The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop by Lewis Buzbee

The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop by Lewis Buzbee
Publisher/Year: Graywolf Press, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 216
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


November, a dark, rainy Tuesday, late afternoon. This is my ideal time to be in a bookstore. The shortened light of the afternoon and the idleness and hush of the hour gather everything close, the shelves and the books and the few other customers who graze head-bent in the narrow aisles.

In The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop, Buzbee, a former bookseller and sales representative, celebrates the unique experience of the bookstore–the smell and touch of books, the joy of getting lost in the deep canyons of shelves, and the silent community of readers. He shares his passion for books, which began with ordering through the Weekly Reader in grade school. Woven throughout is a fascinating historical account of the bookseller trade–from the great Alexandria library with an estimated one million papyrus scrolls to Sylvia Beach’s famous Paris bookstore, Shakespeare & Co., that led to the extraordinary effort to publish and sell James Joyce’s Ulysses.

Rich with anecdotes, The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop is the perfect choice for those who relish the enduring pleasures of spending an afternoon finding just the right book.

What I thought

Oh, my heart. I knew from the first page–hell, the first paragraph–that this was a book with which I could fall in love. I have always been an avid reader and an insatiable book hoarder. Obviously, I know I’m here among fellow book lovers (because why else would you be here?), but I have never felt so seen and so understood as I have while reading through the pages of this little book. Every once in a while, I come across a special book–one that requires me to own a copy so that I can occasionally take it down from my shelves and thumb through its pages with the utmost feeling of fondness. This is one of those books.

Buzbee has written such an interesting walk through a bookish life. His own personal journey has me feeling like I’ve found a kindred spirit, and now I know for sure–I have definitely missed my calling as a bookseller. And as a nerd for all things history, I so enjoyed the fascinating history behind books, booksellers, publishing, bookstores, and more.

The town I live in has one bookstore–a Barnes & Noble–which I love dearly. It is a place I frequently visit, whether I have a preset purpose or not. While Buzbee writes in defense of the indie bookstore, I appreciated that he took the time to point out the pros and cons of other types of bookstores, as well. Because the way I see it, I just love bookstores. When we travel, I make it a point to check out any and all indie bookstores I can find, and I make sure I purchase something at each one. I feel lucky because I’m able to do so, and it’s led me to some seriously great bookstores (Otto’s in Williamsport, PA; Main St. Books in Frostburg, MD; Pressed in Erie, PA; Books Galore in Erie, PA–to name a few recent favorites). I try to do my part, no matter how small. And I just really loved that Buzbee got that.

I could probably go on and on about this little book and why it means so much to me as a reader (don’t even get me started on my love for libraries–I’ll save that for another day). I’ll simply say that when I picked up this little hardcover and it fit so perfectly into my hands, I just knew I was in for a treat. So, reader friends, if you love books about books or books about reading, I hope you stumble upon this one. I cannot recommend it enough.

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