I can't count the number of times a customer has held up a juicy-looking paperback and asked "Have you read this?" and I've been forced to say "No… but I WANT to read it." The books that I manage to get to certainly aren't the only ones that deserve to be read – if I could read five times as fast I'm sure I'd have nearly five times as many books to recommend. But sometimes the best I can do is tell you why it seems like a book is worth reading – if you can put aside all of the other stuff worth reading, plus the food and sleep and work and socializing that compose the rest of your life.
I do have some reviews to post soon, but in case I don't get to everything in my to-be-read pile (which seems likely), today I'm posting a list of what I WANT to read, and the reasons why. I'm doing them in alphabetical order by title, because obviously I can't choose between them. Maybe you'll get to them before I do, and you can give your own report.
BROOKLAND by Emily Barton (FSG, March 2006)
The story of sisters running a gin mill in Dutch 18th century Brooklyn? Heck yeah! The female entepreneur, Brooklynite, drinker, and historical fiction buff in me are all drooling over this one.
CONVERSATIONS WITH MR. PRAIN by Joan Taylor (Melville House, May 2006)
I don't know anything about this book, except that Melville House is a rockin' indie press, and it was given to me by Robert Gray of Fresh Eyes, who knows a thing or two about books and booksellers.
THE DEVIL IN THE BUSH by Matthew Head (Felony & Mayhem, reprinted 2005)
I bought this one weeks or months ago at the behest of the fine booksellers at Partners & Crime (who are also the folks behind the Felony & Mayhem mystery reprint publishing house, which does beautiful paperbacks), and I'm just waiting for a moment to devour the WWII in Africa mystery.
FLEDGLING by Octavia Butler (Seven Stories, October 2004)
I've never read Butler, perhaps the sole African-American woman writing literary sci fi/fantasy; she died recently, quite young, but not before this race-inflected vampire story got rave reviews.
IN PURSUIT OF PRINCIPLE AND PROFIT: BUSINESS SUCCESS THROUGH SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY by Alan Reder (Tarcher/Penguin, 1994)
This was given to me by a good friend who knows about my Brooklyn bookstore plans and ideals; I'd love to read Reder's guide to running a business as a good global citizen.
THE MEANING OF NIGHT by Michael Cox (Norton, September 2006)
The jacket evokes comparisons to PERFUME, Dickens, and JONATHAN STRANGE AND MR. NORRELL – sounds right up my alley! This one was handed to me by a fellow bookseller, and it's the one riding around in my bag right now – but it's dauntingly long and not due out until fall, so it may have to take a backseat.
MONSTER ISLAND by David Wellington (Thunder's Mouth Press, March 2006)
Originally published online, this zombies-take-Manhattan story made it to print through another indie, Thunder's Mouth, and it's phenomenal! Honestly, I had to stop reading because the horror-movie suspense was too intense to spread out over daily subway rides – I need to find a time to read the whole thing at once and scare myself silly.
RELUCTANT CAPITALISTS: BOOKSELLING AND THE CULTURE OF CONSUMPTION by Laura Miller (University of Chicago Press, May 2006)
I know a number of other booksellers who have this book on their to-be-read stack, and we're all looking forward to talking to each other about it. Miller's academic tome is a little daunting, but it seems like an invaluable look at the ethical complications and possibilities of our "noble profession."
RUNNING A 21ST-CENTURY SMALL BUSINESS: THE OWNER'S GUIDE TO STARTING AND GROWING YOUR COMPANY by Randy Kirk (Warner Business Books, February 2006)
I'm about halfway through this one – got bogged down in a bunch of self-analysis tests, and I don't want to go on without taking them! It's a very interesting book, though – another one that I need to set aside time to finish.
SACCO AND VANZETTI MUST DIE! by Mark Binelli (Dalkey Archive Press, July 2006)
I probably won't have time to read this before I meet the author at a lunch tomorrow, but since I've been told he wrote most of it in the café of our bookstore, I'd love to take a look – not to mention the fact that it sounds like a KAVALIER & CLAY-style alternate history about Vaudeville, the famously xenophobic trials, and American identity.
WHAT I KNOW NOW: LETTERS TO MY YOUNGER SELF edited by Ellyn Spragins (Broadway, April 2006)
This is a collection of women talking to women: successful "grown-ups" from Madeleine Albright to Macy Gray reflecting on what advice they'd like to give to their confused younger selves. Sounds like an absorbing and valuable box of chocolates.
THE YELLOW-LIGHTED BOOKSHOP by Lewis Buzbee (Graywolf Press, June 2006)
Essays by a former sales rep and bookseller on the joys of reading and bookstores – what could be better to curl up with, underline, and share?
So there's the list – and this is just what I have on my shelf, and doesn't include the books I still want to buy! I'd love to hear from anyone who's read or heard about these titles, and anyone who has their own must-read-soon list.