Out West Books staff picks

Each week as part of SunLit — The Sun’s literature section — we feature staff recommendations from book stores across Colorado. This week, the staff from Out West Books in Grand Junction recommends a unique collection of favorite stories about books and those who sell them.

Confessions of a Bookseller

By Shaun Bythell
David R. Godine
April 2020


From the publisher:  Inside a Georgian townhouse on the Wigtown highroad, jammed with more than 100,000 books and a portly cat named Captain, Shaun Bythell manages the daily ups and downs of running Scotland’s largest used bookshop with a sharp eye and even sharper wit. His account of one year behind the counter is something no book lover should miss.

From Marya Johnston, Owner: For a relatively young man, Shaun Bythell seems awfully curmudgeonly, but maybe that’s the antiquarian bookseller persona.(?)  Perhaps antiquarians are really in the business to find and handle something rare and important….not to please customers.  Shaun’s daily account of life in his (now famous) bookstore in the (now famous) book town of Wigtown, Scotland, is nothing short of hilarious. 

From the man on crutches buying the Kama Sutra and the customers that inspire him to design a mug that says, “Death to the Kindle,”  to the employee with whom he has a love/hate relationship and the yearly take that makes one wonder how he stays in business, I loved every minute of this book.  It’s one of the truly accurate accounts of day-to-day bookselling I’ve read. 

The Bookbinder

By Pip Williams
Ballantine Books
July 2023


From the publisher: A young British woman working in a book bindery gets a chance to pursue knowledge and love when World War I upends her life — an exquisite novel from the New York Times bestselling author of the Reese’s Book Club pick “The Dictionary of Lost Words.”

From Marya Johnston, Owner: This book is about knowledge….who has the right to it and who does not.  In Britain in 1914, only the elite had the privilege and access to Oxford’s libraries. You were either a “town” or a “gown,” and sisters Peggy and Maude were “town” girls…. not born into privilege. They inherited jobs at the Oxford University Press bindery, where Peggy learned at a young age to read upside down whilst folding pages into folio, quarto or octavo patterns.  If a fold was wrong or torn, the books ended up in the sisters’ personal collection.

They were versed in the classics and Greek mythology, but still not allowed access to libraries at Oxford. I have never before read an homage to the book itself and I found it intriguing. Do people still consider the work involved in making a book?  Do they think of books as treasured possessions?  A favorite quote:  “As soon as someone cracks the spine, a book develops a character all its own.  What impresses or concerns one reader is never the same as what impresses or concerns all others.  So, each book, once read, will fall open at a different place.  Each book, once read, will have told a slightly different story.”  

A Cryptic Clue

By Victoria Gilbert
Crooked Lane Books
July 2023


From the publisher: Sixty-year-old Jane Hunter, forced into early retirement from her job as a university librarian, is seeking a new challenge to keep her spirits up and supplement her meager pension. But as she’s about to discover, a retiree’s life can bring new thrills — and new dangers. Cameron “Cam” Clewe, an eccentric 33-year-old collector, is also seeking something — an archivist to inventory his ever-expanding compendium of rare books and artifacts.

Jane’s thrilled to be hired on by Cam and to uncover the secrets of his latest acquisition, a trove of items related to the classic mystery and detective authors. But Jane’s delight is upended when a body is discovered in Cam’s library. The victim, heir to a pharmaceutical fortune, was the last in line of Cam’s failed romances — and now he’s suspect number one.

From Didi Herald, Bookseller: A cozy mystery is always a nice treat as summer starts winding down. They feature all the joys of a puzzle to solve but no little pieces to fall on the floor for the puppy to eat. As a book lover, I relate to folks in books who are bookish. I was pleased to see Jane, the librarian, and Cam, the collector of classic mysteries, are not only bookish but also smart.

The accurate description of the role of a special collection librarian including the archival and cataloging aspects of her profession warmed my retired librarian heart. Being the first in a series is another win, with shiny new characters and a view to more adventures in the future. The setting, in a mansion with a library and mysteriously walled off attic, happily gave me Nancy Drew vibes.


Out West Books

533 Main St., Grand Junction


As part of The Colorado Sun’s literature section — SunLit — we’re featuring staff picks from book stores across the state. Read more.

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