The Libraries of Power

by Harriet Rubin

Some article highlights:

-Michael Moritz, a venture capitalist extraordinaire, whose wife calls him "the Imelda Marcos of books."

-Nike's Phil Knight's mysterious library which exists in "a room behind his formal office" and one that few people have access to.

-Apple's Steve Jobs fancied William Blake.

-Dee Hock, the man who founded Visa, has a 2000 square foot library in his home and who has "on his library table for daily consulting, Omar Khayyam’s Rubáiyát the Persian poem that warns of the dangers of greatness and the instability of fortune."

-Sydney Harman, the Harman of the high fidelity giant Harman Kardon, whose library "is full of things I might go back to... Almost everything I have read has been useful to me — science, poetry, politics, novels. I have a lifelong interest in epistemology and learning."

-Shelly Lazurus, CEO of the advertising powerhouse Ogilvy & Mather, says "I read for pleasure and to find other perspectives on how to think or solve a problem."

The article is a treatise on the power of books in the lives of powerful people. It is not about the high-end book collections of the rich and famous. I suspect, however; that Job's Blake collection was top shelf and that much of it came from the bookseller John Windle, a Blake specialist, who is also featured in the article. I also trust that each library mentioned boasts a few high-ticket gems but these libraries sound like working libraries. Libraries working to help keep these business leaders at the top of their game.

Granted this is an article on C.E.O.'s and appears in the Business Section of the New York Times but I think that Ken Lopez, a bookseller specializing in Modern First Editions, is a bit off the mark when he says "it is impossible to put together a serious library on almost any subject for less than several hundred thousand dollars."

Don't get discouraged you can build a significant library for a lot less money, a hell of a lot less. I promise.

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