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The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop

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The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop, Lewis Buzbee’s captivating memoir and history of the world of bookselling.

Of all the books I have especially recommended to avid readers and fellow bibliophiles Lewis Buzbee’s The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop is the most heartfelt recommendation of all. I don’t know Buzbee, so the recommendation is not personal in that sense, but Buzbee and I, despite huge differences in our backgrounds, share something on a most personal level. We love books. We love reading. And more than almost anything, we love bookstores. Buzbee describes his love of books and the stores that sell them as “lust.” I’m more inclined to term my “lust” as an addiction. After reading his memoir/history for the third time, I turn to you, my fellow book lovers to say: GO OUT AND BUY THE YELLOW-LIGHTED BOOKSHOP.

Buzbee’s book will tell you everything you thought you knew about books, the people who buy them, sell them and read them, and so much more. Trust me, there is a whole lot about the book business that will surprise you. Buzbee will take you back to BC booksellers, through the Middle Ages, and up to Amazon and the twenty-first century. But before he gets to Bookselling 101, he shares his youth and his excitement when his teacher would open the “Weekly Reader” box and hand him the books he had ordered the week before

Buzbee wastes no time in telling you exactly who he is and what his book is about. His opening sentence says it all: “When I walk into a bookstore, any bookstore, first thing in the morning, I’m flooded with a sense of hushed excitement.” What I especially appreciate about the book is that one does not have to have his degree of book lust to feel that this is Your book.

It doesn’t matter if he is writing about his professional life as a bookseller (and what fun to read about his youthful persistence to work in a bookstore), or sales rep, or explaining when books were first shelved spine out, or making some sense of today’s book pricing (not necessarily a fair business practice), his enthusiasm for every subject in TYLB is never preachy or didactic.

The economics of selling nuts and bolts is different from selling books, and Buzbee’s insightful and realistic take on the book business is a strong factor in how we, the customers, might change our understanding of independent bookstores. But make no mistake, the book is not anti-Internet book buying.

Let’s get back to the “bookshop” – those offering new and/or used books. You will love and recognize the names of some Bay Area bookstores and even those all over the U.S. and the world. He gives new meaning to the word “browse.” I’m going to guess that many of you, while reading how he feels when browsing in a bookstore or even just walking into a bookstore, will say, “Yes! That’s exactly how I feel!” I now live in Portland, Oregon, which means POWELL’S, a word that is about as close to Pavlov and his dog’s saliva-inducing metronome as you can get.

What I find most attractive about The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop is Buzbee’s tone of voice, a reader can almost believe he’s just run into you and can’t wait to share something about his favorite subject. I find that many memoirs about the world of bookselling create a distance between the learned bookseller and her customer, the reader.

The history, ancient and modern, of bookselling is fascinating, and my hope is that The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop will encourage you to head out to your nearest bookstore. Bring your family knowing you will be welcomed at every bookshop as belonging to a community of readers.

The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop is a keeper, and I hope you will consider it the best gift for your favorite reading friends. – Sunny Solomon

Also available by Lewis Buzbee: Steinbeck’s Ghost; Bridge of Time; The Haunting of Charles Dickens; Blackboard, A Personal History of the Classroom; After the Gold Rush; Fliegelman’s Desire; First to Leave Before the Sun.

Bookin’ with Sunny enthusiastically supports Independent Bookstores and Public Libraries.

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