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!


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WORD on Wednesday, 4 November 2009.

New this week on WORD’s front table!

Eating Animals, Jonathan Safran Foer. I loved this book, as a fellow vegetarian who sometimes caves and eats me. It’s basically The Omnivore’s Dilemma, except with a more distinct point-of-view (spoiler alert: factory farms are BAD NEWS). Safran Foer’s love of language and for craft is evident in this book, and strengthens his argument. Already selling very well here! Even to meat-eaters. Another book that’s selling delightfully well is The Book of Basketball, by Bill Simmons (mostly thanks to members of our basketball league). Highly recommended for what we now know is a substantial portion of Greenpoint: the book-loving basketball nerds.

Now in paperback, And The Hippos Were Boiled In Their Tanks by Kerouac and Burroughs, two gold-star names here at WORD. Also newly in paperback is John Hodgman’s More Information Than You Require. We all liked him already, but recently he said we seem like decent sorts on Twitter, and now we love him, so he gets a big stack in the middle of the table! There’s the new second edition of The Physics of Superheroes, which is obviously super cool. And there’s a new volume of Granta’s Book of the American Short Story that is about three inches thick and perfect for upcoming snow days.

The most fondled book of the week, though, is definitely The City Outside My Window: 63 Views on New York. This is just gorgeous, gorgeous. 63 sketches of, well, the view out the windows of famous and average New Yorkers. It is pretty much irresistible. I invite you to come in and fondle it as well!


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WORD on Wednesday 28 October 2009

Maintaining a berth on the table this week: Lethem (Chronic City), Kalman (The Principles of Uncertainty), Gardam (The Man in the Wooden Hat), Eggers (The Wild Things), Vonnegut (Look at the Birdie), and the Paris Review Interviews, volume 4. And Street Gang, which I finished last week and just loved, aside from a few minor quibbles. If you were raised on Sesame Street, you really should check it out. (We have a number of other great Sesame Street books in too, since it’s the fortieth anniversary of the show this year.)

New: Paul Auster’s Invisible. A couple of us have read it already and loved it. Already selling well. Remake It Home: The Essential Guide to Resourceful Living; I admit I don’t quite understand what this book is all about, but I have a feeling that folks more acquainted with DIY and design principles (aka half our customers) will. Life After Genius by M. Ann Jacoby, because I love the cover and because it sounds delightful. Now The Drum Of War: Walt Whitman and His Brothers in the Civil War, because jeez, how can any book-lovin’ history nerd resist that? Especially because it’s primarily based on their letters. Panic, Michael Lewis’ collection of articles dealing with recent financial history, because I know how much people love to buy depressing books on the weekend. And Eat, Memory: Great Writers at the Table, because food lit is so popular at WORD that it has its own section (unlike sports, philosophy and religion).

Two of the new books are particularly close to my heart. First, All Cakes Considered. Look, I don’t even like cake very much, and I don’t really like baking it, either, because there’s no room for error and I hate following recipes closely. That said, I love this book. We all love this book. It is hilarious, the recipes are easy to follow (and laid out in order of difficulty), and the pictures are so good you will lick them. Melissa Grey, NPR’s Cake Lady, made a new cake every week for a year for her co-workers at NPR, and this cookbook has all the things you like about NPR (interesting factoids, ability to make complex matters understandable) and none of the things you don’t (pledge drives).

Second, Mentors, Muses & Monsters: 30 Writers on the People Who Changed Their Lives. I love hearing these sorts of stories. And just reading one essay from this book will probably sell you on it, so let me present Alexander Chee’s essay on studying under Annie Dillard. So good. Enjoy!

WORD on Wednesday, 21 October 2009.

WORD on Wednesday, 21 October 2009.

The Lethem still towers. Thanks for that, Michiko. But it’s getting a rave from the NYTBR on Sunday, so here’s hoping it starts to move after that. Niffenegger shines on from the middle of the table, and In The First Circle is apparently very intimidating, but I know it will find its readers soon!

There are four books on the table this week that we’re super-excited by. The first is The Principles of Uncertainty by Maira Kalman, now in paperback. We all LOVE her, and love this book.  Two of us also love Jane Gardam’s book Old Filth, so we couldn’t resist a stack of The Man in the Wooden Hat, which has the same characters as Old Filth, but is told from the perspective of his wife. There’s Look at the Birdie, a new collection of some of Kurt Vonnegut’s early stories that have never been published before, which is FANTASTIC, no surprise. And best of all, Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street is finally in paperback as well. We were sure it would appeal to adults, but interestingly, almost every kid over the age of two has walked in the store and beelined for it. It’s nice to see that Sesame Street will probably not be going the way of Reading Rainbow.

Also new: Chuck Klosterman’s Eating the Dinosaur, which is already drawing a lot of attention. The fourth volume of Paris Review interviews, which are usually great and sell very well here. And Ten Storey Love Song, as I have a soft spot for books that take chances, and this is a novel that is all one very very long paragraph.

Oh wait! Almost forgot to mention the new Not For Tourists NYC 2010! These are our best-selling guides to the city by far, probably because not many tourists make it to Greenpoint. Well, that’s actually not totally true. For some reason a lot of Brits come in the store, and ever since we were in a Japanese women’s magazine, more Japanese tourists are making the trip as well. But either way, these sell very well, and we personally are big fans of the guides as well, so it’s great to have the new edition (although we wait with baited breath for the new NFT Brooklyn).

As a professed book cover addict, I would be remiss if I did not include this picture as well, to share with the other book cover addicts out there:

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This is, I think, the third round in the Penguin Great Ideas series, where they repackage a number of seminal works of philosophy, social science, etc. They have such beautiful covers that sometimes I just stand in front of them and look at them for a few minutes. Sad but true. If they didn’t have a display, they definitely would have made the front table, so I’m including them as well. Please come by and check them out, letterpress friends. You might just want to frame them and hang them up.

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Ach, just too gorgeous!

(Not sure what this blog post is about? Click here.)

Front table at WORD, 14 October 2009.

This week! Released yesterday and towering over the front table like the colossus of New York literature that is Jonathan Lethem,  ladies-and-gentlemen-may-I-present-to-you, Chronic City. Michiko might not have liked it, but, though we acknowledge some of her complaints, we did. This was one of our biggest buys of the season and we have high hopes for it.

Sarah Vowell and Audrey Niffenegger (hers is the book that’s so shiny you can’t tell what the cover looks like) are still hanging out up front, as is Charles Bukowski. Nobody’s bought the new Bukowski, which surprises me, given how his other books sell. They tend to sell in waves, though. We’ll give it a little more time. Same thing with Byatt, selling pretty well, and Orwell. The Michael Chabon Manhood for Amateurs was a late addition last week, in time for the weekend. He’s another very popular author around here. Eggers’ The Wild Things is sticking around at least through opening weekend for the film.

As for the new stuff: I’m most excited about “the first uncensored edition” of In The First Circle by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Having never read it, I have no idea why I am so excited about it. But I am. I’m pretty sure our customers will be too; classics sell very well for us, and I’ve noticed more Russian classics selling in the last few months (draw your own conclusions about that, as I have none).

Barbara Ehrenrich’s new book about the perils of positive thinking, Bright-Sided, was released this week. Also new to the store this week: The Book of Fathers, by Miklos Vamos. I know very little about this book, but it looks good, and I have faith in the publisher (Other Press). And Further Adventures, by Jon Stephen Fink, a re-release that I’ve heard several people get excited about. Oh, and it’s Best-XXXXXXXX-2009 collection time, so we’re featuring Best Music Writing 2009 up front, though we have all of them in the store.

The other two new books on the table aren’t new in the sense that they came out this week, but they’re books that I want people to give a second look. The first, Museum Legs, starts with this question: “Why do people get bored and tired in art museums and why does that matter?” Pretty cool premise, no? The other is Leaving Brooklyn, by Lynne Sharon Schwartz. A lovely novel about post-WWII Brooklyn that I think has been overlooked.

Personally, I’m not crazy about the color mix of these books, but what can you do. What do you think?

Welcome to a new series of blog posts that we hope will introduce you to our taste, our neighborhood, and our customers a bit better.

The front table changes more than any other part of the store, and as Tuesday is traditionally the day on which new books are released, Wednesday morning is when the table is at its freshest and newest. We’re a little obsessive about the front table, but with good reason. It’s the first thing both new and regular customers see when they walk in the store, so it’s everyone’s first impression of who WORD is and what we care about. It’s hands-down the part of the store with the most sales, so what we put there matters from a financial perspective as well. And what people see matters for authors and publishers, too, so we want to make sure we’re supporting the authors and presses that we love and that our customers love.

Here are some of the things our manager thinks about when she fusses and frets over the table: is there a somewhat-even gender distribution? are international authors adequately represented? what’s getting a lot of attention on NPR and The Daily Show? what about small presses? what about authors with a proven track record in our neighborhood? what about books we love but nobody’s heard about for some reason? are there books about which, when someone asks, “have you read these?” we can proudly say yes? is it possible to balance all of these qualities in a selection of just sixteen books, most of which came out this week?

We’re not sure if it is, but we do know that it’s our duty as independent booksellers to give it our best shot—to balance the debut and the proven, the foreign and the Brooklyn, the fiction and the non-fiction, the paperback and the hardcover, the NYTBR front-pager and the up-and-coming. Every Wednesday, we try again, and now we want to share that attempt with the world every week. You’ll see a picture and a short explanation of what’s new and why we chose it.

Without further ado, here’s this week’s picture:

WORD front table, 7 October 2009.

WORD front table, 7 October 2009.

And here’s our commentary: As fits this crazy fall of basically every famous English-language author releasing a book, there’s a lot of heavy hitters on here this week: Bukowski, Roth, Bolano, Byatt, Saramago, and a new translation of The Tin Drum by Gunter Grass. It should shock no one to hear that McSweeney’s is especially popular in our part of Brooklyn, so Dave Eggers’ The Wild Things and McSweeney’s More Things Like This both get prominent placement this week.  In a similar vein, we’re also featuring Sarah Vowell’s The Wordy Shipmates, now in paperback.

We’ve got Terry Tempest Williams on there because dozens of other indie booksellers love her, so even though no one here has read the book, their recommendations are good enough for us. The Sealed Letter by Emma Donague because Stephanie loved it, and the paperback of State by State because it is a cool collection. And George Orwell for good measure. You can’t go wrong with George Orwell’s essays.

I don’t know anything about Totally Killer except that it’s one of the best covers of the week. And in a week super heavy on fiction, there was still room for Alphabet Juice, a great book for word lovers (and hopefully also WORD lovers. Haha! Yes, those jokes never get old for us.)

Rounding things out, at the top we’re featuring Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger a. because The Time Traveler’s Wife is one of Christine’s favorite books of all time and b. because the publisher sent us a gorgeous letterpress broadside to display with it (poking out the top there) and we love letterpress more than a simple blog post could express.

So there you have it! The bizarre thought patterns behind our front table. As you can see, we don’t always solve every question perfectly every week. But we hope you’ll continue to read along and let us know what you think.