WORD on Wednesday, 11 November 2009.

Happy Wednesday! You’ll see that Jonathan Safran Foer, Jonathan Lethem, Jane Gardam, Street Gang, and The City Out My Window are still hanging out on the front table. Not a ton of new releases for us this week, so there’s a lot in common with previous weeks. But you didn’t click on this post to hear about what’s still the same.

First, let’s have a big round of applause for the return of Asterios Polyp, which is basically half the world’s favorite graphic novel (if not favorite novel, period) of the year! (The other half the world seems to have chosen Stitches, if you were wondering.) We could not be happier about its return. Hopefully it stays in stock through Christmas, because we plan on selling as many as possible. It, and that gorgeous shade of purple, get to sit on top.

Also new this week, though it’s hard to see it in the picture, is Zadie Smith’s new collection of essays, Changing My Mind. Do click on that link (or you know, visit the store) to check out the cover, which is lovely. The paperback of In Other Rooms, Other Wonders is also out, and highly recommended by WORD staff. It’s not a National Book Award nominee for nothing.

The last few weeks have been packed with BEST OF collections, and this week, we’re happy to be featuring the latest, from Dalkey Archive, Best European Fiction 2010. This is the first such collection from Dalkey, and it’s star-studded, assuming your idea of a star is Jean-Phillippe Toussaint, Victor Pelevin, or Christine Montalbetti. Keeping in the European vein, we also have The English American, by Alison Larkin. And a book about Russia by a Brit: Sashenka, by Simon Montefiore.

We hope we’ll see you for First Independent Bookstore Week NYC over the next seven days!



L to R: Libba Bray, Robin Wasserman, and Carolyn MacCullough

Last night we had our fourth installment of YA NOT?: a literary salon for not-so-young adults, and hosted not one, not two, but THREE fantastic YA authors. It was the sort of evening that started with the reveal that originally the authors had intended to name the evening “Hookers and Blow,” and ended with Robin recommending that everyone in the audience eat fruit.

Some highlights:

Robin, on being asked what, if anything, she takes into consideration about her readers when writing, and whether YA authors have an obligation to think about their stories having a moral: “What is writing a book, anyway, if it’s not trying to convince people that this is the way the world is and this is how you should feel about it? Authors who write for adults do the same thing. They just don’t call it a moral.”

Libba, after being asked if being a parent has changed her mind about whether there is any content truly unacceptable in YA fiction and if there’s anything she wouldn’t let her son read: “I mean, are you asking if I’m worried my kid is going to go off and read books that are too grown-up for him? Because no, no I’m not at all concerned about my kid sneaking away and secretly READING.”

On the responsibilities of YA authors, Carolyn said: “The only responsibility authors have is to their story.”

And Robin said: “I think the only obligation we have is to acknowledge that books change people’s lives. We can’t control reader reaction to our books, good or bad. But we need to remember that our words matter.”

In case you were wondering which superpowers each authors would go for: Libba wants to be fluent in all languages. Robin wants teleportation. And Carolyn wants to be able to rewind time.

Perhaps the highlight of the evening, however, was Carolyn’s introduction of the word “spoony” to the proceedings (and to most of the attendees). Though none of us had heard of it beforehand—and Robin adamantly protested against its very existence—it nonetheless came to dominate the evening and appear in the answer to almost every question.

Unfortunately for Robin, though, it is a very well-documented word. Here, for example, is the Merriam-Webster entry: “silly, foolish; especially : unduly sentimental.” It’s also in the Routledge Dictionary of Contemporary Slang, along with this delightful example of usage: “I felt rather spoony upon that vixen.” The final nail in the coffin, however, is its use in David Copperfield, and yet another fantastic sentence: “There is no doubt whatsoever that I was a lackadaisical young spoony.

Spoony! Please try to use it as many times as possible today, and keep last night’s YA NOT? alive.

I’ll end the post with this thought from Robin, who told us that she has not read many classic books:

“I do think it’s valuable to read them, though. I just don’t do it. Like fruit! I don’t eat it. But I advise that you do.”

YA NOT will be on hiatus next month, but stay tuned for more fantastic YA authors next year! To learn more about last night’s authors—all WORD favorites, all highly recommended—check out their websites: Libba, Robin, and Carolyn. Signed copies of their newest books available at WORD as long as supplies last!

2009-10-19 12.15.17

A funny thing happened when we put this book on the counter.

“Hahaha,” a customer would say, looking at the cover. “Hahahaha, it’s true! Hitchhikers are obsolete. Oh yeah, same thing with lickable stamps. Ha! Yeah, I haven’t gotten lost since I got my iPhone. And also…”

And then, always the same fateful pause.

“Wait!” the same customer would say, voice turning from amused to saddened. “Cursive writing is not obsolete! I still write in cursive everyday! None of my friends do, but…”

This happened so many times that we lost count. Except insert writing letters, film, smoking, bald spots, books, arcades, and hyphenated last names for cursive writing in that last bit. The book is hilarious! And then, suddenly, not so funny. People feel compelled to defend their favorite obsolete things!

(In particular, we’ve noticed an astonishing number of customers who, under their breath, notify us that phone sex is most certainly NOT obsolete, thank you very much, and in fact it was alive and well in their apartment just two weeks previous. Which, wow, alrighty!)

Anyway, this has been so much fun for us that we decided to make an event out of it. A debating event! You’ll have the chance to defend your rapidly-obsolescing item in front of a crowd, and maybe even save it from extinction.

You can speak out in defense of:

–keeping plans (and making dates)

–niche publications




–dying of old age

–body hair

Or any of the other items in the encyclopedia! Just drop by the store to look through, RSVP on Facebook, or email info@wordbrooklyn.com to save your spot (and your item). You can also get inspiration from the tumblr page for the book. See you there…unless maybe really fun book events are already obsolete?

When You Reach Me

October 16, 2009

Last night, we hosted author Rebecca Stead and her editor, Wendy Lamb for the latest installment in our YA NOT? series (a literary salon for not-so-young adults). They have the sort of editor-author relationship that makes us feel good about being in the book industry. This business is all about relationships, in many ways—our relationship with our customers, an author’s relationship with hir readers, and so on—but it all starts with the author and the editor. As they discussed quite a bit last night, every editor approaches each author a bit differently. And the approach that Wendy and Rebecca have taken together is, much like Rebecca’s books, magical and impressive.

Some highlights from their conversation last night:

—Rebecca talked about this TED talk with author Elizabeth Gilbert about inspiration, and mentioned an ancient idea that inspiration is a matter of “catching the serpent.” You have to reach up to grab it, and if you get its tail, you can reel it back in and make something with it, but if you miss it, it’s gone forever.

—Wendy, on how authors are like dogs: “Some authors are work dogs. They just keep working and working and working on a book until you just want to take it away from them before they mess it up. And other authors are like companion dogs. They need you to sit next to them and call them to see how they’re doing.” And Rebecca? Well, Wendy said she’s a lovely combination of the two.

—Rebecca, on why she writes for kids: “I love that children are still at a point where they are thinking about the big questions of life and trying to figure things out. They’re not jaded yet. I don’t think it would be possible for me to write for a jaded reader. I guess I can write for kids and adults having a mid-life crisis: people who are open to thinking about big ideas and wondering about life.”

—The best mail Rebecca has gotten in response to her latest book, When You Reach Me, is regarding a small idea in the book that she didn’t think most people would notice. She discusses the idea of a veil, that we all walk around with this invisible veil in front of our faces and go about our day, but every once in awhile it lifts up, and suddenly we can see the bigger picture, see the connections, and feel some peace about the way things are.  “A surprising number of kids are writing to me to tell me how much they identify with that idea. Which I think is very encouraging!”

Those are just a few snippets from last night’s conversation, which we loved almost (almost!) as much as we adore When You Reach Me and First Light. What about other folks who came out in the blustery rain? What was your favorite part?

Greg stares forlornly out the front door of WORD, waiting for someone to take him home.

Greg stares forlornly out the front door of WORD, waiting for someone to take him home.

There’s only 6 days left until Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days comes out, and we’re celebrating with a contest for teachers and librarians!

The publisher sent us that great big cardboard Greg in the picture and, while we love him, he is just a little too big for our store. We’ll keep him around this week while we prepare for the latest book in his series, but then he needs a good home where he will be properly appreciated. Do you think your school or library might be that place?

Then email us and tell us why! That’s right, it’s that easy to get this totally awesome display for yourself. Just email info (at) wordbrooklyn (dot) com and tell us why your school or library is the best home for Greg.  The staff of WORD will pick our favorite.

We’ll announce our winner (and one runner-up, who will get a Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days T-shirt) next Monday, October 12, when the book comes out. So get to thinking about why Greg should go home with you and let us know ASAP…

Have you emailed the WORD Literary Fantasy Football Commissioner yet? There’s still time—the draft will be Tuesday, September 8, 7pm at WORD (or you can draft online if you can’t make it to the store).

Here are some of the awesome names suggested so far:

2666 All-Purpose Yards
Moby Vick
The Lombardi Code
F Larry Fitzgerald
A Farewell to Stiff Arms
The Man in the Iron Facemask
The Lord of the Super Bowl Rings
The Maltese Falcons
The Receiver in the Rye
The Punt Also Rises
I-Formation Claudius
The Heart is a Lonely Punter
The Linebacker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Yes, folks, we’re unusual EVEN by Brooklyn’s standards. That quote comes from this lovely write-up in The Brooklyn Paper about our basketball league.

Another thing that’s unusual about us is our matchmaking board, about which Stacked Blog wrote a great post. So if being unusual means that we encourage athleticism and seek to spark romances, well, we’ll take it!

Feel free to use the comments to talk about other things that are unusual even by Brooklyn’s standards.

We know you love our staff picks in the store (how else can we explain Cloud Atlas‘s two-year streak on the WORD bestseller list?), but did you know that sometimes our staff picks go beyond our doors?


Kelly’s, above, is for Hothouse Flower and the Nine Flowers of Desire by Margot Berwin, a book she loved so much that the author is coming to read and sign at our Hot and Wicked Botanical Book Night this Tuesday! You can find this review in July’s Indie Next List in any independent bookstore in the country.


And Stephanie’s blurb for When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead is featured on a cardboard display made by the publisher to go next to the book. Good thing, too, since it’s her choice for the best middle grade novel of the year!

Convinced? Drop by the store to get your copies today! Actually, for Hothouse Flower, wait until Tuesday, that way you can meet the author. We’re so proud of these blurbs that the books will be in stock for quite some time, though in the case of When You Reach Me, the sooner, the better—we have a limited number of signed bookplates for copies purchased here. And as always, if you’re too far away to make it in, just email orders@wordbrooklyn.com and we’ll be happy to ship either or both out to you!

WORD matchmaking begins

July 10, 2009


That’s right, ladies and gents. Get your literary dealbreakers all sorted out and head down to WORD to finally meet your literary soulmate!

May we offer ourselves up as a good place to meet up before your first date? Nice, well-lit place to make sure your future beloved is just as cool as his or her taste in books would suggest.


Finish out your week with a smile—read this delightful missive from Katherine Arathoon, member of The Elements of Style!

“When I first agreed to join a dodgeball team (don’t worry, it’s just a quick tangent), I thought I was signing up for kickball. ‘Sure, that sounds like fun,’ I said, forking over a hefty enrollment fee, and forgot about it. It was only 2 days before our first game that I remembered that dodgeball is actually two teams actively trying to pelt each other in the face with hard rubber balls. In an instant I was transported back to those terror-filled sessions in my elementary school days, and I called my roommate, Sanam, in a panic, shrieking, “I’ve just remembered what dodgeball is! I don’t want to play any more!” Accustomed to my histrionics, Sanam calmly informed me it was too late to get my fee back and I was damned well going to play. So play I did, and it turned out it was actually pretty fun. Teams were more evenly matched, now that everyone’s pituitary glands have for the most part leveled off, and there was beer after every game. Can’t argue with that!

“So, when the Mediabistro blurb popped up recommending Literary Basketball, I was intrigued. Sure, I’d hated basketball in high school gym, but if a girl like me can learn to tolerate dodgeball, she can do anything. Plus, the challenge of answering ‘literary questions’ in order to qualify was irresistible. I answered the questions, a handful of friends joined in as well, and one short introduction meeting later I was on the white team.

“The name picking began. We were team White, so early options included The Eebees, The Mocha Dicks, Charlotte’s Web of Domination, Great White Taupe, The Invisible Jam, and Midnight’s Children But With Basketball. However, several clear winners emerged from the fray, and after pushing Comma Sutra out of the way with deft aplomb, The Elements Of Style reigned supreme as our name of choice. The Strunks became unofficial team nickname, and ‘Sucks to your ass-mar!’ is our (as yet still unused in battle) team slogan.

“It was during this discussion that our noble team captain, Mark, came up with the brilliant plan of creating team t-shirts and using punctuation symbols instead of numbers on the back. There was a furious scramble to claim interrobang, and a question arose that remains unanswered to this day: does a dollar sign count as a punctuation mark? (In the end, cool factor won out over questionable verisimilitude on that particular issue.)

“So now we were named and marked, and ready for action. By this point I’d had enough fun and nerdiness that I scarcely cared about the looming first game. Sanam–now $anam–explained the basic rules to me on subway ride over, and I figured I was prepared enough.

“Two things I hadn’t anticipated:

“1) Basketball requires a lot of running. Like, a LOT of running. Fortunately we had a good showing of teammates that first game, because there was a steady rotation of subbing-out-before-my-heart-explodes. Some of us were a little hung over from the previous night’s adventures; some of us were just woefully out of shape. Safe to say, by game’s end most of us looked like teammate Mike in this picture.

“2) Despite the dramatic amounts of running, basketball is a lot of fun. Who knew? Much to my surprise, I was enjoying myself. And I was occasionally good at defense, which, for a total beginner, was very pleasing indeed.

“Most of all, my teammates proved to be just as awesome on-court as off; encouraging, hilarious, and in some instances enthusiastically clad in short-shorts. From ampersand to ellipses, from asterisk to exclamation point, I couldn’t ask for a better group. Week after week we have thundered up and down the court with great dexterity, generally taking a triumphant second-place in every game we play, and once even winning!

“(Here are two pictures of me with a few of my most magnificent Strunks, wearing the badass t-shirts that Ben made.)

“So, many, many thanks to WORD for organizing such a lovely literary league that has attracted such perspicacious people; I know where I’ll be doing my Christmas book shopping this year. And the basketball experience as a whole has reminded me not just to try out new things, but to re-visit old things as well. After all, if I find I now like dodgeball and love basketball, who knows: maybe it’s time to take another stab at Trigonometry?

Yours truly,
The Em Dash
(Katherine Arathoon)”