The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop (a Memoir, a History) Paperback – 6 Nov 2008
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"I cannot remember when I have read a book with such delight." --Paul Yamazaki, City Lights Bookstore
"When [Buzbee] describes walking into a bookstore, feasting his eyes on the walls lined with stock, gravitating to the tables stacked with new issues and then discovering some volume so irresistibly beautiful he just has to buy it, you realize that he just doesn't love books, he's besotted." --Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"In The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop, Lewis Buzbee recounts not only his personal experience of being a bookseller and a publisher sales rep, but also shares the history and inside world of bookselling. A beautiful book both inside and out." --ERIC GESELL, Harry W. Schwartz Bookshops
About the Author
Lewis Buzbee is a former bookseller and sales representative, and the author of several books, most recently Steinbeck's Ghost. He lives in San Francisco with his wife and daughter.
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Lewis Buzbee tells his story as a partial memoir; the history of his interest, and then love, of books is described in some detail. He writes about his career as a bookseller (although always as an employee - he never ran his own shop) and as a publishers rep, and he writes about his love of visiting bookshops of all shapes and sizes. In-between this narrative is neatly woven a basic potted history of bookselling, from ancient times, through the Gutenberg press, and on into the production of mass market paperbacks. I was particularly fascinated to read about the scandal surrounding the publication of James Joyce's 'Ulysses', and how the publishing of the book was taken on by one of Joyce's friends, the proprietor of the little but exclusive Shakespeare & Co. bookshop in Paris. Copies of the book then had to find their way into England and America where it had already been censored. A fascinating account.
I have a couple of very small quibbles about Buzbee's style. At one point early on he mentions shop-lifting a book as a teenager; he narrates this in such a way that it sounds as though this is considered acceptable practice, or at the very least is an activity which lots of people have done and can understand. This did shock me a bit and marred my enjoyment slightly. In a couple of places he does also go over a point he's already mentioned which is a little repetitive. However, tiny quibbles aside, I found this book a delightful journey from cover to cover and will be cherishing my copy for some years to come.
Buzbee combines everything bookish here, beginning with his own 'calling' to the world of books, at 15, reading 'The Grapes of Wrath' at school, and moving through his time as a bookseller and publishing sales rep to his current role as reader, writer and compulsive book buyer. On top of the autobiographical elements, Buzbee traces the history of the book and bookselling, from papyrus scrolls to roadside stalls, through developing bookshops, censorship and printing to the e-commerce of today. To cap it off there is a wealth of personal insight, from the author's favourite bookshops across the globe, lovingly evoked and fairly evaluated, to the simple joys of books - their texture and smell, the pleasure of admiring shelves and stacks of books, the slow contentment of coffee and browsing...
A magical little tome, definitely worth not only reading, but buying, rereading and passing down to the next generation of bibliophiles.