Worcester, Mass. Telegram & Gazette photo by Christine Peterson
A native of Lowell, Massachusetts, Nicholas A. Basbanes graduated from Bates College in 1965, received a master of arts degree from Pennsylvania State University in 1968, and served as a naval officer aboard the aircraft carrier Oriskany in the Tonkin Gulf in 1969 and 1970. An award-winning investigative reporter during the early 1970s, Basbanes was literary editor of the Worcester Sunday Telegram from 1978 to 1991, and for eight years after that wrote a nationally syndicated column on books and authors. He is a former president of the Friends of the Robert H. Goddard Library of Clark University, which has established a student book collecting competition in his honor.
His first book, A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for Books (Henry Holt), was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in nonfiction for 1995, and was named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year; now in its twentieth printing, it has recorded sales of more than 120,000 copies. The release in 2001 of a companion volume, Patience & Fortitude: A Roving Chronicle of Book People, Book Places, and Book Culture (HarperCollins) prompted the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer and historian David McCullough to write that "Nicholas Basbanes has become the leading authority of books about books and this, his latest, is a jewel." Subsequent books include: Among the Gently Mad: Perspectives and Strategies for the Book-Hunter of the 21st Century, (Henry Holt, 2002); Every Book Its Reader: The Power of the Printed Word to Stir the World, (HarperCollins, December 2005); Editions & Impressions (Fine Books Press, 2007.) Four years ago, he was commissioned by Yale University Press to write a centennial history of the Press, A World of Letters, which was published in 2008. Last year, he also was the recipient of a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship in support of a work-in-progress, a cultural history of paper and papermaking, titled On Paper: The Everything of Its Two Thousand History, to be published this October by Alfred A. Knopf.
In addition to his books, Basbanes has written for numerous newspapers, magazines, and journals, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, Smithsonian, Civilization , and New England Quarterly among them, and lectures widely on book-related subjects. In 2004, he began writing the "Gently Mad" column for Fine Books & Collections magazine. With his wife, Constance Basbanes, he writes a monthly review of children's books for Literary Features Syndicate, which they established in 1993, and which appears in a dozen newspapers. They are the parents of two daughters, and live in North Grafton, Mass.