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A Pound of Paper: Confessions of a Book Addict

3.54  ·  Rating details ·  648 ratings  ·  66 reviews
In the rural Australia of the fifties where John Baxter grew up, reading books was disregarded with suspicion, owning and collecting them with utter incomprehension. Despite this, by the age of eleven Baxter had 'collected' his first book—The Poems of Rupert Brooke. He'd read the volume often, but now he had to own it. This was the beginning of what would become a major co ...more
Paperback, 432 pages
Published April 1st 2005 by St. Martin's Griffin (first published 2002)
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Average rating 3.54  · 
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Al Bità
Aug 07, 2014 rated it liked it
I think a number of people (myself included!) might have thought that this would be a book about literature — but then I also later realised that the title (A Pound of Paper) and its subtitle (Confessions of a Book Addict) did not really promise that at all. Instead, what we have here is a kind of biography by ex-patriate Australian John Baxter, which deals specifically with the author’s addiction to book collecting! And what a strange and disturbing world it is! Anyone interested in this subjec ...more
Nicolas Chinardet
There is a quote from the Sunday Telegraph on the cover of my edition of this book. It calls A Pound of Paper "enjoyable, diverting". And I would certainly agree with that assessment. The book is full of anecdotes, some of then quite amusing, and the writing is pleasant enough. But this is rather faint praise when you think about it.

The problem of the book is that it is rambling and imbued with vagueness. It presents the reader with a succession of very loosely related episodes, more or less in
...more
Robert
Mar 07, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: x2019-20-season
The first half that actually focuses on books is entertaining, the second half is just biography and name dropping, and the final 50 pages or so is pure filler.
Jennifer (JC-S)
Jan 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
‘Books are forever, but book people change and none more so than the London runners and dealers who became my friends.’

John Baxter grew up in rural Australia during the 1950s, and found that reading books was not highly regarded. Owning and collecting books was by no means a common pursuit then either, but this didn’t stop John from developing a passion for books, and their ownership, which has grown through obsession into a major collection.

I don’t completely share the obsession, but I love rea
...more
Bev
John Baxter's A Pound of Paper: Confessions of a Book Addict is a deceptive little thing. I went in expecting a book about books and about someone with an all-consuming passion for books. Which this is...more or less. Actually more less than more. This is a far cry from 84, Charing Cross Road or The Yellow-Lighted Book both books that wonderfully represent the book lover and collector and their relationship to the printed page.

Baxter takes us on a meandering tour of his life--long, boring bit on
...more
Elizabeth
Oct 05, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2009
Though chock-full of entertaining anecdotes, this book never successfully got past the somewhat pretentious and egotistical personality of its author. In fiction (or even more "objective" non-fiction) this might fly, but when you're reading a memoir of sorts, it's always equally important to like the writer as much as his subject. As for his subject, when Baxter stuck to talking about books and his collecting hobby, he was at his best. It was both entertaining and informative to hear about his c ...more
Gerry
Feb 26, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Seduced by the exotic sub-title 'Confessions of a Book Addict', I fully expected a book crammed with stories of book buying, book collecting and reading so it was disappointing to find all sorts of other less interesting reminiscences filling the pages. Rather like the curate's egg, I therefore found it 'good in parts' but pretty ordinary in others. The blurb on the dustwrapper is also somewhat misleading because that indicates that the subject matter is primarily book related - not so! The end ...more
Tim Weakley
Mar 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
This was a far more interesting read than I thought it was going to be. A meandering look at the seamy underbelly of the book collecting world. It was a lark to read some of the descriptions of the ways in which he would get inscriptions for his collection. I also really enjoyed the descriptions of the characters he came in contact with. Maybe I enjoyed this more than some of the reviewers because of my part time job in a used bookstore. It gave me a little bit of empathy.

Good all around for me.
Bess
Dec 21, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Let me start off by saying 2 things - 1) I *love* books about books, and 2) I did finish the book.

However... I was disappointed. I was really looking forward to reading about the author's travels as a collector - books he coveted and how he got them, the personalities he met along the way. This was much more autobiographical than I expected, and quite honestly, I could have cared less about his childhood in Australia, his work with the railroad, etc.

Gave it 3 stars because I did finish the damn
...more
Melissapalmer404
Jul 27, 2016 rated it liked it
Book # 72 Read in 2016
A Pound of Paper: Confessions of a Book Addict by John Baxter

Baxter details how he became a book collector, one spanning years and countries. Baxter mentions many works of literature, many bookstores and many stories about getting the books he wanted. A book lover will love reading about another book lover.
Hulananni
Dec 30, 2008 rated it it was ok
Had to plow through this. The title intrigued but the minutiae slowed me down.
Jeff Zell
Sep 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Baxter admits he is a bibliophile. As far as confessions go, this is an interesting one in that it leads him to meet all manner of people and live in Australia, England, America, and now France. According to his website, he and his family live in Paris where they lead literary tours.

Baxter grew up in Australia and started work for the railroad early in life. In order to help pass the time in some of the remote places he stayed, he took up reading. First it was Science Fiction and Fantasy. He mo
...more
Sarah Tollok
Mar 28, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In his autobiography, Baxter gives the reader a fun and detailed ride through the eccentric lifestyle (for it is far beyond the realm of hobby) of book collecting. We followed him through his young life in the barren literary landscape of rural Australia, where he caught the sci-fi fan bug, and saw how it lead him to pursuing a life in the literary and film world. I very much respect how the author allowed himself to get carried along by his passion for reading and books, and left the other deta ...more
Rich Oxley
Jun 04, 2020 rated it liked it
What started as an exciting and illuminating portrait of obsessive book-collecting gradually peters out into a rather conceited autobiography. Too many characters and locations clutter this story, which loses its soul as a result.

Martin Stone is introduced as a delightfully eccentric character, yet we hear too little about him or his exploits. Perhaps the drifting, ascetic nature of such characters lends itself to this scattergun anecdote-fest that Baxter's story becomes. As an amusing, diverti
...more
David Geissler
Sep 08, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
Is book collecting mainly about when the book was printed and who scribbled in it? That makes it sound more like memorabilia to me and less about the story written on those pages. I guess I thought there was something more intriguing to rare books, but I am not sure what I thought that might be. I enjoyed Baxter's account of his book addiction, but I didn't recognize as many of the authors as I was hoping I would. ...more
Benjamin L
Feb 08, 2021 rated it really liked it
Fun stories, some great name-dropping. If only this book had an index, even that would make an interesting read! Also, some wonderful, biblio-brick-a-brack appendices also make for interesting reading.
Jessica Morgan
Sep 12, 2017 rated it liked it
I enjoyed his style of storytelling, but a lot of the book collecting references were lost on me. It also spans several years and three or more continents. It is a long and fascinating read.
Arlene
Mar 09, 2018 rated it it was ok
Lost interest quickly as this turned out to be more about the the, the reader, than the books. Could not finish the book after such pleasure in The Shelf and Howard's End is on the Landing. ...more
Kiwiflora
Oct 27, 2011 rated it liked it
The dictionary very simply sums up a bibliophile as someone who likes reading and/or collecting books. But as any serious reader/book person will tell you, that word sums up so much more - mooching around in bookshops both old and new, finding 'finds' again old and new, stacking them on the shelf read or unread in a certain order peculiar to only you, or occasionally discarding. Then there are those who buy and sell books - old, new, rare, out of print, autographed, penned, dedicated, good or ba ...more
S.
Jul 27, 2011 added it
As a lazy bibliophile, I’m sucker for books about book collecting because it’s easier to read than do it. So I read John Baxter’s A Pound of Paper. I think I prefer Larry McMurtry’s Books, but Baxter’s book has a nice light conversational tone and a European/Australian angle that’s worth the reading…if you care about those rectangle things that used to be all the rage with readers.

I say that I’m a lazy lover of books and not just reading. In fact I don’t care much for reading. But books as arti
...more
Jane
Sep 26, 2016 rated it liked it
Book nerds, unite! Baxter's story of growing up obsessed with science fiction is engaging, but I confess I got bogged down occasionally as he describes jumping down yet another rabbit hole in search of his latest rare book mania. Aptly titled! ...more
Ciara
Jan 25, 2009 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: science fiction super-nerds, swotty book collectors, guys in ascots who claim to have read "ulysses"
this john baxter character grew up in australia & got really into sci-fi in the 40s, when he was still a kid. & true to the form of just about every nerdy kid who gets into sci-fi, he becomes a book-ish type who is really obsessed with the minutiae of his particular interest. he grows up & spends some time working on the railroad in australia, bringing books with him to various rural outposts, trying to find the time to visit his local sci-fi discussion club, penning the occasional story for the ...more
Sillyhuron
Sep 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
Oh how I loved this one...
On collecting - "It's not enough to succeed; your best friend must fail"
On Brian Aldiss - "An H.G Wellsian visionary reborn as a modern Peter the Hermit on speed"
On American TV and Radio book presenters - "The stock phrase "I haven't had a chance to finish your book' means they haven't read it or, probably, seen a copy. Possibly they may not know how to read".

John Baxter's wild and wooly life story zooms from lending libraries in 1950's Australia ("the old joke 'Let's
...more
Cathy (Ms. Sweeney)
Apr 23, 2013 rated it it was ok
I truly enjoyed the first third or so of this book. I enjoyed the end of this book. Which does leave a portion of the book that just came across as a bit much when it came to name dropping and certain life experiences that might have been better shared in a different memoir. Which made it a somewhat disappointing read by the end.

Reading about the author's discovery of a stack of scifi magazines in a friend's garage in Australia when he was a boy was fascinating and reminded me of my joy at first
...more
Dale Houstman
Jul 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: essays, memoir
I've read several of John Baxter's books now, and find them enjoyable and intelligent journeys through several subjects: Paris, film, science fiction, and here through the world of the book collector - AND Paris, AND film, AND science fiction. I have read many books on the subject of books themselves, and on the very act of reading, and did not expect one on collecting to be of remarkable interest. However, as we experience the eccentrics that dot the field, and stray amiably and effortlessly in ...more
Edwin
Aug 16, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, books
An interesting read. It's a sort of memoir by an Australian who's saved from suburban drudgery working as a railway clerk by his love of writing science fiction and collecting SF magazines. After ten years on the railways, he chucks it in and moves to London where he becomes involved with the bizarre (and frankly shady) world of book collecting. He becomes a broadcaster, spends a year teaching in an American college, and ends up in Hollywood. At the end of the book, he's moved to Paris with a ne ...more
Denise
Jan 23, 2010 rated it it was ok
I almost quit reading this a couple of times but then I would give it a few more pages and it would get kind of interesting again so I plodded through to the end. The beginning of the book was interesting and the end of the book was interesting, it lagged for me in the middle. (And since it is a 416 page book there is a lot of middle!) I really like books about books and books about people who love books. This book doesn't even compare to 84, Charing Cross Road or The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop, bo ...more
Cailean McBride
Jun 01, 2015 rated it liked it
I'm not sure why this book gets such a lot of negative reviews. Yes, it gets rambling towards the end. I wasn't that interested in the writer's domestic bliss in France and I suppose there is an element of hubris in the fact that Baxter thought his life was so fascinating that it merited this volume.

However, there's lots to like here. It's on the whole well written and there are lots of interesting anecdotes contained within. I could have quite happily done with a bit more of the ins and outs of
...more
Kirsty
Jul 15, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I don't understand the collecting mentality because I don't understand the point of owning objects for the sake of it. why have a book if you're not going to read it? parts of this book were confusing to me, as I just didn't understand the logic behind the collecting mania.

I found Baxter irritating. perhaps he's a big name in the book-collecting world, and feels he can be as conceited as he likes. I am unfamiliar with the book-collecting world, so wasn't impressed by his name-dropping.

despite th
...more
Rob Neyer
This book isn't really about an addiction to books; rather, it's the memoir of an Australian with literary ambitions who wound up London and Virginia and Ireland and Los Angeles and Australia again and finally Paris ... with bibliophilia as a touchstone throughout.

Baxter is articulate and literate and met any number of interesting writers over the years, but this isn't really that sort of book, either.

Which leaves one to wonder just what sort of a book it is. And I suppose it's all of the above
...more
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What's the Name o...: memoir about book collecting [s] 4 31 Nov 25, 2011 02:34PM  

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John Baxter (born 1939 in Randwick, New South Wales) is an Australian-born writer, journalist, and film-maker.

Baxter has lived in Britain and the United States as well as in his native Sydney, but has made his home in Paris since 1989, where he is married to the film-maker Marie-Dominique Montel. They have one daughter, Louise.

He began writing science fiction in the early 1960s for New Worlds, Sci
...more

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“Having access to the library was all well and good, but as a collector you had to own the book.” 6 likes
“The whole point of collecting is the thrill of acquisition, which must be maximized, and maintained at all costs.” 4 likes
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