He has even considered “professional training” to manage thousands of books at his homes in Sussex and Connecticut, according to publishing sources familiar with the outline of Richards’s autobiography, which is due out this autumn.
The guitarist started to arrange the volumes, including rare histories of early American rock music and the second world war, by the librarian’s standard Dewey Decimal classification system but gave up on that as “too much hassle.” He has opted instead for keeping favoured volumes close to hand and the rest languishing on dusty shelves.
Richards has also acted as a public library, lending out copies of the latest Bernard Cornwell or Len Deighton novels to friends without much hope of getting them back. He leaves favoured books by the bedside for guests staying in his homes in England and the USA.
In his autobiography, Life, due to be published in October, Richards will reveal how, as a child growing up in the post-war-austerity of 1950s London, he found refuge in books before he discovered the blues.
He has declared: “When you are growing up there are two institutional places that affect you most powerfully: the church, which belongs to God, and the public library, which belongs to you. The public library is a great equaliser.”