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Showing posts from August, 2007

Brooklyn Lit Life: Kate Christensen

I reviewed Kate Christensen's most recent novel The Great Man very briefly back in June, though not nearly enough to get across my enthusiasm for her witty, compassionate, sly, suspenseful story, with some jabs at the art world and the patriarchy to boot. I've also loved all her previous novels -- In the Drink, Jeremy Thrane , and The Epicure's Lament -- and I was thrilled to host her at a book party at McNally Robinson in mid-August. She graciously agreed to be a part of the Brooklyn Lit Life series, and her answers seem much like one of The Great Man's heroines, Teddy St. Cloud: basking in the uniquely vibrant isolation that's on offer in the borough of Brooklyn. Brooklyn Lit Life Kate Christensen Why Brooklyn? What made you decide to live/work here, in both practical and emotional terms? Brooklyn is the best place to live in the world, at least in terms of the places I’ve seen and visited and lived. I’ve lived in Greenpoint for almost 5 years, and b

Wednesday Review: Castle Waiting (& extra thoughts)

Ya know, despite Monday's assertions, I'm not immune to the power of negative press. This blog got me so down and confused I considered taking a day off from writing my bookstore business plan. But on the other hand, there's this bookseller's blog , and all the stuff his Decatur bookstore has got going on. My favorite line: "the “futureTense” panel is meant to be a humorous, tongue-in-cheek takedown of “the sky is falling/no, we built the sky” give-and-take dichotomy between old and new media" Giggles trump blues once again. Ultimately, as we know, it ain't an internet-or-indies kind of world. Bread and roses, convenience and community, progress and tradition -- we're gonna have it all. In the meantime, I've got like months worth of book reviews to catch up on. Here's a start. Castle Waiting by Linda Medley (Fantagraphics, June 2006) I feel like this book and I have been giving each other the eye for over a year -- we had the fe

Link-Mad Response: American Reading Habits Will Surprise You

Okay, so if you work in books or read a lot you've probably heard about this: the recent AP/Ipsos poll on American reading habits (the whole thing is downloadable from their website - click on the August 21 survey, then the "Topline results" button), commonly reported in the following way: "One in four adults read no books last year." I met with a potential bookstore investor the other day, someone who loves reading but doesn't work in the industry, and even he had heard about it: "Didn't someone show that fewer people are reading now?" he asked. And that is how most people have interpreted these results. ( Why is the survey NOT described "Seventy-five percent of Americans read a book last year?" ) John Freeman of the National Book Critics Circle, blogging at the Guardian, used the poll as a taking-off point (or evidence) for an unhappy piece about reading in America , apparently inspired by a trip to Vegas (which I admit, depre

Comment: Blogging and other investments

There's a very nice piece in Bookselling This Week about booksellers who blog , which features yours truly, among others: namely Chuck Robinson of Village Books in Washington, the staff of River City Books in Minnesota, the folks at Harry W. Schwartz in Wisconsin, Arsen Kashkashian of Boulder Bookstore in Colorado, and Megan Sullivan of Harvard Bookstore in Massachusetts. Megan I knew already, of course, and I'd heard of a couple of the others, but I'm really impressed with what store owners and staff are doing with store blogs. I think the blogging "model" Megan and I follow is a different one from what the others are doing, and I'm intrigued by the difference. The Written Nerd is less a promotional tool than a means of personal expression and connection-making -- my own personal mutual-interest-based social networking site, in a way, and an outlet for talking about the topics that are spilling out of my own head. Bookstore blogs are that too --

Link-Mad Monday: "There's good and bad in everything."

There's lots of good news and bad news in Bookselling This Week. On the one hand, bookstore sales are apparently down over last year for the 12th month in a row. And there's another piece on the c losing of Bennett Books . On the other hand, eleven new independents opened in the month of July. And the California town of Stockton (named after some distant relative of mine, I've been told) successfully passed legislation that will keep out big-box stores. And there's also a piece on how bookstores are using MySpace for publicity and community building. And the future just keeps on coming on. HarperCollins has announced that it will release free samples of new books in an electronic format that can be read on the Apple iPhone (I first came across this on a fellow LBC member's blog, but now I can't remember whose). You can download them here on the HarperCollins Browse Inside page . The language suggests the brief downloadable passages are meant to re

Brooklyn Lit Life: Seth Kushner & Anthony LaSala

As I've been casting about trying to get a sense of the Brooklyn character, turns out the creators of a new book from Brooklyn art publisher powerHouse Books beat me to it. Photographer Seth Kushner and writer Anthony LaSala are the brains behind The Brooklynites , a gorgeous book of photographs, interviews and essays (coming out in October ) on the diverse denizens of the best borough. The accompanying photography exhibition will be up at the powerHouse Arena (an amazing combination of "gallery, boutique, book store, performance, and events space" in the DUMBO neighborhood) from September 6 to September 30. Seth and Anthony kindly agreed to a joint email interview for Brooklyn Lit Life, in which they talked about the surprises and rewards of their project and their love for the place they grew up. Describe your particular literary project, and your role in it. Why Brooklyn? What made you decide to live/work here, in both practical and emotional terms? Anthon

Guest blogger: Carolyn Bennett

Carolyn Bennett is one of my favorite people in the book industry. She's a sales rep at BookStream , a youngish independent wholesaler (and sends out their great e-newsletter), and works part time at Oblong Books in upstate New York. She also belongs to a wonderful bookselling family: her sister Whitney works for HarperCollins, and her parents John and Betty Bennett are the proprietors of Bennett Books in Wyckoff, New Jersey. I've been lucky to get to know both John and Betty through NAIBA, and they're some of my bookselling role models. Last week, Carolyn told me Bennett Books has made the decision to close at the end of September. The closing of an indie bookstore is always a hard thing to grapple with, and I think Carolyn's own words do it better than mine could. The following is also published in today's Shelf Awareness and on Carolyn's blog . Epilogue: Nineteen Years Later Back in 1988, my ten-year-old heart burst with a secret. My parents wer

Mad Monday

Just madness, no links -- forgive my overworked state, I promise I'll have more later this week. I suggest you spend Monday messing around with the Bookseller Wiki . Actually, you can only change it if you're an ABA member, but the accumulated knowledge (and they only just unveiled it ), is fascinating. Especially the info on the order of kids' book series like Warriors -- I don't think that information is available anywhere else. What's your favorite example of information sharing?

Brooklyn Lit Life: Peter Melman

Brooklyn Lit Life is a series of interviews with authors, publishers, retailers, bloggers, readers, and others involved in the literary life of my favorite borough. Questions are designed to spark conversation from a variety of perspectives on what characterizes Brooklyn and its neighborhoods as a cultural and literary place. If you'd like to take part or you know a great candidate for the series, email me: booknerdnyc at earthlink dot net. Brooklyn Lit Life #2: Peter Melman Peter Melman is a long-time Brooklynite and first-time novelist: his story of a Jewish Civil War soldier, Landsman , was published by Counterpoint in June 2007. I met him at a charming dinner for Counterpoint authors and later hosted his reading at McNally Robinson, and was delighted to learn that he once worked at BookCourt , one of the borough's premier indie bookstores. His cheeky answers to my interview questions reveal a true Brooklyn spirit. Describe your particular literary project, and your rol

Link-Mad Monday: Links on the fly

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I'm trying really hard to buckle down on the business plan this morning, so here are some quickie links. * HarperCollins CEO Jane Friedman is optimistic about the future of publishing. Here's a sample of her interview in Forbes : I think the book business is the healthiest I have seen it in a very long time. We are seeing a breadth of titles selling in many different channels of distribution. We are no longer publishing for the independents only, the chains only, the big box merchandisers only, the online sellers only. We are selling across the board. The health is the breadth, diversity and range. That's good for business, and more importantly, it's good for society. *I so totally want to go the New York Public Library and print a free instant book on the Espresso Book Machine -- especially after the great stories about indie bookstores doing great business with Print on Demand I heard at the Digital Task Force. *A victory for shopping local: thanks largely to the

Brooklyn Lit Life: Johnny Temple

Today marks the first installment in an ongoing series I'm calling Brooklyn Lit Life: interviews with authors, publishers, retailers, bloggers, readers, and others involved in the literary life of my favorite borough. Questions are designed to spark conversation from a variety of perspectives on what characterizes Brooklyn and its neighborhoods as a cultural and literary place. If you'd like to take part or you know a great candidate for the series, email me: booknerdnyc at earthlink dot net. Brooklyn Life Life #1: Johnny Temple Johnny Temple is in some ways the face of Brooklyn literary life. He is the co-founder and publisher of independent press Akashic Books , and the chair of the Brooklyn Literary Council, which organizes the Brooklyn Book Festival . He is also the organizer for the Fort Greene Park Summer Literary Festival , and I've seen him selling books from a booth at the Atlantic Antic . And that's all when he's not touring with his band, Girls Ag

Thursday Extras: LBC, Graphic Lit

It's not blogging day, but these two links are too good to wait until Monday: The Litblog Co-Op has announced it's new Read This! selection, and has posts on the winner as well as the two runners-up. They're all great books, and a great conversation is starting -- check it out! And today my first column on graphic lit runs in Shelf Awareness ! I'm delighted at the opportunity to write about comics for a wider audience, and I hope it proves helpful to bookstores trying to navigate what for many is a new category. Comments welcome!

Meeting Reports: DTF, NAIBA

Despite the purported summer doldrums, July was a busy month as booksellers came together for pooling our collective brains and planning for the future. My own brain is a bit fuzzy today as I seem to have contracted an icky summer cold, but I'll do my best to give you the scoop on the two meetings I attended this month. Wednesday, July 11: American Booksellers Association Digital Task Force (ABA-DTF) Participants: * Beck Anderson (Anderson’s Bookshops – Naperville, IL) * Tom Campbell (Regulator Bookshop – Durham, NC) * Dan Cullen (Director Information Department – American Booksellers Assoc.) * Avin Domnitz (CEO – American Booksellers Assoc.) * Kelly Justice (Fountain Bookstore – Richmond, VA) * Russ Lawrence (Chapter One Books – Hamilton, MT) * Ricky Leung (Technical Lead – BookSense.com) * Madeline MacIntosh (Senior VP and Publisher, Random House Audio Group) * Jessica Stockon (McNally Robinson – New York, NY) * Neil Strandberg (Tattered Cover – Denver, CO) * Oren Teicher (CO