Book Reviews | September 2021 | Alex Johnson

Collector Confessions & Bibliomysteries: Two New Books About Books TBR

Courtesy of the individual publishers

It’s always reassuring to discover other readers who revel in their bibliophilia. In White Spines: Confessions of a Book Collector (Salt Publishing), English writer and publisher Nicholas Royle recounts his life with books in a meandering memoir which focuses on the ongoing progress of his collection of the white-spined books published by Picador from the 1970s to the end of the 1990s. Royle takes us on a pleasantly idiosyncratic amble around England’s secondhand bookshops – many run by the charity Oxfam – as he discusses the hows and whys of his much-loved collection. Along the way he also discusses his related literary interests including found objects in books, dedications, inscriptions, cover illustration, and booksellers. He also treats us to a selection of his book-centered dreams as well as overheard conversations in the bookshops he visits. Intelligent and intriguing, White Spines is a likeable stroll with a fellow enthusiast.

One of the most successful publishing stories of the last decade in the UK has been the Crime Classics series from the British Library, bringing to a new and wider audience some of the best crime and mystery novels from the 1860s to the 1940s. The latest in its list is Murder by the Book: Mysteries for Bibliophiles, a selection of short stories edited by the series consultant Martin Edwards. All the stories have book-related elements at their heart and the authors include husband-and-wife team George and Margaret Cole, A. A. Milne, Ngaio Marsh, Edmund Crispin, and E. C. Bentley. Edwards supplies useful potted biographies which are particularly helpful for the less well-known writers, as well as an excellent bibliographical introduction to the history of the bibliomystery.