Books: A Memoir

Books: A Memoir

by Larry McMurtry


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Now in paperback, Larry McMurtry’s fascinating and surprisingly intimate memoir of his lifelong passion of buying, selling, and collecting rare antiquarian books: “a necessary and marvelous gift” (San Antonio Express-News).

• Acclaimed author: Spanning a lifetime of literary achievement, Larry McMurtry has succeeded at a wide variety of genres, from coming-of-age novels like The Last Picture Show, to essays like In a Narrow Grave, to the reinvention of the “Western” on a grand scale like the Pulitzer Prize–winning Lonesome Dove. Here at last is the private McMurtry writing about himself: as a boy growing up in a largely “bookless” world, as a young man devouring the world of literature, as a fledgling writer and family man, and above all as one of America’s most prominent “bookmen.”

• A work of charm, grace, and good humor: reading Books is like reading the best kind of diary—full of wonderful anecdotes, amazing characters, spicy gossip, and shrewd observations. Like its author, Books is erudite, full of life, and full of great stories. Yet the most curious tale of all is the amazing transformation of a reluctant young cowboy into a world-class literary figure who has spent his life not only writing books, but rounding them up the way he once rounded up cattle. At once chatty, revealing, and deeply satisfying, Books is Larry McMurtry at his best.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781416583356
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: 07/14/2009
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 507,051
Product dimensions: 5.28(w) x 7.98(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Larry McMurtry is the author of twenty-eight novels, two collections of essays, three memoirs, and more than thirty screenplays, including the coauthorship of Brokeback Mountain, for which he received an Academy Award. He lives in Archer City, Texas.


Archer City, Texas

Date of Birth:

June 3, 1936

Place of Birth:

Wichita Falls, Texas


B.A., North Texas State University, 1958; M.A., Rice University, 1960. Also studied at Stanford University.

Read an Excerpt

Books A Memoir
By Larry McMurtry
Simon & Schuster Copyright © 2008 Larry McMurtry
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9781416583349

In a prolific life of singular literary achievement, Larry McMurtry has succeeded in a variety of genres: in coming-of-age novels like The Last Picture Show; in collections of essays like In a Narrow Grave; and in the reinvention of the Western on a grand scale in his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Lonesome Dove. Now, in Books: A Memoir, McMurtry writes about his endless passion for books: as a boy growing up in a largely "bookless" world; as a young man devouring the vastness of literature with astonishing energy; as a fledgling writer and family man; and above all, as one of America's most prominent bookmen. He takes us on his journey to becoming an astute, adventurous book scout and collector who would eventually open stores of rare and collectible editions in Georgetown, Houston, and finally, in his previously "bookless" hometown of Archer City, Texas.

In this work of extraordinary charm, grace, and good humor, McMurtry recounts his life as both a reader and a writer, how the countless books he has read worked to form his literary tastes, while giving us a lively look at the eccentrics who collect, sell, or simply lust after rare volumes. Books: A Memoir is like the best kind of diary -- full of McMurtry's wonderful anecdotes, amazing characters, engaging gossip, and shrewd observations about authors, book people, literature, and the author himself. At once chatty, revealing, and deeplysatisfying, Books is, like McMurtry, erudite, life loving, and filled with excellent stories. It is a book to be savored and enjoyed again and again.


Excerpted from Books by Larry McMurtry Copyright © 2008 by Larry McMurtry. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"[McMurtry] expresses his belief that the love of books and the love of reading will never die. Anyone who reads this memoir will surely agree." —-Library Journal Starred Review

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

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Books 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 28 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I would sooner watch paint dry than be forced to read Books by Lary McMurtry again. In fact, I couldn't even force myself to finish it, a first for me for a McMurtry work. I have read all of his fiction, and adore his prose. His sardonic charm is addictive. Too bad not a scintilla of that charm is evident in this tedious book. It reads like stock quotes or the telephone directory. Page after page of names which mean nothing to me, and books of which I have never heard. Maybe the worst part of all is the cavalier way in which dismisses his own writing. He makes it sound as if his novels were grudgingly tossed off in between his incessant searching for books to collect and sell. Somehow his marginalizing of his own works makes me feel almost foolish in my enthusiasm for them. That's sad.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I'm thinking that I liked reading this book because it let me tip toe around in a world of book sellers. Granted, it didn't have a fancy plot to grab you by the seat of your pants, but it was just plain pleasant to gather a little insight into the world of booksellers.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
CraigHodges on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
For a Book Scout who has lived in self-denial for many years I enjoyed McMurtry's bibliophile memoir. It was read in one sitting. McMurtry's clear open and easy going prose was a pleasure to read, and only a few repeated phrases and details distract.His is a fortunate and fascinating story, given that he came from a Mid-West farming family without books to the present day where as a bookseller he has now changed the economic geography of his small home town after years of successful business on the east coast.I found his musings towards the end on the possibility of the death of 'reading' highly relevant and a reluctance for buyers to bid for large lots sobering. The issue of reading is once again going to be open to debate with the launch of i-Pad and Kindle.Since finishing the book my views about some of Melbourne's booksellers here in Australia have been for even changed. And for that, I thank you Larry.
soam on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Somewhat scattered memoir. Not very impressive.
brendajanefrank on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
nonfiction, autobiography, audio book, book collecting
TimBazzett on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I've read and enjoyed several of Larry McMurtry's early books, but none for quite a few years. I laid off buying this book for a long time because it didn't look much like a real memoir. Truth is, it isn't much of a memoir, but if you're a book nerd like me then you'll love this book. It does contain some surprising admissions, like the fact that McMurtry lost his 'passion' for writing years ago. But he keeps on cranking out books (over thirty now) because that's what he does, it's his 'vocation.' He actually enjoys his book collecting a lot more, if you believe the guy. And I do. He also mentions that push-pull dilemma that often faces writers who are also dedicated (addicted?) readers. When you're writing, you'd rather be reading, and when you're reading you feel guilty that you're not writing. Been there. It's a problem. Maybe why I haven't really written anything myself (other than a journal and blurbs like these) for well over a year now. McMurtry also names plenty of names and titles of obscure writers and rare books that intrigue book folks. I've gotta find this James Lees-Milne character he mentions, and whose Diaries have become addictive reading for McMurtry. There are at least four volumes of diaries from the 40s through the 90s, as well as a kind of memoir, ANOTHER SELF, which got him hooked originally on the Brit writer. And lots more esoteric info like this. I devoured this book in a couple sittings on the same day, and just lent it to a fellow book-guy neighbor. It makes me want to make a special pilgrimage to his enormous BookedUp store in Archer City (his Texas hometown and setting for THE LAST PICTURE SHOW and its sequels) and cruise its several buildings filled with tens of thousands of rare and specialized books. Hawg heaven for booklovers. I will recommend this book highly, but only to a select few who meet certain rarified criteria.
bookworm12 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
McMurtry has been both an author and a bookseller for decades. This book is about his lifelong love affair with books. It starts with the 19 books his cousin gave him, which were the first he ever read, and then it meanders through his years of writing, reading and selling books. I enjoyed the sections where he talks about his love of reading much more than those that specific details of buying and selling. His thoughts about book auctions, vintage erotica, comics and buying personal libraries quickly became tiresome. Unless you deal with those things in your own life, it wasn't very interesting to read about. McMurtry excels in writing fiction much more than memoirs.
nemoman on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is at most a selective "memoir" that parses that portion, and that portion only, of Larry's life that involved collecting and selling books. If this were his true passion, as opposed to writing, then that passion only comes through in bits and pieces. The book is fun when it connects with your own collecting; otherwise it falls flat, as in who cares? I do not regret reading this book; however, that is the most I can say for it.
ALinNY458 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A few semi-interesting anecdotes but not a book I can recommend. I feel a bit suckered. I was expecting a little more from the McMurtry "brand".
MerryMary on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What a wonderful find. A loose-jointed memoir of McMurtry's book-scouting, book-buying, book-selling adventures. Very spritely, very conversational, very appealing. I felt like I was listening to a friend talking about our favorite subject over a beer.
Tasker on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Easy reading for someone that's veryy interested in collecting and selling First Editions - evokes a sadness about the demise of brick and mortar used bookstores where you never know what you may find.
realbigcat on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I haven't seen too many good reviews for this book. However, I found the book extremely interesting. If you are trying to compare this book to McMurys other famous novels well then it's cetainly no Pulitzer winner. But if you are a passionate book collector that trasures the hunt as much as the aquisition then I know you will like this book. McMurtry has lead a fascinating life in his book dealings and it doesn't hurt that he's a great author as well. The characters "book scouts" and "book dealers" he tells about are very interesting. I think anyone that collects has a lot of wonderful stories about their rare finds. McMurtry says his personal library contains 28,000 volumes. I wish the book told more of exactly what is in his collection. If you are a person that likes to spend their free time perusing dusty old book shops then I think you'll like this book.
smc1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Content very interesting, but book seems to be in a pre-final draft state.
knittingfreak on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was more than a little disappointed when I discovered that this book is not what I expected at all. First of all, it's not a memoir. It's not even really a book per se. If anything, I'd describe this as a random collection of thoughts from McMurtry. There is absolutely no organization to the book whatsoever. Each 'chapter' (which is often only a couple of paragraphs) dryly details some recollection from McMurtry regarding his life as a writer and bookman. The snippets go back and forth in time and I was never quite sure at what point in his life I was reading about. Normally, I don't mind a non-linear structure, but this was not done well at all. It was jarring and confusing. I also never got any feeling as to McMurtry's emotions or passions regarding books, and I didn't really learn anything much about his life. It read as a long list of his dealings with particular second hand bookshops and bookmen. To be fair, this was an arc that I read. But, I don't think publishers usually make major changes, but rather just correct typographical errors, etc. But, I would be anxious to see the published book just to compare it to the arc. I don't usually finish books that I don't like, but in this case, it read so quickly that it was over before I knew it. I love books about books but this one just didn't deliver. In fact, I'm really surprised that this book made it to publication. I don't like doing negative reviews, so I will end on a positive note -- the book did make me want to go book scouting. Who knows, maybe I'll find a rare treasure at the local Goodwill.
MarthaHuntley on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I have to agree with many of the reviews I've read of this book called Books, that it is disjointed, and rambling, and obviously the work of an enthusiast. And therein lies its charm for me. It is as if Larry McMurtry just ambled into the room, sat down and started telling stories from his life of book buying and book selling. I just loved listening in. But I was floored that this man whom I consider a great American writer seems to value his writing talent so little, and confesses to not enjoying writing at all at this point in his life. Gasp! He surely does enjoy books, however, and I enjoyed his Books immensely.
ggarfield on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Of Books & BookmanI might have said I was crazy to pick up a book all about books and ¿bookman¿, but I do love books and the cover photo of a library is alluring. I found McMurty¿s book to be great fun, much like his book ¿Roads¿. I found myself drawn into this story about ¿bookman¿ and the process of buying and selling of personal libraries and collections. And so I had to keep going to the next chapter. To try to explain why this book is hard to put down would be time consuming, so suffice it to say that if you¿re a lover of books, you¿ll probably enjoy this memoir. And like ¿Roads¿ there are a rich set of book references that you might have never known about and when you start reading those, you can¿t imagine having missed them.Great fun.
kristenn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I got through this in one sitting. In part because most 'chapters' are a page or two long (with a blank backside to boot), and in part because it's just sort of shallow. I knew going in about the focus on book selling rather than on reading, but that still sounded interesting. I've always found passionate collecting of any sort interesting and wish I could find something I wanted to collect myself. But this book is more about the people than the business, and got gossipy enough that I was uncomfortable. (Although the anecdote about Jackie Kennedy's mother was a fascinating illustration of class consciousness.) I've never read McMurtry's fiction, although he's one of my mother's favourites. Odd use of commas meant it took a while to get his rhythm down. There was a lot of repetition on the details (like 28,000), although that would be a good refresher if you were dipping into the book once in a while. Since he made a point of explaining why he hasn't read fiction in about 20 years, it would have been nice to have an explanation of how he nevertheless ends up repeatedly referencing Alexander McCall Smith (the Botswana detective fellow).
brianinbuffalo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
"Books" was a book I really shouldn't have liked. I only acquired it because I found it in the dollar bin at a major bookstore. I'm certainly not an antiquarian book aficionado. I've never read any McMurtry. Some of the books he mentions I've never heard of until now. Even with all these impediments, I enjoyed this glimpse into the book-scouting world. True, some of the anecdotes are "inside baseball." Many of the short chapters don't seem to hold together as the type of cohesive unit one would expect from a master storyteller. But I learned a lot about the bookselling 'biz while also coming to appreciate McMurtry's lifelong love affair with books.
WaxPoetic on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Usually, I am somewhat leery about beginning this way, but: I really enjoyed this book. It is not one that I will keep close to my bosom for ever and ever, but I anticipate that I will seek it out and buy a copy for myself at some point.Larry McMurtry is an experienced writer with a very good sense of storytelling. He carries the story along in clips and sometimes longer strolls with the comfort of someone who doesn't need to hurry or censor himself.It is lovely to read a writer writing confidently, telling stories that are and are not about himself because they are about something that he does and so must include him quite naturally. The book trade is one that he's been in since around the time that I was born and he writes comfortably about it. I particularly enjoyed the little clauses of acknowledgment to the readers who may not be avid book lovers or collectors. It's like a very kind 'thank you' to someone who has been nodding and smiling and is about to doze off if you don't do something right now.The end of many bookshops around the nation and the closing of many library branches has redistributed the wealth of books in the US, but it has not erased it and it has not made books or the people who live with them any less vital or vibrant or valid. It is not a given that the Internet or eReaders will be the 'death' of books. These are different media with different strengths and do not exist in a state of mutual exclusion. It matters that the book trade exists because with that trade there is an established infrastructure to rely on when the trend toward larger collections in a few hands turns once more to smaller collections in many hands.This is a refreshing book, and it was an enjoyable read. I plan to scour it once more before I return it; there are some titles I want to jot down.
ut.tecum.loquerer on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A series of short vignettes about the books in Larry McMurtry's life. Most are about books he's bought and sold, and his favorite booksellers. I found it rather dry; the vignettes don't really connect to each other, and there's no emotional hook.
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