Showing posts from March, 2006

Quick Now: Comment, Chronicle, Review #17

I've got a date tonight: dinner and then Art Spiegelman hosting Selected Shorts at Symphony Space. I love living in New York. I've got to get ready, so this'll be a quickie. Comment: Daughters Are Doin' It For Themselves Michael Powell, CEO of the superfamous Portland independent bookstore that bears his name, just announced that he'll be handing over the reins of the business to his daughter Emily within the next few years. And Neal Coonerty of well-respected (if smaller) Bookshop Santa Cruz is passing along his operation to his daughter, Casey Coonerty Protti. (Both via Shelf Awareness). I just think this is darn cool -- two educated, driven young women stepping into their dads' shoes, and stepping up for the next era in the business of bookselling. It reminds me of the famous Russ & Daughters deli in New York (a favorite of foodie author Calvin Trillin). Hooray for the daughters! Chronicle: Emerging Leaders NAIBAhood gathering The New Atlantic Independent

Reviews: The Supernatural (#15 & #16)

I've been getting behind on the book reviews, so I'll just jump right in to what I've read in the past couple of weeks. (Beware, this is kind of a long one.) What Jesus Meant by Gary Wills (Viking, March 2006) One of my favorite parts of living in Brooklyn is going to Old First , by some reckonings the oldest church in the borough. (Yep, I'm a Christian as well as a book nerd – talk about your obstacles to hipster credibility!) The building is magnificent, if in need of repair (Tiffany stained glass, an ancient pipe organ, and that great old wood smell). And it's an open-armed, community-minded sort of place, where tradition is taken as seriously as a commitment to a progressive engagement with contemporary realities. It's actually a lot like my idea of the perfect neighborhood bookstore, though with less profit-oriented goals. Anyway, at Old First we've been knocking around the idea of starting a book group for reading literature that has resonances fo

Comment: To Compute Or Not To Compute

What part should a computer system play in the life of a good bookstore? I know this probably seems like a non-question in this digital age, especially for those of you who are net-surfers enough to be reading this. But you might be surprised how many good bookstores have answered "none." And I believe there are better and worse ways to utilize the electronic box in a store full of print. (Warning: this post is kind of wonky, so if you're not especially interested in the internal workings of bookstores, feel free to skip it.) I know of some bookstores that are so small, and run by such a stable and careful staff, that they consider a computerized inventory unnecessary. And to some degree, they're right. If your stock is small enough, and your staff is good enough, why do you need an electronic record of what you've bought and sold, how long it's been around and what kind of discount you got? If you have a relationship with most of the regulars who come in

Please stand by (again)...

This is looking like a crazy week. Not only is it steep-learning-curve time at the new job, but I'm looking at a massive freelance project that I've been neglecting a little -- if it doesn't get whipped up and sent out ASAP, heads are likely to roll. So I'm abandoning the little blog momentarily -- I can't quite manage to beat down the guilt that would ensue if I spent the usual amount of time it takes to write up a decent posting. Hope this isn't too much information -- just wanted to make it clear that I'm not retiring, or resting on my laurels. (By the way, thanks so much to all of you who have sent comments and emails regarding the PW article -- I'm working on getting to them, and I love hearing from you!) I promise when things calm down I'll be back, with book reviews, fun industry news, and reports from my new bookseller life. Enjoy the week, and happy reading!

Chronicle: Goodbye to All That

Today is my last day at the bookstore, so I'm exercising the unprecedented gall to actually write a post during store hours. It's kind of like the last day of school -- nothing seems too important or difficult, because it's almost all over. Several of my coworkers have expressed regret at seeing me go, which I appreciate a great deal, especially from those whom I know have a hard time with that kind of expression. As one of my last acts here, I've managed to convince everyone to allow me to pull the graphic novels out of literature to create a Graphic Lit section. It looks pretty good for something cobbled together in the last few days, I have to say. I have every hope and expectation that this will lead to increased sales and cred for the store, and that the section can be expanded as it succeeds; I just hope someone with a feel for the genre will end up taking charge of it. Cake and beer is scheduled for later this afternoon. After work, several of us have planned to

Comment: Bookseller/Blogger To Watch; Bookstores & Chaos

I've recently become a devotee of the blog of Bookseller Chick . Her profile says she works for a West Coast chain, but her attitude is truly indie: creative, community-minded, and all about the conversation. Her blog is a real forum for discussion of issues in the book world, from the book that scared you as a kid to the idea of Book TV to our reaction to (scarily brainless) teen girl chick lit. Hats off to her -- I'd love to have this site become as much of a conversation-starter. (Later this week I'm planning to run another roundup of great book blogs I've discovered recently, so prepare for more time wasting!) In the BS Chick spirit, I've been thinking about an issue that I imagine bookstore goers have opinions on, whether they've considered them or not. How do you take your bookstore: chaotic or clean? Myself, I'm a bit of a neat freak. I spend all day at my current store picking up stray books and putting them back on the shelf, dusting surfaces, throw

Chronicle: Nerd Star

Okay, let's just get it out there: this week's edition of Publishers Weekly features an article titled Booksellers: The Next Generation that prominently features your Book Nerd. It started out as a simple profile by my friend and mentor Robert Gray (of Fresh Eyes), part of a series he had planned, but eventually became a commentary on the larger issue of young booksellers. Aside from the usual cringing at a dorky quote or two, I'm totally thrilled to be representin' for my generation - hopefully it will lead to a wider discussion of how to motivate more passionate young book people to take up a life of retail. I've been reviewing books for PW for years, and only twice before has my name ever appeared in the magazine. I have to say this is a little gratifying. Ben from FSG deserves credit for this entry's title; I may be famous in only a tiny little world, but it feels like the cover of Rolling Stone to me. Also, look for my guest blog this week on MJ Rose

Books and Buildings (includes Chronicle: Loss of a Local Landmark, and Reviews: #13 & #14)

I was surprised, perhaps foolishly, by this article in the Times the other day about the commencement of the destruction of the Underberg Building. Abandoned and already crumbling on Flatbush Avenue, the building stands in the way of a proposed (and highly controversial) sports stadium and mall complex under the auspices of the sinister-sounding Forest City Ratner. I'm a little torn myself about the Ratner complex. The theory is that it will bring jobs and more affordable housing to Brooklyn, which is hard to argue with. But it's also sort of a corporate monolith, and it seems as though it will make the neighborhood a lot less neighborhoody. The ALP and I walk past the Underberg on jaunts to the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the irresistible temptations of the Brooklyn Target, or the Atlantic Avenue subway station. I've always been charmed by the combination of odd green paint and the brick that shows through where it's peeled and faded, and the old-fashioned lettering ste

Chronicle: Pulling Up Stakes

When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one bookseller to dissolve the economic bonds which have connected her with a bookstore, and to assume among the community of booksellers, a separate and equal station at a new establishment, a decent respect to the opinions of blog readers requires that she should declare the causes which impel her to the separation. Yep, it's true -- your Book Nerd is changing her place of employment. To be precise, I'm leaving this store for this store . It's been an intense couple of weeks, but obviously I didn't want to post the news here before I'd made it public with my employer and coworkers, which just happened yesterday. So what are the impelling causes? Primarily, the pursuit of becoming a better bookseller. As you all have seen me declare repeatedly, I'm after a store of my own, and I'm interested in experiences that will prepare me for that eventuality. The store I'm going to is relatively you

Chronicle: Book Nerd Fashion

It's been a big weekend for T-shirts showing Book Nerd Pride. On Friday I discovered this irresistible item at Bank Street Books , the wonderful Upper West Side children's bookstore: I was crazy about author Mo Willem's pigeon character in his hilarious (and extremely good for contrary kids who love to shout "NO" on every page) book DON'T LET THE PIGEON DRIVE THE BUS. (The sequel, THE PIGEON FINDS A HOT DOG, was equally funny, if not as interactive.) Now here he is becoming a spokesbird for literacy! The book he's holding is called, of course, HOW TO DRIVE A BUS. Saturday the ALP and I braved the cold to walk to our local Neighborhoodies store. These guys started out as an Internet-only company based in Brooklyn, and has started opening bricks-and-mortar stores in the last couple of years, providing the same service of custom-made T-shirt designs (they now have bags, sweatshirts and undies too). Their cozy Atlantic Avenue shop is a great temptation to tho

Joint Review: Books On Paper (#11 & #12)

The People of Paper by Salvador Plasencia (McSweeney's, June 2005) The House of Paper by Carlos Maria Dominguez translated by Nick Caistor illustrations by Peter Sis So here we have two books, both with paper in the title, both by Latin Americans (or Latino-Americans), published in 2005. Both also happen to be about books. Plasencia's novel is the second McSweeney's publication I've read in less than a month; their bindings are always just so pretty, and I guess after a lot of recent non-fiction reading I was ready for some fiction that was a little more arch and challenging. This one is definitely experimental, both typographically and authorially. Stories are often told in several columns on a page spread, each narrated by or concerned with a different character; the type sometimes ends up running sideways on the page or blocked out by black squares; one word is actually cut out of the page each time it would appear, leaving a small rectangular whole; and at one p