As much as I love to read, I am not a book buyer, and I especially I don’t have any special feelings for independent book stores, which I equate with less selection and higher prices. I buy used books online via various marketplaces because, even with shipping, it’s normally cheaper than buying a new or a used book in a bookstore, and the selection is seemingly infinite. Or, far more often, I borrow books from the library. Other than the property taxes I pay, my local library is free, even for Interlibrary Loan requests from neighboring university libraries. FREE. I can read essentially anything in print (and much out of print) through a library request or via a public domain online text.
So, I suppose it is not surprising that Lewis Buzbee’s memoir of bookstores, The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop, did not do much for me. It is a combination of a history of bookselling and a memoir of his own addiction to bookstores, and I spent the bulk of the book wishing it was about a love of books or a love of the written word or a love of a specific author. I was the wrong audience, and I had been hoping for a different book. I also speed read it in order to have a post ready for the Spotlight Series today. If I hadn’t made that commitment, I’d probably not have finished it at all or I’d have read it slower. Maybe if I had not read it all at once, I would not have been as irritated by parts of it. I’m not a memoir person, and this volume reinforced that.
The history portion of The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop was at times quite interesting. However, the lack of footnotes or references of any kind made me suspicious. When I read nonfiction, I want to see sources. While I don’t doubt that Mr. Buzbee researched for this book and wrote true facts in the history portions, I wish I’d read the facts in a nonfiction history of bookstores, complete with references, rather than in a pseudo-memoir. There is no author’s note indicating where he did his research, and this detracted from the book for me.
And then the memoir portion honestly bored me, as memoirs often do. I didn’t particularly like Mr. Buzbee, and details like his admission to stealing books from bookstores as a kid really did nothing to endear him to me. His personal stories of bookstores revealed an obsession that I could not relate to, and his comments about the insignificance of e-readers were hilarious in the lack of foresight (he wrote in 2005). I can’t blame him for that, I suppose, but as a whole such little details made him seem rather ridiculous to me. I found there to be little love of the ideas from books detailed in this memoir. There was some, but it more about acquiring the books rather than reading them. I cannot relate to that.
I like books. In fact, I love them. But most of the time, it is for the words, ideas, and stories in them, and not for the place from which I purchased it. As such, The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop was not a memoir I related to.
All that said, The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop is a very attractive slim hardcover volume with deckled pages. If I was compulsive book buyer that frequented bookshops, I suspect that upon noticing The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop, it would have been one that could end up in my possession for the prettiness factor. Since I am not a compulsive book buyer, I’m glad this was just a free library read.