Friday, February 21, 2014

Greenlight Bookstore - Brooklyn, NY

When you go to Brooklyn to visit some of these independent bookstores (and if you live out east you must go!) there really is a vibrant feel to the literary scene.  You can just tell there is a lot going on.  The authors are out there, the schools, the readership, the interest.  One of the ways you can tell is that these indies are hosting events all the time.  Authors are always visiting, there are readings of new works, wine and cheese parties, events coordinated with the Brooklyn Public Library.  This is one of the ways indies continue to survive, offering a variety of activities.

The Greenlight is another one of those great indies.  Medium sized, great inventory, and the kind of place you could park yourself for half a day and get absorbed in all they have on the shelves!  I visited on a Sunday and the danger with that is you might not get to meet the owner.  I was disappointed to miss the owner but the trade-off was that I met two wonderful people who were welcoming and very impressed when I told them that I came all the way from Iowa just to see their bookstore.  This is another common theme with all the indies; a super staff, friendly, knowledgeable, and anxious to talk about books.  People, when you go to these places talk to the staff.  They love to talk about their favorite books!  I could just kick myself that I didn't get more pictures but that will change as I visit more indies and continue down the line with this blog.

The people at these places always have a favorite or two to recommend.  Here at Greenlight it was, Safe As Houses, by Marie-Helene Bertino.  Haven't read it yet so can't comment but the book was published by the University of Iowa Press and won the Iowa Short Fiction Award.  The author lives in Brooklyn.  And I went all the way there to buy it.  And it's autographed.  I better move it to the top of my "unread" pile!  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir!

  1. the worlds sweetest man just stopped in from Iowa, on a national see-all-the-indy-bookstores-he-can tour. sold him SAH by !

...and I made Twitter again.

CURRENTLY READING: The Naked and The Dead, Norman Mailer.  WWII.  So far so good.
JUST FINISHED:  Other Voices, Other Rooms, Truman Capote.  His first published novel.  Gets great reviews but I think it's overrated.  But hey, a lot of people like it.  2 stars.  

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Community Bookstore - Brooklyn, NY

This is the indie where the seed was planted.  Until I met Ezra Goldstein, the co-owner of Community, the thought of blogging my indie bookstore tour might not have entered my head.  So Ezra, here I am a few months later embarking on the blogging part of my indie bookstore tour.

As I mentioned in an early post, ideally these entries would be chronological as visited.  Because I didn't get my butt in gear sooner they are being entered a little differently.  I visited Community in Brooklyn in the fall of 2013.  When I enter these bookstores I'm always looking for the owner(s) mentioned in their respective essays in My Bookstore.  There was a gentleman at the front desk here and I asked if he was Ezra.  He answered that he was.  Then I said that I came here seeking him (like the holy grail?!).  That's when he just looked at me like I was some kind of a nut.  Speechless.  And really looking as if searching his memory as to who exactly this stranger was asking for him.  Then I explained who I was and why I was there.  The ice was broken and from then on it was as if we were long lost friends.  He had as many questions as I did.  Are you blogging this indie bookstore tour of yours?  Do the editors know about this (Ronald Rice)?  Do the publishers know?  You need to blog this!  We need to send this out on twitter!  He was very excited and very welcoming about my visit.

The bookstore itself is great.  Very nice, medium sized, great inventory.  The day I was there it was rather chilly but it looked like they had an outdoor patio out back where people can sit and read if they like.  Ezra and the staff were outstanding once we got past the initial stalker phase of my visit.  Brooklyn has a great vibe for a literary community and Ezra himself is referred to as "the oracle of literary Brooklyn."  As with all my indie visits I always ask what they're reading and what they're favorite book is over the last few months.  Ezra recommended Someone, by Alice McDermott.  Also recommended by Kathleen at Prairie Lights.  Is it a page-turner?  Not really.  Hold my interest?  Absolutely.  The story of a woman's rather ordinary life and all that happened along her journey.

One more thing about Community.  They have a cat, Tiny.  I hate cats.  Tiny is a grump muffin.  Not a warm personality at all but he roams the store and does whatever he wants.  He even has his own twitter feed, for crying out loud.  But this is part of the coolness of an indie bookstore.  You're not going to see a cat roaming the aisles of a chain store!  Support an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir!

.@robertcmason's goal is to visit all of the bookstores in MY BOOKSTORE. Here he is posing with Ezra!
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  •  Here I am with Ezra on my visit.  Thanks Ezra!  This is when I first 
           made Twitter!
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    Community Bookstore

    Interior Community Bookstore

Friday, February 14, 2014

Prairie Lights - Iowa City, IA

One of my happy places - Prairie Lights 

If you're a book lover, if you enjoy independent bookstores, if you live in Eastern Iowa, you are required to visit Prairie Lights.  If you've never been, shame on you!  This place is a treasure!  This is the only Iowa indie featured in My Bookstore.  This is truly one of my happy places and I get here about once a week.  Everything about it is super.  Great inventory, knowledgeable and friendly staff who are fun to talk to about books, spacious cafe, free wifi, and lots of places to sit.  They have many events and author readings and the ones I've been to are always well attended.  It's not out of the ordinary to bump into authors here who are just stopping by.  Of course, it helps that Iowa City is the home of the Iowa Writers Workshop at the University of Iowa.

As I thought about this project in my head I wasn't sure what order I should go in to present the indies.  If I had my butt in gear and started on this when I began visiting the bookstores I could have just entered this stuff chronologically.  But since I'm 8 bookstores behind I'll have to tweak this a bit.  PL is the place I know best since I've been there so often.  Since it's local, this was an obvious starting point.  

I can't say enough about the staff.  So great to talk to and always ready to recommend books to read.  If you go to any indie, talk to the staff.  They love talking about what they've read and what they like.  And they're always interested in what you're reading as well.  I don't always agree with their recommendations after I've read them, but that's always the case when you talk books with others.  

This is two posts in two days for me.  Don't expect this lightning pace to continue!  Now go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir!

The Prairie Lights sign.

This is only part of the main floor of books.  This is what you see when you walk in.  

Up on the 2nd floor there are more books and this great cafe.  

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Independent Bookstores!

The initial purpose of this blog is to share observations about independent bookstores and support them as they battle against the ever-increasing use of e-readers and online sites like Amazon.  It will however evolve also as a site for me to share some of the books I'm reading and offer informal book reports.  Yes, I'm pretending I'm back in middle school and offering book reports!  Expect things to refine as I go since this blogging thing is very new to me.

My primary goal is to visit every independent bookstore listed in the book, My Bookstore, edited by Ronald Rice, which is a great resource of indie bookstores.  There are 81 indies in this book and I've been to 11.  I have a ways to go.  There are many great indies across the country not listed in this book so I'm sure this space will evolve to include them as well.   The essays about these 81 indies are written by prominent authors who have a relationship to these stores.

This project and journey I'm on has no timeline, there is no deadline.  The journey will not be measured in weeks or months but possibly years.  I'm not a professional writer nor was I an English major in college.  I'm an amateur and I'm doing this for the fun of it and because I enjoy it.  I'll be doing this whether one is watching and following or whether many are watching and following.  If you decide to follow along I hope you enjoy it.

Questions about indies, books, or authors?  Suggestions about indies to visit?  Hit me up!  Follow me as I travel America in support of independent bookstores and their owners, one bookstore at a time, one book at a time.

Follow the evolution of this site if you're a book lover or an independent bookstore lover.  But you'll need to be patient!  Be gentle!  And be kind!  Bonsoir!

The journey has begun!  Where will I be next?  Coming to an independent bookstore near you soon!