Nicholoas A. Basbanes

Worcester, Mass. Telegram & Gazette credit: Christine Peterson

About Nicholas Basbanes

Nicholas A. Basbanes is the author of nine works of cultural history, with a particular emphasis on various aspects of books, book history, and book culture. His first, A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for Books, was a finalist in 1995 for the National Book Critics Circle Award for nonfiction, and was named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. His most recent, On Paper: The Everything of Its Two Thousand Year History (Alfred A. Knopf, 2013), was the recipient of a National Endowment for the Humanities research fellowship in 2008, and was selected as one of three finalists for the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction for 2014. It was also named a notable book of the year by the American Library Association, one of the best books of the year by Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, Mother Jones, and Bloomberg News, and a “favourite” book of 2013 by the National Post (Canada). A paperback edition was issued by Vintage Press in 2014.

A native of Lowell, Massachusetts, 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 early1970s, Basbanes was literary editor of the Worcester Sunday Telegram from 1978 to 1991, and for eight years after that wrote a column on books and authors, which he distributed nationally through Literary Features Syndicate.

The release in 2001 of 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.” His other 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.) In 2003, he was commissioned by Yale University Press to write a centennial history of the Press, A World of Letters, which was published in 2008. He is now working on a new book for Alfred A. Knopf, a dual biography of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and his wife, Frances Appleton Longfellow.

In addition to his books, Basbanes has written for numerous newspapers, magazines, and journals, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Boston Globe, Smithsonian, Humanities, Civilization, and New England Quarterly among them, and lectures widely on a variety of cultural subjects. In 2004, he began writing the “Gently Mad” column for Fine Books & Collections magazine. He and his wife Constance live in Central Massachusetts, and are the parents of two daughters, Barbara Basbanes Richter and Nicole Basbanes Claire.