The Bookshop

The Bookshop

By: Evan Friss

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An affectionate and engaging history of the American bookstore and its central place in American cultural life, from department stores to indies, from highbrow dealers trading in first editions to sidewalk vendors, and from chains to special-interest community destinations

Bookstores have always been unlike any other kind of store, shaping readers and writers, and influencing our tastes, thoughts, and politics. They nurture local communities while creating new ones of their own. Bookshops are powerful spaces, but they are also endangered ones. In The Bookshop, we see the stakes: what has been, and what might be lost.

Evan Friss’s history of the bookshop draws on oral histories, archival collections, municipal records, diaries, letters, and interviews with leading booksellers to offer a fascinating look at this institution beloved by so many. The story begins with Benjamin Franklin’s first bookstore in Philadelphia and takes us to a range of booksellers including the Strand, Chicago’s Marshall Field & Company, the Gotham Book Mart, specialty stores like Oscar Wilde and Drum and Spear, sidewalk sellers of used books, Barnes & Noble, Amazon Books, and Parnassus. The Bookshop is also a history of the leading figures in American bookselling, often impassioned eccentrics, and a history of how books have been marketed and sold over the course of more than two centuries—including, for example, a 3,000-pound elephant who signed books at Marshall Field’s in 1944.

The Bookshop is a love letter to bookstores, a charming chronicle for anyone who cherishes these sanctuaries of literature, and essential reading to understand how these vital institutions have shaped American life—and why we still need them.

Details & specs

Publisher name:
Penguin Publishing Group

Publication date:


Penguin Random House

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