All book lovers have a favorite bookstore, and most bookstores have a great story. Like the time at St. Paul’s Common Good Books when a flash mob of accordionists showed up and started performing. Or the time at New York City’s Gotham Book Mart when a clerk almost walked off with E.E. Cummings’ hat. Or the time at Books & Books in south Florida when the bookseller “said these seven magic words: ‘Paul McCartney needs your help in fiction.’ ”

“Footnotes From the World’s Greatest Bookstores” is a beautiful book, an illustrated collection of anecdotes from 75 bookstores across the world. Most of the featured stores are still around, but a few have closed, including at least one (Moby Dickens Bookshop in Taos, N.M.) that died even as the book was being written.

The heart of the book is Bob Eckstein’s paintings, which are flat-out lovely, especially the ones that depict glowing storefronts in the evening. Each manages to capture the spirit and personality of the store.

Everything about this book seems to have been done with love. It is ­beautifully designed, with a hard cover that doubles as a gift box. Garrison Keillor’s introduction is funny and grumpy-old-man-ish (“The little independent bookstore is dying out, they say. Too bad. Someday mine will too.”), but it is also poignant and just the right side of sentimental.

This might be a perfect book for holiday giving. But you might want to buy two copies, and keep one for yourself.


Laurie Hertzel is the Star Tribune’s senior editor for books.

Footnotes From the World's Greatest Bookstores
By: Bob Eckstein; foreword by Garrison Keillor.
Publisher: Clarkson Potter, 176 pages, $22.