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Bill’s Books

by Neal B. Freeman

Neal B. Freeman recalls WBF’s reading library — er, garage

In my long association with Bill Buckley, I had only two serious arguments with him. One was about the Iraq War, and it lasted for a handful of years. The other was about books — and that one lasted from just about the day I met him, in 1963, until nearly the day he died, in 2008.

Bill was a man of many books, and it required three libraries to house them all. At his duplex on East 73rd Street in New York, he displayed copies of his own books, handsomely bound, alongside special editions from a few other authors. Dinner guests would browse furtively while sipping a preprandial cocktail. A much larger library was constructed at National Review, a working library that, although compact, seemed to contain all of the basic texts of political discourse; it was perfectly right-sized for deadline writing. His personal library, by far the largest of the three, was pack-ratted in the capacious garage of his weekend home in Stamford, almost 5,000 volumes stacked in rickety shelving rising to a height of twelve feet. On seeing Bill hunched over his desk in the well of these listing towers, a visitor could easily conjure the headline, Famous Author Missing / Feared Lost in Book Avalanche.

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