by which I mean still coughing, sneezing and streaming. I know I am not alone: others have been suffering from this exceptionally long-lived virus. Luckily I am not short of reading material. And one book I’ve particularly enjoyed is Lewis Buzbee’s The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop.
‘November, a dark, rainy Tuesday, late afternoon. This is my ideal time to be in a bookstore. The shortened light of the afternoon and the idleness and hush of the hour gather everything close, the shelves and the books and the few other customers who graze head – bent in the narrow aisles.’ How could I not love a books which so much reflects my own feelings about books and bookshops? The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop is partly a brief history of the bookshop,partly a memoir, focusing on the author’s early career working in bookshops and as a publisher’s rep, but above all an expression of the author’s love of books and bookshops. It is a beautiful little object in its own right as is fitting: an attractive cover, rough-cut pages of acid-free paper, type set in Concorde. It is a little expensive for a paper-back but well worth it. This would be the ideal present for the bibliophiles in your life.
I loved reading about Buzbee’s favourite bookshops, among them City Lights in San Franciso, and Shakespeare and Co in Paris. I’d find it hard to pick one favourite, but I am very fond of Scarthin Books in Cromford (a mixture of old and new), and for new books and crime fiction in particular, Heffers in Cambridge can’t be beaten. What are yours?
I love to browse in bookshops. One favourite is Scarthin books in Cromford, nr Matlock, which sells both new and second-hand. I used to go there so often with my small daughter that she got it muddled up with the library and used to call it ‘the library shop.’ Another is Heffer’s book shop in Cambridge to which I paid one of my regular visits yesterday. Now that Murder One, the London crime fiction bookshop, has closed, Heffer’s probably has the best selection of crime fiction in the country, thanks to the wonderful fiction buyer, Richard Reynolds. He can usually be found at his desk in the crime fiction section and I always ask him to recommend something. I’ve come across some terrific books that way – Rennie Airth’s THE BLOOD-DIMMED TIDE, Colin Cotterill’s series featuring the Laos coroner, Dr Siri – and yesterday came away with Louise Penny’s STILL LIFE. That personal recommendation can’t be bettered. And in a bookshop there’s always the chance you’ll come across something that you didn’t know you wanted until it sparks your imagination- and that can be gold dust for a writer.
But I do like buying books on the internet too – and especially through Abebooks. The names of the shops and places are so evocative. Aunt Agatha’s in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Poisoned Pen in Phoenix, Arizona . . . I’d love to do a road trip touring mystery bookshops in the US and maybe I will one day. In the meantime it is magical to me that I can order a book from a shop in Pasadena in the evening and find an e-mail the next morning that tells me it has been sent out. And the things that are sometimes sent out with the books . . . but that is a story for another day . . .