Last week, I wrote about Kathryn Schulz’s innovative interview with David Mitchell, which took place on a walk along the Irish coastline. Now, in a nice complement to our own review from today, Pico Iyer reviews the author’s latest. Sample quote: “A perfectly matter-of-fact, unvarnished evocation of how regular folks speak, married to a take-no-prisoners fascination with all that we can’t explain.” Our review of The Bone Clocks was published today.
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I have written in the past about the importance of a bookstore's "front table."The idea is that one should be able to walk into the bookstore and be able to grasp, based upon which books are on display and based upon conversations with staff and fellow customers, what matters at that moment both in the wider world and in the neighborhood.To me, this epitomizes what separates the engaging indie from the faceless chain, but this selling point has not helped indies win out in a climate that has been tough for all book retailers. Among the many struggles indies have faced is how to translate the relevance and ambiance described above to the internet, where a large portion of book buying, selling, and discussion now takes place.2008's launch of IndieBound, an aggregated indie web presence that is a vast improvement over its precursor BookSense, shows that the indies are hard at work trying to unlock the online conundrum.Recently, Scott pointed to another far smaller but particularly resonant example of online experimentation by an indie bookstore. The Seminary Co-op Bookstore in Chicago has started replicating its front table on its blog. This book curation done by a knowledgeable staff rather than the chains' corporate number crunchers, fulfills the bookstore mission that I noted above, giving readers "what matters at that moment both in the wider world and in the neighborhood." (This notion of curation is important. In many ways, I'd argue that it's a key mission of The Millions. Our "staff" selects and sheds light upon certain books at the exclusion of others, bringing to bear our different areas of expertise, interest, and taste.)The front table alone, however, is not enough to make a bookstore. A truly great bookstore and its front table will inspire conversation in the aisles among patrons and staff. Seminary Co-op is part of the way towards making its front table live on its web site, but, as the "comments are closed" message at the bottom of the page indicates, it's not all the way there. However, the sight of all those covers, laid out neatly, makes me think that we may not be far from an indie bookstore website that makes you feel like you are walking into the store itself.See also: Niche Bookstores: A Dying Breed, Islands in the Stream: A Walking Tour of New York's Independent Booksellers
"How did a humble Canadian publisher—which got its start reprinting other companys' books—become the name most associated with romance? It's a long story, involving a peripatetic former fur trader and his opinionated socialite wife, a Procter-and-Gamble-trained Harvard MBA, some jilted Americans and a whole crowd of damned scribbling women." From Pictorial comes the story of "How Harlequin Became the Most Famous Name in Romance."