Review: The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop

The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop: A Memoir, a History (2006)
Lewis Buzbee
224 pages
Publisher: Graywolf Press
Source: Personal library

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. Β 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?


About Vasilly

Mother, daughter, sister, college student, bookworm, lover of chocolate and coffee.
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27 Responses to Review: The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop

  1. bermudaonion says:

    I want to visit your bookstore and I want to read this book – it sounds marvelous. There is an independent bookstore here that I try to patronize, but I don’t love it – if we had a better indie, I’d jump ship.

    • Vasilly says:

      Kathy, I had an indie store out here that was the same way. It closed down and unfortunately other indies in the area, have done so too.

  2. Frances says:

    One of my favorite bookstores is Politics and Prose here in Washington DC. Because it is all your ideals so nicely stated here, and because I am a buyer and not a borrower. If on the fence about a book though, I always have the library but I buy much more frequently. Now, will I buy or borrow this one? Hmmm. πŸ™‚

    • Vasilly says:

      I’ve always wanted to visit Politics and Prose! I have a similar philosophy when it comes to buying and borrowing. I don’t mind buying a book but I rather check it out from the library first before buying. That way if I don’t enjoy the book, I don’t have to think about wasted money!

    • Vasilly says:

      Oh yeah, if you can borrow this book, you should. If not, buy it.

  3. Memory says:

    I think your bookstore sounds wonderful!

    My favourite bookstore is McNally Robinson, back in my hometown of Winnipeg. They’re a larger independent with a wonderful selection, knowledgable staff and the connections to put on some truly awesome author events. I miss them very much.

  4. JoAnn says:

    I’m a book buyer and I love bookstores! This was one of my favorites the year I read it. My favorite store locally is a college bookstore, but I discovered several new treasures while visiting NYC this summer.

  5. Sandra says:

    I enjoyed every aspect of this book when I read it. For me the only thing as good as reading books is reading about them. Glad to see someone else discover this one. I love every bookstore I’ve ever been in more than once. I buy reference books or anything I will reread but borrow the rest.

  6. Zee says:

    I loved this book, but then again I describe bookstores as my happy place. I have yet to find a bookstore that I adore above all others. One which is a close contender no longer exists, but I loved its warrens of rooms. I was forever finding new nooks and crannies filled with books.

    • Vasilly says:

      Zee, that sounds like a bookstore that used to be in my area. It had so many rooms but I didn’t get a chance to explore them all. Glad to hear you loved this book too.

  7. Ash says:

    I would love to own a bookstore- but wouldn’t we all? πŸ™‚ I do have a favorite bookstore, it’s a used bookstore called The Haunted Bookshop. I would consider myself a book buyer although lately I’m trying to save money so I’ve been using the library A LOT more.

  8. Gavin says:

    Reading your first paragraph I just had to grin. I think owning a bookstore is every serious reader’s fantasy. There used to be a bookstore in an old building down the street from my house and, even though I was young, with no real understanding of the business, Mr. Weiser would talk with me and let me sit and read his used books. I do have to read “The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop”. Have a wonderful week!

  9. zibilee says:

    I have always dreamed of opening a bookshop as well and think this book sounds lovely! If you haven’t already read it, I would suggest The Man Who Loved Book Too Much to you. It’s a story about a book lover who takes things to extreme lengths, and has a fair bit to do with bookshops. It was a really great and funny read. Excellent review, by the way!

    • Vasilly says:

      Zibilee, you know I’ve heard of it but haven’t gotten a chance to read it. Thanks for reminding me about it! I will definitely add it to my holds list!

  10. Molly says:

    OH…I absolutely LOVED this book. I should really re-read and escape into that fantasy of owning a quaint little bookstore by the sea again πŸ™‚

    My only complain about the book was that it covered a bit too much history of book printing for my taste, but I could easily skim over those parts and simply savor the parts that spoke to me.

    • Vasilly says:

      Molly, I definitely agree with you on the too much history part. I think it’s because his life as a sales rep and bookseller was just so interesting. The history part was interesting also but not so much.

      I have many passages from this book that I really love.

  11. bookmagic says:

    I love bookstores and am a definite buyer. Though I love my kindle, I like having my favorite books in print form.
    I love the idea of owning a bookstore but my fantasy involves me sitting around and reading in it. I suppose in real life, I would have to actually do other work to keep in running!
    I will visit and read in your store.

    • Vasilly says:

      Reading in my bookstore is part of the fantasy but there’s just something about being part of the community and encouraging literacy that is so awesome to me. I think that’s why I want to be a children’s librarian!

      Glad to know if I have a bookstore one day, you’ll come! πŸ˜€

  12. Michelle says:

    I’m definitely a book buyer! I much prefer walking around any bookstore versus going into a library, if only because at least I know the books in a bookstore are gently handled. I’ve checked out books from a library that make me shudder with the poor shape they are in.

    I would totally love to visit your bookstore! If you build it, we will come!

    • Vasilly says:

      I definitely agree with you about some library books. Luckily I live in an area where the library is pretty strict about the condition of its books.

      If I build my bookstore, I’ll definitely tell you!

  13. Valerie says:

    I remember Rebecca’s review, and still would like to read this book sometime.

    I’m definitely a book buyer (although a lot are used), because I never seem to get to finish them before it’s time to turn them back into the library 9even after renewing them to the max).

    I remember when Borders was once an indie bookstore, years back when I lived in Ann Arbor. It was great then :-).

  14. Kathleen says:

    I have always dreamed of owning a bookstore so I know I would enjoy this book. I am definitely a book buyer whenever possible and a book borrower (from the library) when I have to be.

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