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Between the Pages

Thu, 05/23/2019 - 15:20
“I love learning,” said Michael Braverman, while sitting with his dog, Eos, below right, among the 7,500 books in the two-story library of his house.

‘I have about 7,500 books in this library, and approximately an equal number downstairs,” said Michael Braverman, while seated in the biggest room of his East Hampton house, where wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling shelves are filled. “I don’t buy a lot of books anymore.” 

When Mr. Braverman, a writer and the founder of former Braverman Newbold Brennan Real Estate, was designing the house, he kept giving the collection a more prominent place. “First, I had a library as part of the house. Then the library started to eat up the rest of the house, and then I came up with the concept of the library as my main room, with no other sitting room, no den with a television,” Mr. Braverman said. “I built a very personal house. I didn’t take my own good real estate advice, which is always to build for the market.”

Books and libraries have always been a joyful part of Mr. Braverman’s life. When he was about 6, he already was a voracious reader, in particular of a compendium of histories of noteworthy figures called “Minute Biographies.” “That’s the first book I ever got excited about,” he said. As an undergraduate, he studied Greek classics, and he later earned a graduate degree in English literature. 

These days, however, he’s drawn to American history. He has read most of Benjamin Franklin’s writings, including his autobiography, and recently finished a book about Thomas Jefferson. 

He is not a big fan of fiction, though. “I probably have a bigger section of poetry than I do fiction,” he said. A rare exception: “Wolf Hall,” Hilary Mantel’s popular novel about the court of King Henry VIII.

The inspirations for the design of the nearly 900-square-foot library room, Mr. Braverman said, were the Morgan Library, the Long Room of the Old Library at Trinity College in Dublin, and a late friend’s home in Sussex, England, which was designed by Edwin Lut yens, the famed British architect.

Mr. Braverman explained that his books are organized by “the way my mind works, it has nothing to do with the conventional library filing system. I just know where to go for a book on philosophy or history or theology or French literature.”  He keeps some of his favorites, such as collections of plays by Edward Albee and Tennessee Williams, just outside his second-floor bedroom. 

One problem with having such a large collection, Mr. Braverman said, is that when a book is accidentally misplaced, it takes quite an effort to find it. “Sometimes I’ll just say, ‘Well, is it worth it? Is it worth looking? Or should I just buy a new one?’ ” 

With a 20-foot-high ceiling and plush furniture, Mr. Braverman’s library is airy and comfortable. “Friends are welcome to come here and read, and I do lend books,” he said. “But I have a little card system now, because people never return books.”

To get a feeling of how very large Mr. Braverman’s personal library is, it can be compared to the East Hampton Library, where some 30,000 volumes are in the core collection, without including any books in the special sections, such as young adult or Spanish language. 

 Mr. Braverman said he would love to come up with plans for the future of his library,  particularly with certain collections such as philosophy or American history or Jewish studies. “I am not sure the entire library is important enough for a university, and many of the newer books would have little value to them,” he said. “But it’s been in my mind.”

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