Saturday, July 29, 2006

Book Review: "The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop"

Former bookseller and publishing rep Lewis Buzbee's new memoir The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop found its way to the top of my pile this week. Interesting timing given the list of bookseller reminiscences I've been compiling lately. Buzbee's book (published by Graywolf Press) is a nice little volume, the design of which I like very much: nice dust-jacket, deckled edges, good paper with wide margins. More importantly, the content's not bad either.

Buzbee intersperses autobiographical anecdotes about his life among books with short sections which together comprise a very decent history of the book and bookselling from the early days to the present. This is carried off well, sometimes a tricky thing to do. Both parts are interesting, but it is the personal thoughts and musings which held my attention the most, particularly Buzbee's thoughts on how it was that he came to love books and know that they'd always be a part of his life. I think that many of us have very similar stories, and reading those of others is fascinating.

As Buzbee writes, "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."

There is much more to this book than a simple memoir: Buzbee offers thoughts for parents seeking to pass on a love of books to their children ("Take someone who likes to read; give her a comfy place to do so and ample time for doing it; add one good book, and then more; stand back"), some comments and statistics on the health and well-being of the book industry and the role that the internet has come to play in the book world. At the end, he even offers up an annotated list of his favorite bookshops, which is certainly a good resource for the traveling reader.

I quite enjoyed The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop, and recommend it to all you bibliophiles out there.