Rae's Reviews > The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop: A Memoir, a History

The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop by Lewis Buzbee
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's review
Jan 03, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: reading-writing-essays-poetry, 2012
Read from January 01 to 02, 2012

A marvelous book for anyone who enjoys reading books, browsing in bookstores (or libraries), or buying/owning books. Buzbee worked in the book field for quite a long time and shares his love of the industry and its history. I found it simply delightful!

Some of his prose re book purchasing described my mental processes almost EXACTLY:

For the last several days I've had the sudden and general urge to buy a new book. I've stopped off at a few bookstores around the city, and while I've looked at hundreds and hundreds of books in that time, I have not found the one book that will satisfy my urge. 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. (9-10)

More of his words...this one striking a chord with me and my first job shelving in a library:

During my first week at Crow, I did nothing but shelve box upon box of Penguin paperbacks. At first I was hesitant, ferrying small handfuls of green, black, and orange books from one wrong section to another, but soon I was arm-loading twenty to thirty at a time, all now broken down by subject and precisely alphabetized. I was thrilled by the weighty order of the books, and by the vast web of names and titles I did not know; this may have been the moment when I realized there would never be enough time in my life to read everything. (18)

Regarding the giving of books as gifts, which I do notoriously:

Books do make perfect gifts, but by their very nature, books can also be a problem as tokens of affection. The delay factor is huge. Ask any of my godkids or nieces and nephews. Oh, look, they've been heard to say, another book from Uncle Lew, gee, what a surprise, thank you. I can't help myself, I have to give them books. You can thank the gift giver for the gesture, but true thanks for the book have to wait until it's been read. It's always dicey choosing that gift book, too. You may have loved it, but your close friend, unbeknownst to you, doesn't find books about talking Minotaurs that exciting. This is something akin to giving a sweater that's the wrong size, except that there are 3.7 million sizes to choose from. A book gift can be a difficult transaction for both parties; the recipient doesn't immediately know what to say, the giver may have to wait months or years for the final thank you. Awkward silences ensue. (143)

Finally, here's a little tidbit to make you think about your own mortality and lack of real accomplishment:

If you read one book a week, starting at age 5, and live to be 80, you will have read a grand total of 3,900 books, a little over one-tenth of 1 percent of the books currently in print. (129-130)
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