November 24, 2014

The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop: A Memoir, A History

by Lewis Buzbee

The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop: A Memoir, A History condenses the bibliophile’s life led by the author, Lewis Buzbee, from the time he discovered the beauty and wonder of the written word, to the time he first held a job at a small bookstore, up to the time he built his entire career on books, publishing, and bookstores. It is a series of essays that talked about books, the bibliophile, the beloved bookstore, and other facets of life related to or about books.


 
It was very interesting to read about something from a bookseller’s perspective. Buzbee is not only a wide reader; he is also largely involved in the sales and marketing aspects of books and is very knowledgeable about statistics and such. Being strictly and purely a reader, with only the vaguest idea of the process a book goes through once the manuscript leaves the hands of the writer and undergoes the procedure of mass production, I found this book replete with information for the unacquainted. It is filled with anecdotes and short stories of the author’s experiences throughout his book-filled life.

"Books... give body to our ideas and imaginations, make them flesh in the world; a bookstore is the city where our fleshed-out inner selves reside."

Because Buzbee established a career in book sales, his stories leaned more towards bookstores and the conduct of bookselling. While he also talked about his favorite author (John Steinbeck) and books (everything by John Steinbeck), this book really mostly extolled the bookstore – the quaint and lovely brick-and-mortar bookstore, where a true bibliophile can always find a treasure. Buzbee traced the history of the bookstores vis-à-vis the rise of the internet and e-books, and expressed his reservations with regard to the latter. He wrote about Sylvia Beach’s little bookshop in Paris in the early 1900s, Shakespeare & Co., which first published the classic work Ulysses by James Joyce before finally closing down. He also spoke about how readers band together, citing as example the reaction of readers worldwide when a fatwa was issued against Salman Rushdie for writing something (purportedly) negative about Islamic beliefs in his book, The Satanic Verses. (I can't wait to read it because of this juicy bit of information!) Personally, these bits of historical information were the highlights of the book for me, because I haven’t heard of them before.

Of course, this was a very easy and readable work, being written by someone who shares the same passion, with many years of experience of being in the book business under his belt. A voracious reader will appreciate this memoir, but I think there is more for the prospective bookseller in there as well. 

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I read this book as the second Traveling Book of my book club. Because I'm very big on marginalia (if that wasn't evident by now) but one of the book owner's rules was to NOT write on the acid-free deckled pages, I used sticky notes for particular passages that struck me and indicated my name. Currently, the book is with the fourth reader, and I hope the future readers the book will eventually "travel" to will find interesting the same passages that I did.

"Reading is a solitary act, but one that demands connection to the world."  

Sharing the love, from one book lover to another. 

Rating: ★★★★
Book Details: Trade paperback, borrowed from Ycel

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