The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop, By Lewis Buzbee
Sunday 18 January 2009
Lewis Buzbee has spent a life in books, as bookseller, book sales rep and writer. This is a loving memoir of all the bookstores he's worked, shopped or dallied away the hours in, and a history of bookselling going back as far as the great library at Alexandria, taking in the Chinese inventions of paper and block printing, Guttenberg's movable type and the influence of the 18th-century London coffee shop on reading habits. It is full of curious lore, such as that the word book comes from buch, the German word for the beech that book covers used to be made of; and that the original Shakespeare & Co in Paris closed down in 1941 rather than sell a copy of Finnegans Wake to a high-ranking German officer.
Buzbee is a well-read, likeable guide of impeccably liberal sentiments. (It's good to learn that, in the USA at least, booksellers rallied to Salman Rushdie's defence at the the time of the fatwa.) A book by a booklover, for booklovers, about loving books, this is a warm and cosy read rather than an exciting one. But sometimes warm and cosy is just what you want.
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