In The Book of Bond, Kingsley Amis (writing as Lt-Col Bill Tanner after the Chief-of-Staff in Fleming’s novels) describes Bond’s library saying that it should be modest and that more extensive collections go with “serious criminal tendencies”.
While Amis believed that Bond’s library was limited to a handful of books there is no evidence that is what Ian Fleming intended. In fact, quite the contrary; he states in Moonraker that Bond let himself into his ground floor flat and into a book-lined sitting room and throughout the James Bond series Fleming name checked the books and authors listed below.
Fleming himself had been a serious collector of books prior to the Second World War, after instructing Percy Muir to purchase books that made significant contributions to the nineteenth century. After his death the collection remained intact and can be found today in the Lilly Library at Indiana University Bloomington.
The Traveller’s Tree
Bond refers to this book by Patrick Leigh Fermor to get up to date with Haitian voodoo before setting off to New York in Live And Let Die, with four pages of extracts quoted by Fleming directly.
“Paddy” Leigh Fermor was a friend of Fleming’s, whose first book, ‘The Travellers Tree’ was written about his extensive travels through the Caribbean in the 1940s, which won the Heinemann Foundation Prize for Literature and established him as an author. He was knighted in 2004, and is widely regarded as Britain’s greatest living travel writer.
Scarne on Cards
Prior to unmasking Sir Hugo Drax as a card cheat, Bond refers to this book in Moonraker to sharpen up his own dexterity with the cards.
John Scarne became a magician specialising in card tracks after being dissuaded from making a living as a card sharp by his mother. He wrote several books and was technical advisor on ‘The Sting’ and was considered by many to be the greatest card manipulator of all time.
How to play your Best Golf All the Time
Bond packs this before heading to the United States in Diamonds Are Forever. Tommy Armour’s book was written in 1953 and still considered by many people to be the only book on golf you’ll ever need, although some of the things he teaches have been superseded but the instruction is clear and simple to follow.
The Modern Fundamentals of Golf
Considered by many to be a golf classic, Ben Hogan’s five lessons first published in 1957 covered grip, stance and posture, the first part of the swing, the second part of the swing, and a summary and review. Bond bought this at the airport while awaiting his flight home from New York after foiling Goldfinger’s Fort Knox plot, as well as “the latest Raymond Chandler” (below).
While “the latest Raymond Chandler” isn’t identified by Fleming, its appearance in Goldfinger, which was published in 1959 at around the time the American author died suggests that he was referring to ‘Playback’, published the previous year when Fleming would have been writing Goldfinger.
The Mask Of Dimitrios
Bond has this book with him when flying to Istanbul in ‘From Russia, With Love’. Written by spy writer Eric Ambler, it features Istanbul as one of its locations. The book was made into a film noir movie of the same name and published in the USA as ”A Coffin For Dimitrios’.
Nero Wolfe novels
Rex Stout wrote the series of novels featuring the American detective Nero Wolfe. When M mentions the Nero Wolfe novels to 007 when he meets him on Christmas Day to discuss Blofeld’s Alpine clinic in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Bond replies that he likes reading them.
Profiles in Courage
Bond is reading this book by J.F.K. in The Man With The Golden Gun after arriving in Jamaica. The books won the author the 1957 Pulitzer Prize and covers the acts of bravery and integrity of eight US Senators over the history of the Senate. The book, first published in 1955, was widely acclaimed and helped Kennedy gain national recognition.
The Craft of Intelligence
Bond is reading this while recovering in hospital from injuries sustained in The Man With The Golden Gun – and awaiting the arrival of Mary Goodnight. The author of this history of modern espionage, Allen Dulles, was the first civilian and longest serving director of the CIA
The Bible Designed to be Read as Literature
While it may seem unlikely, James Bond did carry this version of the Bible with him while on the Goldfinger case. However, as you may imagine, all is not quite as it seems as the book has had the middle part of its pages removed to make room for a Walther PPK.
Ernest Southerland Bates extensively edited the King James Bible to remove the chapter and verse numbers and present the stories contained in the bible in a format that makes them easier to understand. First published in 1936, it was enormously popular and has been reprinted many times.
A Field Guide to Birds of the West Indies
Although never mentioned in any of Ian Fleming’s novels, a copy was owned by Ian Fleming and he appropriated the author’s name – James Bond – for his first book, Casino Royale.
The book also made a brief appearance in Die Another Day when Bond was in Cuba – his cover was that of an ornithologist.
‘A Field Guide to Birds of the West Indies’ was first published in 1936 by the Academy of Natural Sciences and has been reprinted several times since then.
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No thanks, I'm not interested in news about 007
August 23rd, 2014 at 03:33
You know, the completist in me would love to get a copy of “Birds of the West Indies”, but it would just sit on the shelf next to the Bond books. Although, now that I think of it, I could put it on the shelf, then all of the Bond novels after that, followed by Pearson’s “James Bond-The Biography” Display-wise, that would make the most sense.
I have “Scarne On Cards”, but have no interest in the golf books. And being a Chandler fan, I got “Playback” sometime back in the mid-Eighties.
Oh, and didn’t Bond also read Eric Ambler, although Fleming never mentioned any specific titles.
August 23rd, 2014 at 03:36
Okay, scratch that last sentence, I didn’t notice “The Mask of Dimitrios” in your article. And to think that I re-read “From Russia, With Love” only last year!
In my defence, I should mention that I hadn’t had any coffee yet.
August 23rd, 2014 at 13:54
Thanks for your comments, fully understand about the coffee!