Shelf Space: Bookworks

Amanda Sutton photographed by Margaret Randall.

Bookworks, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, has supported/hosted nationally touring, bestselling, and local authors for more than 30 years. The bookstore partners with other New Mexican businesses, community groups, and organizations to offer hundreds of lectures, talks, and signings for kids and adults throughout the Duke City. We spoke with Events and Marketing Director Amanda Sutton about Chuck Palahniuk’s reading props, Bryan Cranston and Bob Odenkirk’s visit, and Rudolfo Anaya’s 80-proof hospitality.

How would you describe Bookworks to the uninitiated?

Bookworks is a funky, often messy, event-driven independent local bookstore in the lovely Rio Grande River Valley of north Albuquerque. We’re part of a neighborhood shopping center that includes a quaint stationery shop, a hair salon, a women’s boutique, a jewelry store, and a cafe, all locally owned businesses. We carry new fiction and nonfiction for kids and adults along with local authors, small press titles, and fun gift sidelines that include seasonal items, local beauty products, bookmarks and reading accouterments, and, most importantly, chocolate!

If Bookworks were a religion, what would be its icons and tenets?

Buy books often, shop local, explore new genres. And of course, worship the Book Goddess.

Which was your favorite event and why?

We host 400 to 500 events a year, so choosing a favorite one is a big challenge, but some of our favorite authors to host have been Sherman Alexie, Isabelle Allende, Augusten Burroughs, and Kim Gordon. Chuck Palahniuk really brought it when he came to Albuquerque for Beautiful You. About a month before the event, he called the store and said, “I’m going to be sending you some top-secret boxes full of props and prizes for our event.” About a week later, a stack of human-sized boxes arrived with mysterious descriptions like “GORY ARM” on the side. They resided in our events coordinator’s garage for a month under Chuck’s strict instructions, “DO NOT OPEN BEFORE THE EVENT.” The night of the event, we found out they contained 600 clear bouncing disco balls to be filled with 1,200 glow sticks. At the beginning of the event, each person got a ball and glow sticks to be tossed about during the event, which was much more like a rave than a traditional reading. Needless to say, it was one of the most fun—and perhaps logistically challenging—events we’ve done.

Most recently, we hosted Bryan Cranston in conversation with Bob Odenkirk on the tour for Cranston’s new book, A Life in Parts. In addition to Bob, several actors from Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul showed up. Folks in Albuquerque were just gaga for this event, and we had a blast!

Shelf_bookworks What trends are you noticing among young readers?

Young readers seem to be gravitating toward media-driven personalities and books. Hosting Felicia Day last year for her book You’re Never Weird On the Internet, Almost, was probably the biggest eye-opener for us to the importance of social media in young adults making book choices.

What are some of the bookstores’ top current handsells?

Elena Ferrante is flying off the shelves. Fredrik Bachman’s A Man Called Ove has been a bookseller favorite. 

What is your ideal busman’s holiday?

Driving across the West visiting independent bookstores along the way. Locally, touring New Mexico locales or homes of famous writers would be fun. “Knock knock, are you home, Cormac McCarthy?” He probably wouldn’t answer, but Rudolfo Anaya would. Our booksellers frequently go over to his home to get books signed, and it sometimes involves spontaneously eating enchiladas or taking a few tequila shots with Rudy.

Karen Schechner is the Vice President of Kirkus Indie. 

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