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Early life and education
Gekoski was raised in Alexandria, Virginia, where his father, Bernard, worked as an attorney for the Rural Electrification Authority, and his mother Edith was a social worker. He has a sister, Ruth Greenberg. The family moved to Huntington, Long Island in 1954. He graduated from Huntington High School in 1962, and received his B.A. summa cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania in 1966 where he served as the Chairman of the newly formed Student Committee on Undergraduate Education. He was elected to Phi Beta Kappa in 1965. He subsequently took a B.Phil and D.Phil in English at Oxford University, where he attended Merton College, Oxford and won a tennis blue.
In 1971 Gekoski joined the English Department at Warwick University, where he was joint convenor of the B.A. degree in Philosophy and Literature, was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 1980, and served for some years as Chairman of the Faculty of Arts. He resigned from the Department in 1984 to open a business as a rare book dealer.
The Guardian put Gekoski's book-selling activities succinctly: “Gekoski likes to be around a better class of book than the rest of us and by skill, luck and chutzpah has managed to.” He has founded two private presses, The Sixth Chamber Press and (with T.G. Rosenthal) The Bridgewater Press, which issue limited editions by well-known writers. His website may be found at www.gekoski.com.
Rick Gekoski has published a quartet of books which trace his major enthusiasms: football, book dealing, reading, and art. Staying Up, Tolkien’s Gown, Outside of a Dog and"Lost, Stolen or Shredded" are written in an approachable personal voice, and combine high spirits with wry honesty and modest erudition. Colm Tóibín has called their author “a supreme example of a natural and skilled story teller,” and Tatler described him as the Bill Bryson of the book world. He was a regular contributor to the Guardian on-line Book section, through his column "Finger on the Page," which covered topics from the world of books, including reading, writing, teaching and book-selling.
Gekoski regularly appears on radio as a guest commentator on topics relating to rare books and the book trade. He has written and produced three series of Rare Books, Rare People for BBC Radio 4 – called “one of the gems of Radio 4” by critic Gillian Reynolds - which he followed with two series of Lost, Stolen, or Shredded: The History of Some Missing Works of Art also for Radio 4.
In 2005 Gekoski was a Man Booker Prize judge, and a strong advocate for John Banville's The Sea, which was a controversial winner. He was Chair of Judges for the 2011 Man Booker International Prize, which was awarded to Philip Roth.
He now divides his time between writing, book dealing, broadcasting, lecturing. He teaches Creative Non-Fiction for the Arvon Foundation, and sits on their Development Board. He is a former Trustee and Member of the Board of English PEN, and was elected an Honorary Vice-President of that body in 2014, for his work organizing and curating an auction of annotated first editions by famous writers, held at Sotheby's in May 2013. Entitled "First Editions, Second Thoughts", the auction raised over £450,000 to further the work of English Pen. Highlights included annotated first editions by Julian Barnes, Quentin Blake, Kazuo Ishiguro, J.K. Rowling, Colm Tóibín and Jeanette Winterson, among many others.
Gekoski and his wife Belinda Kitchin live in a seventeenth century house in Salisbury, and have a house in the Tuki Tuki Valley, New Zealand. He has two children by a previous marriage. In 2008 Rick Gekoski adopted British citizenship (in addition to American), remarking that he now felt "equally ill at ease in both cultures."
- Joseph Conrad. The Moral World of the Novelist. Paul Elek and Barnes and Noble, 1978.
- William Golding: A Bibliography. With P.A. Grogan. - André Deutsch, 1994.
- Staying Up: A Fan Behind the Scenes in the Premiership. - Little Brown, 1998.
- Tolkien's Gown and Other Stories of Great Authors and Rare Books. - Constable and Robinson, 2004. Published in the USA as Nabokov's Butterfly, Carroll and Graf, 2004.
- Outside of a Dog. A Bibliomemoir. - Constable and Robinson, 2009.
- Lost, Stolen or Shredded: Stories of Missing Works of Art and Literature. - Profile Books, 2013.
- Darke. A novel. Canongate Books, 2017.
- A Long Island Story. Canongate Books, 2018.