In amassing this complete set, Oprah has been aided by Kinsey Marable, an investment banker turned rare-book dealer, who specializes in building private libraries for individual clients (Donna Karan is one). Marable sent Oprah's first edition of To Kill a Mockingbird to the famously reclusive author, along with a request for her to autograph it. "It was a nerve-racking experience," says Marable, because the only address he had was a P.O. box number, and he "took the book to the post office not knowing whether we would ever see it again." Almost immediately, Lee returned the prized copy—signed.
Oprah has been working with Marable since 2003, his services a gift from the Hearst Corporation (which publishes this magazine and O, The Oprah Magazine, in partnership with Harpo). He and Oprah first got together on a Saturday afternoon to talk about her interests: literature, of course, but also architecture, fashion, and gardens. Since then, their relationship has evolved into a warm, informal one. They will sit on the floor, books spread out around them, or Oprah will call him with an idea for a title they should track down, always asking for his honest advice. She tells him, Marable says, "Do not be a yes-man—what do you really think?"
Oprah's collection has also grown to include scores of gorgeous coffee-table books, devoted to painters like Matisse and Mary Cassatt, photographer Cecil Beaton, and interior designer David Hicks. "There are a lot of fun books in there, which makes it a functioning library for everyday reading," says Marable. He's currently working to assemble an archive of fashion magazines going back to 1940. No matter the age or the value, however, nothing here is too precious to flip through. Oprah opens a bound volume of vintage magazines at random, and suddenly she's immersed in elongated black-and-white drawings of Christian Dior's New Look, willowy models with tiny waists and full, flowing skirts, ushering in post-war concepts of femininity. She points to an article entitled "Ideas to watch in 1949" and—marveling at this back-in-time glimpse at how people saw the future—says, "I just think that's fabulous."