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Owning Books Read By Famous People

A very interesting book project is growing in San Francisco. Artist John Greene acquires books that were read by famous people. Not copies of the book; the actual book the person read, including every coffee stain and dog eared page. One of his most ambitious goals in this project is to auction off a book read by Michelle Obama herself. 

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The idea behind Greene’s project is to provide more depth to the reader’s experience. When books have had previous owners, a new element is introduced into the reading process. Recieving an annoated book provides a sense of communal interaction. You then add your own markings and send it to someone else. Some people might hate a marked up book, but it is interesting to see what previous readers underlines or commented. Maybe they noticed something you never would have!

Greene spends a lot of time routinely getting in touch with famous people in an attempt to get them to part ways with a special book. It is a tough concept because well-known people are pestered regularly from all angles. When he is successful, he takes a number of books and auctions them off for charity.

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One of Greene’s favorite aquisitions was a Death Be Not Proud by John Gunther, which was read by Philip Seymour Hoffman. Greene said in an interview with chronicle books that Hoffman donated the book at a crucial time in the projects early phases. Having a nod from Hoffman made the project seem more credible, and therefore helped it get off the ground.

Some of the other books are Why Soccer Matters read by Jon Stewart; The Autobiography of Malcom X read by Isiah Thomas; and The Collected Stories of Deborah Eisenber read by Maggie Gyllenhall. Knowing that all the proceeds go directly to charity, would you be willing to own a book read by a famous person?

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