Cover image for Bookstore : the life and times of Jeannette Watson and Books & Co.
Bookstore : the life and times of Jeannette Watson and Books & Co.
Tillman, Lynne.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Harcourt Brace, [1999]

Physical Description:
xxv, 337 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 24 cm
General Note:
Includes index.
Personal Subject:
Corporate Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
Z473.B673 T35 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



For twenty years, from 1977 to 1997, Books & Co. was one of the premier independent bookstores in the country. Stocking a wide range of quality fiction and nonfiction, Books & Co. was the kind of bookstore writers and readers dream about: a place where reading was an adventure, where interesting works would always be available, where writers would congregate to share ideas and discuss their writing. Its closing, in a rent dispute with the Whitney Museum of Art, caused a media sensation as readers and book lovers decried the end of a cultural icon. In Bookstore, Lynne Tillman tells the story of this legendary store and its determined founder, Jeannette Watson, with help from the voices of Brendan Gill, Roy Blount Jr., Fran Lebowitz, Calvin Trillin, Susan Sontag, Paul Auster, Simon Schama, Lyn Chase, Susan Cheever, Leila Hadley, J.D. McClatchy, Richard Howard, and many more. And the story goes beyond the walls of the store itself to explore the state of publishing and bookselling in a time when the very landscape of the book world has shifted radically. A fascinating account of business, books, and writerly aspiration, Bookstore is a vital window into a world so many have fantasized about.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

When Jeannette Watson opened the doors of Books & Co. at 939 Madison Avenue in New York in 1978, she began, intentionally, to build a community of book lovers. For nearly 20 years, until the store closed in May 1997, in a very public rent dispute with the Whitney Museum of Art, Books & Co. was a gathering place for writers, publishers, and lovers of quality literature, a place to meet and greet, to discuss books; it was the community that Jeannette had envisioned. With the exception of Tillman's brief but fascinating introduction outlining the history of bookselling in America, the story is told in the first-person voice of Jeannette Watson, based on hours of interviews with Tillman. Skillfully interwoven are contributions from employees, customers, and writers, including Steven Aronson, Susan Sontag, Brendan Gill, and the wonderfully humorous Fran Lebowitz. The result is a rich tapestry comprising many viewpoints. The book is a fitting tribute not only to Jeannette but also to book lovers and to an industry that is once again undergoing profound changes. --Grace Fill

Publisher's Weekly Review

From the moment it opened its doors in 1977 to its final clearance sale in 1997, Jeanette Watson's bookstore on Manhattan's Upper East Side did everything an independent should do. It served as a clearinghouse for serious, often unconventional, titles and as a breeding ground for great readings, and through personal customer-staff relationships it brought a wide range of books to a diverse audience. But Books & Co., unable to survive a skyrocketing real-estate market and rising competition from chains and e-retailers, finally folded after an acrimonious battle with its landlord, the Whitney Museum of Art. "If the bookstore were going to continue, it would have to be totally changed, computerized, Internetted," Watson remarks. "Books & Co. was like the last nineteenth century bookstore in the twentieth century." In this fine series of reminiscences from a virtual pageant of New York luminaries, including Brendan Gill, Albert Murray, Susan Sontag, Fran Leibowitz, various store employees and, of course, Watson herself, novelist Tillman (No Lease on Life) recounts how Watson, daughter of IBM CEO Thomas Watson, created a vital literary hub for international glitterati as well as for local residents, Whitney employees, academics and tourists. Presented as oral history, the book condemns the aggressive marketing and pricing tactics of today's superstores, but it's also a celebration of what was a great cultural institution. The only regret is that Books & Co. isn't around to house this title on its vaunted shelves. 8-page spread of b&w photos and lists of Watson's bestsellers and every reading that ever took place in the store. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Books & Co., located on Madison Avenue in Manhattan, was a leading independent bookstore from 1977 to 1997. The store was a booklover's dream: it sponsored a fabulous series of readings and became a place where writers and readers gathered. The store's closing (due to a rancorous rent dispute with its landlord, the Whitney Museum) became a cause c‚l`ebre, epitomizing the death of the independent bookstore. Here the bookstore's founder, Jeannette Watson, detailsÄvia Tillman (No Lease on Life)Äthe story of the bookstore's founding, its daily life, and its death. Woven together with Watson's narrative are the words of the bookstore's friends, some of them notable contemporary writers. This narrative technique is at once the book's strength and its greatest weakness. Some of this testimony gives insight into bookselling and publishing, but mostly it contains far too much repetitive grandiloquence on the store's importance. For comprehensive collections on publishing and bookselling.ÄPaul A. D'Alessandro, Portland P.L., ME (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.