving out the tenants before the rising flood of his collection.”
• “When his father died, leaving a fine estate and fortune, Richard (Heber) was freed of his only previous restraint, lack of money. His book-buying exploits became fantastic. It seemed as if he wanted to own every book that ever was, and not just one copy of each. He used to say that every gentleman needed at least three copies of a book, one for his country house library, one for reading, and one to lend to friends. But three copies was by no means his limit. Several of his collections of different copies or editions of the same work would have formed a considerable library on their own. He would buy the entire contents of a bookseller’s catalogue or collections of many thousands of books in one lot, and he would make difficult journeys of hundreds of miles in pursuit of a single coveted volume. Only once was he diverted for his career, and only for a short time, when he contemplated marriage. Not that it was really a deviation, for the wife he almost chose was Miss Richardson Curer of Yorkshire, the most renowned of English women book collectors. The proposal, in fact, was a for a marriage of libraries, but either the couple or their books did not suit each other, for nothing came of the match.”
• Sir Thomas Phillipps: “…Immediately he began a spate of book-buying which belittled even his earlier efforts. As crates and cartloads of paper poured into it, the interior of the mansion at Middle Hill rapidly shrank. Most of the rooms were unsuitable for normal purposes, being filled with books, as were all the corridors in which there was barely enough room for two people to pass. When the dining room became clogged with manuscripts Philipps locked it up, and the family had to make do with one sitting room on the ground floor and three bedrooms upstairs, poorly furnished, with peeling wallpaper and broken panes. In order that the books might easily be removed in case of fire, they were stored in long, coffin-like boxes, piled on top of one another, the fronts of which opened downward on horizontal hinges. The walls of the Phillippes’ bedroom were so thickly lined with these boxes that only a few square feet of floor remained for Lady Philipps’ dressing table.”

• Bibliobibule: One who reads too much
• Biblioclast: One who tears pages from or otherwise destroys books
• Bibliodemon: A book fiend or demon
• Biblignoste: one who is knowledgeable about editions, colophons, printers, and all the minutiae of books
• Bibliographe: One who describes books
• Biblioklept: One who steals books
• Bibliolater: One who worships books
• Bibliolestes: A book robber or plunderer
• Bibliomancer: One who practices divination by books
• Bibliomane: One who accumulates books indiscriminately
• Bibliomaniac: A book lover gone mad
• Bibliophage: One who eats or devours books
• Bibliophile: One who loves books
• Bibkiophobe: One who fears books
• Bibliopole: One who sells books
• Biblioriptos: One who throws books around
• Bibliosopher: One who gains wisdom from books
• Bibliotaphe: one who buries or hides books

Anatole France: Never lend books-nobody ever returns them; the only books I have in my library are those which people have lent to me.

Jorge Luis Borges: I have always imagined Paradise will be a kind of library.

From “Lending Books” by Anatole Broyard: “In Zuckerman Unbound, Zuckerman’s brother marries a girl as the only way to repossess a book he lent her.”

Notable pieces in the book:
• The Foreword by Ray Bradbury (author on many works including appropo to this book Fahrenheit 451)
• The Ritual-Rob Kaplan (one of the editors of the book)
• How to Get Started in the Book Business–Stuart Brent (JimZ: I have a signed first edition of his book, Seven Stairs)
• Pillow Books-Clifton Fadiman (what to read and not read in bed)
• Aldus Manutius-William Dana Orcutt (Manutius was the premier fifteenth-century printer of classic Greek and Latin texts. He championed a revolutionary approach, placing accessibility, affordability, and quality first and foremost.)
• The Bible Through the Ages-Ben D. Zevin (JimZ: One of the early editions of the King James Bible, known as The Wicked Bible, had a printing error regarding the 7th commandment…” Thou shalt commit adultery.” Oops! 😊
Profile Image for Melissa.
672 reviews155 followers
August 2, 2012
Every single book lover needs to read this. No, I’m serious, all of you! If you love collecting books, reading books, wandering through bookstores, making lists of books you still have to read, etc. this collection will be a delight. I can’t think of a bibliophile who wouldn’t enjoy this.

It opens with an introduction from Ray Bradbury and just gets better from there. There are bits from Gustave Flaubert, Umberto Eco, Anna Quindlen, John Updike and dozens of others. Obviously every single essay or list isn’t perfect, but the majority of them are wonderful. The editors blended essays, lists of books, book themed cartoons and even a short story or two in the perfect order. There are a few slow pieces (I’m looking at you “Bible through the Ages”), but most are well-paced and quick to read.

There are so many clever book lovers out there and this collection highlights some of their best pieces. It’s a great book to set on your nightstand or somewhere where it’s easy to grab. If you only have a few minutes to read, you’ll find pieces to fill those moments, but then you can set it down easily.

“Dull books soothe only dull brains – a moderately healthy mind will be irritated rather than rested by a dull book.”

“But the vital thing is that you have your own favorites – books that are read and genuine, each one brimful of the inspiration of a great soul. Keep these books on a shelf convenient for use, and read them again and again until you have saturated your mind with their wisdom and their beauty.”

“It could be said that they are still people who consider a bookshelf as a mere storage place for already read books and do not think of the library as a working tool.”
Profile Image for Lisa.
1,469 reviews565 followers
May 11, 2020
I'm drawn to collections of essays about books and I'm often disappointed. Reading about books is like reading about food - it is too broad of a topic to assume a commonality. This collection of essays, mostly written by men about their libraries, is mixed. There are a few gems and several that I ended up skimming.
Profile Image for Debbie Zapata.
1,789 reviews37 followers
August 1, 2019
Well, the title speaks volumes about the contents, doesn't it.

As with any collection of this type, there were some selections more interesting than others.

I'm afraid I wasn't as captivated by the book overall as I expected to be.

I will be passing it on to Mom. She might like it more than I did.
Profile Image for Jen.
62 reviews3 followers
February 13, 2012
As a confirmed bibliophile, I assume I will automatically love any book about books and loving them. This proved to be true in this case. Devouring it in two days, it was absorbing enough that I completely forgot about a poetry reading earlier this evening that I had intended to go to...but that's a side note.

I anticipated that it would be a delicious read that would inspire me to make a mad dash down to my favorite independent bookstore (A Few Books More, in Billings, Montana, in case you're in the neighborhood and want to check it out - I highly recommend it!). Which it did.

It's a mix of profound, serious, and humorous essays revolving around the passion for books. There are various lists of types of books ("Fifteen Books We Would Memorize if We Were the "Living Books" Characters in Ray Bradbury's Novel Fahrenheit 451"; "Books That Shaped the American Character"; "Books That Changed America"; "The New Lifetime Reading Plan"); cartoons - from the New Yorker, I'm guessing, although not sure; and various pithy quotations that I managed to restrain myself from immediately posting on Facebook.

My favorite essays were "How to Justify a Private Library" by Umberto Eco; "How Reading Changed My Life" by Anna Quindlen, which articulates an optimistic take on the future of the book in the digital age far better than I could ever manage (basic summary: computers are portable, yes - but real books are companionable) - somewhat dated, as it was published in 1999 before the era of the Kindle and Nook really got started, but ridiculously relevant just the same; Robert Benchley's "Why Does Nobody Collect Me?" in which he wonders why his buddy Hemingway's novels are more valuable than his own, because as he notes, "I am older than Hemingway and have written more books than he has"; and "The Ritual" by Rob Kaplan, about the process he goes through upon acquiring any new book.

Some sections were a bit dry for me so I admit I skimmed and/or didn't finish some selections, "The Bible Through the Ages" being the most notable. However, that's just me; you might love that one and hate all my favorites! In which case, feel free to leave a comment and we shall discuss.

A couple quibbles: there were sporadic instances of typographical and grammatical errors that got on my nerves, none worse than finding the name of Homer (yes, he of The Illiad and The Odyssey) misspelled as HOWER. You would think the editors could have at least added a "[sic]" if that error was in the selection as originally published. But really, there's no excuse for that.

Also, in an otherwise informative and enjoyable essay called "On Reading and Collecting" by Herbert Faulkner West, originally published in 1947, which included some genuinely educational tidbits on things to keep in mind as you approach making serious book purchase for your collection, at auction or via whatever other means, I found this little gem: "Another fairly good rule to follow is never to buy just because, for the moment, the author brings fancy prices. Popularity is not usually permanent. This is especially true of modern writers such as William Faulkner...John Steinbeck...G.B. Shaw...and others." Insert double-take here. What makes me chuckle, too, in light of this ERRONEOUS comment, is Mr. West's middle name.

Despite those few quibbles, and the fact that I didn't fall head-over-heels in love with every single selection included, I really, REALLY, enjoyed this book and plan on referring to it again in the future. In addition to the philosophical aspects that are discussed, it also includes very practical guidance on acquiring and caring for your personal library. If you love books - which, let's face it, if you're on Goodreads already it's a pretty sure bet that you do - get out there and buy a copy of this book post haste!

First edition, of course.
Profile Image for kimberly_rose.
667 reviews30 followers
August 7, 2021
I was rocketship-revving excited for this book. The rocketship backfired and fell over. Ka-boom. Thud.

There were four problems with this book which overshadowed the rare-gem-thoughts in several essays.

1. It was more about the love of collecting books, not the love of reading books, more about the power collecting books can have than the power reading books can have.

2. The limiting belief that "high" art is the only sort of art worth perusing, the only sort that has value, can affect a person profoundly? It was everywhere. Annoyed the fuck out of me, it did. Low art, high art, it's all art, it's all worthy and has the potential to punch you in the soul throat. If I didn't ask you specifically cuz I value your input, don't give me your subjective list of 100 best books for everyone in the world, you arrogant sob, I ain't you.

3. Dated. My god was it dated. Most POVs were middleclass American, or upper middleclass American, and male. (And, perhaps understandable because of the selection committee, an inordinate amount of Jewish POV essays?) Also, ebooks *can* be part of a beloved personal library. Ebooks *can* affect the emotions. (But we've come a long way in quality and appreciation of the new book format--ebooks--since 1999.)

4. The little intro blurbs before most of the essays were completely off-putting. It don't impress me much to hear about the author's brilliance, his awards, his accolades, his accomplishments before I read anything he wrote; all it does is alienate me, and sets a tone of "eww, unapproachable, unreal, unlikeable."

Love reading, be it romance or comics, classic literature or raunchy poems? Wanna read about the power of *reading*? Try The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction by Alan Jacobs. Please give me a rec if you have one too!
Profile Image for  ~Geektastic~.
233 reviews150 followers
August 5, 2011
Like many collections of essays from various sources, some pieces were stronger than others. This was, however a very enjoyable and, indeed, passionate exploration of books with contributions from a variety of people, of many times and places.

Perhaps what has stuck with me the most, due to the current climate of the publishing and printing industries, was an excerpt from a longer piece by Anna Quindlen, "How Reading Changed My Life," that examines the future of the book in digital age (in the late 1990s). While it's interesting to see that the argument preoccupying so many readers today was already stewing nearly 15 years ago, the piece was tinged with a touch of sadness and bitter humor for me personally; her outlook is positive but is not holding up quite so well in the present day.

Another piece I really enjoyed was Umberto Eco's examination of the large personal library, something he most definitely possesses. It's suggested reading for anyone who has ever had a non-bibliophile friend survey your overstuffed shelves and ask "Have you read all of these books?" Really, what good is a library where you've read everything? I agree with my pal Umberto: not much good at all.

For those of us who turn to books not only for entertainment or edification, but for solace and understanding, there is the essay by George Hamlin Fitch. After the death of his beloved son, only the comfort of books could keep him going, and I feel that is the ultimate testament to the power of the written word.

A Passion for Books is a well-balanced compilation of insight, humor and wit and it ranks among my favorite books about my favorite thing: books.

Profile Image for Elizabeth A.
1,823 reviews107 followers
December 28, 2015
A book for bookophiles. A collection of essays, stories, lists, and, well, what the subtitle says. There are pieces I loved, and ones I did not. I enjoyed the romp through the mania of book collectors - the idea of buying two of each book, one to read and one to lend. And waiting for someone to die, so their collection is available on the market, were two that tickled my funny bone. I was disappointed that women collectors and readers were not well represented. This macho point of view was expressed in one essay: men read literature while women read novels. OK, so the piece was a reflection of its times, but still would have liked to see a more balanced view. Overall an interesting read with lots to think about. Is collecting more important than reading? When does a collector become a hoarder and need help?
Profile Image for C-shaw.
852 reviews59 followers
August 22, 2018
What can I say? A passionate book about my greatest passion. (Sorry, honey!)
* * * * *
This was disappointing, with some good bookish quotations, but mostly dull essays about collecting esoteric books and authors I've never heard of and/or aren't interested in reading.
Profile Image for Sherry Elmer.
313 reviews27 followers
April 10, 2018

What a great book for book lovers. I read a lot of passages out loud to my 11 year old and we laughed out loud. If you need a break from serious reading, pick up a copy of A Passion For Books and read a chapter now and then.

Educational, funny, informative.
Profile Image for Kathy McC.
1,240 reviews8 followers
May 8, 2013
I enjoy books about authors and books, but this book was more about book collecting. I do not consider myself a collector of books because I am not concerned about a book's monetary value. Books are not an investment to me, they are a part of my life that I invest in. Too many of the chapters in this book were about how to collect books for profit, not for pleasure. Some of those essays were worthwhile, but only because they provided information about novels that have made an impact.
Some of the essays I had read before. Some of the "Memorable Books" lists were also repeats from other books. I did enjoymany of the essays, and it is wonderful to read praises for books. I also liked perusing the lists that I had not seen before. I am always thrilled when I have actually read books on these lists. Of course, I am also saddened by the number of books that I have not read.

e first step, of course, is walking into a bookstore. There's an expectation of discovery, a sense of journeying into the unknown, that always excites me."

"But the vital thing is that you have your own favorites--books that are real and genuine, each one brimful of the inspiration of a great soul. Keep these books on a shelf convenient for use, and read them again and again. So may you be armed against the worse blows that fate can deal you in this world."

"The fact that a book you buy may rise in value is fine, but it should be secondary to the fact that you have bought it becasue you want to read it and have it on your own shelves."

Profile Image for Julie.
1,327 reviews92 followers
May 24, 2010
What a delightful little anthology that every devoted reader and collector should own. This book was my constant coffee-table companion for several weeks. I enjoyed sitting on the couch and reading an essay or story or list here and there. I really felt I could relate to the writers and their passion for books. My favorite essay was Rob Kaplan’s “The Ritual,” which describes his methodic routine of purchasing and cataloguing his books. I could relate to his meticulous practices, as I have my own specific methods upon attaining a book. Most enjoyable were the helpful lists, like “Ten Best Selling Books Rejected by Publishers Twenty or More Times,” and “100 Great Novels in the English Language.” These prompted me to get out my highlighter and evaluate what was I had read or what was in my library. This is the perfect book for all bibliophiles who, like me, can relate to Umberto Eco’s statement that a library is a work in progress.
Profile Image for Heather Fineisen.
1,158 reviews112 followers
December 26, 2017
This would be a great book to dip into although I read it straight through. Any bibliophile will savor the excerpts and essays from various names in the book business. Features include the history of bible printing, collecting, selling, editing and caring for Books. Definitely one to have in your library with a complete bibliography of more.
55 reviews1 follower
July 26, 2021
A compilation of essays, articles, quotes and lists of and about books.
Profile Image for Andrew.
374 reviews
April 6, 2011
passages i especially liked:
intro by ray bradbury
how to justify a private library by umberto eco
how to organize a public library by umberto eco
new lifetime reading plan
bibliomania by gustave flaubert
bibliomania by roger rosenblatt
how reading changed my life by anna quindlin (only because of this quote: "the fountainhead...with all the tiresome objectivist polemical speeches set in a different font for easy skipping-over (or even the outright deletions that ayn rand's editor should have taken care of).)
why does nobody collect me? by robert benchley

the collection starts out with the ideas of loaning and borrowing a book, and how books have affected various editors' and writers' lives, includes some good top book lists, but ends in tedious explanations of how to collect books and have a valuable collection. looking for first editions and whatnot. some of the stuff about the printing process and the high quality book stores of london and new york were pretty cool to read about tho
Profile Image for Yaaresse.
2,028 reviews16 followers
Shelved as 'sampled-not-interested'
November 10, 2017
Read about 12% and gave the TOC a good going-over. This appears to be mostly about possessing than enjoying. It will appeal to collectors who are more about the hunt, acquisition, and bragging rights of value. As someone who is far more interested in the reading than the owning--which is why I consider our public library "my" library--the angle of this book didn't appeal to me.
Profile Image for Dimitris Passas (TapTheLine).
457 reviews66 followers
October 12, 2022
"All the glory of the world would be buried in oblivion, unless God had provided mortals with the remedy of books". (Richard de Burry, Philobiblon)

"Who kills a man kills a reasonable creature, God's image; but he who destroys a good book, kills reason itself, kills the image of God as it were in the eye". (John Milton, Aeropagitica)

Edited by Harold Rabinowitz and Rob Kaplan, a duo that also collaborated in another hymn to the loving of written speech, Speaking of Books: The Best Things Ever Said About Books and Book Collecting (2001/Crown Publishing), A Passion for Books is a collection containing the widest variety imaginable in terms of literary forms as in the book we can find several dozens of essays, lists, poems, quotations and whatever else comes in mind. It is evident that the editors of this volume are fervent book readers themselves and their passion reflects on their careful selection of a series of entries, always concentrating on the necessity and cultural significance of reading, penned by some of the most predominant figures in the global literary canon, spanning the timeframe of multiple centuries. From the Italian scholar and poet of early Renaissance, Francesco Petrarca (known in the English-speaking world as Petrarch) of the 14-th century to contemporary intellectual giants in the likes of Umberto Eco and Philip Roth, this collection fills the reader with information about every aspect of the literary process and the diversity in the type of the articles featured as well as their short length make for an easy and fast-paced read, ideal for those who have an allergy for long-winded, fully-fleshed essays that can become tedious in some circumstances. As it is expected, not all chapters are equally compelling, but I found none to be utterly useless or feel out of place with the overall context of the collection.

Beginning with a foreword by the author of the legendary Fahrenheit 451, Reay Bradbury, a book zealot who, apart from his novels that marked American literature in the twentieth century, also authored short stories, poems and, most interestingly, more than a few novels on other writers, most prominently those who influenced his own work. Examples are the poets Yeats, Keats, and Shelly as well as more modern novel writers such as Edgar Alan Poe and Herman Melville. What left me feeling dumbfounded was that he managed to write Fahrenheit 451, which was his first complete fictional story published after a fix-up novel with the title The Martian Chronicles, in just 9 days (!), while working in a typing room underneath the library in the UCLA camp. Bradbury stresses the importance of working in proximity with an abundance of books and confesses how often he travelled upstairs to load his mind and imagination by reading the work of other writers. He writes: "The library turned out to be the best damn maternity hospital in my entire life", keeping in mind that the "children" comprise the totality of his body of work. In his parting lines of this short preface, Bradbury leaves the readers with a note of grandeur as he writes: "The Egyptians often, in death, had their favorite cats embalmed, to cozen their feet. If things go well, my special pets will pace me into eternity, Shakespeare as pillow, Pope at one elbow, Yeats at the other, and Shaw to warm my toes. Good company for far travelling".

The collection furthermore contains two short essays written by the Italian philosopher and intellectual, author of the iconic Name of the Rose and Foucault's Pendulum, Umberto Eco. The first one is titled "How to Justify a Private Library", a short piece about the banality of the obvious and the triteness of having the same question asked over and over, namely if he has read all the books in his -vast-library. While getting vexed by such queries, Eco discloses to the reader the ways that he devised in order to cope, and they are sprinkled with humor, albeit of a more cerebral kind. Eco also mentions the first time that he met Erving Goffman, one of the most predominant figures in 20th century microsociology, Erving Goffman. Eco commends Goffman's sharp intellect and spirit and seems to hold him in great respect, namely due to the "genius and penetration with which he could identify infinitesimal aspects of behavior that had previously eluded everyone else". Eco's second essay, "How to Organize a Public Library", adheres to a stricter form and involves strict guidance to library managers and staff on how to properly and more efficiently regulate and systematize the infinite variety of books. Even though Eco makes some valid points regarding the essay's subject, the text itself feels rather dull as it lacks the spark, commonly associated with Umberto Eco's writing.

There is also a hilarious entry by the American writer, literary critic, and editor Anatole Broyard who is known for his work as a writer in the New York Times. Broyard, in his brief article on why he abhors lending his books to others makes several witty remarks such as: "I feel about lending a book the way most fathers feel about their daughters living with a man out of wedlock" or, even more pointedly, "to the doted book lover, the idea of reading a borrowed book is disgusting, an unclean habit akin to voyerism". A Passion of Books moreover includes a few lists, mainly indexing, for example, the greatest books of the 20th century or "Books That Changed America" and the reader will surely discover titles that he was previously unaware of. I found many books that I haven't even heard about them ever and they were among the best writings of our era. What I found most interesting in this book though is a small snippet from John Milton's Areopagitica, the English poet's polemic against censorship as presented in his controversial pamphlet, published in 1644. Milton's words are a celebration to the reading culture and the essential objective that books encompass, while at the same time condemning in the most vigorous of ways any attempt at suppression and restrictions in the free circulation of the literary product. Last, but not least, there is Philip Roth's "The Newark Public Library", a piece that will be understood if the reader is aware of the more general, social and political context of the era that it was written. Roth writes in response to the arbitrary decision of the local council to cut the funding and shut down the community's library. Through the use of reasonable arguments, Roth explains the urgent need for the council to withdraw their ruling for a number of reasons pertaining to the greater good of the Newark's residents.

As an avid reader myself, I was in the most fitting state to appreciate and acknowledge this exquisite collection's merits and my overall assessment for the Passion for Books is more than positive, bordering on enthusiastic. In simple terms, there is a lot to learn in the sixty chapters featured in the book and, apart from the essential discovery of new books and authors, there are some fun facts that will literally blow your head off. For example, who knew that the classic novels Dune by Frank Herbert and James M. Cain's noir classic The Postman Always Rings Twice had been rejected for more than twenty times by publishers? This is a just a small taste of the trivia that are interspersed throughout the collection and add a unique flavor to the overall attempt. This book is complementary to the aforementioned Speaking of Books: The Best Things Ever Said About Books and Book Collecting, a tome that consists exclusively of a listing of quotes about book and reading by authors, editors and writing professionals. A Passion for Books is type of book that can be read on the side as its fragmented structure doesn't demand a great deal of concentration by the reader. It's a fun, accessible assemblage of various writings regarding books and the art of writing. Recommended to all.
Profile Image for Simon.
141 reviews32 followers
February 3, 2018
A celebration of the reading obsession that likeminded readers will continuously nod and smile to, knowingly browsing through the stories and essays, finding highlights and ideas here and there.
The only problem for me is that there are too many texts on collecting books, usually obsessively, rather than reading or appreciating them for content. And not all of the stories are equally interesting, but for book lovers, the fitting title hardly disappoints.

This was funny to read on an e-reader, as many times over, the physical qualities, the smell, the weight and the feeling of a real book are praised. I share these feelings, but for me, the content is more important. E-readers have a lot of benefits like digital bookmarks and notes or the sheer amount of books you can store on them. So i rather appreciate this as nostalgia with an age requirement.
There's this quote that i can't find a reference for anymore that neatly sums it up:

Books, however precious, are meant to be read.
Profile Image for Sandra.
40 reviews
January 1, 2015
I found this in my recommendations box here on Goodreads after I added a similar book. The cover was actually what initially drew me in, and after reading the summary of the book, I immediately bought it, already knowing that I would love it. It was a pleasure reading this book.

I did not read every single essay all the way through, as some of them did not interest me very much, but I read most of them and they were really good. And there is a great foreword/introduction by Ray Bradbury. I had great fun looking through the lists spread throughout the book - I love lists.

Anyway, I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in books about books, and especially if you like collecting valuable books, as there much of the content is about that.
Profile Image for Tim.
1,232 reviews
August 3, 2016
The essays in a passion for books were of widely varying quality and interest. Too many (one, frankly, would be too many for me) were about book collectors and while I love lists, this book's lists required more explication. That said, Harold Rabinowitz's story of Chaim Grade's book-laden Bronx apartment and his relationship with his books is worth the entire book. "If anyone asks you if you've read all those books," he said, "it means you don't have enough books."
Profile Image for Weinz.
167 reviews154 followers
September 28, 2007
This complilation was like reading about friends. It spoke my deep dark secrets. Getting a thrill out of seeing certain books, opening a book for the first time or loving the smell of books new and old. We are not freaks! Bibliomaniacs unite!
Profile Image for Cynthia Paschen.
704 reviews1 follower
July 10, 2008
"Books are the windows through which the soul looks out. A home without books is like a room without windows."
I am always freaked out when I walk into someone's house and can't see any books.
Profile Image for Spyder.
60 reviews3 followers
May 26, 2009
Just a great book of essays for readers and book lovers... Viva Bibliophilia!
Profile Image for Lazygorillas.
9 reviews3 followers
December 9, 2012
A true bibliophile's delight: Who does not appreciate a book about books and reading?
Profile Image for ProofProfessor.
36 reviews3 followers
August 17, 2017
For those of us who subscribe (well, almost) to Erasmus's celebrated statement, "When I have a little money, I buy books. And if any is left, I buy food and clothing", this book is a must. The editors have done a fantastic job in collecting together a wide-ranging selection of writings, some short, some much meatier, that embrace what it means to be a book collector – with a bit of manic hoarding and profitable dealing thrown in to balance things out. I found myself reading (historical) accounts of collecting that I thought I would not be that interested in. The editors have shown great judgement in their choices. Nice on the eye, too, and editorially tip-top, without typos and blunders – well, one expects the best from such a book. And it delivers. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for John Majors.
Author 1 book15 followers
January 9, 2018
This was such a fun book. I found myself laughing out loud in many places, like the stories of book collectors whose homes were sagging under the weight of their books, or the man who fled the country to avoid his creditors, yet returned once his debt was clear and began his book buying in earnest again. Then there was the man who almost married a woman because of her book collection. Lots of great list of books in here as well. Definitely worth reading if you're a bibliophile.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
40 reviews12 followers
April 30, 2008
I have been in the process of reading this book ever since I got it, several years ago. It contains tons of short chapters of essays, humor ... well, the title pretty much says it all. If you read and love books - you really should get this book.
Profile Image for Jenifer.
1,025 reviews29 followers
November 21, 2014
Not as great as some of the reviews led me to believe. Focused a lot on higher-end book collecting. The lists were good, but you can look lists up online, right? Ok, just a little dry. I'm going to give away my copy. Jenice, Betsy, or Jenn; You want it?
Profile Image for Kidsbookworm.
176 reviews3 followers
January 31, 2012
This is one of my favorite books. I stumbled upon it when I was doing a library search for something else and I really love it. The essays are short enough to read and enjoy in a sitting, and most make me smile or laugh.

And the many book lists are great, too!
Displaying 1 - 30 of 145 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.