Part memoir and part a history lesson in how the internet dismantled the book selling industry. Packed with lots of quirky bookseller related events throughout history in addition to the memoir. Not exactly riveting, edge of your seat reading, but quite enjoyable nonetheless.
The Last Bookseller is exactly what it purports to be . . . the story of a life in the rare book trade. I jumped at the opportunity to read this book hoping to grow my TBR list and delve into rare books that my library book taste, combined with commercial purchase opportunities may have denied me in my reading choices. And, this was not a hit for that goal.
However, as with many choices, often there are other gains when the original goal is not met. This is the case here - here is a person who took a risk that some may have called crazy, but he ends out with decades in an unexpected career, being able to introduce, raise and educate six new humans into the world, buy and sell thousands of books, from penny novels to the rarest of finds, and endcap it all with this memoir of the experience. Surely to be of particular interest to Minnesotans because of all the regional references during the used bookstore era of the 1990's in his particular career, there is a certain amount of wistfulness, too, for the loss of an industry changed forever by the internet.
A Sincere Thank You to Gary Goodman, University of Minnesota Press, and NetGalley for an ARC to read and review. #TheLastBookseller #NetGalley
Like most people reading these pages, I'm crazy about books. You would think that a book ABOUT selling books would be a natural fit. Not really. On this topic I'd recommend Slightly Chipped and Warmly Inscribed, both by the Goldstones, and Book Row by Mondlin and Meadow as being much more interesting than The Last Bookseller. Of course, there's Shakespeare and Company by Sylvia Beach, but not many booksellers can write about Hemingway, Joyce, Andre Gide, et al. hanging out in their shop. In Paris, yet. It's just not a very fertile field for memoirs.
An entertaining, engaging and illuminating account of a life in the book trade before the internet changed everything for good. Gary Goodman was a rare and used bookseller and dealer and knows the business inside out. He was acquainted with many of his fellow booksellers, from the eccentric to the frankly criminal to guys just like him who chose to try and make a sometimes precarious living selling books. I found the book well-written and a fascinating and honest glimpse into the world of used and rare books and I enjoyed it very much.
Gary Goodman’s book The Last Bookseller is an interesting if somewhat disjointed, memoirish examination of booksellers in the rare the second-hand book trade.
In his book Goodman has created an account of the evolution and highlights of his life as a used book salesman with many digressions discussing other rare and used book sellers, brief biographies of people about whom there are collections of books written and a plethora of related facts about book prices, popularity, market trends and criminals associated with the book business to name a few.
The book includes variety of fascinating and eccentric people and facts, but unfortunately many were not explored in any depth or were interpolated in a very discordant way.
The book presents some interesting tales and facts, but the style and structure of the book left me somewhat underwhelmed.
Thank you to NetGalley and University of Minnesota Press for an eARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.
There’s something about secondhand bookstores that I love. I love the mess, I love getting lost in there browsing through rows and piles of books. Personally, I feel there is a lot of history in these kind of bookstores.
This is such a fascinating read! I am always intrigued with independent and indie booksellers, how they operate and source for their books so this was such delight to read. This #nonfiction tell the tale of one of the last booksellers in America that focuses on selling used and rare books from around the world. The story starts off with Gary Goodman/s purchase of a bookstore in Minnesota during the 1980s and his journey in the book trade. He talks about his travels in search of used books and the many interesting collectors he had met. It also follows his downfall in the business due to the internet in the last few decades. It’s just way easier to look for books on the Internet nowadays which is a real pity.
Goodman didn’t start off as a book lover which is really interesting. I am not sure if he ever fell in love with books or if he enjoyed the thrilling chase of finding rare books more but I definitely love him giving us an insight into the book trade. From his writing, I can see he is passionate about books and sourcing them. I also love how he includes pictures in the chapters which adds a nice personal touch.
Goodman doesn’t just focus on himself but also other book traders that he has met along the way. I could tell he has done many research on the book trade and also inject his own experiences into it, which really engaged me into his life. If you love books and want to read more about secondhand bookstores, I would recommend this!
Thank you Netgalley and Uni Of Minnesota Press for the arc.
THE LAST BOOKSELLER: A Life in the Rare Book Trade by Gary Goodman will appeal to bibliophiles everywhere. It's the kind of non-fiction work that can be read in spurts. Learn first about Goodman's discovery and purchase of a used bookstore in 1980s Minnesota and then follow him through the travails of getting established in the business. Particularly fascinating are all of the changes to the used book business brought by the internet and Amazon's presence. As Goodman notes, "Before, booksellers had to know the price and market for books. Once this information was everywhere, booksellers had no competitive advantage over anyone else." Another sobering thought: "If you read one book a week, starting [at] age five, and live to be eighty, you will have read a grand total of 3.900 books, a little over one tenth of one percent of the books currently in print." Alas, so many books, so little time… Goodman fills THE LAST BOOKSELLER with humorous, entertaining stories; make it one of your reading choices.
Delighted to include this title in Books for Book Lovers, the bibliophile list in my thematic seasonal holiday gift books guides for Zoomer magazine. It appeared in the Books section in December. (The listicle is online at related link.)
Gary Goodman, author of The Last Bookseller: A Life in the Rare Book Trade (University of Minnesota Press, $19.95), defines himself as “one of the last of a certain kind of bookseller. The kind that for six hundred years rooted around in basements, book bins, and bookstores looking for, sometimes, rare books or, more often, secondhand books.” Goodman got started in the business, somewhat accidentally, in 1982, and the learning curve was steep. His wry and relatable chronicle of the trials and tribulations of an antiquarian bookseller in the Midwest as he builds an empire—or close enough, North American’s first book town—in Stillwater, Minnesota, is a worthy addition to the genre of “Golden Age” booksellers’ memoirs. The anti-internet dogma in the book’s latter half may rub some the wrong way, but the many wonderful anecdotes of books scouted and sold will appeal to a great many book collectors.
This is a cautionary tale as much as it is an autobiography. I'm sure that most of us who love books have, at some point, at least fantasized about working in the business - perhaps selling books.
Gary Goodman walked into a used-book shop in 1982 and bought it on a whim, then spent many years trying to make it into a real business. Traveling around the US and sometimes even across the Atlantic in search of used books, he eventually became a great name in the business, only to have to invent new gimmicks and to need to branch out as time went by, retiring a couple of years ago to no great fortune. Knowing all the tricks of the trade and coming up with a couple of his own wasn't enough to survive indefinitely in a domain slowly swallowed by the internet; it's not for no reason that he calls himself "The Last Bookseller".
Aside from crushing the dreams of anybody who's wanted to sell used books for a living, however, Gary Goodman tells a compelling story of the used-book world, starting with his own struggles and leading up to his eventual success, then decline, in the business, but also offering a larger picture of the trade, complete with collectors of oddities, unusual (and occasionally unsavory) people, and thieves and forgers. Sometimes it feels a bit dense, name-wise, but then again, that works for anyone who would like references.
It's a lovely, albeit short, volume offering a wonderful insight into what it means to sell used and rare books: from getting stuck with volumes nobody wants, to unexpected treasure troves (one over a barn), to individuals making a fortune by cutting maps out of old books to sell later, to jobs and practices one might never think existed.
A memoir, a biography, a testament to the rise and fall of the used book trade. I never aspired to own a used bookstore, but I certainly hauled enough books out of them while I could still sight read with ease. Now I go to online used stores (that promote literacy) for gifting the grandkids and can only use TTS with ebooks (thanks be for those venues!). It would have been great to snoop through one during 2020 to find just the right books for the out of town kids (and adults), but we make do. Just as the author made do during both the rise and fall of his own bookselling experience. And what a ride it was! I'm glad that he wrote this book to share the past with us (3 of our family went to college in Minneapolis/St. Paul in 1993-2003). Along with the telling of his own story, he tells of the earliest booksellers and of the used book trade in the English-speaking world for the last several centuries. Well written and meaningful to book addicts everywhere.
I requested and received a free ebook copy from University of Minnesota Press via NetGalley. Thank you so much!
Thank you to the author, the University of Minnesota Press and NetGalley, for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
This was a very entertaining read giving fascinating insights into the dying business of selling secondhand books. The way the author entered the business seemed very random, and there was no indication that he particularly enjoyed reading - but seeing what a hard slog this business is/was, he probably didn't have much free time to devote to such mundane pursuits. The huge difference the internet made in how this business is run was eye-opening, and I enjoyed his rambling tangents on the criminal element among booksellers, and establishing a book town. However, I did feel for his wife and family, who came across as though they were a tangent at best for the author himself.
This proved to be a fascinating read! I've been doing a bit of book scouting myself lately (albeit not knowing the term for most of the period); Thomas Nelson started publishing limited runs of classic books based on the seasons they take place in, with beautiful laser-cut covers, and I only decided to start collecting a couple years in--not bad, I would have thought, except apparently I'm not alone in wanting their production of "Little Women," "Wuthering Heights," or "Pride and Prejudice," and many a copy is running in the hundreds of dollars on Ebay. #sigh
The discussion on garage and estate sales quickly brought to mind the Hallmark Movies and Mysteries series "Garage Sale Mysteries," featuring pre-fall from grace Lori Loughlin (<tear>), and a couple episodes of "White Collar."
The author has a truly engaging writing style, and while some of the book is a bit niched even for this avid reader and wannabe bookseller (I’ve watched “You’ve Got Mail” a million times over and wished I could be Kathleen Kelly), I’m so glad I persisted. Insightful, nostalgic, accurately portraying the struggles he and many other booksellers went to—this book is a testament to the genre and to booksellers everywhere.
I received an eARC of the book from the publisher via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.
Reviews have been posted to Goodreads, Barnes & Noble, and my blog; links submitted via “add link” feature in NetGalley.
The Last Bookseller
This book starts out good enough as a memoir type book about how he ended up as a used book store owner; however, it quickly goes down hill from there.
I do not know exactly what I expected, but this book is just a weird ramble of trashing the used book buyers and sellers of the pre- and post-internet age. This info was interspersed with whole chapters of random info for no real reason.
I am guessing there is a market for this book which should have been people like me, obsessed with books, but I just got turned off completely by his superiority and whining. He comes across exceedingly cocky.
This book was just a huge disappointment.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher and Netgalley.
A really interesting read, I was intrigued by the premise and genuinely liked the content of this book.
"The Last Bookseller"? The Latest, at the best. This is just the most recent in a chain of books like this I've read, and the bluntest statement to make is that no, it does not compare with those of a certain retailer at a certain shop in Wigton, Scotland. I've seen an American equivalent as well, although for the life of me can't remember who it was from nor when I read it, but the general shtick is the trials and tribulations of a second-hand book dealer. Basically, one should go to Scotland for the madcap events, bonkers customers and insanely sullen shop staff, whoever-it-was for the basic progression through a life selling books and hitting the rarefied heights of dealing with some really, seriously uncommon material. And here, what do we get? Well, a mixed bag is the truth; the chapters about other people in the book trade and their mysterious deaths and criminal activities can be quite charming in how unusual and uncommonly-told their stories are, but they also paper over the cracks in the memoir. The telling of the author's life here seems to jump from owning a pile of crap nobody would ever buy, to knowing he'd missed out on exclusive signed editions a-plenty, to buying books by the ton and by the many thousands of dollars. The autobiography then leaves a heck of a lot of progression and detail out of things, and when you find yourself being told the architecture of other bookmen's properties you feel justified in wondering what the heck the point is. It's rather lucky this book is one to preach to the converted, in that it's bookish and for the bookish, for it's not exactly the most cogent or logical example, and could learn from others about what reads better on the page. Yes, we're allowed to see the reclusive, the inept and the fraudulent in the book trade, but at the expense of the man we assumed to be telling us about himself. Three and a half stars.
Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC of this new book.
I absolutely loved this one. I was not expecting to.
The author was new to me and I enjoy books about the book world. This is a a gem! It's highly engaging. I will be recommending this to my "reader"friends.
I adored this book. What a wonderful journey into rare books and just the love of books in general. I loved the authors storytelling style and wanted to be with him on those trips.
I love this book. Anyone who harbors a deep love for books will also. Gary Goodman gives us a more than interesting journey to “…describe a life before is is gone.” Filled with quirky characters and situations met along the way.
The Last Bookseller is a biographical account of one man's experience as a book dealer/seller before the age of the Internet (the last Golden Age). But that brief sentence makes it almost sound dry. FAR from it. There is so much more to this from the humblest of beginnings of a young husband and dad working long hours as a psychiatric counselor to putting Stillwater, Minnesota on the international book map. And the intriguing betweens including learning about scouting, nefarious characters, forgers, Danish dinners, swindlers, celebrities and a self proclaimed king. Who would have thought the author stumbling into a small used bookstore in East St. Paul Minnesota with its handmade labels and buying it on a whim would have his life altered so dramatically and those of so many others, too? I wonder what the course of his life would have been had he not?
Gary Goodman traveled through America, Canada and the UK to learn more about rare books and buy them, often dozens of boxes at once, and with cash only in the UK. His perspectives are riveting and make so much sense, many details I had not previously thought of. As his experience and knowledge grew, he offered his expertise to Goodwill in exchange for an offer he couldn't refuse. He teamed up with wonderfully expert partners to open up in Stillwater,
Goodman writes with such frankness and wit it's like listening to a conversation amongst friends. His details such as dollar amounts for books and collections are very interesting and his car ascent reminds me of mine. I can also relate to fierce winters (Saskatchewan) and nonexistent tourist season for most of the year. So many anecdotes which stick out in my mind such as the guy who wanted to sleep in the back room and the seller who had a thing about electricity. And then there is the mystery which plagues me...was Jenkins murdered or not?! The fact that there were 500,000 books available to buy within a four-block radius in Stillwater blows my mind. I like that Goodman includes the strangest place he's ever bought books. But one of the most comical stories is in the form of a familial note.
Enter the Internet Era. Amazon, E-bay, Advanced Book Exchange and so on. Goodman discusses the effects they have had on book selling. Finally, what happened to Stillwater's book scene? Though Goodman may not be the last bookseller ever, he is one of the last of a special breed, that's for certain. We do have such a man in the community in which I live and I often wonder how much longer he will be in business. While he is here, I will continue to buy treasures from him.
Those fascinated with books and/or their acquisition ought to be drawn to this wonder like a magnet. Though it is difficult to tell whether Goodman is a voracious reader (time?) it is clear he cares deeply about books. He also includes photographs which always adds a personal touch.
My sincere thank you to the University of Minnesota Press and NetGalley for the privilege of reading this book for book people!