A Pound of Paper
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 collection and a lifelong obsession.His book-hunting would take him all over the world, but his first real find was in London in 1978, when he spotted a rare copy of a Graham Greene children's book while browsing on a stall in Swiss Cottage. It was going for 5 pence. This would also, fortuitously, be the day when he first encountered one of the legends of the book-selling world: Martin Stone. At various times pothead, international fugitive from justice, and professional rock musician, he would become John's mentor and friend.In this brilliantly readable and funny book, John Baxter brings us into contact with such literary greats as Graham Greene, Kingsley Amis, J.G. Ballard and Ray Bradbury. But he also shows us how he penetrated the secret fraternity of 'runners' or book scouts—sleuths who use bluff and guile to hunt down their quarry—and joined them in scouring junk shops, markets, auction rooms and private homes for rarities.In the comic tradition of Clive James's Unreliable Memoirs, A Pound of Paper describes how a boy from the bush came to be living in a Paris penthouse with a library worth millions. It also explores the exploding market in first editions. What treasures are lying unnoticed in your garage?

A Pound of Paper Details

TitleA Pound of Paper
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseApr 1st, 2005
PublisherSt. Martin's Griffin
ISBN-139780312317263
Rating
GenreWriting, Books About Books, Nonfiction, Autobiography, Memoir, Biography

A Pound of Paper Review

  • Al Bità
    January 1, 1970
    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 subject will be m 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 subject will be more than rewarded enough by its many revelations.This strange world is based on finding and acquiring books as objects regardless of their value as literature or antiquity (although neither of these qualities are necessarily excluded); but including comics, pornography, science fiction, whatever. Much of the fun and obsession centres on getting those publications (whether specific editions, or by just one special author) for as little money as possible, but which can (if you know what you are doing) be worth tens, hundreds, even thousands of times more than what they cost the collector. Obviously a lot of specialised knowledge is required, and even more cunning to ferret out, discover, and/or hoodwink the unwary in parting with their possession(s) for much less than what might be obtained in specialist book markets. Hardly an atmosphere which would encourage long and lasting friendships…Baxter explains how he got caught in this obsession (starting with his interest in the works of Graham Greene), and spells out the compulsion which is generated to ever expand one’s collection (or indeed collections — why limit oneself?). Even when involved in other necessary activities (such as working, living, etc.) one needs to be forever on the alert for what may or may not be happening in this area. A true book “runner” (as they are called) needs to have his or her antennae working permanently to pick up even the slightest suggestion of a possible find, no matter when or where one might be. Along the way, of course, the author often finds himself in the company of well-known and interesting people, and he name drops quite a lot… Still, overall, he maintains a rather cheerful if not cheeky rapport with most of the people he meets. Even so, he can’t help but offer a snide remark (or several!) on just about everyone and everywhere he had been in his peregrinations (Australia, England, America, France). There are also three Appendices (one on Lists; one on “What you would save if your house were on fire”; and one on choice eBay listings) all from the point of view of typical Book Collectors, which ordinary readers might find both provocative and amusing. It’s all rather wide-ranging, but in the hands of Baxter, all in all, I enjoyed the ride: it is a fun read!Australians might find the first part of this two-part “biography” of particular interest: it deals with Baxter’s early life in Australia (where his obsession began) and his growing disdain for its quality of life (or lack of it!) which would result in his joining in with the cultural brain drain of the early seventies. Baxter is scathing (but accurate, in my opinion) in his assessments. For example, of Australia in the fifties, he writes: Catholicism is a creed of hot countries. In the world’s remoter corners, where the blood of belief flows sluggishly, it has a tendency to fester. Rome would hardly have recognised Australian Catholicism. Presided over by a fiercely Fenian cardinal named Gilroy, its roots ran directly to Dublin, which sent us quantities of ‘priests with a past’, unchristian Christian Brothers given to paedophilia and flagellation, and Sisters of Mercy neither sisterly nor merciful.He is just as scathing later: … Australia felt to me like the country Tennyson wrote about in ‘The Lotus Eaters’ — ‘a land / In which it seemed always afternoon’. Enthusiasms evaporated in the hot dry air. It was as if, because of some genetic abnormality, Australians lacked the ability to communicate on any but the most concrete level. One could discuss facts incessantly, but passions induced an embarrassment that rendered them literally speechless. It would be decades before this intellectual lockjaw passed.I would like to think that, for a while, it appeared that the Australian cultural desert eventually began to bloom in wonderful and unexpected ways; yet the above passages resonated ominously with me. Our current (2014) right-wing, neo-conservative government seems intent on dragging Australia back into the past as represented by those passages quoted above, cutting back on the very cultural, humanistic and scientific developments that took such a long time to establish and nourish… If this government remains for too long, we may well be on the verge of another great brain-drain. The effect on Baxter was long-lasting, and apparently permanent. Let’s hope it won’t be recreated yet again, or indeed any time soon.
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  • Nicolas Chinardet
    January 1, 1970
    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 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 chronological order (though the timeline is not too clear), most of them approximately having to do with collecting books. There is also a lot of name-dropping in those pages, though very often of the names of people you've never heard of. This means that, as you turn the last page, while you did enjoy its predecessors, and were indeed diverted by them, you can't help wondering what you just read and why you bothered reading it; why the author bothered writing it, for that matter. So, yes, "enjoyable" and "diverting", but probably not "an excellent book" as the Sunday Telegraph quote carries on.
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  • Jennifer (JC-S)
    January 1, 1970
    ‘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 o ‘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 reading books about books. I enjoy finding out what books other bibliophiles value, and why. The connections between books, their authors and readers are interesting to read about as well.In John Baxter’s case, while his book hunting has taken him around the world, his first significant find was in London, in 1978, when he saw a copy of a rare children’s book by Graham Greene (‘The Little Horse Bus’) with an asking price of 5pence. On the same day John met Martin Stone, one of the legends of the book-selling world, who became his mentor and friend. What makes this book memorable is the inside look into the various worlds of book collecting: the sometimes fascinating people involved in the trade (such as Martin Stone); distinguishing some of the many variables that make books collectible or not; and (of course) his contact with literary figures such as Graham Greene, Kingsley Amis and Ray Bradbury.Along the way, John Baxter became a biographer (he has written biographies of George Lucas, Woody Allen, and Stanley Kubrick) and has written a number of other books about films and those who make them. It’s interesting to read about how the boy from rural Australia ended up living in a Paris penthouse with a library worth millions. But the real fun, for me, was in the appendices: from the various lists that some collectors would like to fill (such as all of the winners of particular prizes); to which published book an individual would choose to grab from their shelves if their house was on fire; and finishing with some book collecting gems culled from eBay. My current favourite from the final category is:‘ALEX HALEY SINGED 1st ED. – ‘ROOTS’ – HB w/DJ’‘Rarity can be created, but not value. That has to be achieved. It gathers on a book like the patina of a bronze, over decades of diligence and care.’Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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  • Bev
    January 1, 1970
    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 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 h 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 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 his childhood which leads up to his discovery of science fiction which launched his love for books and his fledgling attempts at book collecting. We follow him through a bit more book collecting then we get side-tracked by movies and the theatre and collecting screenplays and whatnot. Lots of fixation on Graham Greene and Kingsley Amis and his ways and means of getting hold of autographed copies of their works. Yeah, we can tell he loves books, but it seems far more important for him to name drop all the famous people he met and got autographs from and to to tell us how much he paid (or how little, as the case may be) for spectacular first editions of tasty little literary tidbits. Which might impress me more if he didn't come across as so darn full of himself. His writing is good, but not congenial. The words flow nicely from the pen (or the keyboard...), but they don't compel the reader to keep reading. I started and stopped and started again so many times that I wondered if I were ever going to come to the end. It starts well, lags terribly in the middle 200-50 pages and ends well. I did enjoy the lists of collectible books and the responses from his literary friends to the question "What would you save if your house were on fire..." Overall--just barely decent with ★★ given for pretty prose with bursts of interesting nostalgic book-collecting instead of compelling memoir about a book lover (which is what I hoped for).First posted on my blog My Reader's Block. Please request permission before reposting. Thanks.
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  • Elizabeth
    January 1, 1970
    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 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 cultivation of a Graham Greene collection, of his encounters with getting Kingsley Amis to sign his books, and of his attempts to buy books at reasonable prices in a hugely inflated London book market. This book also notably talks about the influence of the Internet on book buying and selling, and comes complete with an appendix of book sales on eBay that are worth perusing for entertainment value alone. But Baxter was all too willing to abandon these amusing stories in favor of expounding upon his mediocre career as a screen writer, professor, and even lover. This was not only irritating for lack of focus, but also because these digressions were little more than narcissistic asides. To the extent they informed his book collecting hobby, fine. He could have left them out of this book, however, and it would have been better for it.
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  • Gerry
    January 1, 1970
    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 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 result is that I was disappointed with the book, it just did not do it for me, even though, as I have said, some of the book-related incidents are well worth the read and the lists at the back are certainly enlightening. Sorry Mr Baxter.
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  • Bess
    January 1, 1970
    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 becaus 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 thing, but I would not recommend.
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  • Tim Weakley
    January 1, 1970
    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 ar 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.
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  • Melissapalmer404
    January 1, 1970
    Book # 72 Read in 2016A Pound of Paper: Confessions of a Book Addict by John BaxterBaxter 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.
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  • Hulananni
    January 1, 1970
    Had to plow through this. The title intrigued but the minutiae slowed me down.
  • Jeff Zell
    January 1, 1970
    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 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 moved into literary fiction as he matured. He became an amateur book collector with the works of Graham Greene. He began to seek first editions, then sought out editions inscribed by Greene. Part of what makes this such an interesting read is that Baxter discovered his "addiction" for books in the 1960's. Wherever he lived and regardless of his occupation, he hunted for the treasure of his desired books in shops, through back alley dealers, and in flea markets. The hunt was always serendipitous because he never knew what he would find or who he would meet. T'was a grand adventure. As Baxter notes toward the end of his book, the ubiquitous presence of the Internet allows one to just get on the computer and order what one wants. Well, where is the fun in that? The rise of the Internet in one of the factors that helped with the demise of the independent book store, used and new. Baxter introduces the reader to all manner of collectible genres, authors, and book dealers. He knows how to tell a good story. As he tells of his book adventures, he also reveals biographical information that readers will find interesting. He also explains how the book collecting hobby and business has changed over the years. I think one of the most interesting parts of the book is when he explains how the cultures of Australia, England, America, and France are different from one another. The different countries have diferent attitudes about books, literature, and how commerce is conducted.
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  • David Geissler
    January 1, 1970
    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.
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  • Jessica Morgan
    January 1, 1970
    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
    January 1, 1970
    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.
  • Kim Zinkowski
    January 1, 1970
    A. Highly readable.
  • Kiwiflora
    January 1, 1970
    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 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 bad condition. John Baxter perfectly fits this entire bibliophile profile. And what a lucky bloke he is. It would seem, from reading this memoir, that life in post-WWII Australia was a cultural desert and people who read books were a bit dodgy. Young John developed a passion for books and reading from a very young age and found himself continually frustrated at the lack of reading material in the small country town he grew up in. Maybe this lack gave birth to his relentless (obsessional) pursuit of books and collecting them as he grew older. I expect one could psychoanalyse his motives forever! Nevertheless John Baxter has written what is, overall, a most entertaining and interesting account of his life long love for books and some of the amusing and intrepid ways he has obtained them. Plus the weird and wonderful characters he meets along the way. I had never heard of John Baxter till I started reading this book. So every page was a revelation. It transpires that he was what we would now call a bit of a nerd. He was heavily into science fiction stories and comics as a youngster, a passion that he has never really lost. But it was also the beginnings of his forays into collecting and writing. As a child he had a friend whose father had a garage literally full of science fiction comics, and young John would spend hours reading these things, which led to him joining a society of like minded people and starting to write stories himself for publication in sci-fi magazines. A career in writing beckoned, after the initial career in the railways bombed and he eventually found himself in London. There he found another passion - weekend street markets - specifically used-book stalls. Purely by chance one day he finds a rare copy of a children's book written by Graham Greene and from that point on he becomes what can only be termed as obsessed by Graham Greene and his writing. Plus this opens him up to the fascinating world of buying and selling used books and publications. 'Finding' books for himself and for others forms the bulk of the funny and at times sordid anecdotes that make up this book. He has all sorts of interesting encounters with authors, publishers, film makers, and collectors. A lot of these people I had never heard of, and most of the books/magazines/manuscripts he obtains are also completely foreign. But it is still overall an entertaining read. There are some chapters where he just simply drones on about his passions without actually telling the reader very much and the whole thing is all a bit self absorbed. But people often are with their obsessions. And he still manages to have an amazingly interesting life - living and working in London, visiting professor at a college in Virginia, working as a film writer in Australia on that modern day science fiction marvel Mad Max, LA to do more screen plays and books, and finally Paris. Now he lives in Paris, married to a French woman, surrounded by books, still collecting and selling and writing. How bad can all that be for the little boy from Sydney whose first book purchase at the age of 11 was 'The Poems of Rupert Brooke'. Even he seems slightly amazed about it all!
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  • S.
    January 1, 1970
    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 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 artifacts never get old. But I’m just not dedicated. One of Baxter’s through-lines is his obsessive search for the works of Graham Greene. I haven’t completed collecting one author. I haven’t went after all the Pulitzer winners or gotten all the books titled starting with the article “The.” But I’ve stumbled onto an 1897 Civil Service Report here and an 1871 six volume set of The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire there. But my gem is a first edition/first printing of Emily Dickinson’s Third Series (the first posthumous publication of some of her poetry). Anyway, the point is it’s haphazard. Much like this group of my favorite tidbits:“Most librarians don’t like books any more than butchers like lamb chops.” (I don’t agree with this one, but it’s funny to stereotype).“I’d stumbled on the great rule of science fiction: ninety per cent of it is crap.”“Still to come was the ritual of ‘shelving’—placing the book with the now-lengthening line of Greene titles, in chronological order, with a lightly penciled note on the flyleaf giving the price paid and the date purchased.”“In 1937, Greene notoriously reviewed John Ford’s Wee Willie Winkie, making disparaging remarks about Shirley Temple, then just nine years old. Neither Greene nor Night and Day anticipated that Twentieth Century Fox might sue for libel on Temple’s behalf.”“[Dick] Cavett—or at least his researchers—latched on to the fact that [Edward] Gorey drew the covers for Doubleday’s paperback reissues of Henry James.‘What do you think of James today?’ Cavett asked.An expressionless Gorey replied, ‘I loathed every word he wrote.’”“What the trade calls delicately ‘anthropodermic bindings’ are rare but not unknown, though, for obvious reasons, nobody is in a hurry to admit they own them.”And one of my favorite parts of the book is an appendix where Baxter asked book people, writers, agents, publishers, etc. to list the book they would save if their house were on fire. There are some great answers but perhaps the best is where Baxter talks about the limited edition of Fahrenheit 451 that was bound in asbestos.I imagine that I would go for Dickinson in that case, but if time permitted, I would grab in my other hand the Tales of Mystery and Imagination by Edgar Allan Poe with Illustrations by Harry Clarke, which Heather and I bought to celebrate our first wedding anniversary (the paper anniversary after all). See I’m a softy.
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  • Jane
    January 1, 1970
    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!
  • Ciara
    January 1, 1970
    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 s 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 pulp magazines, & this enters him into the world of book collecting for serious business. eventually he quits the railroad, graduates to more mainstream literature, moves to europe, & gets really serious about books. my favorite parts about this book were the occasional detailed stories about finding an especially awesome collectible, like the issue of gertrude stein's "transitions" magazine at a roanoake trunk sale. but there was so much ridiculous shit in here about, "then i was working for this porn magazine, & we decided to get into making porn movies, & we went to this meeting with a big porn director, & there were these glassy-eyed women there in short skirts, & then we had a big orgy...haha, i am a super-stud." no, you're a sci-fi nerd. i worked in the genre room at powell's, okay? & not only that, i curated the erotica section in the genre room at powell's. i can spot a sexually frustrated nerd who thinks he is somehow erotically precocious at 200 yards. they tend to be pasty, musty, & totally not sexy. way to bone some drugged porn stars. what an incredible sexual accomplishment. he also writes in too much detail about the circumstances under which he & his third wife conceived their first child. i bet his kid is really looking forward to growing up & reading that. at the end of the day, as much as i like books, this book kind of reminded me of everything i didn't like about working at powell's & being surrounded by slavering book nerds all day long. way too much kingsley amis, way too much self-satisfied snobbishness over something that less than 1% of the world's population gives a fuck about, way too much detail that reminded me of the kid who came into powell's every time i was scheduled for an info shift to inquire after new "dr. who" books & then stare at me from behind the nebula award winners shelf. yuck.
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  • Sillyhuron
    January 1, 1970
    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 Australi 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 buy them a book - No, they already have one' actually had some social basis") to 60's and 70's Runners (dodgy book dealers, who proudly wore the rags they bought at Goodwill or Oxfam and always met at 4AM), swinging London and L.A., obssesive Graham Greene collectors & millionaire rock stars buying books by the yard. It's mean-spirited, vulgar, fascinating (if you're into 1st editons and dust jackets) - and absolutely enthralling. Baxter puts his prejudices right on the line (I can see why some people HATED in it on this site). But if ya enjoy sarcasm, he's funny, baby. (Mean, but funny...) Not a masterpiece - later on he gets almost mellow and has a tendency to wander. But for all my fellow misanthropes who prefer a book to real life, Oh Yeah!
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  • Cathy (Ms. Sweeney)
    January 1, 1970
    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 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 discovering science fiction when I was young. His early attempts at finding like minded readers and the excitement he felt upon discovering certain titles and used bookstores was great fun to read. His conviction that most women don't read or like science fiction or collect books, and his snobbishness about what are acceptable reasons and methods to collect books, was rather offputting.Worth picking up to read, but I think I might have been happier paging through some of the later chapters with a bit more speed.
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  • Dale Houstman
    January 1, 1970
    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 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 into such areas as the nascent science fiction fandom of Australia, and the pornographic aesthetic of Maurice Girodias, this book - always smart, always amusing - turns out to be a highly enjoyable romp. John does not hesitate to puncture myths about the historical figures of literature, and takes pains to reveal his own inadequacies and falterings as he drifts upward through existence, often lost in other people's plans for him. Recommended.
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  • Edwin
    January 1, 1970
    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 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 new (fourth) wife and is settling into the bibliophile scene there.I had to check that the author of all this, John Baxter, was a real person. Apparently he is a respected critic and writer: author of books on film studies, erotica and at least another three volumes of memoirs. Not a person I'd like to spend much time with, but an engaging raconteur nevertheless.
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  • Denise
    January 1, 1970
    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, both of which w 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, both of which were fabulous.
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  • Cailean McBride
    January 1, 1970
    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 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 the book-collecting world, especially as it seems to be a world on the verge of extinction. Maybe someone else will pick up the challenge and write a more focused volume.And, appropriately enough, it's a fairly handsome, nicely designed, volume that's a pleasure to read.
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  • Kirsty
    January 1, 1970
    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-droppin 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 the criticisms, I did enjoy this book. if Baxter had toned himself down and not assumed that his readers shared his lust for collecting, the book would have been much better.
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  • Rob Neyer
    January 1, 1970
    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 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, and there's nothing wrong with that. Just don't expect the material to keep the promise made by its title.
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  • Evan
    January 1, 1970
    Although rambling and repetitive at several moments, this memoir flows well from topic to topic in what clearly is the style of life from the author, full of many passions that are come and go in enthusiasm or concentration. Written full of facts and fun without demeaning readers and writers different than the author, this memoir has successfully managed to make literary obsessions a pleasant read. The difference between this memoir and those of Adam Gopnik is a lack of self-importance and a lac Although rambling and repetitive at several moments, this memoir flows well from topic to topic in what clearly is the style of life from the author, full of many passions that are come and go in enthusiasm or concentration. Written full of facts and fun without demeaning readers and writers different than the author, this memoir has successfully managed to make literary obsessions a pleasant read. The difference between this memoir and those of Adam Gopnik is a lack of self-importance and a lack of bragging about his exploits. Well worth re-reading on long plane trips.
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  • Maggie
    January 1, 1970
    The book that made me love reading about books. I originally borrowed it from the library and was so happy to find it in a used bookstore 4000 miles away and 6 years later. I really enjoyed it this time too although the people who collect books as objects rather than those who collect them to read do baffle me. Maybe it's my lack of shelf space or funds. Anyway, even if I don't care to own modern firsts and instead but penguin paperbacks of the same books, I love reading about how collectors fin The book that made me love reading about books. I originally borrowed it from the library and was so happy to find it in a used bookstore 4000 miles away and 6 years later. I really enjoyed it this time too although the people who collect books as objects rather than those who collect them to read do baffle me. Maybe it's my lack of shelf space or funds. Anyway, even if I don't care to own modern firsts and instead but penguin paperbacks of the same books, I love reading about how collectors find interesting things.
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  • Cordelia
    January 1, 1970
    Skimmed the first two chapters, which were mostly lists of names. My teeth were set on edge by this sentence "Like all kids, I trailed a small library of school prizes and Christmas presents." This is a huge assumption that his view of the world is the one true view. This egocentrism was confirmed when I got to "Most librarians don't like books..."Not reading any further.
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  • Jack Coleman
    January 1, 1970
    Biography of a life in books,collecting,writing and critique of film.Interesting insites about growing up in Australia.Library read. The cover page induced me to pick this book up.Quote from Groucho Marx: "Outside a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside a dog its too dark to read."
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  • Marg
    January 1, 1970
    For a book lover, it was a trip down a familiar path. Where not all of us obsess and track a particular copy of a particular title, the passion he has for the printed word - and the tactile pleasure of holding a book previously held by the author - is something most passionate readers can understand. The serendipity of finding a treasure in an unsuspecting place is an all too human pleasure and who doesn't enjoy the "find" every so often? The name-dropping was not intrusive for me and, all-in-al For a book lover, it was a trip down a familiar path. Where not all of us obsess and track a particular copy of a particular title, the passion he has for the printed word - and the tactile pleasure of holding a book previously held by the author - is something most passionate readers can understand. The serendipity of finding a treasure in an unsuspecting place is an all too human pleasure and who doesn't enjoy the "find" every so often? The name-dropping was not intrusive for me and, all-in-all, it was a pleasurable read.
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  • Fred Forbes
    January 1, 1970
    As much as I love books, this turned out to be fairly boring. A whole lot of "name dropping" and since they are British and Australian, I did not know most of them. Maybe a fun book for Graham Greene collectors as that was his specialty.
  • Mary Kenyon
    January 1, 1970
    Nope, this book did not live up to either the beautiful cover or title. I love books and I love paper, so I was drawn to this book, but very disappointed. There are very few books I do not finish, but this is one.
  • Rebecca
    January 1, 1970
    This was interesting. The things I didn't know about books...He talks about fiction, non fiction, collections, erotica, and skin covered books. It was basically the story of his life, intertwined with different books and different book focuses.You can tell he is pasionate about the subject, but at times it could drag out a fair bit.If you like to read and have always had books in your life give it a go.SBC = Audio book
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  • Steven
    January 1, 1970
    Fun memoir of a gentle madness. Nice to read some picaresque yarns of the legendary book scout Martin Stone, who I had the good fortune to imbibe with at the late lamented Hush Hush bar in the Mission.
  • NoBeatenPath
    January 1, 1970
    I found it very hard to get into this book. Which is odd - the topic (book collecting) is one I am interested in, and the writing was not particularly bad. I just didn't find it very engaging.
  • D.J.
    January 1, 1970
    Really liked this book, which I borrowed from my father-in-law. It's an interesting story and very well-written. I wanted to start collecting books by the end of it!
  • Cindy
    January 1, 1970
    Fascinating memoir about buying, collecting, and enjoying books. Great glimpse into the publishing world and the draw of books.
  • Voss
    January 1, 1970
    Le eroicomiche avventure di uno schiavo del collezionismo e dei libri :) e di altri che frequentano i bassifondi della lettura
  • Kathleen Dixon
    January 1, 1970
    I found this well-written and entertaining but not compelling enough when I have a lot of other books to read.
  • Ros
    January 1, 1970
    Memories of John's love affair with books and collecting. Slightly unsatisfactory
  • Kateandthegirlz
    January 1, 1970
    This was great, a really entertaining book about the obsessive world of book collecting.
  • David
    January 1, 1970
    Memoir of a collector/dealer and his lifetime love and pursuit of books.
  • Francis J.
    January 1, 1970
    Only recommend if interested in collecting books.
  • Keith Miller
    January 1, 1970
    A POUND OF PAPER by JOHN BAXTER (2002)
  • Susie
    January 1, 1970
    book lovers, collectors, this is magnificent!
  • Stana
    January 1, 1970
    Not as interesting as I had hoped.
  • Elaine
    January 1, 1970
    Crap!!
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