50 Fictional Booksellers, Ranked

Pamela Anderson is the Jeff Bezos of This List.

39. Adam Snow, The Small Hand

Home bookstore: No store, but he does make house calls—much to his peril.

Notable characteristics: Curious to a fault.

Bookselling philosophy: “I am a dealer in antiquarian books and manuscripts. In the main I look for individual volumes on behalf of clients, at auction and in private sales as well as from other bookmen, though from time to time I also buy speculatively, usually with someone in mind. I do not have shop premises, I work from home. I rarely keep items for very long and I do not have a large store of books for sale at any one time because I deal at the upper end of the market, in volumes worth many thousands of pounds.”

Sounds familiar: “I do collect books, much more modestly and in a disorganized sort of way, for my own interest and pleasure. My Chelsea flat is filled with them. My resolution every New Year is to halve the number of books I have and every year I fail to keep it. For every dozen I sell or give away, I buy twenty more.”

38. Neela Adigal, The Book Hunters of Katpadi

Home bookstore: Biblio, in Chennai, India

Notable characteristics: The proprietor of “India’s first full-fledged antiquarian bookshop”—run out of her house, remodeled for the purpose, is dedicated and organized, and deeply knowledgable.

Bookselling philosophy: “Neela knew that an antiquarian bookshop that served the serious book collector couldn’t afford to have books lying around in joyful chaos. Biblio’s sock of rare, fine and first editions, displayed in glass-enclosed bookcases, were meticulously stocked and beautifully arranged.” Also takes no crap, even from priests.

See also: Neela’s assistant, Kayal, who finds the manuscript that no one believed existed.

37. Peter Byerly, The Bookman’s Tale

Home bookstore: Byerly is a young antiquarian bookseller who is without a bookshop.

Notable characteristics: A man still reeling from the death of his wife, who soon becomes obsessed with a painting that resembles her.

Bookselling philosophy: Cool, calm, and collected—until now.

See also: The many booksellers who populate this book.

Fun fact: The author of this novel, Charlie Lovett, is also a former antiquarian bookseller.

 

36. Comic Book Guy, The Simpsons

Home bookstore: The Android’s Dungeon & Baseball Card Shop

Notable characteristics: Massive nerd, massive snob. Exactly what you want your (comic) bookseller to be.

Bookselling philosophy:  “Since we are not familiar with sarcasm, I shall close the cash register.”

Wait a second, is he really a bookseller? I bet they have graphic novels in there. But I’m not even going to get into it.

Obligatory breaking of the fourth wall: Worst. Listicle entry. Ever.

35. Rupert Giles, Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Home bookstore: The Magic Box, in Sunnydale, CA

Notable characteristics: Excellent guitar player, gets knocked out a lot, expert in all things arcane, thinks the above wizard costume is cool until the youths inform him it is not.

Bookselling philosophy: If anyone comes in to buy something, that’s a bonus—mostly he is engaged with corralling these children and trying to get them to save the world. Leave the bookselling to Anya—she loves the money part.

Disclaimer: Look, I know that Giles is primarily a librarian, and in fact he is the best librarian of all time (unfortunately that would be BLOAT), but there’s no denying that once he leaves Sunnydale High and buys the Magic Box he is also a bookseller. It’s just one of those modern bookstores that also carries notebooks and Lemon Seduction candles and, you know, Sobekian bloodstones. But I know it’s almost a cheat, hence the ranking.

34. Ray Stantz, Ghostbusters II

Home bookstore: Ray’s Occult Books on St. Mark’s Place in New York City

Notable characteristics: Bookseller Ray smokes a pipe in place of his famous drooping cigarette and also sports a sweatervest; he will help you with all your questionable mystical self-help book needs.

Bookselling philosophy: It’s just the obvious thing to do after your ghost-busting team gets shut down: sell books dedicated to the strange, mystical, and otherworldly. He never was very smart about his investments.

33. Roger Mifflin, Parnassus on Wheels

Home bookstore: Parnassus, his traveling bookshop (in a wagon, friends)

Notable characteristics: Charming, pleasant, and odd, with his “bright, twinkling eye and his silly little beard.”

Bookselling philosophy: Well, as his business cards would have it:

Worthy friends, my wain doth hold
Many a book, both new and old;
Books, the truest friends of man,
Fill this rolling caravan.
Books to satisfy all uses,
Golden lyrics of the Muses,
Books on cookery and farming,
Novels passionate and charming,
Every kind for every need
So that he who buys may read.
What librarian can surpass us?

On the side of the wagon: R. MIFFLIN’S TRAVELING PARNASSUS GOOD BOOKS FOR SALE SHAKESPEARE, CHARLES LAMB, R.L.S. HAZLITT, AND ALL OTHERS

32. Donna, Obvious Child

Home bookstore: UNOPPRESSIVE NON-IMPERIALIST BARGAIN BOOKS in the West Village

Notable characteristics: The quirkiest stand-up comedian to ever work in a bookstore.

Bookselling philosophy: “Well, here’s the thing, is that the store is closing down, and it’s a hard time, and it’s gonna take forever, and I have to put all the books in the boxes. None of them are in the boxes. I’m the only thing in a box, and I’m not a book.”

31. Florence Green, The Bookshop

Home bookstore: The Old House Bookshop in Hardborough, Suffolk

Notable characteristics: A nice quiet widow fighting against the horrible society lady who wants to turn the Old House into . . . an arts center.

Bookselling philosophy: “I only stock good novels. They don’t move fast enough, you know?”

See also: Young Christine, who had the good sense to try to sell Lolita to the vicar.

30. Monsieur Perdu, The Little Paris Bookshop

Home bookstore: Literary Apothecary, housed in a barge on the Seine

Notable characteristics: Meticulous, romantic, , and ants to help people in ways that doctors cannot. And of course, he is “cashmere compared with the normal yarn from which men are spun.”

Bookselling philosophy: He’s not a bookseller, he’s a literary apothecary—and therefore tries to match the book to the person. In fact, he won’t sell you a book if he doesn’t think it will suit you. Also correctly asserts that “what you read is more important in the long term than the man you marry.”

He’s serious about the books vs. men thing: “Books keep stupidity at bay. And vain hopes. And vain men. They undress you with love, strength and knowledge. It’s love from within. Make your choice: book or . . .”

Emily Temple
Emily Temple
Emily Temple is the managing editor at Lit Hub. Her first novel, The Lightness, was published by William Morrow/HarperCollins in June 2020. You can buy it here.





More Story
When Did Self-Help Books Become Literary? Walk into a contemporary bookstore and self-help manuals are likely to be among the first books you’ll see. In my local...