rating: 2 of 5 stars
Buzbee’s heart is in the right place, but his writing skills and treatment of history do not quite match his love of bookshops. In trying to elevate bookshops, he falls into cliched language and clumsily executed metaphors. He also juxtaposes episodes from the history of bookselling with his own recollections. This is meant to provide reading variety while educating the lay reader, but the historical anecdotes are treated without rigour (sadly, this is what passes for “accessibility” these days). For example, at one point he expresses the price of “books” in Ancient Rome in the currency of the time and gives an equivalent dollar amount. But what the contemporary reader understands as “ten dollars” is completely different from what an Ancient Roman citizen would have understood. Such a comparison makes little sense.
The most interesting parts of Buzbee’s book occur when he recounts his experiences in book retail on the West Coast from the late 70s to the 90s. His reflections and comments are also informative and sincere. The section containing his personal bookshop recommendations is a sweet touch. This would have been a stronger book if he had devoted more space to his experiences and the people he met.
And what is the titular “yellow-lighted bookshop”? Buzbee never explains, to the reader’s puzzlement.