Monday, March 20, 2017
There are books about books, but there are also books about bookshops. The latter has practically become its own genre in both fiction (The Little Paris Bookshop, Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, The Bookshop on the Corner, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry) and nonfiction (My Bookstore, The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop, Overheard at the Bookstore, The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap).
Add to that second list Bob Eckstein's Footnotes* from the World's Greatest Bookstore, published last year. Surprisingly, this is first an art book. Eckstein did watercolor paintings of the fronts of scores of great bookstores from around the world, most of them still open but some of them no longer in business. He also tells us a little something about each store, then includes quotations about the store from owners, staff members and customers.
Eckstein is a New Yorker, so a significant number of the stores are in and around New York City, but some are as far away as India, Germany, Japan, Great Britain and Paris. The Librairie Avant-Garde in Nanjing, China, is located in the tunnel of a former bomb shelter. The Moravian Book Shop in Bethlehem, Penn., is the oldest continuously operating bookshop in the world. Quimby's in Chicago specializes in graphic novels. The Weapon of Mass Instruction in Argentina is a military tank converted into a roving bookstore. A daughter confessed to spreading her late father's ashes in various places in City Lights Booksellers in San Francisco because it had been one of his favorite places in the world.
I am pleased to have shopped in some of the stores Eckstein paints and writes about. These include Parnassus Books in Nashville, Powell's Books in Portland and John K. King Used & Rare Books in Detroit. Most of the others are still on my bucket list.