As Mark McKinley puts it, “no collector ever says, ‘I’ve gone too far.'” After 27 years and an official Guinness World Record, he stands by that statement.
Kurt Thometz, a private librarian to the ultra-rich and a rare book collector with an affinity for African literature, surrounds himself with more than 15,000 obsessively organized books in an 1891 brownstone on West 160th Street in Upper Manhattan. Part-bookstore, part-bed and breakfast and private library, Thometz’s home is situated in a neighborhood steeped in African American history, from the Sugar Hill row houses where W.E.B. Du Bois and Duke Ellington lived, to the Edgecombe Avenue buildings that Count Basie and Paul Robeson once called home. The bookstore, Jumel Terrace Books, which is located in the brownstone’s basement, is where Thometz sells his Afrocentric selections, ranging from modern histories of tango and samba to Nigerian market literature that he’s compiled into a collection called “Life Turns Man Up and Down: High Life, Useful Advice, and Mad English.”
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Oresti Tsonopoulos is a multimedia storyteller who lives in Brooklyn, NEW YORK. Though his work predominantly lives online, his videos for The New York Times have been featured on JetBlue flights and his musician-centric pieces for NBC New York have been featured in taxi cabs across NYC. He studied recorded music at NYU, participated in the non-fiction collaborative program at UnionDocs and is currently working on his master’s in journalism at CUNY.
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