Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop

This is a book about bookstores. An easy sell, to the passionate book lover, because not only is it about books (which populate bookstores), which I love, but it IS a book, which I love. And a book about bookstores is an interesting twist in the book-about-books genre.

Lewis Buzbee explores his topic with style. Each chapter intertwines the history of books with Buzbee's own memoir of book reading, book selling, and book shopping. And because he grew up in San Jose, and currently lives in San Francisco, many of his reference points are on familiar turf.

The best part, though, is the chapter entitled "The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop," which is the next-to-last chapter. Here he lists his own favorite bookstores worldwide, and why. I must take copious notes. Such as: The Booksmith in the Haight, City Lights Bookstore (near Columbus & Broadway in San Francisco), Kinokuniya Books in Japantown (not English language), Powell's City of Books in Portland Oregon, Hay-on-Wye in Wales, the Tattered Cover in Denver, the Grolier Poetry Book Shop in Cambridge by Harvard Square (yes, just poetry), and the One Book Bookstore in Bisbee Arizona (yes, just sells one book). And Paris bookstores, children's bookstores, airport bookstores, and books-and-something-else stores. And imaginary bookstores.

So, why the title? A quote from Vincent Van Gogh: "I think that I still have it in my heart someday to paint a bookshop with the front yellow and pink in the a light in the midst of the darkness."

An apt reflection on Buzbee's view of the bookstore as a hallmark of civilization.


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