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The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop: A Memoir, a History Hardcover – May 30, 2006

58 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Buzbee (Fliegelman's Desire) is a book lover. When he describes walking into a bookstore, feasting his eyes on the walls lined with stock, gravitating to the tables stacked with new issues and then discovering some volume so irresistibly beautiful he just has to buy it, you realize that he just doesn't love books, he's besotted. Buzbee tells the story of his lifelong obsession, from his elementary school Weekly Reader orders to his first jobs clerking in bookstores and his short career as a publisher's rep. Woven into these personal essays is a tangential discourse on the history of bookmaking and bookselling, from the ancient Romans and Chinese to the modern era. He describes the scriptoriums in Roman bookshops where the wealthy could order a book copied, the stacks of unbound quires a customer would have chosen from in a 15th-century bookshop (proto-paperbacks) and everything one would want to know about the modern business of bookselling, from ISBNs to remainders. On current hot-button issues, like predatory pricing by big-box stores and Internet vendors, he's careful where he draws his bottom line, which is "between bookstores and the absence of them." (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* For Buzbee, a former bookseller and publishing rep, time spent in a bookstore is nothing short of sublime. "Standing in the middle of this confluence, I can't help but feel the possibility of the universe unfolding a little, once upon a time," he writes in the opening chapter of this slim, luminous volume. Buzbee manages just the right mix of history lesson and personal recollection. He reflects upon the roots of the book trade (the first great library at Alexandria, where the vast holdings were each hand copied by scribes onto papyrus scrolls); the progression of retail (from simple market stalls to book hawkers to the megastores of today); and his own hours lovingly logged at the literary chain store, Upstart Crow, where, as an eager teenager in San Jose, California, he learned the ins and outs of the business. Bookstores, Buzbee reminds us, are not just places of intellectual indulgence; they're historically significant, too. The celebrated Paris establishment, Shakespeare & Co., was the first to publish James Joyce's Ulysses, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti's City Lights gave voice to Allen Ginsberg's Howl. Both anecdotal and eloquent, The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop is a tribute to those who crave the cozy confines of a bookshop, a place to be "alone among others" and savor a bountiful literary buffet. Allison Block
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 180 pages
  • Publisher: Graywolf Press; First Edition edition (May 30, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1555974503
  • ISBN-13: 978-1555974503
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1.1 x 7.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #964,871 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

To learn more, visit lewisbuzbee.com

Lewis Buzbee is a fourth generation California native. He began writing in 1972, at the upripe age of 15, after reading the first chapter of John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, and unfortunately, things haven't improved since then. He sold his first two short stories in 1979 and has been published, and unpublished, since then. He's worked as, in this order, a dishwasher, a bookseller, a publisher, a caterer, a bartender, and a teacher of writing. He and his wife, the poet Julie Bruck, live with their daughter Maddy in San Francisco, just half a block from Golden Gate Park. His books for adults include The Yellow Lighted Bookshop, Fliegelman's Desire, After the Gold Rush, and First to Leave Before the Sun.

His first novel for middle grade readers, Steinbeck's Ghost, was published in 2008 by Feiwel and Friends and was selected for these honors: a Smithsonian Notable Book, a Northern California Book Award Nominee, the Northern California Independent Booksellers' Association Children's Book of the Year, and the California Library Association's John and Patricia Beatty Award.

His second middle-grade novel, The Haunting of Charles Dickens, won the Northern California Book Award, was nominated for an Edgar Award, and was chosen as a Judy Lopez Memorial Award honor book.

His new middle grade novel, Bridge of Time, is now out in paperback, and a new nonfiction book, Blackboard: A Personal History of the Classroom, has just been released.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

84 of 86 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey Demers on May 31, 2006
Format: Hardcover
If you love to read this book will make you very happy. This work, part memoir part history, tracks one man's love for books parallel to civilizations development of books.

The author recounts the books that moved him, the places that moved him and the people that enriched his life. The reading life is a great life and Buzzbee marvelously weaves together a solid narrative using this theme.

This work isn't elitist or a guidebook of what to read next. It is a simple, short and beautiful appraisal of the power of the world of books.
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92 of 97 people found the following review helpful By Bluestalking Reader VINE VOICE on July 25, 2006
Format: Hardcover
From _The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop_:

"It's not as if I don't have anything to read; there's a tower of perfectly good unread books next to my bed, not to mention the shelves of books in the living room I've been meaning to reread. I find myself, maddeningly, hungry for the next one, as yet unknown. I no longer try to analyze this hunger; I capitulated long ago to the book lust that's afflicted me most of my life. I know enough about the course of the disease to know I'll discover something soon."

This quote could have come from my own autobiography, were I ever to feel compelled to write one. How comforting to know I'm not the only book addict on this earth, even in this age of reality TV when the average attention span is all of three seconds long.

As someone who reads books about books compulsively, I'm always on the lookout for anything new in this genre. Often I'm disappointed by either lightweight content or lack of a really interesting style, but in the case of this book that wasn't a problem.

This is a book that's both charming in style and very rich in content, something that's all too rare. Books like this need champions to proclaim their glory to the world. They're little books, from the standpoint of having to battle the heavy-hitting bestsellers, but huge books if you are anywhere near as enamored by books as Lewis Buzbee. And, if you were attracted enough to look this one up on Amazon, I can only trust you ARE enamored and I hope you'll not just read this one but comment on it wherever you can. This book deserves as wide an audience as it can get, but it's largely by word of mouth that so many small press books achieve that. So, give it a read and proclaim it to all the world!

Don't make me beg...
Read more ›
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39 of 40 people found the following review helpful By takingadayoff TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 7, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Reading Lewis Buzbee's The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop was like going home again. Like Buzbee, I grew up in San Jose in the sixties and seventies. His reminiscences of My Weekly Reader and Scholastic Book catalogs brought back forgotten memories. He recalls shopping for books at Valley Fair, Gemco, Rexall, and Little Professor. So do I. He began college at a small Jesuit university nearby. Me too. He applied for a job at The Upstart Crow in the Pruneyard. I did too. He got a job there. I, uh, worked at McDonald's instead.

Buzbee intersperses the history of bookselling and libraries with his own bookish memories. For me though, the specific memories of Bay Area bookshops was the highlight. He covers everything from the grungy used bookstores near San Jose State to the neighborhood libraries with their patios. Buzbee stayed in the book business after college. He worked at two of the best book stores in the area, then became a publisher's rep with Northern California as his territory. Although I did not go into the book business, my husband ended up working at bookstores all over Northern California in the eighties and nineties. I wonder how many times we've run into Buzbee over the years.

I had so much fun reading The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop. Buzbee describes some of his book quirks, such as going to the airport newsstand and not leaving until he's picked a book. There's always one gem among what looks like a hopeless collection of bestsellers and porn. Or of occasionally browsing the children's books in the Borders or Barnes & Noble, even if you don't have any kids to shop for. I've read some of the best books that way, the latest being Click, Clack, Moo by Doreen Cronin.

If you are the sort of person who thinks of Waterstone's when someone says London, of Feltrinelli's when you remember Rome, and Powell's when someone says Portland, you are the sort of person Lewis Buzbee wrote The Yellow-Lighted Bookstore for.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Fernando Villegas on May 8, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
After reading the enthusiastics reviews about this book, I wonder what did I miss about it. As a book lover, I have read many books about books. And I have read them all with a positive prejudice, with a will to be enchanted, forgiving of any flaw as we do when listening a just average joke told by a loved one.

In this case, positive prejudice et all, I can only give three stars to Buzbee stuff. What he tells about books in general, history and anecdotes, has been already told many times and mostly better. And what he tells of his own experiences, though with some interest here and there, is not interesting enough. I can feel Buzbee is a nice guy, a book geek as me, a man with which to sustain a talk anyday, a book lover, a colleague, but he lacks originality and his prose, adequate at most, is far away of what we can describe as charming and witty. Nevertheless, as so many reviews see this book in a very different way, I still wonder: what did I miss?
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