Cover image for A pound of paper : confessions of a book addict
A pound of paper : confessions of a book addict
Baxter, John, 1939-
Personal Author:
First U.S. edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Thomas Dunne Books, 2003.

Physical Description:
417 pages ; 20 cm
General Note:
Originally published: London : Doubleday, 2002.
Personal Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
Z989.B36 A3 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Biography

On Order



In the rural Australia of the fifties where John Baxter grew up, reading books was disregarded with suspicion, owning and collecting them with utter incomprehension. Despite this, by the age of eleven Baxter had 'collected' his first book - The Poems of Rupert Brooke . He'd read the volume often, but now he had to own it. This was the beginning of what would become a major collection and a lifelong obsession.

His book-hunting would take him all over the world, but his first real find was in London in 1978, when he spotted a rare copy of a Graham Greene children's book while browsing on a stall in Swiss Cottage. It was going for 5 pence. This would also, fortuitously, be the day when he first encountered one of the legends of the book-selling world: Martin Stone. At various times pothead, international fugitive from justice, and professional rock musician, he would become John's mentor and friend.

In this brilliantly readable and funny book, John Baxter brings us into contact with such literary greats as Graham Greene, Kingsley Amis, J.G. Ballard and Ray Bradbury. But he also shows us how he penetrated the secret fraternity of 'runners' or book scouts - sleuths who use bluff and guile to hunt down their quarry - and joined them in scouring junk shops, markets, auction rooms and private homes for rarities.

In the comic tradition of Clive James's Unreliable Memoirs , A Pound of Paper describes how a boy from the bush came to be living in a Paris penthouse with a library worth millions. It also explores the exploding market in first editions. What treasures are lying unnoticed in your garage?

Author Notes

John Baxter was born in Randwick, New South Wales in 1939. He is an Australian-born writer, journalist, and film-maker. He has lived in Britain and the U.S. as well as in his native Sydney, but has made his home in Paris since 1989. He began writing science fiction in the early 1960s for New Worlds, Science Fantasy and other British magazines. His first novel was published as a book in the US by Ace as The Off-Worlders. He was Visiting Professor at Hollins College in Virginia in 1975-1976. He has written a number of short stories and novels in that genre and a book about SF in the movies, as well as editing collections of Australian science fiction.

For a number of years in the sixties, he was active in the Sydney Film Festival, and during the 1980s served in a consulting capacity on a number of film-funding bodies, as well as writing film criticism for The Australian and other periodicals. Since moving to Paris, he has written four books of autobiography, A Pound of Paper: Confessions of a Book Addict, We'll Always Have Paris: Sex and Love in the City of Light, Immoveable feast : a Paris Christmas, and The Most Beautiful Walk in the World : a Pedestrian in Paris. In 2015 his title, Five Nights in Paris: After Dark in the City of Light, made The New Zealand Best Seller List.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

There is no small charm to a tale that begins where Baxter grew up, in Middle-of-Nowhere, Australia, and ends in the Paris penthouse above where Sylvia Beach once lived. Bibliographer, biographer, broadcaster, and obsessive book collector, Baxter has lived in London and Los Angeles, married three times, and can't resist a story or a list (the book ends with, among other things, what various folk would take with them if their book collections were afire). Baxter collected Graham Greene (he's quite vibrant on this obsession and its resolution) and reveals that Sarah Michelle Gellar of Buffy fame is one of the new breed of celebrity book collectors. A passion for film (he's written about Spielberg and Kubrick and DeNiro) and a working knowledge of collectible pornography are further nuggets in this sprawling, unedited, but quite engaging memoir. --GraceAnne DeCandido Copyright 2003 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

As he stooped over a basket full of stuffed animals at a London flea market, Baxter (Robert de Niro; George Lucas) made a discovery that would change his life forever. It was there, in 1978, that he unearthed a children's book by Graham Greene, called The Little Horse Bus, selling for five pence. He snatched it up, then impulsively purchased another Greene novel and one of Greene's African journals as well. Just like that, a book collector was born. Baxter chronicles his growing obsession with books in a way that's utterly infectious, with sharp wit and self-deprecating humor. He flits across Australia, England, the United States and France in pursuit of the perfect collection, always spurred on by the knowledge that book collectors find treasures in the most unlikely places. In his words, "acquiring [books] meant midnight assignations in seedy corners of London, white-knuckle bidding at auctions, speculative drives across England to cities you'd never seen, and nervous knocking on the doors of strangers that, in all probability, would leave you, a minute later, humiliated and empty-handed on the doorstep a hundred miles from home." He takes gleeful pleasure in underpaying those who are ignorant about the worth of their rare books, but he also holds certain texts sacred (like the uncorrected proofs of two James Bond novels given to him by Kingsley Amis). Baxter's memoir will be of great interest to serious book collectors because so much of the book conveys the insider's perspective, but his narrative is truly amusing and rollicking enough to entice book lovers of all kinds. (Dec.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Table of Contents

Part 1
1 Collecting Grahamp. 3
2 Left-handed Gunsp. 17
3 The Rules of the Gamep. 41
4 Surly Bondsp. 58
5 Star Begottenp. 72
6 The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Readerp. 83
7 Haunted Screensp. 102
Postscript to Part Onep. 133
Part 2
8 The Old Countryp. 141
9 A Regional Collectionp. 163
10 With the Rich and Mighty ...p. 191
11 The End of the Affairp. 219
12 Bookshop Dreamsp. 245
13 Without Whom ...p. 269
14 There and Back Againp. 293
15 Guaranteed Anatomically Correctp. 315
16 Shakespeare and Company, and Companyp. 343
Acknowledgementsp. 364
Appendix I Lists: Cyril Connolly's The Modern Movementp. 369
Haycraft/Queen Cornerstones, 1748-1948p. 373
Queen's Quorump. 379
The Booker Prizep. 384
Anthony Burgess's Ninety-nine Novelsp. 385
Appendix II 'If Your House was on Fire ...' An Informal Pollp. 389
Appendix III eBay Gemsp. 412