A Gentle Madness

Dublin Core


A Gentle Madness


Nicholas Basbanes


New York: Henry Holt and Company



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I largely stopped collecting when I became a bookseller. Only reference material has been the exception, and one that’s admittedly run amok. In the vast field of books about books, Nicholas Basbanes’s A Gentle Madness is something of a personal cornerstone. It was the first such book I ever bought. It came to me by way of a long night at Giordano’s. I was an undergrad at DePaul University and had never been to Chicago’s famed deep-dish pizzeria—this was the winter of 2002, I think, not yet spring—and I joined three friends for the experience. It was a Friday or Saturday night, and very busy. We put our names in for table and the 90-minute wait that came with it. To pass time, we wandered over to the nearby Borders at Water Tower Place. Still a freshman English major with no serious career plans, the possibility of getting into rare books had been on my mind, an interest that had continued growing from a seed planted in high school. I found my way to the section of books on books—small even in this four-storey Borders—and the Basbanes title struck me as the best primer on (accessory to?) this compelling new direction. And so I bought the paperback you see here. Of course, upon returning to Giordano’s, we learned we’d missed our name being called. It was another hour for a table. But no matter. I had the book that would put me on this path.


Patrick Olson




Nicholas Basbanes, “A Gentle Madness,” Caxton Club Exhibits, accessed March 3, 2024, https://caxtonclub.omeka.net/items/show/47.