The Washington County Historical Society is excited to announce a free talk by Gary Goodman, author of “The Last Bookseller” on Tuesday, August 9 at 7pm at the Washington County Heritage Center. The Washington County Heritage Center is located at 1862 South Greeley Street, Stillwater, MN 55082. Goodman plans to do a 35-minute program followed by a Q& A segment.
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 Goodman 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 Washington County Heritage Center will be open at 6pm for event attendees to experience the museum at a discounted rate prior to the event at 7pm. The program will also be available virtually on Zoom. Please visit wchsmn.org/events to register. Books will be available for purchase at the event. To order your copy in advance, visit thelastbookseller. com. The program is free to the public. No reservations are required. For questions, contact Washington County Heritage Center Site Manager Emily Krawczewski at [email protected] or 651-439-2298. The Washington County Heritage Center is open for visitors Tuesday- Sunday from 10am- 4pm.
Last Bookseller cover. Submitted photo.