The yellow-lighted bookshop : a memoir, a history

by Lewis Buzbee

Hardcover, 2006




St. Paul, Minn. : Graywolf Press, 2006.


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 i...

User reviews

LibraryThing member judithrs
The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop; a Memoir, a History. Lewis Buzbee. 2006. Buzbee, not only loves to read; he loves books, just like I do. Buzbee relates his love affair with books as he chronicles the history of books, reading, publishing, and bookselling from ancient times up to the present day. I found his account of Sylvia Beech and the publishing of Ulysses
fascinating.I had no idea how difficult it was. Book and bookstore lovers will enjoy.
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LibraryThing member 2wonderY
Buzbee's prose is ocassionally wonderful, but not sustainingly so. I faltered in my reading, but finally finished the last chapter, a short list of his favorite bookstores. As a past bookseller and librarian, I enjoyed the journey, for the most part.
LibraryThing member LibraryCin
This is a history/memoir. Lewis Buzbee has been a customer, an employee and a sales rep for bookstores. He talks about all these experiences in this book, along with a history of the book and booksellers.

I really enjoyed this. I especially found the history interesting. He intersperses his own experiences with the history information. The book was written in 2006, so e-books were really just taking off in popularity, so he only says a little bit about them, but not much. People who love bookstores would really enjoy this, I think, but also others who are interested in the history of books.… (more)
LibraryThing member clfisha
How much milleage you get out of this book depends on
a) how much bookshops and the publishing world interest you
b) if light on detail, nostaligc, genteel reminisces float your boat

Personally I can take it for about 150 pages before my eyes glaze over. A few wonderful biibliophile phrase do not a book make.

The history was well told but light and a bit dull (see a) but there were some interesting tales buried such as the printing of ulysees. The memoir is, well it's ok, no fun tall tales here, just some experiences that entwine the history. Although at one point he takes to listing great bookstores... Yawn.

Another problem for me it was written in an odd time for publising: 2004 and by a nostalgic, entrenched book lover. The 'stick head in sand' attitude with the future of books was intensely irritating and was only saved by a new and thoughtful postscript. I guess, though, this is not what the book is about. It is a celebration books and the places that sell them. Nothing wrong with that, it's just not for me
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LibraryThing member whitreidtan
Buzbee spent many years as a bookseller and publisher's sales rep so he would appear to be uniquely suited to writing a book about bookstores labelled both a memoir and a history. Unfortunately, the latter overwhelms the former at almost every turn so instead of a history peppered with personal anecdotes about working in a bookstore, especially the colorful independents where Buzbee spent so much time, this is instead mostly a timeline of the emergence and growth of the bookstore, from the beginnings of libraries with their illuminated manuscripts to scribes to the printing press to stall holders and onward. While this could be interesting itself, it wasn't really enough to sustain the book. As a former bookstore employee myself, I know just how much Buzbee missed mining in a very fertile field when he chose to make this less personal and more generic. And while there were a few chosen bits about his obsessive love of reading and words here, overall, it was a much drier and slower read than I had anticipated. In poking around the internet, I seem to be in a minority in my feelings on this book but I just didn't see the charm and delight that other reviewers felt in reading this. Mostly I found it lackluster and was disappointed that I already knew all of the history that it presented.… (more)
LibraryThing member Whisper1
This is ok -- not bad, but not a great read either.

It is a book about books. As we know, books are magic and open doors.

The author talks about his experiences as a reader, a book store employee and a book seller. While he writes of books, somehow, I didn't hear the enthusiasm expected from someone who touched thousands of books.

Somewhat pedantic and unemotional, the author wrote of the history of books (I found this interesting), the sale of books and those who frequent the stores.

Little is mentioned about libraries.

The magic of books simply doesn't shine through in Buzbee's writing. But, I would recommend reading it because there are chapters that are very well written and informative.
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LibraryThing member pmarshall
Hard to rate, 5 on content, 2.5 on keeping my attention - a very slow read!
LibraryThing member MusicMom41
Buzbee talks about his life with books as a book seller in independent bookstores, mainly in the Bay Area of Northern California, as a book rep for publishers and as one who lusts after books and unique bookstores. Along the way he sprinkles in various tidbits of the history of books and book selling from ancient times to the 21st century both in Eastern and Western cultures. His book is charming and fun, although I didn't find is as compelling or interesting as the best Nicholas Basbanes or Alberto Manguel books. However he taught me something about myself, that I am a "book snoop". Whenever I see someone reading I am always curious to know what the book is—not to make judgments but just interest in what other people are reading. I tend to surreptitiously try to read the title or at least see the cover (in an airport I’ve been known to then go to the bookstore to see if I can locate the cover to find out the title). It was nice to discover that I’m not the only one who does this (the author at least tries to see the title—I don’t know if he carries it to the extreme I do).

This is a book I enjoyed but I'm not sorry I borrowed it rather than bought it. He calls it a memoir/history but it often reads more like listening to a person talk informally about his love for books and bookstores. Some of his topics would have been more interesting and more memorable if he had taken the time to dig a little deeper and write an Anne Fadiman type personal essay developing his topic around a theme. However, it was a great book to relax with just before bedtime-it was very conducive to going to sleep. (That is not meant as a criticism, rather just an observation.)
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LibraryThing member coloradoreader
This is a wonderfully warm book about books. I get lost in the love the author so vividly shares with the reader. The warmth inside deepened when I discovered that his "formative book" is Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. Mine is Of Mice and Men by the same author...I read it 25 years ago and have been enjoying Steinbeck ever since!… (more)
LibraryThing member Seajack
I rarely include library books in my catalog - actually this is the first one. However, this book is so appropriate for all LT'ers that I wanted to chime in on the recommendations. It's a good candidate for the "one" book everyone can agree upon, no matter one's preferred genre!
LibraryThing member elliepotten
A sparkling treat of a book - the kind that you just know, after a page or two, that you will treasure forever. With its neat hardback format and thick creamy pages, it even looks right.

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.
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LibraryThing member albanyhill
A memoir of the author's life as bookseller and book lover, interspersed with history of bookstores and bookselling. I liked 'Sixpence House' by Paul Collins better.
LibraryThing member bfolds
I enjoyed this book in the way that Lewis Buzbee describes enjoying a rainy afternnon in a bookstore. I found myself in so many of his personal anecdotes, and lived vicariously through his careers as bookseller and book rep. I would actually have enjoyed the book more -- and likely rated it higher -- if it had hewed more to the memoir and less to the history of bookselling.
In all, a nice rainy afternoon's read for any book lover.
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LibraryThing member midlevelbureaucrat
For years I've fantasized of leaving my middling government career and having my own little indy bookstore. It's that thought that when you strip it all down, and think about what it is you truly enjoy doing and surrounded yourself by, it's my books. And then there's the George Eliot quote on my government gray metal filing cabinet, "It's never to late to be what you might have been." A bookstore guy. Yeah, that's what I want to be when I grow up!

For folks like us who love our books, Lewis Buzbee's The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop is irresistible. Part memoir, part history, part love affair with these jewels of cardboard and paper, Buzbee leads us through his life in books from college bookstore clerk and stockboy to traveling salesman. A quick book - possible in an afternoon though this week didn't provide those couple of hours of uninterrupted time - Buzbee opens the door into the world of the bookseller. But it's his history of the bookstore from Roman scribes and bookbinders through the 21st century box chain vs. indy store clash, threaded in between his memories that kept me reading.

I'd suspect that those of us who love reading about books as much as we read books will be the most enthusiastic readers of The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop. My fantasies of being offered that high-paying job at Arcata's Northtown Books, reading and occasionally dealing with our local literate characters and customers, remains strong now that I've had the chance to pear into the bookstore's backroom.
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LibraryThing member RavenousReaders
If you love books you’ll find something in this memoir that will transport you. Remember the Weekly Reader? Do you have a favorite bookshop? (Buzbee worked at one of mine, Upstart Crow in San Diego!)

Buzbee, a former bookseller, creates a book that appeals to the intellect and to the senses. He seasons his work with interesting tidbits about the history of books, and successfully conveys the sense of excitement that he feels when entering a bookshop—what beautiful, new book will prove irresistible?

Buzbee also makes a case for independent bookstores as a bastion of democracy and as exponents of freedom of thought. Quite a lot is covered in this small volume. Such is the power of the book.

Reviewed by: Sherrie
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LibraryThing member EustaciaTan
A concise and interesting introduction to the history and the evolution of the bookstore. I liked the chapters about the Indie bookstore and the mega bookstore, and his love of books obviously shines through. I've had many moments reading this book when I felt "What? You too?"
LibraryThing member tututhefirst
A gentle read tracing the history of book sellers and publishers. The author has over 20 years experience selling books, and takes the reader on a tour of some of the world's better know book emporiums. Interesting and informative, easy to read.
LibraryThing member horacewimsey
A quick little read, but much like many others: I love books; here are some stories about me and books; I continue to love books and want my children to do the same.
LibraryThing member birdsmath
The author loves book stores and books. It also incorporates some history of books and book shops.
LibraryThing member mzonderm
I almost had to fight with Buzbee in the first chapter of this book. He describes bookstores as places to go to browse (no objection yet), even to sit down and read (no particular objection here either), and to look for particular pieces of information. Wait! Here I object: isn't that what the library is for? Of course, I have my biases (being a librarian) and he has his (being a bookseller).

Having moved on from the first chapter, I was glad I did. I found this a delightful book. It truly is both a history and a memoir. More than that, it is both a personal memoir, and a memoir of bookselling as a profession. He tells his own story alongside that of the history of bookselling, and makes both very interesting.

He includes one statistic that I find distressing, though. He tells us that at an average of one book a week (roughly my own pace, depending on the book, and the week) from the age of 5 to the age of 80, a person will read 3,900 books or a little over one-tenth of one percent of the books currently in print. Far too few, if you ask me.
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LibraryThing member Beth350
Busbee has been involved with books his whole life and this memoir delineates some of his experiences as a bookshop employee, as a bookseller for a publishing company ans as a shopper in many westcoast bookshops.
Between his bits of memoir, he has also incorporated the history of bookmaking and bookselling. He discuss the ancients who wrote on papyrus and parchment (originally lambskin), and rice paper.
It is a fascinating book if the reader has any interst in the subject.
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LibraryThing member Meggo
Not just a book about one man's obsession with reading, it's a well written history of books and a glimpse into the publishing industry. A quick read, but an enjoyable one.
LibraryThing member gwendolyndawson
A truly delightful book about the love of reading and bookstores interwoven with a concise history of books and bookselling. A perfect book for book lovers. Buzbee has a lot of experience as a bookseller, a publishers sales representative, and as a reader and writer.
LibraryThing member heatherheartsbooks
This is a fantastic book. A must-read for bibliophiles. It's a love letter to books and bookshops. I read it in one sitting.
LibraryThing member rdai
A little treasure book for Bibliomaniacs. Highly recommended. A+


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