All of the books listed here are available for online order at River Dog Book Co.
As the owner of a location-independent, independent bookstore, book selection is my top priority. As a buyer at previous stores, I consulted with my publishing contacts and read publisher marketing emails; pored over lists of bestsellers, prize winners, and prize shortlisted titles; and kept abreast of national and international media coverage of celebrity book club choices and news outlets’ top 10 picks. While I still keep up with all of that, now that I own my own store and have limited space and time, I make my book choices with this system in mind:
Have I read it or do I want to read it?
This makes it much easier and faster to recommend just about any book on my shelves to people!
Have my partner, family members, friends, or customers read it and/or recommended it?
Personal recommendations I can trust are crucial for filling out sections I may not be personally familiar with.
Did one of my fellow independent bookseller colleagues recommend it?
The knowledge that the thousands of independent booksellers around the country hold is truly awe-inspiring, and I am so grateful for their opinions, which can be found in places like the IndieNext bestseller lists, the Libro.fm audiobook marketing emails, in their store newsletters, on their websites and blogs, and in bookseller online forums.
Everything else as I see it.
I’ll be honest—if attractive, easy-to-use marketing materials are provided to me by an author or a publisher for a book, I’ll probably use them to market that book for preorders online—Hint, hint, publishers!—and then I’ll order it for the store. I will, of course, first make sure that the book fits in with the general mission-based ethos of my store: to raise up inclusive and globally aware literature for readers of all ages. And if it does, I’m going to feature it.
The first initiative I started when I opened River Dog Book Co. was to launch the Armchair Travel Bookclub, a virtual book club dedicated to fiction and nonfiction titles that teach us about the world, with monthly discussions taking place via the #RiverDogReads Instagram channel (@riverdogreads) and on the River Dog Book Co. Facebook page (@riverdogbookco). The books chosen feature an array of landscapes, countries, and intentions; are told from varying points of view; and range from political travelogues to humorous essays to historical fiction. Some I read prior to launching this club, and some I’m reading right along with everyone else that month. Here are the 2019 Armchair Travel Bookclub choices by month:
January: Travels with Alice by Calvin Trillin
This delightful book collects Calvin Trillin’s accounts of his trips to Europe with his wife, Alice, and their two daughters.
February: No Barriers: A Blind Man’s Journey to Kayak the Grand Canyon by Eric Weihenmayer
The first blind man to summit Mt. Everest refuses to be defined by one great feat, and so continues to inspire others as he refuses to let barriers stand between him and his goals.
March: An Arabian Journey: One Man’s Quest Through the Heart of the Middle East by Levison Wood
From award-winning TV adventurer and bestselling travel writer Wood comes an enthralling account of his expedition around the Arabian Peninsula, from Iraq to Lebanon.
April: The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway
This brilliant novel, set during the 1990s Siege of Sarajevo, tells the story of three people trying to survive in a city rife with the extreme fear of desperate times, and of the sorrowful cellist who plays undaunted in their midst.
May: The Wild Places by Robert MacFarlane
In this unique travelogue that will intrigue readers of natural history and adventure, MacFarlane weaves history, memory, and landscape into a bewitching evocation of wildness and its vital importance—all with his customary elegance and passion.
June: Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell
From Buffalo to Alaska, Washington to Key West, cultural critic, New York Times bestselling author, and radio commentator for NPR’s This American Life, Vowell embarks on a road trip to sites of political violence to better understand our nation’s ever-evolving political system and history.
July: Lands of Lost Borders: A Journey on the Silk Road by Kate Harris
Weaving adventure and philosophy with the history and science of exploration, Lands of Lost Borders celebrates our connection as humans to the natural world and, ultimately, to each other—a connection that transcends any fences or stories that may divide us.
August: Finding George Orwell in Burma by Emma Larkin
A fascinating political travelogue that traces the life and work of George Orwell, author of 1984 and Animal Farm, in Southeast Asia.
September: Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
From North Carolina to Paris, Sedaris’s essays on living, loving, and growing as a person—or not—are some of the funniest he’s ever written.
October: Walking with Abel: Journeys with the Nomads of the African Savannah by Anna Badkhen
An intrepid journalist joins the planet’s largest group of nomads on an annual migration that, like them, has endured for centuries.
November: The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton
With intelligence and insouciant charm, de Botton considers the pleasures of anticipation, the allure of the exotic, and the value of noticing everything from a seascape in Barbados to the takeoffs at Heathrow.
December: The White Darkness by David Grann
A powerful true story of adventure and obsession in the Antarctic, as descendants of Ernest Shackleton’s crew set off to finish what Shackleton started: crossing Antarctica on foot. The book is also full of lavish color photographs.