Phantoms on the Bookshelves by Jacques Bonnet, James Salter and Sian Reynolds

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Phantoms on the Bookshelves by Jacques Bonnet, James Salter and Sian Reynolds

Category: Lifestyle
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Louise Laurie
Reviewed by Louise Laurie
Summary: This book is all about books, books and more books. Discussions on various book collections in all their varied sizes takes precedence, with the author spending a lot of time on his own personal collection.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 156 Date: October 2010
Publisher: MacLehose Press
ISBN: 978-1906694586

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Translated from French this beautifully presented little book takes the reader into homes boasting book collections, large and small. Studded with succinct and appropriate quotations such as there is no better reason for not reading a book than having it by Anthony Burgess.

Then we're directed almost straight away to the author's own vast book collection (more than 40,000 and yes, I have double-checked the noughts). To be fair, it's taken Bonnet the best part of 40 years to acquire them and I dare say, like all avid book collectors, it is a work in progress. I loved the extremely polite line where he says he has a disinclination to part with a book after it was acquired. I know exactly what he means.

Bonnet thinks almost aloud and says things most of us would agree with. Interesting - up to a point. For example, many of us will have our to read pile of books somewhere around the house - but will we ever get around to reading them, I can hear him wail. Yes, he comes across as quite earnest. He continues with his pet subject and bemoans the fact that there are so many books out there we simply have to read. Where will we find the time etc etc. Personally, I just love the feel of a new book, those lovely pages, that glossy cover. It's better than a box of chocolates as far as I'm concerned. But I have the comfortable chaos of hundreds, not thousands. Some women say that you can never have enough handbags or shoes. Me? I say that you can never have enough books. I am more than happy to lend out willy-nilly - but I want them returned. One book (I remember the title, of course) made it's way to Australia. But I know who you are!

As I was reading this book, it struck me that Bonnet is rather obsessive (he would see that as a good thing) about his books. He frets when a book-related problem comes to light. Perhaps he even loses sleep. Such pressing questions as should this book be in history? Or somewhere else? Personally, life is too short to worry over such trivialities but we're all different. I plump for arranging in genre and that's it. And if the look is a little higgledy-piggledy, well, that's fine. I appreciate order, but not rigidity.

Bonnet has lots to say. He has various speeds of reading, for instance, depending on the book. Chapter headings include Organizing the bookshelves, The practice of reading and Real people, fictional characters. He ruminates about the expense of new books, the joy of hunting down a treasure in a second-hand bookstore and he's not averse to owning several copies of the same book. I draw the line at that last point, I must admit. I don't see the point. And did you know that collecting and accumulating books are not the same thing?

As you might expect, many examples, illustrations, authors etc are French. In fact, I would say that the majority are French. So, perhaps my involvement was not total as some of the names were unfamiliar to me and to a certain extent I was skimming the surface. Reading level number one perhaps? Bonnet quite happily scribbles notes all over his books. I was aghast. I don't even turn down the corner as a bookmark. And here we are again. Everyone's different. But we knew that already. Bonnet is fond of talking about himself. I needed to come up for air now and again. And when he decided to plunge into the dilemma of the sizes and shapes of books, well, I'd had enough by then, quite frankly. Time to get out more, I thought.

This is not me being negative about the book when I say that, would you believe it, but the last paragraph of the last page resonated with me when Bonnet says that The books in my library are like old houses, breathing the presences of the men and women who have lived there in the past ... It was a pity that I didn't really enjoy the rest of the book. This book is musings on a pet project with rather limited appeal and with a strong French element throughout. Rather airy-fairy overall.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

If the idea of this book appeals then we think you'd love Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman.

Buy Phantoms on the Bookshelves by Jacques Bonnet, James Salter and Sian Reynolds at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Phantoms on the Bookshelves by Jacques Bonnet, James Salter and Sian Reynolds at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Phantoms on the Bookshelves by Jacques Bonnet, James Salter and Sian Reynolds at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Phantoms on the Bookshelves by Jacques Bonnet, James Salter and Sian Reynolds at Amazon.com.


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