Year of publication: 2002
I didn’t know who John Baxter was when I picked up this book in the bibliobooks section of the Icelandic national library and I would never even have noticed the book, let alone given it a second glance, had it been filed in the biographies. But someone was inspired enough to put it in the section reserved for books about books, which is usually the first shelf I gravitate towards when I visit that particular library.
After reading it I still don’t know much about John Baxter, except that he is an Australian-born dedicated bibliophile and book collector who has, through his career as an entertainment journalist, film critic, biographer and fiction writer, been lucky enough to meet and in some instances befriend a number of book people, literary figures and authors, sometimes while in hot pursuit of their signature for one of his collectible books.
The book focuses on his loving relationship with books and makes an interesting read for bibliophiles. It is peppered with anecdotes and turns of phrase that more than once had me laughing out loud, leading to being asked by my mother to read out the funny parts to her. Other reviewers have complained that it isn’t book-oriented enough, that Baxter’s life intrudes too much on the stories about reading, books and book people, but I find it to be nicely balanced between the two. Despite the passages on his life that are not book-related the narrative never quite loses sight of the bibliophilic central theme and these passages usually lead to some anecdote or remembrance about books.
Unfortunately I was not within reach of my computer (I was on a camping holiday away from home when I read it) and forgot to mark any of the funny passages/lines, so you’ll just have to read it yourself to find them.