Paul Yamazaki in conversation with Oscar Villalon
City Lights and Ode Books celebrate the publication of
Reading the Room: A Bookseller’s Tale
By Paul Yamazaki, (Foreword by Rick Simonson)
Published by Ode Books
City Lights celebrates one of its own! Reading the Room is Paul Yamazaki’s love letter to the work of bookselling and an engaged life of the mind. Over twenty-four hours, Paul Yamazaki leads us through the stacks of storied City Lights Booksellers in San Francisco; the care and prowess of his approach to book buying; his upbringing in a Japanese American family in Southern California and moving to San Francisco at the height of revolutionary foment; working with legendary figures in the book publishing industry like Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Sonny Mehta, and others; and his vision for the future of bookselling. Navigating building trust with readers and nurturing relationships across the literary industry, Yamazaki testifies to the value of generosity, sharing knowledge, and dialogue in a life devoted to books.
Paul Yamazaki has been the principal buyer at City Lights Booksellers, the legendary San Francisco bookstore and publisher founded by Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Peter Martin, for more than fifty years. A champion for national and global literature, writers, publishers, and independent bookstores, Yamazaki was the recipient of the National Book Foundation’s 2023 Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community. He has mentored generations of booksellers across America.
Oscar Villalon is the managing editor at ZYZZYVA. His writing has been published in Stranger’s Guide, Freeman’s, The Believer, Literary Hub, and other publications. A former book editor at the San Francisco Chronicle, he lives with his family in San Francisco.
What has been said about Reading The Room:
“A wry, stirring, profoundly uplifting ode to bookselling––complete with riffs on capitalism, San Francisco, jazz, even the meaning of life––from one of the underappreciated literary titans of our time.” — Hua Hsu, author of Stay True: A Memoir
“Paul Yamazaki is one of the greatest and most influential readers in the world. [This volume] reminds us that reading is an act of imagination, defiance, optimism and love. Paul brings the whole of his being to the world of books. May we all learn to do the same.” — Katie Kitamura, author of Intimacies and A Separation
This event made possible by support from the City Lights Foundation.