50 Fictional Booksellers, Ranked

Pamela Anderson is the Jeff Bezos of This List.

Here in the Literary Hub office, we argue about books—and literary culture, and pop culture, and Dermot Mulroney/Dylan McDermott quite a bit. Probably more than is strictly necessary, if I’m being fair. But every once in a while, I like to take our internal arguments public—especially when they’re about which (fictional!) booksellers are best. After all, we take our booksellers pretty seriously around here.

Please note that, just like our definitive ranking of fictional librarians, these booksellers from pop culture (film! TV! books! comics!) are not being judged on their efficacy as booksellers, necessarily, or by their moral goodness, but by their general appeal. Does nostalgia and personal opinion factor in? You bet it does. Disagree? Feel free to re-rank (and add!) below in the comments.

50. Skyler Dayton, Stacked

Home bookstore: Stacked Books

Notable characteristics: I mean, it’s Pamela Anderson. There are many, many jokes about breasts in this show.

Bookselling philosophy: “I can’t believe how early you guys open. It’s like working on a farm.”

Can this show be redeemed? Christopher Lloyd and Marissa Jaret Winokur do their level best, but alas.

49. Rory Gilmore, Gilmore Girls

Home bookstore: Stars Hollow Books

Notable characteristics: I mean, it’s Rory. She’s hungry, she’s moral, and she likes books. What else is there?

Bookselling philosophy: Actually, she mostly just does inventory. And buys the books.

Relatable: “I have a great system going. This is my ‘to be written down’ pile, my ‘already written down’ pile, and this is my pile of books that I have seen and now have to buy.” (Reader, the third pile is bigger than the other two piles.)

48. The Bookseller, Beauty and the Beast

Home bookstore: The village bookstore

Notable characteristics: A very nice old man with poor business sense who actually likes Belle. Could use a restock.

Bookselling philosophy: Hard to know if he has one, considering he lets pretty girls waltz in and borrow books from his store, and then when that’s not enough, he gives them away for free.

47. Poppy, Single Parents

Home bookstore: Poppy’s Winebrary

Notable characteristics: Empowered third wave feminist who is living her best life. Has the most fun of all the booksellers (but is mostly interested in the wine, if we’re being honest).

Bookselling philosophy: Basically, if you get people drunk, they’ll buy something.

46. The unnamed bookseller, If on a winter’s night a traveler

Home bookstore: Your local bookstore, where you bought the latest novel by Italo Calvino

Notable characteristics: None, really—and to be fair, the bookseller is barely a character in Calvino’s novel, but I’m including him here because if not a character, he is at least a conduit, a kind of hinge for the rest of the book as it unfolds.

Bookselling philosophy: Totally willing to exchange that book, but not willing to accept any grief over it. “Now I ask you, must a poor bookseller take the blame for the negligence of others? We’ve been going crazy all day.”

45. Anna, Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Home bookstore: Fictional name unknown, but fun fact: the scenes in Anna’s bookstore were filmed in Logos, in NYC, which is the same filming location as the bookstore where Joe works in You.

Notable characteristics: Loves Fanny Brice, and also has a soft spot for grumpy forgers.

Bookselling philosophy: Giving the benefit of the doubt.

See also: all the other booksellers and rare book/literary ephemera dealers in this movie (and in the memoir by Lee Israel).

44. Nina Redmond, The Bookshop on the Corner

Home bookstore: Well, it’s pretty much a van, but Nina outfits it into a mobile bookstore and takes it to Scotland. The dream!

Notable characteristics: An out-of-work librarian who knows exactly what book would suit you best.

Bookselling philosophy: “I wanted to . . . you know. Bring books to people. Find the right kind of thing for them to read.”

43. The narrator, Severina

Home bookstore: La Entretenida

Notable characteristics: Very obsessive; will fixate on strangers, especially if they are attractive young women who steal books.

Bookselling philosophy: “We didn’t have anything better to do [than open a bookstore] and we were tired of paying through the nose for books chosen by and for others as ‘eccentrics’ like us are forced to do in provincial cities.” Also has an eye for shoplifters.

42. Mike, Mike: Bookseller

Home bookstore: Booksellers

Notable characteristics: Large hair, deadpan snarker, will do anything for money, collects stuffed giraffes.

Bookselling philosophy: Just get through the day.

Also: Everyone in this web comic is selling books or buying them. You don’t see that every day.

41. Annie Laurance Darling, Death on Demand

Home bookstore: Death on Demand, on Broward’s Rock Island, South Carolina

Notable characteristics: The owner of an exceptionally well-named mystery bookstore—accused of murdering a famous mystery writer! Let the amateur sleuthing and name-clearing begin.

Bookselling philosophy: “Annie relished running Death on Demand. She’d loved mysteries since her first Nancy Drew. She loved mystery readers, who ran the gamut of society, with a small s. She enjoyed tipping readers to new, good writers, such as Jane Dentinger, Dorothy Cannell, and Charlaine Harris. She liked the way readers could surprise you: the wispy-haired spinster who never missed a McBain, the island plumber whose favorite author was Amanda Cross.”

40. Dido Hoare, Death’s Autograph

Home bookstore: Dido Hoare Antiquarian Books and Prints in London (above which she lives)

Notable characteristics: “The world-famous soft-touch antiquarian book dealer” is also scrappy, resourceful, and has something of a temper.

Bookselling philosophy: The series that begins with Death’s Autograph tracks Dido’s business—starting with most of her sales coming from mail orders and ending with, of course, a website.

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 . . .”

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.”

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.'”

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.

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.

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.

19. Joel and Garda Sloane, Fast Company

Home bookstore: Name unknown, but they own it, and it’s definitely somewhere in New York City.

Notable characteristics: Very sassy. Watch the trailer for confirmation.

Bookselling philosophy: These two are rare booksellers who supplement their income by being literary sleuths—that is, tracking down stolen books for insurance companies. But when their friend is accused of murdering a rival bookseller—who is involved in moving fake first editions—they have to up their game.

18. Mr. Penumbra, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

Home bookstore: Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore in San Francisco

Notable characteristics: Very old, very blue eyes, very mysterious, very much a cult member. But I mean, it’s a book cult.

Bookselling philosophy: “This job has three requirements, each very strict. Do not agree to them lightly. Clerks in this store have followed these rules for nearly a century, and I will not have them broken now. One: You must always be here from ten p.m. to six a.m. exactly. You must not be late. You cannot leave early. Two: You may not browse, read, or otherwise inspect the shelved volumes. Retrieve them for members. That is all. . . . [Three:] You must keep precise records of all transactions. The time. The customer’s appearance. His state of mind. How he asks for the book. How he receives it. Does he appear to be injured. Is he wearing a sprig of rosemary on his hat. And so on.”

See also: Clay Jannon, night clerk and Our Hero.

17. Paul Martel, Unfaithful

Home bookstore: His own apartment in Soho.

Notable characteristics: A rare book dealer who is also extremely good looking and equally French. Probably artificially high on this list because of those qualities.

Bookselling philosophy: Seems pretty much to be seducing ladies amongst piles of books. . . which is a very good philosophy until their husbands get suspicious.

Favorite literary passage: “Drink wine. This is life eternal. This is all that youth will give you. It is the season for wine, roses and drunken friends. Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.” (Omar Khayyám)

16. Cliff Janeway, Booked to Die

Home bookstore: Twice Told Books

Notable characteristics: A collector of rare editions who also happens to be a Denver homicide detective—and by the end, has hung up his badge to open a bookstore (at least temporarily).

Bookselling philosophy: “Denver is a young man’s book town. . . We live in a day when first editions by Stephen King outsell Mark Twain firsts ten to one, and at the same price. You explain it: I can’t. Maybe people today really do have more money than brains. . . . So the business has changed, no question about it, and the people in it have changed as well. The old guard is dead: long live the new guard.”

Or as Ruby put it: “Janeway is the best bookman I’ve ever seen outside the trade; I know he’s been thinking of this move for years, and he’ll do extremely well. He has an eye for books that will carry him to the very top of his new profession.”

See also: All the other booksellers that Janeway goes to see while tracking down a dead “bookscout.”

15. Jo Stockton, Funny Face

Home bookstore: Embryo Concepts in Greenwich Village

Notable characteristics: Obsessed with Emile Flostre (a fictional philosopher who specializes in the fictional philosophy of empathicalism) but uninterested in fashion (which is of course “chichi, and an unrealistic approach to self-impressions as well as economics”); also character, spirit, and intelligence, apparently according to her face. Which, yes, we are supposed to believe is “funny.”

Bookselling philosophy: Fashion losers out, philosophers in—unless the fashion people are going to take her to Paris, in which case, fine.

Caveat: I love Audrey Hepburn’s Jo, but I have never finished this film because I can’t handle the romance between Jo and Dick—Fred Astaire was 30 years older than Hepburn, and, um, you can tell. And, not for nothing, but the basic message of this film is that if a girl is into books and philosophy, all she needs is to get shined up a bit and she’ll become a good, normal, Quality woman!

14. Margaret Lea, The Thirteenth Tale

Home bookstore: Lea’s Antiquarian Booksellers

Notable characteristics: Loves books, as befits someone who grew up in a bookstore; has written “a number of short biographical studies of insignificant personages from literary history”; engaged to do the same for one Vida Winter.

Bookselling philosophy: “The shop itself makes next to no money. It is a place to write and receive letters. A place to while away the hours waiting for the next international bookfair. In the opinion of our bank manager, it is an indulgence, one that my father’s success entitles him to. Yet in reality—my father’s reality and mind; I don’t pretend reality is the same for everyone—the shop is the very heart of the affair. It is a repository of books, a place of safety for all the volumes, once so lovingly written, that at present no one seems to want. And it is a place to read.”

13. Monsieur Labisse, Hugo/The Invention of Hugo Cabret

Home bookstore: the Gare Montparnasse bookshop, Paris

Notable characteristics: Knows where all the books you need are, donates his stock to orphans, also he is French.

Bookselling philosophy: “Monsieur Labisse gave me a book the other night. He’s always doing that, sending books to a good home. That’s what he calls it. He’s got real . . . purpose. Everything has a purpose, even machines. Clocks tell the time and trains take you places. They do what they’re meant to do. Like Monsieur Labisse.”

12. Frank Doel, 84 Charing Cross Road

Home bookstore: Marks & Co., at 84 Charing Cross Road in London

Notable characteristics: Very good at correspondence, Yeats fan (by the by, Anthony Hopkins is actually related to Yeats.)

Bookselling philosophy: Well, he was willing to spend quite a lot of time writing back and forth with some American lady looking for obscure but inexpensive books . . . so it’s fair to say he was committed. And in real life, Doel was a committee member of the Society of Antiquarian Booksellers Employees, who called themselves the “Bibliomites.”

Why does it always rain at the seaside? To bring the rents down in the hotels.

11. Jezanna, Dykes to Watch Out For

Home bookstore: Madwimmin Books

Notable characteristics: Brash, bold, passionate, and in charge.

Bookselling philosophy: “I sold that woman her first lesbian sex book fifteen years ago, and now she’s taking her business to those cutthroats!”

See also: Mo, our hero, who works for Jezanna.

The sad fate of Madwimmin: To be finally overrun by “Bounders Books and Musak” and “Bunns & Noodle.” Mo: “Jeez, I thought we were gonna make the world safe for feminism.” Jezanna: “We did. To be packaged and sold by global media conglomerates.”

10. Apollo Kagawa, The Changeling

Home bookstore: Improbabilia, New York City (though not exactly a “store”)

Notable characteristics: Self-starter, devoted father, endlessly curious, massive nerd, big dreamer

Bookselling philosophy: As a rare book dealer, he lives for the surprise and suspense of the hunt—which sometimes ends up netting him a “horny postcard from Aleister Crowley.” May or may not scream over a first edition of To Kill a Mockingbird.

Words to live by: “A good book man never turns down the chance at some rare find.”

9. Uncle Kouzuki, The Handmaiden

Home bookstore: His own luxurious estate.

Notable characteristics: Tyrannical, sadistic, has a tongue permanently stained black from licking the tip of his ink pen. Perhaps the most terrifying bookseller on this list.

Bookselling philosophy: Collects rare erotic texts, and forces his beautiful niece to read them aloud for potential buyers—but is loathe to actually sell them, and so instead makes and sells forgeries to his panting clients.

That octopus in the torture chamber: I actually shudder to think.

8. Aziraphale, Good Omens

Home bookstore: A. Z. Fell and Co. in Soho, London

Notable characteristics: Obsessive book collector, human-lover, worrier. Brilliant, fussy, definitely wearing white right now. And, of course, an angel.

Bookselling philosophy: The bookstore is really just a place to keep his collection. In fact, he will use “every means short of physical violence to prevent customers from making a purchase. Unpleasant damp smells, glowering looks, erratic opening hours—he [is] incredibly good at it.”

Sign on the door: Bookshop Opening Hours: I open the show on most weekdays about 9:30 or perhaps 10am. While occasionally I open the shop as early as 8, I have been known not to open until 1, except on Tuesday. I tend to close about 3:30pm, or earlier if something needs tending to. However, I might occasionally keep the shop open until 8 or 9 at night, you never know when you might need some light reading. On days that I am not in, the shop will remain closed. On weekends, I will open the shop during normal hours unless I am elsewhere. Bank holidays will be treated in the usual fashion, with early closing on Wednesdays, or sometimes Fridays. (For Sundays see Tuesdays.) A. Z. Fell, Bookseller

Easter egg: Michael Ralph, the production designer for the adaptation of Good Omens, spent a lot of time thinking about this bookstore. “I put Aziraphale’s bookshop on a crossroads of a four-road intersection because of the four horseman of the apocalypse and the four corners of the earth,” he told Architectural Digest. “Then I based his bookshop entirely on the design of a compass. And therefore if you look up at the oculus or the skylight on the roof of Aziraphale’s bookshop, it actually is the face of a compass. On the mezzanine level are big brass letters that say ‘north,’ ‘south,’ ‘east,’ and ‘west.’ His office is sitting under the east side, and he was the guard at the eastern gate in Eden.”

Can you visit? Like human existence, it was there for a moment, and then it was gone.

7. Toni and Candace, Portlandia

Home bookstore: Women & Women First, Portland

Notable characteristics: Second-wave Feminists who are very triggered by pointing (“Every time you point I see a penis!!”), also shorts, use of words like “equipment,” alphabetizing, etc. Once high-powered publishing executives (??) who hated each other.

Bookselling philosophy: Enjoy doing lots of impressions, and also being profoundly unhelpful.

Interesting theory:

6. Dean Corso, The Ninth Gate

Home bookstore: A freelance book dealer—though he has a special relationship with Bernie’s Rare Books.

Notable characteristics: A sly, sexy, “double-dealing, money grubbing bastard”. . . deliciously unscrupulous and also the best in the business.

Bookselling philosophy: For a Quixote by Ybarra, he’d stoop to anything.

Uh oh: “The Devil, Mrs. Telfer. This book is designed to raise the Devil.”

5. Joe Goldberg, You

Home bookstore: Mooney’s in New York City; Aravin in Los Angeles

Notable characteristics: Really, really cares. He’s doing this for you. Read: obsessive, controlling, troubled, and, you know, a serial killer. On the other hand, he has generally excellent taste in books. I mean, he won this cold heart right away by recommending Paula Fox’s Desperate Characters right off the bat. If he were real, I’d be dead now.

Bookselling philosophy: You can make people better if you only hand them the right books. And manipulate them.

What a snob: “A book is far greater than most hands it passes through. Some simply aren’t worthy.”

4. Carolina, Desperado

Home bookstore: Carolina’s Cafe con Libros

Notable characteristics: Ride-or-die amateur surgeon, sharp-shooter and bookstore owner in a town where no one reads. Cooler than everyone else on this list.

Bookselling philosophy: The bookstore may be funded by/a front for Bucho’s drug dealing, but at least it’s hers. Mostly. Basically. And if not, she’s got money hidden in the books.

In the end: “I always said it would go up in smoke.”

3. Will Thacker, Notting Hill

Home bookstore: The Travel Book Company in Notting Hill, London

Notable characteristics: Floppy hair, broken heart, gloriously bad roommate.

Bookselling philosophy: Lots of mumbling involved. Attempts to steer customers towards books with amusing kebab incidents, is usually not successful. Attempts to keep customers from putting books down their trousers are marginally more successful. How’s it working for him? “Classic. Absolutely classic. Profit from major sales push . . . minus 347 pounds.”

Books are magic: “Very useful for fighting fires, wrapping fish, that sort of thing.”

Introductory voice over: “And so it was just another hopeless Wednesday, as I set off through the market to work, little suspecting that this was the day which would change my life forever. This is work, by the way, my little travel book shop, which, well, sells travel books—and, to be frank with you, doesn’t always sell many of those.”

Can you visit? The store in the film was inspired by The Travel Bookshop, which is now defunct. But in its place you will find The Notting Hill Bookshop. As far as I know, Hugh Grant does not work there (yet).

2. Bernard Black, Black Books

Home bookstore: the eponymous Black Books (“I was gonna call it World Of Tights, but you know how stupid people are; you have to spell everything out!”)

Notable characteristics: Literally all the bad ones, but in the best of ways.

Bookselling philosophy: “What do they want from me? Why can’t they leave me alone? I mean, what do they want from me?”

But really because: Bernard Black is all of us on our worst days.

Fun fact: Dylan Moran, who plays Bernard, is also Rufus the Thief in Notting Hill. Man just loves books, you know?

1. Kathleen Kelly, You’ve Got Mail

Home bookstore: The Shop Around the Corner in New York City

Notable characteristics: Bad taste in boyfriends, nostalgic, hopeless romantic, does not eat the garnish.

Bookselling philosophy: Professional, personal, dedicated, nice to children—the kind of philosophy you only find at a small local bookstore!

Sometimes: “Sometimes I wonder about my life. I lead a small life—well, valuable, but small—and sometimes I wonder, do I do it because I like it or because I haven’t been brave? So much of what I see reminds me of something I read in a book, when shouldn’t it be the other way around? I don’t really want an answer. I just want to send this cosmic question out into the void. So good night, dear void.”

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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