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ATG Book of the Week: The Last Bookseller – A Life in the Rare Book Trade

by | Mar 12, 2022 | 0 comments

TITLE: The last Bookseller – A Life in the Rare Book Trade
AUTHOR: Gary Goodman
HARDCOVER: ISBN: 978-1517912574; $19.95
IMPRINT: Minneapolis: Univ Of Minnesota Press, 2021

When Gary Goodman wandered into a run-down, used-book shop that was going out of business in East St. Paul in 1982, he had no idea the visit would change his life. He walked in as a psychiatric counselor and walked out as the store’s new owner. In The Last Bookseller Goodman describes his sometimes desperate, sometimes hilarious career as a used and rare book dealer in Minnesota—the early struggles, the travels to estate sales and book fairs, the remarkable finds, and the bibliophiles, forgers, book thieves, and book hoarders he met along the way. 

Here we meet the infamous St. Paul Book Bandit, Stephen Blumberg, who stole 24,000 rare books worth more than fifty million dollars; John Jenkins, the Texas rare book dealer who (probably) was murdered while standing in the middle of the Colorado River; and the eccentric Melvin McCosh, who filled his dilapidated Lake Minnetonka mansion with half a million books. In 1990, with a couple of partners, Goodman opened St. Croix Antiquarian Books in Stillwater, one of the Twin Cities region’s most venerable bookshops until it closed in 2017. This store became so successful and inspired so many other booksellers to move to town that Richard Booth, founder of the “book town” movement in Hay-on-Wye in Wales, declared Stillwater the First Book Town in North America

The internet changed the book business forever, and details how, after 2000, the internet made stores like his obsolete. In the 1990s, the Twin Cities had nearly fifty secondhand bookshops; today, there are fewer than ten. As both a memoir and a history of booksellers and book scouts, criminals and collectors, The Last Bookseller offers an ultimately poignant account of the used and rare book business during its final Golden Age…”


The Last Bookseller is an extraordinary new book, a beautifully written firsthand account of the adventures of a man who was a mover and shaker in the book business for nearly half a century . . . a sometimes hilarious, sometimes poignant portrait of the larger-than-life characters, including the author himself, who dominated the world of books when books were sold by warm-blooded human beings instead of by soulless robots and a few mouse clicks. The Last Bookseller will be high on the must-read list of book lovers everywhere. — Mark Ziegler, author of Wordsongs

The Last Bookseller is the story of a dying breed—the traveling rare book dealers who roamed the earth at the end of the twentieth century. I knew Gary Goodman when he was selling books from a hole-in-the-wall bookstore in East St. Paul in the early 1980s. He went on to become one of the premier booksellers in the Midwest. In witty, unvarnished prose he describes what the book business was like before the internet drove the last booksellers to near extinction. This is a story that needed to be told. — Paul “The General” Kisselburg, Kisselburg Military Books

A memoir from one of the last ‘hunter-gatherers in the book business.’ Goodman has all the requisite irascibility for a bookseller . . . lots of fun anecdotes about book thieves, bibliomaniacs, and other familiars of the book business. — Kirkus Reviews

Highly recommended, partly for Goodman’s portrait of a lost world, but also for its colorful dramatis personae. — Michael Dirda, The Washington Post

His wry and relatable chronicle of the trials and tribulations of an antiquarian bookseller in the Midwest as he builds an empire—or close enough, North America’s first book town—in Stillwater, Minnesota, is a worthy addition to the genre of ‘Golden Age’ booksellers’ memoirs. — Fine Books Magazine

A swashbuckling tale of thieves and forgers, a man who would be king, celebrities and the never-ending search for gold — in this case, books, rare ones, and the lengths some will go to acquire them. He tells his tale like a man who has seen a thing or two and lived to tell about it, a story best unwound over a beer in the corner of a dive bar. . . [a] treasure trove of a memoir. — Star Tribune


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