Shelf Space: Malvern Books

We talk to Joe Bratcher, owner of Malvern Books

Joe Bratcher of Malvern Books.

Malvern Books, founded in 2013, is doing its part to keep Austin weird. Focused on the “lesser-known and emerging voices the world needs to hear,” the general bookstore is the vision of Joe Bratcher. While running Host Publications, an indie press he co-founded, Bratcher dreamed of opening a community space devoted to independent presses.

How would you describe Malvern Books to the uninitiated?

Malvern Books is a comfortable community space that specializes in poetry and fiction from small and independent presses. We strive to be open to the reading and performing public in Austin by providing great books not found in larger stores, incredible reading series, and a space for book and writing clubs to meet.

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

What do you mean “if” Malvern were a religion? Seriously, our icons are the other great independent bookstores: Shakespeare and Company in Paris, Gotham Book Mart, City Lights Books, Green Apple Books, BookWoman, Brazos Bookstore, and so many others. I sometimes feel I should have a shrine to these stores that inspired me to open Malvern Books somewhere in the store. Our tenet would be that reading widely in imaginative poetry and prose, and having a chance to share and talk about that experience, makes for a better world.

Which was your favorite event and/or most memorable disaster?

The favorite event was the 90th birthday celebration for poet, translator, and literary critic Miguel Gonzalez-Gerth. The store was filled with Miguel’s friends, young and old. He read his work for over an hour to an entranced audience as a tremendous thunderstorm brewed outside. 

The most memorable disaster was when an employee at the shop next to Malvern (we’re in a strip mall) was convinced that her car had been rammed in our shared parking lot and the perpetrator had jumped into our store to lose himself in the crowd during a reading. She called the police and identified one of our readers as the man who had done the damage. The officers politely waited until he had finished reading before escorting him out to question him about the incident. It turned out that she was mistaken.

Malvern books_interiorHow does the bookstore reflect the interests of your community?

Austin is a city of widely varying tastes and styles. It is Malvern’s goal to allow each and every niche of writer and reader a space to share and enjoy literature. Whether you are a famous visiting writer at the University of Texas or a group of local high school students who want to try their hand at talking about, and writing, poetry and fiction, Malvern will do its very best to find a space for you. So, Malvern reflects Austin by being open and welcome to each and all who want to explore texts with us.

What trends are you noticing among young readers? 

I am tremendously surprised and pleased to see that young readers love the physical book. I hear over and over again from people (young and old) that they love to hold a book in their hand when they read.

What are some of the bookstores’ top current handsells?

John Williams’ Stoner by far is our current top handsell. People love that book, tell their friends, and their friends’ friends, and they all come in and buy it. Another is the local (well, she used to live in Austin) writer Kelly Luce’s first book, Three Scenarios in Which Hana Sasaki Grows a Tail, published by the local press A Strange Object. This book is magical.

Karen Schechner is the vice president of Kirkus Indie.



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