Sam Weller and Gibbs Smith

With Tuesday’s sad passing of long-time Utah bookseller Sam Weller, Gibbs Smith wanted to share his childhood reflections on such a great literary example.

Sam Weller, who ran his bookstore for years, in his Avenues home, surrounded by books, in 2006. Weller died Tuesday. He was 88.(Trent Nelson/The Salt Lake Tribune)

“When I was about ten years old, my family moved to Utah and I gradually became aware of my own preferences and interests apart from my parents’, such as which writers I personally liked, some of whom were Ernest Hemingway and Jack London. My father, a dentist who also loved literature, took me to Salt Lake City to Sam Weller’s Book Store and purchased for me copies of For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Sun Also Rises, along with a collection of Jack London stories. I remember this very clearly, especially how Sam Weller himself took a personal interest in me as a young customer and helped me find the right books…

“At Sam Weller’s, I made a lifelong friend in both Sam and the store. Through my college years at the University of Utah I would frequently visit Sam’s store and have many discussions with him about the book world. He was on the board of the American Bookseller’s Association and knew many in the business. I liked to ask him about publishers, and he said that over the years most publishers had come into his store and visited, some on a regular basis. Alfred Knopf would come fairly often. Bennett Cerf had been there, and many more. I began to get the feeling that the book business was a community of people who knew each other and whose main goal in life was to create and sell books. This way of life appealed to me. Over the years, I’ve reflected on the nature of this industry, and I think it truly was, and to some degree still is, a cottage industry. It’s unlike any other business.”
--Gibbs Smith, Layton book publisher for the past 40 years

These words can be found in the upcoming book, The Art of the Bookstore, along with a painting of Sam Weller’s Salt Lake City bookstore created by Smith. The book, which publishes in October, features 40 paintings of independent bookstores throughout the country and the words of many of these booksellers. Another lovely tribute can be found in the June 25 edition of the Salt Lake Tribune.

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