Books and Mortar, Gibbs M. Smith 2018
My sister has the unique knack of finding the perfect book for me on gift-giving occasions. Usually off-beat, often about weird topics and written by strange people, she surprises me with these gems. In this case, she found a small volume that delighted this lover of books and bookstores. Gibbs M. Smith (1946-2017) was a Utahn who wrote books, painted oils, and founded an eponymous publishing company with the motto of ‘enriching and inspiring humankind since 1969’. He combined those talents into this little volume subtitled ‘A Celebration of the Local Bookstore’. Very much in the style of other books lauding the local bookstore (My Bookstore: Writers Celebrate Favorite Places to Browse, Read, and Shop #2181 and Footnotes from the World’s Great Bookstores #2116), Smith sets it apart by combining text often in the words of the bookstores’ owners with reproductions of his own 16×20 oil on linen renderings of the stores. The paintings are not finely drawn and often depict the buildings in rain and at night, but every one gives a good sense of the place. I’ve been to 14 of the 58 bookstores (all but three in the U.S.) depicted and would love to visit all of them, but a number have closed since Smith made his painting. His paintings of Powell’s in Portland, OR and Three Lives and Company in Greenwich Village are particularly evocative of my time there. This small volume is a fine addition to my collection of bookstore books, providing me with yet another list of places to visit once we can visit places again.