‘Hello Bookstore’ Review: A Bibliophile and His Shop in Close-Up

Matthew Tannenbaum’s reading voice beckons. Which may be a funny thing to remark upon given that we see his face nearly nonstop in “Hello Bookstore.” Then again, the documentary about this bookstore owner, directed by A.B. Zax, is a tribute to the love of reading and the pleasures of a smartly stocked bookstore. Tannenbaum’s fondness for his store and its wares is a beautiful thing to behold, even at its most vulnerable.

Starting in Spring 2020, the coronavirus put a hurt on Tannenbaum’s ledger; soon the shop in Lenox, Mass., which he bought in 1976, called simply the Bookstore, was teetering. Tannenbaum started a GoFundMe campaign in August 2020, but that’s just the accidental hook for this affectionate portrait.

Zax began this love letter earlier, in fall 2019, his digital camera often watching like a fly-on-a-shelf. So, the dark days of the pandemic are intercut with scenes of sun-dappled or wintry afternoons. Leaves collect as the door opens to new, returning and — because the Bookstore is one of those havens and Tannenbaum one of those raconteurs — sojourning customers.

We see regulars and literary wayfarers. We also meet Tannenbaum’s daughters, who have shared him with the store since the mid-1990s, when Tannenbaum’s wife (their mother) died.

We also learn about his life. Brooklyn-born, Tannenbaum was discharged from the Navy ready to have his mind expanded. His memoir about coming into his intellectual own at Frances Steloff’s Gotham Book Mart was published in 2009. Tannenbaum pays forward those Book Mart lessons: bantering, browsing and connecting — for a spell with a glass door between the customer and him. And sometimes he just sits down, puts his feet up and reads: A curator doing his inspired thing.

Hello, Bookstore
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 26 minutes. In theaters.

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