Poet and travel writer Marius Kociejowski (The Serpent Coiled in Naples) began what turned out to be a career in antiquarian bookselling in the 1970s; four decades later, in London, he was still at it. He shares marvelous stories in A Factotum in the Book Trade, but he also shares his fear that his sort of retailing is a dying breed: "With every shop that closes so, too, goes still more of the serendipity that feeds the human spirit." In a voice that's erudite, witty, cranky yet charming, he neatly captures the value of bookstores, both antiquarian and new: "I want to be able to step into a place and have the sense that there I'll find a book, as yet unknown to me, which to some degree will change my life."
Kociejowski's memoir is stuffed with droll digressions about those books and sharp portraits of the collectors and writers he's encountered over the years. (He drops plenty of names--Elton John, Patti Smith, Allen Ginsberg, Annie Lennox). This tribute to a vanishing industry proves the necessity of books and bookstores (and booksellers) in our lives. Perfect for any book lover. --Robin Lenz, managing editor, Shelf Awareness