Lewis Buzbee’s The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop (2006)

Lewis Buzbee’s The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop: A Memoir, A History
Graywolf Press, 2006

Welcome to another bookish Friday. I’ve had Lewis Buzbee’s slim volume on my shelf since it was published in hardcover. Which seems a little silly now — having left it sitting for so long, when it can be gobbled up in a couple of hours so easily — but it was only the Bibliophilic Reading Challenge that urged this one up the TBR list.

You know how it is: so much competition for reading time when you’re overly bookish. And it would seem that Lewis Buzbee is just that, too: overly bookish.

I read this on a Sunday summer morning on the porch (for those who visit here often, I assure you that I did actually have my house key that morning: this was a voluntary exile, complete with iced tea, Mr. BIP in the next chair, and the cat sprawled indoors in the adjacent windowsill) and it was a sweet respite from more demanding reads.

The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop doesn’t have the satisfying substantive nature of Alberto Manguel’s The Library at Night, but it does share that volume’s passion for bookishness.

Here’s a quote about Lewis Buzbee’s first bookstore job:

“Books, I knew then and now, give body to our ideas and imaginations, make them flesh in the world; a bookstore is the city where our fleshed-out inner selves reside.”

Oh, see, isn’t that nice?

And here’s one about the bond between bookseller and bookbuyer; I’ve been on both sides of that counter myself and I think he captures an aspect of that relationship that’s often overlooked.

“There, face to face over the elbow-polished wood of the counter, bookseller and customer share a silent but telling moment. Travel guides, cookbook, a book on divorce, one about ailing parents, a book of baby names, one about the horrifying spread of war in the new century, maybe the vampire novel that will take your mind / off everything else, if only for twenty minutes at a time. It’s a little like looking into another person’s heart.

And, finally, if you need still more evidence of his bookishness, here is one to seal the bookish deal:

“I am fatally attracted to all bookstores.”

Well, yes: I am. Aren’t you? How long has it been since you were in a bookshop?



  1. Buried In Print June 10, 2010 at 11:40 am - Reply

    Thanks, again, for the comments.
    Nathalie, I’ve got a copy of Laura Miller’s book now too: thanks! I heard an interview with her shortly after it was published and I’ve really enjoyed reading your posts about it.
    Mrs. B: I hope you enjoy it!
    Agreed, Nymeth: books about books can easily take over your reading calendar. I only intended them to sequester Fridays for June and they’re already stretching to the end of July. Now I’m eyeing August’s Fridays…

  2. […] took this book off of my shelves a few days ago after reading a post at Buried in Print, and in the comments I wrote that I’d been encouraged by her post to pick it up again and re-read […]

  3. Nymeth June 8, 2010 at 1:47 pm - Reply

    I also really enjoyed this book. I agree, not quite as meaty as Manguel’s, but still an excellent read. Ah, I could read nothing but books about books for a whole month.

  4. Mrs.B. June 8, 2010 at 2:27 am - Reply

    I got this at a book trade last year with another blogger. It’s been sitting on my shelves since then. I’ll definitely read it soon. Loved your short review.

  5. Nathalie June 7, 2010 at 9:13 am - Reply

    Anne Fadiman does, indeed, stand alone. I’ve realized it’s not fair to compare other books about books to hers. She was the reason I began collecting books about books, but she does it best. I do recommend Laura Miller’s book about C.S. Lewis highly, though, if you want that mix of autobiography and literary criticism and book love lore. I found it a delight.

  6. Buried In Print June 7, 2010 at 8:53 am - Reply

    Thanks for all the comments!
    Study Window – I can’t count the number of times I’ve been disappointed in a bookish book because I really wanted it to be Ex Libris. Whenever I’ve revisited them I’ve enjoyed them more than I did the first time…but Anne Fadiman’s book still stands alone.
    Eva, Nathalie and Kathleen – Yes, it’s just a Nice Little Book, isn’t it.
    Sakura – And of course there are more problematic fatal attractions to have, so we could be worse off.

  7. sakura June 7, 2010 at 5:51 am - Reply

    I love books about books. And having been both behind and before a bookshop counter, it is interesting to what kind of books people buy. Sometimes it’s rather surprising…

    “I am fatally attracted to all bookstores.” – I know exactly where he’s coming from!

  8. Kathleen June 5, 2010 at 7:09 pm - Reply

    This sounds like a nice, simple read. I’ve often thought it would be interesting to work in a bookstore and see all the books that customers purchased. I’m always curious about what other people are reading so being behind that counter would be very voyeuristic.

  9. Nathalie June 5, 2010 at 1:35 pm - Reply

    I pulled this off my shelves to re-read last night. Lovely.

  10. Eva June 5, 2010 at 1:46 am - Reply

    I thought this was a pleasant little book too! 🙂

  11. Study Window June 4, 2010 at 2:20 pm - Reply

    I thought this started well, but I became less enamoured as I went along. I was hoping for something more on the lines of Anne Fadimen’s ‘Ex Libris’ which was perhaps a false expectation on my part. I should have gone to it with a more open mind.

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