Thursday, March 20, 2014

Sonic Fountain Pen

Just a short post to let my readers know that while the Somerset Books blog will definitely continue, I have started a new blog dedicated specifically to my fiction writing and the process of writing. I had considered just putting it all on this blog, but Somerset Books was conceived as a blog about books and bookstores, and I think it best to keep the two separated, at least for now.

The new blog, Sonic Fountain Pen, can be found by clicking here.

Thanks, and keep on reading.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop: A Review

For book lovers, there's just something about books about books, and in The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop, San Francisco author Lewis Buzbee does something few writers would be able to: he makes the history of the book and the bookstore something you just can't put down. During his career, Buzbee has written both fiction and non-fiction, and he has the ability to paint a vivid picture with very few words. When he describes a favorite bookshop on a dark, rainy Tuesday in November, you can feel the biting wind and see the inviting warmth of the store beckoning.

The book is billed as both a memoir and a history, and perhaps that is what makes it work. Right at the moment the historical aspect could start to become tedious, Buzbee switches gears to the memoir side, giving readers a glimpse into the world of the bookseller that few knew existed. And he is no newcomer to the book world, having started as a clerk at a San Jose bookstore during his freshman year of college, and continuing in either book selling or as a publisher's sales rep for the next thirty years.

The history of the bookstore is obviously intertwined with the history of books and book making, and The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop takes the reader on a fascinating journey from the first papyrus scrolls and the great Library of Alexandria through the e-book and mega-chains like Borders and Barnes & Noble. Mixed throughout this 3000-year journey are Buzbee's own journey, his love of books, and some laugh-out-loud moments. By the time you finish the book, you will definitely want to sneak a peek into the back room of your local bookstore, hoping to see some of the things he has seen.

Buzbee makes a convincing case for how much we need bookstores, and he laments the decline in reading across America. Some may be surprised that a man who spent the better part of his life working in independent bookstores bears no grudges against the major chain retailers or Internet sites like Amazon. He does, however, have a few caustic words for the large discount and warehouse stores.

What is evident throughout The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop is that Buzbee is a man who has a reverence for books ("book lust" is the term he uses most often). And his book lust is contagious. When you have finished this slim, 216-page volume, you may find yourself more likely to slow down and rediscover the joy of wandering through rows and rows of shelves on a rainy afternoon, stumbling upon that perfect book you'd never even heard of before.