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Review: Bibliomaniac - Robin Ince ***

I enjoyed this book, but feel it has a relatively narrow audience that would have the same connection to it, hence the three star rating. Robin Ince is quite clearly addicted to buying books with an almost random enthusiasm, and this book is arguably more about that addiction than about the hundred bookstore tour he did that is the hook the book is hung on.

My personal taste in books overlaps to some degree with Ince's - we both bought copies of Alan Frank's Horror Movies early in our book buying lives (sadly I don't seem to still have my copy, though I do have some equivalent titles on science fiction films, vampire movies and more). We both are likely to find, say, the Maleus Malificorum resting alongside a book on quantum physics next to an Edwardian hardback copy of Bessie Marchant's The Girl Captives on our shelves. I very much enjoyed the selection of books Ince discovers on his travels (often in charity shops as well as proper bookshops), and added a couple to my 'look out for' list as a result. However, I was less impressed by the framing travel aspect of the book.

Rather than having the entertainment of a Bill Bryson or Stuart Maconie title, to be honest the travel side of the book was a touch tedious, lacking in interesting stories. Perhaps part of the problem was the need to hurtle round so many locations - it might have been better to have included fewer and given us more depth. I was also a bit disappointed that the two shops where I've also done talks (festivals tend to be more my thing) weren't actually the venues of his events at all - the shops themselves hardly got a mention.

Nonetheless, the book appealed to me in rather a similar way to those books like Horror Movies - it took me back to my youth when I used to really like working through titles that were probably more strictly reference books (I've even been known to read a Pevsner end to end). Like them, it was sometimes a slog getting through Bibliomaniac, but there was a satisfaction in completing it. In this, there seems to be a distinct difference with Ince himself. He loves books, but sometimes seems indifferent to reading them, preferring to dip in or even leave them on the shelf for some future, probably non-existent exploration.

It's a curiosity, then. It won't appeal to everyone, not even everyone interested in books (especially if you restrict yourself to Literature with a capital L). But it is both interesting as giving an insight into a fairly odd character in Ince himself (someone I was aware of, but hadn't really come across directly, and tend to confuse with Tim Minchin for some reason) and in the unlikely books he uncovers.

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