Excerpt from The Bookman's Tale by Charlie Lovett, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Bookman's Tale

A Novel of Obsession

By Charlie Lovett

The Bookman's Tale
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Hardcover: May 2013,
    368 pages.
    Paperback: 27 May 2014,
    368 pages.

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

"I'm Hank, by the way," said the man, holding out a hand. "Hank Christiansen."

"Peter Byerly," said Peter, returning Hank's firm handshake. "Thanks for the?.?.?.?? the recommendation."

"Sure thing," said Hank.

Peter turned to go, but stopped in the doorway. "And thanks for this," he said, holding up the repaired volume of Royal Academy pictures.

"I hope she likes it," said Hank.

Peter returned the book to its place in the stacks. The next day, she checked it out.


On November 15, 1984, a pair of books in the Ridgefield Library transformed Peter's life. He had gone to the library after his ten o'clock class, hoping to finish his shift before his three-?thirty interview with Francis Leland in Special Collections. At three he picked up a cart of books to shelve and scanned it for anything that might have been returned by his mystery woman. In a matter of seconds he found the repaired Royal Academy catalog. Smiling, he wheeled his cart toward the elevator.

Not until he pulled the book out and was about to place it in its proper spot did he notice a crisp piece of ivory paper sticking out of it. She had never left a bookmark in a book before. He gently pulled the paper out of the book. At the top, printed in royal blue, was the initial "A." Below that, in a neat script, was a note addressed "To my admirer.

" First of all, thank you for having this book repaired. I so hate having to handle damaged books —? I'm always afraid I'll cause further injury. I have noticed you watching me, you know. I even followed you in the stacks one day. I've been hoping you would say "hello," but since it's been a month and you haven't done it yet, I suppose I'll have to be the one to get things started. Meet me tonight at 10:30 in the snack bar at the Student Center.

The letter was signed simply, "Amanda." Peter leaned against the steel bookcase and felt the cold metal through the fabric of his shirt. He had held his breath as he read the letter and now he exhaled heavily as books seemed to swirl around him. After a minute, feeling somewhat steadier, he read the letter again to be sure he hadn't misunderstood. She wanted to meet him, to speak to him. She had noticed him and her name was Amanda. Where had he heard that name before? Suddenly he remembered his appointment. He had only five minutes to get himself to the top floor of the library. He carefully folded the letter and slipped it into his shirt pocket, then set off at a brisk pace for the Amanda Devereaux Rare Books Room.


The Devereaux family was as old in Louisiana as the Ridgefields were in North Carolina, and the family's great maverick was Amanda. Wealthy almost beyond equal by the time she was twenty, due to the early death of both her parents, she began to collect books just after World War I. She started by assembling one of the finest collections of eighteenth-century literature in the world. Then she began on the seventeenth century, and eventually expanded to cover literature in English from all eras.

In 1939 she stunned her family when, at the age of forty and apparently confirmed in her spinsterhood, she became the second wife of sixty-year-old Robert Ridgefield, widower and patriarch of the Ridgefield clan. There were those who suspected she married him because his up-and-coming university would make a perfect repository for her books, but by all outward signs they had a close and loving relationship. Their only child, a daughter, had been born a year after the wedding.

A lifelong smoker, Amanda Devereaux, who kept her maiden name, died of lung cancer at the age of fifty-seven, two weeks before the groundbreaking ceremony for the library. Robert Ridgefield never fully recovered from her death, but he did build a magnificent home for her collection, as he had promised her he would. At the center of the Special Collections department was the Amanda Devereaux Rare Books Room, a monument to the late bibliophile in which her greatest treasures were permanently displayed.

Excerpted from The Bookman's Tale by Charlie Lovett. Copyright © 2013 by Charlie Lovett. Excerpted by permission of Viking. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  Hay-on-Wye, The Town of Books

Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Shotgun Lovesongs
    Shotgun Lovesongs
    by Nickolas Butler
    Nickolas Butler's debut novel, Shotgun Lovesongs, follows five life-long friends, now in their mid-...
  • Book Jacket: Gemini
    Gemini
    by Carol Cassella
    How good is Gemini, Carol Cassella's book about a Seattle intensive care physician who becomes ...
  • Book Jacket: The Goldfinch
    The Goldfinch
    by Donna Tartt
    Winner of the 2014 Pulitzer for Fiction.

    Her canvas is vast. To frame a story about art, love and ...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
by Gabrielle Zevin

Published Apr. 2014

Join the discussion!

Who Said...

When I get a little money I buy books...

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

Solve this clue:

P Your O C

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.