• 50 Fictional Booksellers, Ranked

    Pamela Anderson is the Jeff Bezos of This List.

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    29. Carl Conrad Coreander, The Neverending Story

    Home bookstore: Carl Conrad Coreander’s Old Books

    Notable characteristics: Here you’ve got your typical grumpy bookseller—who has also been to Fantastica and lived to tell about it, natch. Does not like selling books. Does not like kids. Maybe because they steal his books.

    Bookselling philosophy: “The video arcade is down the street. Here we just sell small rectangular objects. They’re called books. They require effort and make no beeps.”

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    28. Kitty Miller, The Bookseller

    Home bookstore: Sisters’, in Denver.

    Notable characteristics: In this world? Single, late 30s, owns a bookstore with her best friend and a cat named Aslan. In the dreams she has every night? Married with children—but no bookstore. (Soon to be portrayed by one Julia Roberts.)

    Bookselling philosophy: Pressing Something Wicked This Way Comes on everyone who comes into the bookstore “looking for something ‘really gripping.'”

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    27. Sven Jorgensen, Top Secret!

    Home bookstore: Sven Jorgensen

    Notable characteristics: Does everything backwards. Also, that eye.

    Bookselling philosophy: Unknown, but he does seem to be featuring that book of Lesbian Bars pretty prominently.

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    26. Harry Brightman, The Brooklyn Follies

    Home bookstore: Brightman’s Attic on Seventh Avenue

    Notable characteristics: A “born prankster,” Harry is an aging, gay rare book and manuscript dealer (and forger), “A droll and forthright person, a man of such needling patter and extravagant contradictions that you never knew what was going to come out of his mouth next. . . dyed hair and eyebrows, the silk ascots and yachtinc club blazers . . . but once you got to known him a little, Harry turned out to be an astute and challenging fellow. There was something provocative about the way he kept coming at you, a darting, jabbing kind of intelligence that made you want to give good answers when he started reeling off those sly, overly personal questions of his.” AKA Harry Dunkel.

    Bookselling philosophy: Whatever it takes.

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    25. Isabelle Grossman, Crossing Delancey

    Home bookstore: New Day Books

    Notable characteristics: Izzy runs the author reading series at New Day Books—she dreams of becoming a fancy intellectual and thereby shake off her traditional Jewish roots. Spoiler: ends up with the pickle-seller.

    Bookselling philosophy: Bring in very sexy Dutch writers. It gets the people all excited.

    24. Honda, Skull-face Bookseller Honda-san

    Home bookstore: Unnamed but enormous bookstore in Tokyo, staffed entirely by masked employees.

    Notable characteristics: Very, very sweaty for a skeleton, LOVES hot guys, hilariously hysterical.

    Bookselling philosophy: Just do whatever it takes to satisfy these insane customers!

    23. Bernice Rhodenbarr, Burglar

    Home bookstore: Haight Street Books

    Notable characteristics: Also an (ethical) cat burglar (in retirement, but not for long). And not for nothing, but: baby Whoopi!

    Bookselling philosophy: “Look, I’ve got a Smith & Wesson under the counter man, pointed at you. And if you don’t hurry up, I’m gonna shoot you right in the dick.” (Also makes and copies keys.)

    Typecasting: Whoopi also plays a bookstore owner in Made in America, in which she stars with Ted Danson.

    22. Bookstore clerk, The Big Sleep

    Home bookstore: Acme Book Shop

    Notable characteristics: Knows her shit, very sassy.

    Bookselling philosophy: Well, she can’t be all that interested in bookselling at all, since she’s willing to close up shop on a rainy day to drink rye with a stranger. Then again, who could blame her?

    See also: A. G. Geiger, of A. G. Geiger’s Rare Books, though you can’t see him for long. . .

    21. Pop Liebel, Vertigo

    Home bookstore: Argosy Book Shop

    Notable characteristics: From the description of Argosy in the original 1957 script: “It is old, it is misty, it is filled with old books, but the important thing to note is that it is filled with memorabilia of California pioneer days: on the walls are not only the familiar old maps and prints but also, and more striking, such things as framed old mining claims, posters describing outlaws wanted by the law, Wells Fargo Pony Express Posters; and on the shelves, old whiskey bottles, gold-mining pans, and such. The proprietor, Pop Leibel, is staring with a nodding smile at the piece of paper Scottie has handed him, and Scottie watches him keenly. In the bag, Midge wanders about the shop, inspecting the prints on the wall, but always listening.

    Bookselling philosophy: Know all; tell all.

    Also very mysterious: The lighting in this scene. Hitchcock does it again.

    20. Ellen, Ellen

    Home bookstore: Buy the Book

    Notable characteristics: Goofy, funny (in fact the funniest one of all the friends, get out of here Theresa), and oh yes, deeply neurotic.

    Bookselling philosophy: Mostly talking to her friends, to be fair. Hospitable to rats.

    Relatable: “So I figured you know I have next to no money in the bank, zero credit, three thousand dollars left on a college loan—I know, what I should really do is buy a bookstore.”

    Not relatable at all: The bookstore manager Ellen hires in season two who claims that the coffee stand is the “single biggest drain” on her profits. Ok guy.

    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.

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