Showing posts from 2009

The holiday book drive you've been waiting for!

There is a joy in giving books. And if that joy can be combined with 1) getting rid of your old books so you can get new books, and 2) passing along the gift of literacy and literature to those who might not receive it otherwise -- well, that's some serious book giving joy. This year the church I attend, Old First Reformed, is holding a book drive for a community of West African refugees on Staten Island, many of whom struggle with English and therefore with school and employment. The organization, African Refuge , is a more than worthy cause to unburden your groaning shelves, especially if you've got some children's or YA books amongst them. Details are below. The ALP and I will be schlepping a couple of boxes over there on Sunday; hope to see you there! Book Drive! To Benefit African Refuge After‐School Please donate your ‘gently read’ or brand new books to help West African refugee children who are now living on Staten Island. For readers ages 5 – 17 Sunday, December

The Other Giving Thanks Post.

On the Greenlight blog today we've posted a list of the people we have to thank for the opening of the bookstore. It's a very, very long list . Here on my own blog I wanted to say thanks to a few of those who helped me, myself, personally, get to this wonderful moment. These are the people I haven't thanked regularly in interviews -- the ones outside of the primary business development story, who nonetheless are the reasons I am here. To my mom, of course, for reading to me when I still just wanted to chew on the pages; for letting me check out the maximum number of library books every week; for telling me I could go to college anywhere I could get a scholarship, and sticking to that even when it meant going 3,000 miles away; for giving me a chunk of my inheritance early as seed money for the store; for talking to me on the phone every week, as I planned and cried and hyperventilated and obsessed and pondered and worked toward this dream; for being the first reader in my

Upcoming Event: Breakout

I don't often include pitches for others' events on this blog, but I've been thinking lately about the necessity of giving back, in light of all the support I've received for my own dreams. If you're a New Yorker, consider attending this event on Monday -- it's a great literary lineup, and a shot at hope for those most in need of it. The Jerome L. Greene Performance Space at WNYC Presents BREAKOUT: VOICES FROM INSIDE A partnership between PEN’s Prison Writing Program and WNYC’s The Greene Space Presented as part of “The NEXT New York Conversation” Series John Turturro, Lemon Andersen, Mary Gaitskill, Eric Bogosian, Jamal Joseph, and Sean Wilsey among others to read works authored by participants of PEN’s Prison Writing Program Monday, November 9 th , 2009 at 7pm For more than 30 years, PEN’s Prison Writing Program has been dedicated to helping make the harsh realities of American imprisonment part of our social justice dialogue. PEN’s p

An Open Letter to IBNYC Bookstores: NAIBA: It's Not Just for the Suburbs Anymore

The NAIBA fall conference is a week away -- and lucky you, it's not too late to register. Stephanie Anderson ( Bookavore ) and I recently sent a joint open letter to NYC bookstores about the value of the conference -- it's reproduced below. Hope to see you in Baltimore! As two NYC booksellers just starting our careers, we've recently observed two things: 1) Attending the fall regional booksellers conference hosted by NAIBA (New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association) has been incredibly good for our professional development and for our bookstores. 2) Very few New York City bookstores ever send booksellers to the NAIBA conference. Why this contradiction? We speculated about the possible reasons that New York City bookstore owners have not been attending the regional conference or sending their employees, and thought about some answers. The result is an expression of what we've found worthwhile about the NAIBA conference, and a modest pro

Bookselling Generations

This is all related to Greenlight Bookstore, but it's more a personal observation than a business one -- and it's all a bit scattered -- so I'm relating it here. Greenlight Boosktore feels to me like the "next generation" of bookselling, in the best way. This is driven home by how involved the "parents" -- the generation that precedes us -- have been in helping the store come together. Over the last few weekends, Betty and John Bennett (formerly of Bennett Books) and Susan Avery (formerly of Ariel Booksellers) have come to the store to help us with painting, book receiving, etc. These are folks Rebecca and I think of as our "bookseller parents" -- they've mentored us, counseled us, taught us, and set us an example of what a great bookstore can be. Though both of their stores are now closed and the owners have moved on to other literary projects, it felt like a seamless passing of the torch. In addition, Cynthia of Archivia Books and othe

Taking stock, setting off

Okay, so it's officially been over a month since I last posted here: my first and longest-running blog. I suspect anyone who's ever read The Written Nerd knows the reason why: my efforts have been shifted almost entirely over to the Greenlight Bookstore blog, and all the attendant activities and responsibilities of getting the bookstore off the ground. I thought maybe I'd have more time for blogging now that I don't have a "day job" -- but it turns out there's not a lot of down time in entrepreneurship. I haven't yet succumbed to the dreaded "bookstore owners have no time to read" syndrome (just finished A.S. Byatt's The Children's Book , now working on Zadie Smith's Changing My Mind and China Mieville's The City And The Cit y) -- but it does seem to be the case that bookstore owners have no time for personal blogging. For a little while I thought about officially retiring this blog. In a way, it's served it's purp

Link-mad Monday

* The Guardian notes various methods of organizing your bookshelves . (The ALP and I tend toward the author's own methodology, "according to where I can jam them.") (via Bookninja , who always leads me to the cool Guardian articles) * Literature In the Internet Age category, #1: I'd normally be skeptical of a trailer for a short story -- but the story is by Jim Shepard, the publisher is the very intriguing new multi-format literary journal Electric Literature , and the video itself is somewhat breathtaking. Watch. * Literature in the Internet Age category, #2: our Brooklyn visionary of the literary future, Richard Nash, writes in Publishers Weekly about Cursor , the new print/digital, publisher/community hybrid creature he's working on creating. I'm still wrapping my head around it, but it seems to come down to the fact that writers are readers and vice versa, and thus offering tools for refining and publishing one's writing while also selling the wr

Link-Mad Monday: Booksellers at it again!

I was at a NAIBA board meeting most of today, discussing exciting plans for the fall trade show in Baltimore (hope to give you the full report later this week). So it's rather late, but here's some Monday linkage I've been collecting. (I'm hoping to be a more regular blogger now that I'm officially self-employed -- cross your fingers for me.) * A delicious irony in the Brave New World of e-books: Amazon sneaks into your Kindle and takes back your 1984. (via @beverlyqueery on Twitter, aka sweet pea of King's Books .) * And, since we're feeling rather 1950s paranoid, a fantastically propagandistic video about the environmental effects of shopping local from the fine folks at Regulator Bookshop (via Bookselling This Week ): * I love the long-running feature on the music/culture blog Largehearted Boy in which "authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book." The most recent entry is by Joan

Goodbye to all that

Today is my last day at McNally Jackson Books. Tomorrow I will be the full-time proprietor of Greenlight Bookstore. It feels weirdly like the last day of high school. Remember that? If you were like me, you knew exactly where you were headed, and you were excited to be going there, stomach full of butterflies for the unknown adventure ahead. But there was also an almost unbearable nostalgia-in-the-making for all you were about to leave behind: the place, the people, the quirks, the routine. There's so much you learned here, both practical and philosophical, and so much you loved. It makes for a pretty intense set of emotions. (Which run the risk of sounding incredibly sappy when articulated.) There's something about working in an indie bookstore which makes for a much more emotionally heightened workplace atmosphere than, say, working in an office. Some of us call it the "Empire Records phenomenon" (which is the best silly '90s movie about indie retail life ever -

Summer Friday

It is far too beautiful outside for blogging. I'm making chicken salad sandwiches for a picnic in the park. If you are inside in New York City, I suggest you get outside as soon as possible. Happy Friday!

Linkage for laughs

On Monday, I was part of an amazing panel discussion as part of NYU's Summer Publishing Institute. It was inspiring and thought provoking, and I plan to write up some notes and thoughts that came out of that soon. But not today. Today I would like to point out two things that made me laugh out loud in my bathrobe, and caused the ALP to shake his head at the wonder and ridiculousness of it all. They involve two of the things I love the most: books and Brooklyn. First, Shelf Awareness linked to the Green Apple Core , the blog of the amazing Green Apple Books in San Francisco. It seems Green Apple has a fantastic program wherein they recommend one book a month, guaranteed good or your money back. And every month, they shoot a two-minute video promo for the book -- every one of which is freaking hilarious. This month's book is Werner Herzog's Conquest of the Useless , but my favorite video (I watched them all) is for Little Bee . This cracks me up. What's most awesom

The Handsell: The Good Thief

Shop Indie Bookstores The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti (Random House, $25.00) This novel contains an orphan, a con man, a giant zombie, a mad doctor, a dwarf, and a sinister factory. If that laundry list excites you with prospects of strange and uncanny adventure, or reminds you of childhood afternoons curled up with Robert Louis Stevenson, this is the book for you. For me, it's a reminder of when I was very young and my mom used to read "chapter books" to me before bedtime, chapter by excruciatingly suspenseful chapter. Now, my husband and I have been reading The Good Thief aloud to each other. It's the first time as an adult I can recall saying "please, just one more chapter." It takes a pretty incredible writer to write a 19th century boy's adventure story with a wry 21st century sensibility. Hannah Tinti gets everything right, sketching scenes with the smallest of telling details, letting the character's moral evolution reveal itself in their

Linguistical musings: Bookish, Bibliophilic, Literary

It's sometimes illuminating to work in a neighborhood where a large percentage of our customers speak languages other than English -- that is, SoHo, a major shopping destination for European tourists. (Why they buy books in English when they don't seem to speak it fluently is something I've always wondered -- but we're not complaining.) Recently I noted, not for the first time, the tendency for Spanish speakers to call the bookstore a "library" (leading to a certain amount of confusion since there is a New York Public Library around the corner). This makes sense, though, since the Spanish word for bookstore is libreria . The word for book is libro , and - eria is where an item is sold ( zapateria for shoes, tabaqueria for smokes, etc.) The Spanish word for library, on the other hand, is biblioteca -- which also sounds familiar and logically related to books, for its similarity to bibliophile or bibliography. So what, I asked the ALP (Adorably Literate

The Handsell: Lake Overturn

Shop Indie Bookstores Lake Overturn by Vestal McIntyre (HarperCollins, $24.99) This book was put into my hands by one of my mentors and favorite booksellers, Toby Cox at Three Lives & Co. It took me a couple of weeks to get to it, but when I did it proved the rule that you should always trust your local indie bookseller when they tell you you're going to love something. This is the best straight-up novel I've read in a long time. No fantasy, nothing meta, no structural trickery or experimentation -- just character, story, place, metaphor, incredibly well-observed and perfectly described, so that you sink deeper and deeper into the author's world, and your heart aches for the story's people long after you've left them. Vestal McIntyre is a contemporary George Eliot (this book reminded me more than once of Middlemarch ), capable of capturing the truths about a community and an entire society in individual moments and interactions. McIntyre understands each of

The Handsell: Chicken With Plums

I have two reasons for starting a new series of The Handsell today. 1) I have less than a month left as an employee at McNally Jackson, so I feel I ought to poach my own staff picks from the store website before I'm no longer a MacJack (as we call ourselves in uninhibited moments). 2) If you're like me, the situation in Iran at the moment is incredibly compelling, filling us with hope and fear. Marjane Satrapi is, I'll admit, the one Iranian writer I really know, and she's been involved in speaking out for the opposition movement . It seems like a good time to revisit her work. Shop Indie Bookstores Chicken With Plums by Marjane Satrapi (Pantheon, $12.95) I waited a long time before picking up the newest work by the author of Persepolis , fearing she was just cashing in on her fame with a fluff followup. But it's wonderful, of course; I actually think this book is even more nuanced, moving and illuminating about Iranian life than Marjane Satrapi's original

New Audio Awesomeness!

I don' t often use this blog to plug stuff going on at McNally Jackson, but sometimes it's just too good. Thanks to the diligent efforts of mixmaster Steve and blogmaster Dustin (who, incidentally, will be ably taking over my job as McJ events coordinator as I move on to Greenlight), the McNally Jackson blog is now a talkie. It's our inaugural event podcast ! We've been sound recording author events for months now, hoping to preserve some of the great live conversations for posterity. At last, we've edited and hosted one of the best -- the star-studded March 30 poetry event with Robert Pinsky, Sharon Olds, Mark Strand, and Philip Schultz. Click over to the McNally Jackson blog -- if only to see the awesome picture of Dustin attempting to stuff a book into his ear. The audio sounds great -- all those resonant poet voices! Leave lots of comments so we know you're listening, and we'll feel all motivated to do some more.

One Bookseller's BEA

Maybe I'm just lucky. But this was the best BEA I've ever attended. I was lucky, in a way, that it was in New York this year, which made it easy for me to attend on my own dime as the new owner of Greenlight Bookstore... but that did mean I had to work some shifts at my day job at McNally Jackson so that other booksellers could make the show. So keep in mind that there's a lot of stuff that I missed. On Wednesday I was lucky to attend my last Emerging Leaders Council meeting. The national council representing frontline booksellers under 40 has finally gotten a rep from each of the 9 bookselling regions, and there's a lot of talent there. Perhaps we toot our own horn, but we like to think that some of the education the ABA offered this year was partly at our instigation (and there were EL booksellers on a large percentage of the panels), and that the increasing presence and visibility of young frontline booksellers at Winter Institute and regional shows can be traced


Hi all, As you may have noticed, it's Book Expo America time. This year is a very working (vs. partying) oriented BEA for me, which is all good but very intense. It's also a very intense time with Greenlight Bookstore stuff, so what with the one and the other, I haven't even found time to blog my plans. BUT! I have finally figured out how to Twitter from my phone, so I'll be posting occasional updates on the #BEA2009 hashtag as @booknerdnyc. Lots of other cool folks Twittering too, so hopefully those updates will suffice until we have time for something more substantial. More soon, I promise!

Emerging Leaders Party, plus publishers (and a panel!)

Young booksellers of Emerging Leaders, we're partying at BEA again! This time we're expanding our community to include the young publishers of the Young Publishing Group of the AAP. And we're expanding the day's activities to include a cool panel discussion that's of particular interest to our generation. The invitation is being "deployed" today by the fine folks at Reed/Book Expo, so you may see it in your inbox. But allow me to reiterate: The Panel: " How To Get A Job Like Ours (…in 63 Easy Steps)" Wednesday, May 27th 5:30 pm Marriott Hotel at Brooklyn Bridge Metrotech Room 333 Adams Street, Brooklyn, NY Geoff Kloske, Vice President and Publisher of Riverhead Books Geoff Shandler, Editor-In-Chief of Little, Brown & Company Moderated by Ed Nawotka from Publishers Weekly The panelists convey their opinions about book publishing today, in an era of ongoing digitization and changing retail landscapes. Among the topics addressed: Are big aut

Hanami in Brooklyn

After the chaos of selling books at the PEN Festival (a week of 12-hour days organizing, hefting boxes of books, ringing in hundreds of sales by hand, and processing returns), I'm finally getting my wish: A day with no obligations. If the weather holds, here's where I'm going this afternoon.

Indie Love: #buyindieday

"And can you imagine 50 people a day, I said 50 people a day walking into an indie bookstore, buying a book and walking out? Friends, they may think it’s a movement." Robert Gray's column in Shelf Awareness today about Buy Indie Day (that's today, May 1, folks!) made me choke up a little. With Arlo Guthrie on NPR this morning (singing a very old song about an auto bailout...), the reference to "Alice's Restaurant" is even more prescient, and it seems like everything old is new again. We've regained our skepticism of The Man, and we've got a new strategy for fighting 'em (supporting local, sustainable economies) and we've got some new tools: Twitter (#buyindieday) and Facebook (International "Buy Indie Day) . I suspect that telling readers of this blog to buy books at an indie bookstore is something like preaching to the choir. But if you possibly can, do find your local indie bookstore, go there, and buy a book today. Even if y

Link-Mad Wednesday: Comics, ebooks, and a semi-hiatus

Blogging has been, and is likely to remain, sparse... as Greenlight Bookstore prep ramps up, the rest of life ain't going anywhere, and your friendly neighborhood Book Nerd is feeling a bit under the gun. I'll try to get up here once a week or so, but forgive me my semi-absence, okay? Still, there's time for a few links. In e-reader news: The IndieBound iPhone app makes me long even more for that lovely little piece of hardware. Props to the ABA for rolling this out so fast! The IndieBound app means that you can use the iPhone to find bookstores and other indie shops, search books, buy books online -- along with reading books and emailing and making calls (and, as I learned at a delicious early summer barbecue this weekend, mapping the stars ... ) In the meantime, not only does your Kindle become a brick if you lose your Amazon account, but rumors persist that Apple is coming out with a more book-friendly device . E-reader enthusiasts, start your engines! In comics

The Handsell: The Manual of Detection and The Secret Currency of Love

Some of the good stuff I've been reading lately... The Manual of Detection by Jedediah Berry (Penguin Press) If you like your mysteries with a bit of meta, but still insist on being richly entertained, you are so in luck -- this is the book for you. Rain-slicked streets and wood-paneled halls, sinister carnivals and decaying mansions, trench coats and fedoras and femmes fatales -- the iconography of the genre makes up the dreamlike landscape of this tightly structured and chaotically effulgent novel. Yet it's also a moving story of a humble Everyman trying to make his way in an incomprehensible system of institutions and obligations, and filled with both pathos and humor. My tagline: Chandler meets Kafka for whiskey-laced tea at G.K. Chesterton's house. I'm one of two booksellers at my store who LOVE this book to the point of obsession. And now I'm starting to see fedoras and pin-curls, mysterious briefcases and memorable umbrellas on my rainy commute to work.

Blog proliferation... and pirates.

How many blogs can one bookseller blog? Here's yesterday's Greenlight post ... ... about the New York Times Local post that went up on Wednesday (a profile of FG resident / food book editor extraordinaire Emily Takoudes)... ... and here's Wednesday's post on McNally Jackson's blog The Common Reader (recommendations for great books by overlooked women writers sent in by Deirdre Shaw, who reads at the store next Wednesday)... ... and here's today's post on the Emerging Leaders blog (about EL Council members at the day of education, and free passes to BEA). ( Email here if you want in.) But after all this blithe blogging, it's time to address some real issues. There's been a lot of news about pirates these days, from the Somali coast to the music downloaders of Sweden to the DRM fears of publishers. (Would this make Amazon the British Navy, then?... but never mind.) It's all fun and games, as long as you're not the one being keelhauled.

Friday Fishmen

Lots of work to do today, so I'll just share with you some of the random tunes stuck in my head. I love that the fans of early 20th century horror writer H.P. Lovecraft -- purple-prose writing, misanthropic, paranoid, and kinda racist (check out his descriptions of the "swarthy races" of Brooklyn if you doubt me) -- are themselves such a fun-loving and cheeky bunch. On the McNally Jackson blog the other day, Dustin posted a video touting the benefits of "Eldritch Sign", a product designed to thwart, um, some sort of floaty Lovecraft monsters, much to the bewilderment of the customer/participants. It's pretty funny. But my favorite Lovecraft homage will always be this: Good luck getting that (or its Christmassy counterpart) out of your head. Ha! Happy Friday.

Talking about e-readers with smart booksellers

Sometimes these days I feel a little like I did at my high school and college graduations, watching my best buddies up on stage or leading the procession: man, my friends are some smart people. (True, I did get to hold the NYU banner for a moment to relieve the brutally hungover valedictorian, one of my best friends, but I was only a Magna, not a Summa, myself.) I feel that way this week listening to the conversation about e-readers and ARCreaders, let by my bookselling colleagues/buddies Stephanie Anderson (WORD, Brooklyn) and Jenn Northington (King's English, Salt Lake City). Both are fellow Emerging Leaders types, and they're leading the charge in embracing the possibilities and pushing the boundaries and fostering the conversation. That conversation has been going on for a while on Twitter . Jenn made a modest proposal on her blog a couple of weeks ago. And Stephanie brought it together with today's column in Shelf Awareness . The question is, generally: would it

Literature and race

Been thinking about literature and race today. I noted on the Greenlight Bookstore blog that Nelson George writes in the Times today about the changing racial demographics of Fort Greene, and how that changes the artistic scene -- in his view, for the worse, though I'm not sure I agree. Tonight at McNally Jackson we're hosting a panel discussion about the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., with some amazing experts in the field, and good writers, too. I'd like to have today's National Poetry Month Twitter entry reflect something about that, but I can't think of anything appropriate except for maybe Langston Hughes, and the old folk song about Martin and John. What can literature do against racism? Or is it more useful in forming racial identities? What do I, a white person, have to do with literature by black writers? Am I meant to appreciate it apart from the writers' identities, or is it meant to allow me to identify with someone other than my

A Word from IndieBound at 1 year

I'm posting here an email announcement from Paige Poe, the liaison for IndieBound at the ABA, and Meg Smith, the marketing guru. Bloggers, booksellers, and readers: spread the word, and share your ideas! (You can click on their names below to email them directly, or share ideas on the forums they mention.) Hello— It’s hard to believe IndieBound is nearly a year old. But in that time it’s been adopted by hundreds of indie bookstores, recognized by thousands of consumers, and commented on by countless bloggers and others. Check out the attached stats and examples for the evidence! IndieBound has potential to grow even more, and so much of that growth can—and should—come from you and other ABA members. We would love to visit every store in person, see how we can help, explore the DIY, but it’s just not possible. (We do hope to offer a series of webinars to chat with members…) Booksellers like you are talking—whether online, at conferences, even visiting each others’ stores. All