When a customer asked Hans Weyandt, co-owner of Micawber’s Books in St. Paul, Minn., to name 10 of his Top 100 books, he started pulling bestsellers off the store shelf. “No, I mean your personal top 10 favorite books,” she said. And with that simple request, Micawber’s Top 50 was born. Last summer Weyandt asked hand-selling friends at independent bookstores from Alaska to Florida to contribute lists of their own 50 favorites, which he began posting on his blog and on Facebook.
Soon after Weyandt began running the series, Coffee House Press publisher Chris Fischbach was in the bookstore, and it struck him that the lists would make a really good book. “Hans was always my favorite bookseller from his Hungry Mind days,” says Fischbach. “I liked the idea that [the blog posts] could be a checklist and promote the bookstores—a bookseller in your pocket.” The resulting book, Read This! Handpicked Favorites from America’s Indie Bookstores (Coffee House, Sept.), attempts to do exactly that.
As bestselling author and bookseller Ann Patchett, who opened Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tenn., last fall, wrote in the introduction: “There is no greater joy for a bookseller than introducing a reader to a book they will love for the rest of their lives. Those of us in this business are, after all, matchmakers at heart.”
The “catalogue of matchmakers,” as Patchett dubs the collection, is organized alphabetically by bookstore, with a short biographical sketch of each along with answers to such questions as “Who do you trust to recommend books?” and “What is your favorite bookstore (besides the one you work at)?” The lists, too, are alphabetical (by author) and contain lengthier descriptions of four or five titles. Besides Micawber’s, participating bookstores include Rakestraw Books in Danville, Calif.; Maria’s Bookshop in Durango, Colo.; and Three Lives & Company in New York City.
At the outset, Weyandt told participating booksellers that he had no intention of making money from the project. One hundred percent of the royalties will be donated to the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, which benefits all booksellers.
Most of the contributors are at the show. To spot them, look for the Read This! T-shirt. Additional T-shirts and samplers of the book are available at the Coffee House Press booth (3906).