When a customer walks into the bookstore looking for a specific book, chances are they can tell me its title (maybe) and the color of the cover (definitely). Booksellers, by contrast, will always think of the author's last name and the publisher. Last names come to us automatically because that's how bookstores are organized - our brains are so alphabetically wired that we can navigate the fiction section blindfolded. But publishers stand out because they represent an artistic vision.
For a mere mortal with a finite number of hours in my day who nevertheless requires some familiarity with the hundreds of titles the Booksmith stocks at any given time, that vision is a godsend. It's a compass for the many occasions I'm asked to make recommendations without much to go on. I can tell the customer with a passion for the classics and a restless curiosity that they might enjoy the overlooked gems of western canon in Melville House's novella series
. The guy with the pointed leather brogues and the "Doctor Who" watch who feels stuck in a reading rut gets steered toward the darkly fantastical Small Beer Press
. The art student who wants a birthday gift for her girlfriend gets the latest volume of contemporary poetry from WAVE Books
Of course, most of the books on our shelves are not produced by small publishers. The American publishing scene has conglomerated over the past several years to the point where most titles on the market come from only two or three companies or their owned imprints and subsidiaries, which makes for a monolithic vision and unvaried literary scene. Despite that reality, or maybe because of it, independent presses have proliferated across the country, publishing what many consider to be the most exciting new writers, styles and forms available today.
In the interest of shining a spotlight on work that is daring, innovative, or just unconventional enough to break the mold, the Brookline Booksmith Small Press Book Club meets on the third Thursday of every month to discuss a new book from an indie press. Our next meeting will be on January 15th at 7pm in the Used Book Cellar of the Brookline Booksmith (279 Harvard St.) and we will be reading Nochita by Dia Felix, published by City Lights Books
(excerpt available at the link). This ground-breaking novel follows the half-feral child of California counterculture into a hair-raising meditation on a land stamped with dreams, and is already a bookseller favorite. Make sure to mention the book club at checkout to receive an 8% discount on your copy of Nochita
We welcome new members (even if you haven't finished the book!). Those interested can contact me at [email protected]
or follow us on twitter @smallpressbkcb
, or just show up!
Lydia McOscar is a graduate of the University of Maine and has worked at the Brookline Booksmith as a bookseller, used book buyer and event coordinator since 2012