MEMOIRS OF A BOOK SNAKE: Forty Years of Seeking and Saving Old Books

David Meyer, Author . Waltham Street $23 (152p) ISBN 978-0-916638-54-2

Meyer, mistakenly called a "book snake" by a friend who meant "bookworm," describes countless hours spent sorting through dusty bins, forgotten shelves and packing boxes "hunting" for books. In a highly readable, conversational style, Meyer recounts each find as a first-class adventure. At an auction, he buys a box of books containing a veritable John Steinbeck bonanza: a first edition of The Grapes of Wrath and a specially bound, signed limited edition of East of Eden. In the same box, purchased for a "buck a book," Meyer found first editions of volumes by Pearl Buck, Somerset Maugham and Aldous Huxley. Meyer tells of travels around the country and to places as distant as Vietnam in search of rare books. Along the way, he meets many characters and has unbelievable luck picking up mint copies of classics. He becomes a collector of the works of Willa Cather and finds his way to her graveside to pay his respects. Among his other treasured finds are first editions of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility and an inscribed copy of Carl Sandburg's first book, Chicago Poems. Raised among bibliophiles, Meyer tells of childhood book quests with his father. He traces the changing face of the rare book business and the disappearance of rare bookstores and antiquarian book departments in mainstream stores like Marshall Fields. Meyer's insistence that this isn't a catalog of prices or a book about the love of reading rings true as the story of his passion for the book and for collecting the bound words of great writers emerges and infuses this charming volume. Illus. (Nov. 1)

Reviewed on: 10/22/2001
Release date: 05/01/2001
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