Category Archives: Books About Books

Week 3: Be the Expert In Bookshops #nonficnov

Welcome to Week 3 of Nonfiction November 2017. Kim over at Sophisticated Dorkiness is hosting this time and has posted the prompt for this week, which is:

You can either share three or more books on a single topic that you have read and can recommend (be the expert), you can put the call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that you have been dying to read (ask the expert), or you can create your own list of books on a topic that you’d like to read (become the expert).

I have chosen to go the Be The Expert route and recommend some books I’ve read that will help you be an expert on: bookshops. I love book stores. Indie shops, chain stores, weird half-shelf spaces hidden in Publix crammed with paperbacks, garage sales, local authors selling from the back of their cars. I love shopping for books. And I am thankful for all those folks who realize how thin the margins are, how long the hours are, and how important local bookstores are to our communities.

So if you’ve ever wondered about how all the dots connect in running a bookstore, or if you’re like me and just love reading about bookshops, I’d recommend checking out these books.

Books on Bookshops

The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop: A Memoir, A History by Lewis Buzbee is a wonderful quick read. It is one of my favorite bookstore books to recommend to folks. Buzbee started out as a clerk in an indie bookstore and never left. He shares stories and insights into all aspects of the bookshop, from customer service, to the stock room, the history of book selling and debates whether or not books are getting too expensive.

Reluctant Capitalists by Laura Miller could almost be called a text book. It’s a pretty academic and data driven look at the last 100 years of book selling. This book is unique in its discussion of local bookshops being seen as noble or moral pursuits. It’s pretty dense on the page, but a solid read if you’ve ever found yourself wishing things “were like they were 50 years ago”. It’s a pretty detailed and hardcore book industry-geek book, but very well done.

My Bookstore by Ronald Rice falls squarely in the inspirational read for me. Many of the writings deserve underlining and being trumpeted. The book is simply a collection of essays from a bunch of authors talking about the “why” of bookstores and why they matter. It’ll have you raising a glass saying Cheers!, after many of the pieces.

 

One More Bonus Bookshops Book

Footnotes from the Greatest Bookstores by Bob Eckstein is a bonus book here. It’s just a wonderful little book that any bookshop lover will appreciate. Eckstein’s book is a collection of large postcard shaped paintings accompanied by blurbs. The short text shares interesting trivia or lore about the bookshop pictured in each painting and they even spill the beans on any famous celebrity types that might hang out there. It’s a really fun design opening on the short end of the book and is fun to flip through. It makes a good gift for bookish friends.

That’s it! Have you read any of these books? Any other good bookshop books I should check out? The Be The Expert is always my favorite week of Nonfiction November and the last time it I participated in Nonfiction November I shared books on book covers design, and it was pretty fun. If you like books, you should check out those titles too.

Week 2: Book Pairing #nonficnov

This week’s host for Nonfiction November 2017 is Sarah over at Sarah’s Book Shelves. This week all of the participants are to “pair up a nonfiction book with a fiction title”. As best as I can tell this is not limited to just books we’ve read in 2017.

So. . . we’re going to dig deep into the blacklists, blow the dust off some covers and recommend two reads that I think most any bibliophile would enjoy reading.

First up is my fiction pick with John Dunning’s BookedTo Die. This book hit store shelves in 1992 (so you can find a cheap paperback these days) and is a mystery read through-and-through. But it’s all about books and first editions and libraries. It’s hard to beat a good bibliomystery and Dunning’s book is a good one. It’s the first in his Cliff Janeway series. Janeway is a Book Scout and spends his days going through book stalls, stores, thrift stores, yard sales, and trash bins trying to find books he buy for a quarter and sell for $200. His eyes are always peeled for that “lost” first edition treasure while he’s appraising people’s private book collections. Lots of fun and solid (real world) facts about book collecting. So if you like Raymond Chandler-ish reads with a twist, you might want to check this one out.

A nice follow up to a bibliomystery about rare first editions is Nabokov’s Butterfly by Rick Gekoski. Gekoski is a real life bookman and makes his living in the world of rare manuscripts and antiquarian books. At under 250 pages, his book is an easy read. It shares some amazing stories about rare editions, publishing lore and backstories on a few famous authors. Many book collector’s and sales folks have written of their journeys, but where Gekoski’s excels is that he focuses more on the books and less on his career. Which is nice. So where Janeway is trying to track down old books, Gekoski has probably bought them, held them and sold them again. It’s a fun peek into a world many of us book lovers don’t get to participate in.

So that’s my pairing, one fiction and nonfiction read for folks who love to read about books.

I’m anxious to click around the blogs and see what other pairings people are putting out there this week.

Book Review: A Great Bookstore in Action

A Great Bookstore in Action is a slim 32-page volume printed in 1939. It’s a record of a speech given by Adolph Kroch (here is a detail rich obituary), who was a very successful Chicago-based bookseller, active in the 20’s and 30’s.

In just these few pages, Kroch comes across as a like minded soul that I’d love to have had coffee with. The book starts up with his recounting how he got started in book selling and ends with his sharing ideas of how to fix all that was broken with the bookselling industry.

I have to admit that it was fun to read his thoughts, from my 2017 armchair, and have the luxury of looking back to see what all has changed and, sadly, what things have not.

Appreciating the value of a good book while realizing the amazing event that takes place when a thoughtful bookseller connects the right book with the right reader, informs every page. Even today, this idea of a local community bookstore being able to guide its surrounding neighbors to worthwhile books is a lofty service.

He was an advocate for professionally training booksellers and publishers in some way. Thankfully we have much of that covered these days between what’s offered at the Denver Institute and all the classes the ABA have.

Kroch rightly saw the implications of good books over the cheap fluff that some publishers and sellers were pushing. He was very concerned about successful authors that were able to write a book a year. He was not happy about the growing number of books publishers were cranking out each year either. But even that what not a new concern in 1939. Here’s a poem he shared from the 1600’s:

Can you imagine what he’d think of the industry today?

He also offered up a few sentences about the trend in the reading public to pull away from books and look to the growing movie scene and music for entertainment. Imagine how flustered he’d be today with every prospective reader having the entire internet in their pocket.

This book certainly isn’t a “must read” for folks, but it’s a wonderful peek at what the book industry was like in the 1930’s in the United States.

I’m giving the book 3 out of 5 stars and recommend it to anyone interested in the history of bookstores.

Books about Books, a short list

‘Books about books’ is my favorite category at the bookstore. It’s often a difficult section to find. Some shops place them in the ‘Collectibles & Antiques’ area. Others in the ‘Essays’ or ‘Reference’ sections. Some of the best book stores will gather all of the books about books under the heading of ‘Literary Non-Fiction’, which seems as appropriate, while the best shops do create a curated “Books About Books” section.

I’ve often wondered why this isn’t the first section every book shop stocks. One can pretty much guarantee that, while not every browsing customer will agree on which hot political book to read or which classic work is the best, every potential customer is someone who appreciates books. Right?

The folks at the LitHub have offered a five-book list The Best Books About Books. I’ve only read Dirda’s Browsings. But I like the sound of Tim Parks’ Where I’m Reading From, so it’s been added to my TBR list.

In hopes that you too are a kindred bookish type, I’d like to offer five books that I think are at the top of the ‘books about books’ category. These are all books I’ve read and continually recommend to folks. On LibraryThing, I keep a running list of the books about books I’ve read and have-yet-to read. My list includes both fiction and non-fiction. Please let me know if you have read a good one that I’ve missed.

Five Fantastic Books About Books

BooksAboutBooks_SMBSo Many Books: Reading and Publishing in an Age of Abundance by Gabriel Zaid – This one is only 160 pages and it outlines perfectly many of the challenges that modern publishers and readers face in today’s book world.

 

 

BooksAboutBooks_ELEx Libris : Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman – If there were to be one book on everyone’s books about books list I imagine this 162-page book honoring all that’s beautiful about words and books would be it.

 

 

BooksAboutBooks_YLBSThe Yellow-Lighted Bookshop: A Memoir, a History by Lewis Buzbee – I can’t quite put my finger on why this book rises so much higher than all the other ‘bookstore memoir’ titles out there, but Buzbee nails just about every feeling and thought I’ve had about bookshops.

 

BooksAboutBooks_LaNThe Library at Night by Alberto Manguel – By far the heaviest and deepest book on my list, Manguel relates the philosophies, histories and importance of book collecting and reading like no one else.

 

 

BooksAboutBooks_HwBAt Home with Books : How Booklovers Live with and Care for Their Libraries by Estelle Ellis – This is a big coffee table book full of the most gorgeous and inspiring images of home libraries running alongside great interviews with the people who own them.