WORD Bookstore (126 Franklin St., Brooklyn, NY), in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, could be summed up (like most things) with a line from Shakespeare: Though she be but little, she is fierce. The love and care behind WORD's selection and displays are evident from the moment you step across the threshold of this community-oriented store. Also, they serve GRILLED CHEESE SANDWICHES at their readings. Okay, at one of their readings. BUT STILL.
WORD's very excellent manager Stephanie Anderson was kind enough to answer a few questions.
Please tell everyone a little bit about what makes Word special.
What makes WORD special is Greenpoint. Above all else, we intend to be the best bookstore for our neighborhood that we can be. So if we have a good selection of books and fun events, it's because our customers have good taste in books and events and we like to make them happy. Luckily, they have such good taste that people from other parts of the city (and the country!) like us as well! Seriously, though, we have great customers. That is the core of it all.Oh, and our stationery selection is pretty special, I think.
How do you think independent bookstores will continue to survive as the industry changes so rapidly? What makes indie bookstores so important?
Independent bookstores will survive by 1) being able to change nimbly because we're smaller, especially in technological ways (I hope). But also 2) by standing firm by the principles that made us want to be booksellers. Now more than ever, people put a lot of stock in good customer service, and now that a trillion new books come out every year, people wantrecommendations from someone they trust. These are both things that indies have done well for a long time and that we need to continue to do.There are lots of reasons indie bookstores are important, but I'll limit myself to this: because books are not widgets. Books are not underwear; they are not water bottles; they are not toothpaste. They change lives, whether it's cheesy to say that or not. We lose immensely as a culture when books are primarily judged by profit margin and short-term sales. And don't get me wrong, indie booksellers like to make money, but that's not why we got in the biz. We do it because it's important to us that good books find their readers, and it's an honor to be the person who facilitates that connection. So we fight hard for the books we love, even when keeping them on the shelves isn't the most efficient way to do business. Obviously you have to be business-minded to keep your doors open, but you've got to support people who are trying new things (both authors and presses), you've got to promote international literature, you've got to take a chance and believe that people want to read the new and different alongside the tried-and-true, even if it means at the end of the year your profit margins are a little thinner.Put another way: a healthy literate culture needs evangelists, and that's what we are: professional book evangelists.
Some current staff/customer favorites?
Oy, this is such a difficult question. I want to make sure I get everybody's taste represented, so I'll just list some titles and authors, divided by section (I'm literally just reading the staff picks off the shelves here). You can also get a sense for the randomness of what people like around here by looking at what our book club reads.And of course our Top 10 gives you a good idea as well.
Fiction: CLOUD ATLAS (David Mitchell), THE DAYS OF ABANDONMENT (Elena Ferrante), THE GONE-AWAY WORLD (Nick Harkaway), BROOKLYN (Colm Toibin), IN HOVERING FLIGHT (Joyce Hinnefeld), VILE BODIES (Evelyn Waugh), TWENTY FRAGMENTS OF A RAVENOUS YOUTH (Xiaolu Guo), ABSURDISTAN (Gary Shteyngart), EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE (Jonathan Safran Foer), MISS LONELYHEARTS/THE DAY OF THE LOCUST (Nathanael West)
Non-fiction: THE TEN-CENT PLAGUE (David Hajdu), SALT (Mark Kurlansky), THE BOOK OF DEAD PHILOSOPHERS (Simon Critchley), THE TEN MOST BEAUTIFUL EXPERIMENTS (George Johnson), COLUMBINE (Dave Cullen), WHEN EVERYTHING CHANGED (Gail Collins), WHAT I TALK ABOUT WHEN I TALK ABOUT RUNNING (Haruki Murakami)
Children's books: WHEN YOU REACH ME (Rebecca Stead), all Sandra Boynton board books, BIG RABBIT'S BAD MOOD (Ramona Badescu), THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH (Norton Juster), KING DORK (Frank Portman)
Graphic novels/illustrated: ASTERIOS POLYP (David Mazzucchelli), THE INVISIBLES (Grant Morrison), FRAY (Joss Whedon), THE GREAT OUTDOOR FIGHT (Chris Onstad), PROMETHEA (Alan Moore), THE PRINCIPLES OF UNCERTAINTY (Maira Kalman), THESE THINGS AIN'T GONNA SMOKE THEMSELVES (Emily Flake)
We are also incredibly partial to cookbooks here, especially Mark Bittman, who is probably our bestselling cookbook author. Food lit is the only non-fiction genre with its own shelf (everything else is just shelved under non-fiction).
And we can't forget our Greenpoint authors: Jami Attenberg, Kate Christensen, Wells Tower, Adrienne Marie Vrettos, Sarah Manguso, Sarah Magid, and many more.
I have to end here even though I am having terrible anxiety about all the books I did not type.