Larry McMurtry is, of course, best known for his novels, many of which have been made into movies, including The Last Picture Show, Terms of Endearment and Lonesome Dove. But in his memoir Books he barely addresses those years spent writing. Instead, he focuses on his lifelong love of books, and his hidden life as a bookseller.

The genesis of McMurtry's passion for books and reading was not his early family life; his family's Texas ranch house was "totally bookless," he writes. It was a cousin, departing for war in 1942, who dropped off a box of books with Larry, then six. When the family moved to Archer City, Texas, the young McMurtry ensconced himself in the library; by his senior year he was obsessed with books. In 1970, he and a partner bought the stock of Lowdermilks, a D.C. shop that was going out of business. This became the core of his own store, Booked Up, a Georgetown fixture for 32 years before moving to its current location in Archer City.

McMurtry fills his short chapters with details of bookshops across the country, the ins and outs of major auctions, and the importance of book scouts who visit junk shops and yard sales. He also offers detailed profiles of a m∧#233;lange of booksellers and their very specific areas of expertise. He eschews online bookselling and bemoans the preponderance of computers now in public libraries saying they "drive out books" from their rightful space.

McMurtry admits that this volume, filled with the "arcane detail" of the antiquarian book trade, may not appeal to the general reader. But for book lovers who can't pass a used bookstore without ducking inside, this memoir will make that next visit even more enticing.

 

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