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BW Businessworld

The Scent Of Papyrus

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Is the "gentle madness" of reading your raison d'etre? Then chances are you are a hot-blooded bibliomaniac, and this alluring anthology is just for you. The Groaning Shelf (Hachette India), by "bibliophile" Pradeep Sebastian, is all about the passion for reading, owning, arranging, lending, borrowing, stealing and selling books. Full of stories about book collectors, sellers, thieves and more, the book is a reader's delight. One comes across a sweet abundance of names in the book, of books — rare, old, new — and authors, from Gilbert Adair to Walter Benjamin to Travis Mcdade to Gabriel Zaid. One also meets a slew of curious characters, such as book thieves Daniel Spiegelman, John Charles Gilkey, and journalist Nicholas A. Basbanes, the collector of collectors.

Sebastian's prose is comely and lucid, capturing the essence of his subject. He writes with conviction and camaraderie: "Ah, the joys and snares of reading — who can predict them? Now I feel the need to have books that I am yet to read, yet to open. Like friends I can call on unexpectedly." An avid reader in the most committed sense of the adjective, Sebastian rekindles the hope that reading — yes, the old-school one — is here to stay. At the end of this delightful literary journey, one is convinced that Sebastian is among those who would endorse what American essayist Logan Pearsall Smith said: "People say that life is the thing, but I prefer reading."

(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 20-12-2010)