The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop – Lewis Buzbee

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, 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. Interwoven throughout is an historical account of the bookseller’s trade–from the great Alexandria library with an estimated one million papyrus scrolls to Sylvia Beach’s famous Paris bookstore, Shakespeare and Company, which led to the effort to publish and sell James Joyce’s Ulysses during the 1920s.

The allure of books that encourage us to shipwreck, or more accurately beach, ourselves on the shores of our local bookshops, are always welcome and it was with great excitement I managed to borrow a copy of this one.

The front cover of The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop is an encouragement to indulge the text in a relaxing environment.  The most eye-catching thing about it though, is the subtitle, a memoir, a history, which doubles the anticipation, whilst also appearing a little odd to find both genres fitted into one tome.  Thankfully, the combination manages to work, even if, at times, the results make for an uneven reading experience.

Depending on how much of an interest you have in the enterprising beginning of the sellers, and the subsequent shops, there will likely be quite a bit of familiar ground that is covered – the library of Alexandria being notable – but as the centuries tick by there is still enough obscure information to delight and inform.  Being a short summary of the ages, it has the added bonus of encouraging the curious to hunt out more books on the subject.

The memoir was what I came for, and it doesn’t disappoint.  Nothing beats the reminiscences of a book lover; A Pound of Paper is an excellent case in point. It’s something the reader can both appreciate and on occasion commiserate with and also allows a chance of finding and adding reams of new titles to the ever-growing lists of ‘need to be reads’.

Whilst the encouragement to browse and wile away time in literary establishments is explored in loving detail, the business side is also examined, through the good and bad experiences of the salesperson, and rep. It’s not overly eye-opening but is absorbing, nonetheless.  In fact, throughout the memoir, I will say I was, on occasion, enthralled in the text.

Apart from the behind the scenes anecdotes, there is also a look at the threat of online shopping, which isn’t too interesting but can be forgiven as the book is dated, being written in 2006. The talk of censorship, and the government tracking of reading habits if you pay by card, as well as the sanitisation and uniformity of so many chain shops today are also touched upon.  The latter of which is a saddening plight which we can all do our bit to stave off by going independent.

Despite the few flaws that The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop has, this is nevertheless a book that will inevitably champion that voice in your head which constantly nags at you to purchase yet more books.  Not only that but to take some time to appreciate the atmosphere of the places we buy, and to remember the history of how such places came to be.

A life (and book) affirming read, whether you lurk or splurge, the pleasure of holding a book in one’s hands and appreciating the choice we have will leave the reader valuing our still evolving bookstores even more than usual.

34 Replies to “The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop – Lewis Buzbee”

  1. Well, I have to say that this book about books sounds a lot more intereesting than one someone once got me, “The Book on the Shelf,” which was a real snooze-fest. It sounds especially interesting for its twentieth-century part, about Sylvia Beach.

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    1. The Sylvia Beach Shakespeare & CO. is always a fascinating places to read about. I always find it strange that some books about books don’t connect, when the readership is obsessed with books and already warmed to your book because of its subject matter.

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    1. It’s the type of book that makes you want to go straight to a bookshop, soak up the atmosphere and come out with a ton of purchases. You’ll love this.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. We can do so over here but with masks constantly on, which is fine except for the sad reality of my hlasses constantly steaming up, it does my head in to have to take them off and squint whilst vigorously waving them to clear them.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Yeah, I have the same problem as do many people. I know that when the wire is sufficiently tight on my nose and positioned high enough or shift my glasses slightly down my nose it helps, BUT…there was this guy with a simple tissue hack that fills that gap and blocks the air from coming up: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IrYFvE_mCU4&t=7s
            There’s a whole page full of tips, none of which I’ve looked at: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=trick+to+avoid+foggy+glasses+when+wearing+mask+

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            1. That’s a really handy tip, I thought I had mastered the art of it at one point but seem to have regressed. Have you noticed glasses always fog up when you are looking at something really interesting.

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              1. lol…that actually made me laugh…the only time I go out is for things like food shopping and “interesting” is rare these days, at least on my excursions! Everything feels so cumbersome when I go out now because there’s the added worry and precautions. And I still forget to put the piece of tissue!

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    1. There used to be an option to change back, clicked it a couple of weeks ago but I have now got the new editor and I really can’t be bothered to go through it all at the moment.

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    2. Arlene, are you talking about WordPress? The only way I can do it is keep my dashboard in the classic mode, then you have tp gp into your list of posts or pages and the link SHOULD be there for you to choose.

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      1. I’ve noticed below each post on the posts page, there is a classic mode option, plus for new posts you can change back to classic with the arrow button next to the new post button. I hope they keep these on because I can’t be bothered to make an effort with the new editor.

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        1. I really can’t stand the new editor. If they get rid of classic I can’t imagine how long it would take to learn the new one…I get confused EVERY time *sigh*

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  2. How fascinating, a memoir and a history. I love the title and cover and your intriguing review does indeed make me want to rush to the nearest bookshop and spend all day there. We need our bookshops more than ever.

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    1. I am always happy to further your book excitement and financially ruin your purse. This book really does show how bookshops are so much more than a place to pick up books but are a vibrant community that needs preserving.

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  3. I was a bookseller at a bookstore in San Francisco in the early 2000s while I was getting an MFA. There was constant worry about online competition, but it turned out that people really do love to browse in a store with real books. A friend of mine was lucky enough to study with Buzbee, so I’ll have to let her know about this (if she hasn’t already read it). I think I’ll enjoy reading this. Thanks for the rec!

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    1. It will make you grab your coat and go out with the intention to spend a day in a bookshop and really observe it as more than just a place to buy books, although I suspect you will come out with a bag full of books. I’m glad Amazon hasn’t done away with bookshops, it would have been a sad day had it done more damage than it already has.

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  4. Now that sounds interesting, and informative. Still, your review(s) delight me, whether I end up reading a book or not!
    Hope all s well for you and the family!

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    1. I always appreciate your continued support, I have so many eclectic reviews to finish writing for your pleasure. One day I will catch up. It’s Amelia’s first birthday today but as she vomited all over Crissy at half three this morning, it’s not got off to the best of starts, although now I’ve had my coffee I feel a bit better.

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      1. Amelia is one year old??? 😮 That’s unbelievable.
        I love secondhand bookstores that have comfy armchairs and a little cafe where you an buy a large cappuccino and a slice of chocolate or carrot cake and you can indulge in a couple of hours of delight. Oh, and if you ever find that sort of bookstore, let me know ~sigh~ 😀

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        1. Time does fly, except for all those long nights spent awake! A lot of independents are turning to coffee and cake to make a bit extra. I love those sorts of places, the encouragement to take one’s time and soak in the atmosphere. Nothing beats it!

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          1. Did you guys ever read THE THIRTEENTH TALE by Diane Setterfield? She’s an amazing writer and so much of it is set in a bookstore or magnificent library. Just love it 🙂 It was the original book cover that attracted me to it—beautiful, warm-colored stack of old books *goosebumps*

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            1. I haven’t hjeard of this but will add it to the list of books to read. Anything with to do with that soet of thing is my cup of tea. I checked the book cover and I love the pile of books, that is a cover that demands a browse.

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                1. The cover isn’t usuall important to me but where a pile of books is concerned I will have to try and get that coveted cover. I picked up a John Grisham a few weeks ago, recommended to a friend who bought it, and her copy had books on and mne didn’t. Gutted!

                  Liked by 1 person

                  1. Ste J, I am SUCH a “cover gal”…BIG time. For the longest time, that was one of the books I would have standing up, face front, like a work of art (because it is!) on my shelf ❤

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