Toni Morrison’s Personal Collection of 1,200+ Books

They include books by and about Langston Hughes, W.E.B. Du Bois, Gayl Jones, Henry Dumas, James Baldwin, Mark Twain, the Obamas, and the Clintons.
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Toni Morrison's personal library. Credit: Brown Harris Stevens.

Toni Morrison's personal library. Credit: Brown Harris Stevens.

After the passing of Toni Morrison last year, her family left her house in Tribeca, New York City untouched. The three-bedroom apartment has now been renovated: there is an open kitchen with gourmet appliances and a storage, there is a big dressing space in the primary suite with a walk-in closet, a guest bedroom with a Japanese soaking tub, a main bedroom with a nice view of the east and north of the city, and a bedroom that has been converted into a library and writing room. Recently, her family asked the real estate firm Brown Harris Stevens to list the house for $4.75 million. The listing involves a separate deal for anyone interested in buying the Nobel Prize-winning author’s collection of over 1,200 books.

Toni Morrison. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
Toni Morrison. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

They include books by and about Langston Hughes, W.E.B. Du Bois, Gayl Jones, Henry Dumas, James Baldwin, Mark Twain, the Obamas, and the Clintons. On her bedside, there are three books: Barack Obama: The Story by David Maraniss, a biography of Lyndon B. Johnson by Robert A. Caro, and Revival by Stephen King. A large number of the books were written and autographed by famous authors and celebrities (yes, there is one from Denzel Washington).

There are some surprising books in there: the not-so-popular books by Stephen King, a December 2019 copy of People magazine with Michelle Obama on the cover, Wolf Hall by Hillary Mantel, Moo by Jane Smiley, I, etcetera by Susan Sontag, She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb, and The Original Illustrated Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle. There is also a copy of one of her books, The Bluest Eye, from Burnaby Public Library with notes, underlines, and cross-outs on every page (some books in the collection were taken from libraries but never returned).

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The books are listed alphabetically, by the author’s last name. Morrison bookmarked a lot, but she never bought a bookmark: she used home items—in one book, it was the leftover sliver of a FedEx cardboard envelope.

The books in the collection cannot be purchased piece by piece; the collection must be bought in its entirety.

Ernest Ogunyemi
Ernest O. Ògunyemi is a staff writer at Open Country Mag. His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Joyland, Tinderbox, Sierra Nevada Review, Journal Nine, The Indianapolis Review, Down River Road, Capsule Stories, No Tokens, The West Review, The Dark Magazine, Mud Season Review, Isele, and in the anthology 20.35 Africa: An Anthology of Contemporary Poetry III. He is the curator of The Fire That Is Dreamed of: The Young African Poets Anthology.
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