“Then there! on that heaped table, or hidden on the lowest, dustiest shelf, we stumble on it. A common thing, this volume. There may be five thousand copies of this particular book in the world, or fifty thousand, or half a million, all exactly alike, but this one is as rare as if it had been made solely for us. We open to the first page, and the universe unfolds, once upon a time.” (page 9)
I buy most of my books online. It’s not something I like to admit but it is the truth. I prefer browsing through bookstores to browsing through books online but since Borders closed a few years ago the closest bookstore to me (a Half Price Bookstore) is about a half hour away. I still manage to go there regularly but it’s certainly not like my at least once-weekly trip to Borders.
It seems like we’ve come full circle with bookstores. It wasn’t that long ago when the big chains were thriving and you would be hard-pressed to find a good independent bookseller. Now the independents are enjoying some success again (apparently just not in my area) and a lot of the chain stores seem to be in trouble. Here’s a good article from last year about all of this.
The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop by Lewis Buzbee provides an interesting read on the book business, from its earliest days to modern times. This was originally published in 2006 (my edition includes an afterword from 2008) but it still provides some excellent insights into the book world.
What I really enjoyed about this though was Buzbee’s obvious love for books… and how much I could relate to it.
“It’s not as if I don’t have anything to read; there’s a tower of perfectly good unread books next to my bed, not to mention the shelves of books in the living room I’ve been meaning to reread. I find myself, maddeningly, hungry for the next one, as yet unknown. I no longer try to analyze this hunger; I capitulated long ago to the book lust that’s afflicted me most of my life.” (pages 9-10)
If you love books and bookstores then The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop is definitely worth a read!
From The Cover: In The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop, Lewis Buzbee celebrates the unique experience of the bookstore – the smell and touch of books, the joy of getting lost in deep canyons of shelves, and the silent community of readers. He shares his passion for books, which began with 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.
Just One More Thing: “If you read one book a week, starting at the age of 5, and live to be 80, you will have read a grand total of 3,900 books, a little over one-tenth of 1 percent of the books currently in print.” (pages 129-130)
This Edition: Paperback Published by Graywolf Press (2008)
Other Books By Lewis Buzbee: Steinbeck’s Ghost, Fliegelman’s Desire, After The Gold Rush, Blackboard, The Haunting Of Charles Dickens, Bridge Of Time, First To Leave Before The Sun
You Might Also Like: Sixpence House (Lost In A Town Of Books) by Paul Collins