By Laura McAlister
Ever wonder what kinds of books you’d stumble upon in Oprah Winfrey’s home library? Just ask Kinsey Marable. He would know.
The former Wall Street investment banker helped stock the shelves at the media mogul’s home. Kinsey didn’t trade in his Goldman Sachs career to become a librarian, though. He’s actually a curator of rare books, and Oprah is just one of his many clients across the globe.
Kinsey travels around the world in search of rare, out-of-print books to stock the home libraries of his clients, and he’ll be in Birmingham selling some of his unique finds at this year’s Antiques at The Gardens Oct. 7-9 at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens.
“I would say books are certainly decoration, but libraries and collections are more than just decorations,” he said. “They are readable, visually beautiful and wonderful. I try to choose books for my clients that they will love to look at and read.”
Kinsey’s interest in the book business started when he was working at Goldman Sachs. His job required him to travel to London frequently, and it was there he found several bookstores specializing in out-of-print books.
At first, he was keeping his rare finds for his personal library. Then he started fetching books for co-workers and friends.
“I really started spending a lot of time in those bookstores,” Kinsey said of the London shops. “I’d bring them back to my office, and then people started asking me to bring them back books.”
Since Kinsey’s collections are tailored to his clients’ tastes, he said putting together a home library with rare out-print-books could be time consuming, especially before the Internet. When he started his business 17 years ago, he said, it required travel. While the Internet helps some, he said the best way to find that rare book is by getting out and searching for it.
In his nearly two decades as a book curator, he’s put together quite an assortment of collections. He said some people prefer architecture books, while others are looking for something more specific, like books on Thomas Jefferson or, in one unusual case, books on alchemy.
“The collections can be very small to very large,” he said. “It can take a huge amount of time to put together. This is not for people who are looking for books by the yard, but libraries of substance. These books you can’t just go out to the Barnes & Noble and find.”
In addition to compiling collections, Kinsey has started a book club. Starting at $500, he said, members receive an out-of-print book in their area of interest each month.
“That’s what I’m really going to be bringing to the Botanical Gardens show,” he said. “I wanted to bring it down a notch or two, so people didn’t necessarily think they had to buy $50,000 worth of books. You can get in and get started for $500 for six months or $1,000-$2,000 for a year. There’s different levels, but it allows people to get these out-of-print books that they otherwise would never have access to.”
When it comes to Kinsey’s personal interests and his book collection, he prefers non-fiction, books on American-English architecture, diaries, Thomas Jefferson and food – not the kind with recipes but “more like the history of food, the people and travel,” he said.
And if you’re still wondering what Oprah has on her book shelves, she has several books on architecture, interiors and fashion as well as a collection of books by of black authors.
“She also has a wonderful collection of Pulitzer Prize winners that I helped her put together,” Kinsey said. “They are all first editions from the beginning (of the Pulitzers) until now.”
For more information on Kinsey and his private libraries, visit www.privatelibraries.com.