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

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Harper Collins, Nov 29, 2005 - Literary Criticism - 384 pages
13 Reviews

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

In his fifth work to examine a specific aspect of book culture, Basbanes also asks what we can know about such figures as John Milton, Edward Gibbon, John Locke, Isaac Newton, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, John Adams, Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, Henry James, Thomas Edison, Helen Keller -- even the notorious Marquis de Sade and Adolf Hitler -- by knowing what they have read. He shows how books that many of these people have consulted, in some cases annotated with their marginal notes, can offer tantalizing clues to the evolution of their character and the development of their thought.

Taking the concept one step further, Basbanes profiles some of the most articulate readers of our time -- David McCullough, Harold Bloom, Robert Fagles, Robert Coles, Helen Vendler, Elaine Pagels, Daniel Aaron, Christopher Ricks, Matthew Bruccoli, and Perri Klass among them -- who discuss such relevant concepts as literary canons, classic works in translation, the timelessness of poetry, the formation of sacred texts, and the power of literature to train physicians, nurture children, and rehabilitate criminal offenders.

"Basbanes has a deep and abiding passion for books -- a joyful addiction," Dan Smith wrote in the Toronto Star of Patience & Fortitude, characterizing his body of work as "part travelogue, part scholarship, and all story." The tradition continues with Every Book Its Reader.


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

User Review  - Mark Fallon - Goodreads

A book for people who love books. Brisbane shares thoughts – from himself and other readers – on how and why books matter. The sections on canons, collections, translations and margin notes were ... Read full review

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

User Review  - Ngaire - Goodreads

Who knew that writing in books could actually be a good thing? Not me, for sure. I learned a lot from this, and it certainly made me feel good about being a reader - lots of incredibly talented and ... Read full review


The Magic Door
One Out of Many
Eye of the Beholder
Silent Witnesses
In the Margins
Paving the Way
A Terrible Beauty
Gospel Truth
Born to Grapple
The Healing Art
Reaching Out
A Final Stroke

Harvest of Riches

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About the author (2005)

Nicholas A. Basbanes has worked as an award-winning investigative reporter, a literary editor, and a nationally syndicated columnist. The author of five books, he also writes a regular column for Fine Books & Collections magazine and lectures widely on book-related issues. He and his wife, Constance, live in Massachusetts.

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