Thursday, October 13, 2016

Footnotes from the World's Greatest Bookstores by Bob Eckstein

I wish I knew if I read about this book, or if one of my friends or the publisher recommended it. Bob Eckstein, New Yorker cartoonist, put all my love of independent bookstores into a charming book, Footnotes from the World's Greatest Bookstores: True Tales and Lost Moments from Book Buyers, Booksellers, and Book Lovers.

It's not a surprise that I haven't been in some of the selected seventy-five bookstores. There are ones in China and Argentina. But, I need to work harder at some of the bookstores in New York City. I'm always on a tight schedule when I'm there, either for a conference for work, or on a theatre schedule. One of these times, maybe I should do a bookstore tour of the city. The only bookstore I've been to in the entire collection is Parnassus Books in Nashville.

Eckstein's book is delightful, with sketches that invite you in. Garrison Keillor, owner of Common Good Books in St. Paul, Minnesota, wrote the introduction. He says, "You become a book lover in childhood because you want to know Important Things and thereby enter the adult world, and the library is your first stop, but you crave ownership..." Keillor isn't the only one with anecdotes about bookstores. Each bookshop is honored with an illustration, a little historical blurb, and then a longer anecdote that tells something of the personality of the bookstore itself or some of the customers who frequented the store. David Bowie, Ernest Hemingway, Paul McCartney, Robin Williams, Edward Gorey behind the register at Gotham Book Mart in New York City. And, author Ann Patchett, co-owner of Parnassus Books, speaks to every reader's heart. "I have no interest in retail; I have no interest in opening a bookstore. But I also have no interest in living in a city without a bookstore."

The format, the illustrations, the quotes, the customers. Bob Eckstein's Footnotes from the World's Greatest Bookstores is a work of art, and a work of love. You're invited in to see bookstores with their own stories. Enjoy the treat.

Bob Eckstein's website is

Footnotes from the World's Greatest Bookstores: True Tales and Lost Moments from Book Buyers, Booksellers, and Book Lovers by Bob Eckstein. Clarkson Potter. 2016. ISBN 9780553459272 (hardcover), 144p.


Kaye Barley said...

oh my - guess what I'm off to order . . .
Thank You!

Lesa said...

You're welcome, Kaye!

Grace Koshida said...

Thank you for telling us about this book, Lesa. I love to visit bookstores whenever I travel to a new city, so I will add Bob's book to my shopping list!

Sandie Herron said...


If you want another destination for "booking," you might wish to try San Francisco. Bill and I went for our 10th wedding anniversary (over 20 years ago) and enjoyed two sets of tours. One was a set of walking tours laid out in a book we'd bought at the Hans Lilienthal House. We could have walked the streets without it, but this way was so much more fun with facts and information we'd never get elsewhere.

The second set of tours were made up by Bill - bookstores galore. OMG! We spent a fortune! Not that the books were expensive, but there were a huge number of books we bought. Thankfully the owner of a bookstore that featured a dozen book dealer's stocks (you can imagine how things went there) offered to ship our books from there plus another store we'd hit that day to Florida for us. What a life saver. We even found a few limited editions from favorite authors (the ones that are limited to 200 or so).

If you even need details, let me know! Or our friendly authors who live there could certainly get us up to date.