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 www.bobeckstein.com
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.