Houston By the Book: Lloyd's Book Shop
In the modern age, Lloyd's Book Shop is almost undiscoverable. It has no website, nor any other online listings. There aren't any author appearances or big events that would draw folks there.
Marc Brubaker Lloyd Hooker
That's because it's Lloyd Hooker's home. The only thing identifying the quiet Rice Village bookstore is an unassuming sign that simply says "Lloyd's Books."
Hooker himself is a retired librarian whose first job was at the Heights Public Library. "I majored in History," he says. "I tried school-teaching, and it was disastrous." So he went on to get a degree in Library Science in Nashville. After a decade spent working for universities, first for Rice's Fondren Library, and then at Penn State University, Hooker spent a quarter century in service of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, where he was the Central Office Librarian.
"Can you Google on that?" Hooker asks when looking at the smartphone we're using to record the conversation. "Google has wiped out the reference librarians," he says with a chuckle.
Lloyd opened the shop in 1992, following his retirement from government work. "I was going nuts with nothing to do, and I was driving my family nuts, too," Hooker explains. "You always hear about bureaucrats not doing anything - well I did a hell of a lot! I was used to dealing with at least five or six people daily. I was just kinda lost after I retired; it gave me something to do."
The shop itself is a small bungalow on Sunset Boulevard, just blocks away from the main Village drag. A sign by the doorbell reads, "Knock Hard!" And while Hooker has never posted regular hours, he remains readily accessible. "At my age, you have to go to the doctor a lot, and other things," he explains. Inside, his cat Ponzi - named well before the Madoff scheme was made public - lords over room after room of books.
Art Attack's guided tour included reflections on a great many of Lloyd's books - at 79 years old, it may take him a moment to remember, but he's got a story for nearly every tome in the building. "A young lady came in here one day; she said she wanted a book on human anatomy, so I said 'I have Gray's Anatomy.' 'Oh,' she says, 'that won't do. I have to have something that has anatomy for everybody, not just people named Gray,'" he says with a hearty chuckle. A biography on Napoleon III: "That's how you can tell if anyone knows about history, if they know him." And a large biography entitled The Jameses prompts Hooker to note, "Illiterate people think that one's about Frank and Jesse." (In reality it's about William, Abigail, and Henry James, Jr.)