Selected independent booksellers offer their Top 50 lists.
“The desire to share books is the natural outcome of loving them,” writes award-winning novelist Ann Patchett in her lively preface to this lovingly rendered “catalogue of matchmakers.” Editor Weyandt, co-owner of Micawber’s Books in St. Paul, Minn., developed the idea after a customer asked him to share a list of personal favorites. He continued the tradition, asking booksellers from across the country to contribute their lists and offer insight into whom they trust to recommend books, the reading material on their own nightstands, and the keys to operating a successful independent bookstore in today’s challenging marketplace. These professionals demonstrate exceptional curatorial care and a discernible passion for the art of bookselling, a craft Weyandt calls a “combo platter of bartender/barista and priest.” They include many family-run establishments like BookCourt in Brooklyn, N.Y., with two floors and three help desks, and Fireside Books in Palmer, Alaska, home to the “world’s first bookish, blogging bear.” Some offer specialty products, like Chicago’s Unabridged Bookstore and eclectic Skylight Books in Los Angeles, which stock extensive collections of gay and lesbian material. The diverse best-of lists ably represent Weyandt’s varied cross-section of literary connoisseurs. Classics appear alongside older and newer perennial favorites by authors like Donna Tartt, Toni Morrison, Lorrie Moore, Jonathan Franzen, Jeffrey Eugenides and Zadie Smith. Proceeds go to the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, a group that fights literary censorship and supports struggling bookstores. In sharing titles and ideas, handselling becomes, as bookseller and author Eowyn Ivey of Fireside Books remarks, “a small but heartfelt gift, one reader to another.”
Entertaining, informative, satisfying and fun—everything books should be.