For as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to own a bookstore. It would be large and spacious with bestsellers alongside of books from publisher’s back lists. My bookstore would have large comfortable chairs, great lighting, and of course it would sell coffee. It would sell all kinds of magazines, have a great graphic novel section, and would be the place to hang out on a Saturday night as it hosts author signing, story time, and much more. . .
After reading Nymeth’s positive review on Lewis Buzbee’s The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop, I hurried and track down a copy of this book for myself. When my copy arrived I hugged it, looked through it, and placed it on my shelves unread. I didn’t pick it up again until a few months ago when I suggested it for my Goodreads Graywolf Press Book Club. It was just the push I needed to finally read this book.
The subtitle to The Yellow-Lighted Bookship is “a memoir, a history” and that’s exactly what this book is. Buzbee describes his years as a bookseller and a sales rep for publishing companies along with explaining the history of publishing and bookselling. He also describes some of the earliest libraries. I thought this part of the book was really interesting but not nearly as interesting as his life as a bookseller. Buzbee also explains how reading John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, turned him into a lifetime reader.
There’s nothing exceptional in my reading history, and that’s why I’ve chosen to detail it. For those who are afflicted with book lust, those for whom reading is more than information or escape, the road to our passion is quite simple, paved merely by the presence of printed matter.
It’s a common story; fill in your own blanks: I was ___ years old when I happened on a novel called ____, and within six months I had read every other book by the writer known as ____.
I was fifteen. The Grapes of Wrath. John Steinbeck.
John Steinbeck is one of my favorite writers and I felt like I found a kindred spirit after reading that passage. There are a few writers, who once I read a book or short story or even article that they’ve written, I want to read everything else by them. Steinbeck is definitely one of them.
One of my favorite quotes:
The book is a uniquely durable object, one that can be fully enjoyed without being damaged. A book doesn’t require fuel, food, or service; it isn’t very messy and rarely makes noise. A book can be read over and over, then passed on to friends, or resold at a garage sale. A book will not crash or freeze, and will work when filled with sand. Even if it falls onto the bath, it can be dried out, ironed if necessary, and then finished. Should the spine of a book crack so badly the pages fall out, one simply has to gather them before the wind blows them away and wrap with a rubber band.
I don’t know about you but when I was younger I owned several books that I damaged so badly, I had to wrap a rubber band around them. One book I damaged that bad just after the first reading. I think that quote describes my feeling for e-readers even though the author isn’t talking about the merits of a physical book versus an e-book but how powerful books really are.
In Rebecca’s review of this book, she talked about the heavy emphasis on bookstores in this book. If you’re not a lover of bookstores, this isn’t a book for you. But it’s a great book for people who do love bookstores and who do believe that the presence of bookstores do something great to a city. I’m not saying that Rebecca doesn’t feel that way, but she stated in her review that she’s not a book buyer so this wasn’t a book for her.
There are a few times that this was slow reading but overall, I’m glad I read it. I loved seeing famous bookstores, especially those in my city and nearby areas, mentioned. The author even lists some of his favorite bookstores at the back of the book.
My question to you: Do you have a favorite bookstore? Are you a book buyer or a book borrower?