Illustrator and cartoonist Bob Eckstein had a dream: to paint the great independent bookstores of the world.
The result? The charming “Footnotes* from the World’s Greatest Bookstores” (Clarkson Potter, $22), a collection of 75 delightful illustrations of famous bookstores paired with stories from the people who work — and in many cases, practically live — there. There’s also a forward by everybody’s favorite curmudgeon, Garrison Keillor.
Eckstein, whose work has appeared in the The New Yorker and other publications, writes in the introduction that he started with 150 shops and whittled the number down from there. Just about everything you expect is here: The Strand, literary king of New York; novelist Ann Patchett’s Parnassus Books in Nashville; beloved Shakespeare and Company in Paris; mighty Powell’s in Portland; San Francisco’s historic City Lights.
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Stores from around the world are represented: In Wales and London, in Argentina, Iceland, India and Japan. Even bookstore cats get a small shoutout.
Bookstores “are built on the sweat and tears of hardworking people, each bookshelf lined with the lifework of hundreds of artists,” Eckstein writes. “Each of those books represents endless hours of grind and toil. Often the bookstore owner and employees are also writers. Is there a space with more fulfilled or unfulfilled dreams?” Take that, Amazon.
And do you even have to ask? Of course South Florida’s own Books & Books in Coral Gables is here, too, along with a great story from Mitchell Kaplan and an even better footnote from Dave Barry. For those of us who still get breathless walking into a bookshop, “Footnotes” is the literary journey of a lifetime.