The House of Twenty Thousand Books by Sasha Abramsky
With book people, you know what’s on their minds by looking at the books they own and how they’re arranged. So when Sasha Abramsky explores the lives of his grandparents, he doesn’t organize their stories chronologically, but by the geography of their bookshelves. Each region of his grandparents’ home had its particular function and its particular book collections.
The moving force of this house was Sasha’s grandfather, Chimen Abramsky, a self-educated book-dealer, cataloguer, collector, publisher, salonist, and university professor. Born in Minsk in 1916, Chimen was the son of a long line of distinguished rabbis. After accusations of anti-Soviet activities, the family was exiled to England, where, perversely, Chimen started his own Leftist education. After a period in Palestine, Chimen returned to London on the eve of World War II, where he met Miriam Nirenstein in her family’s bookstore. The two married and bought 5 Hillway in North London, which became the House of Books.