Friday, December 19, 2014

A Visit to Papercuts J.P. plus Notes on Four Books.

On my recent trip to Worcester to see family, I was able to detour over to the new bookstore in Jamaica Plain, Papercuts J.P., which turned out to be down the block from my friend Bob. It's owned by Kate Layte, and is a mix of fiction, nonfiction, art, and kids books. It's a small space at 500 square feet, but as Bob says, she uses the space very effectively. Here are a few books I saw on my visit that are a jumping off point for some other things I had been thinking about writing.

1. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
No matter what kind of store you have, you almost have to stock the must-read literary book of the season. I had so many chances to read this, starting with a multi-author dinner I attended last winter. That said I can't read every book in advance and I had wound up going with Delancey, since we were eating at that restaurant, and I'm happy to say we just sold a copy of Molly Wizenberg's food memoir yesterday. We wound up having multiple reads of the book, and in a fit of craziness, I sent my galley to my sister Claudia in Worcester. I saw the copy and said, "You have to move this to the top of your reading pile" and she did. Meanwhile, I bought a copy at Papercuts as I thought when a book is a phenomenon like this, it's time to stop quoting everyone else when you put it in customer's hands and time to figure out what is going on yourself.

2. Before After, by Anne-Margot Ramstein and Matthia Aríequi
I brought my mom some books to read, as it's still one of her great pleasures. I was thrilled to find a nicely priced large print edition of The Boys in the Boat at Boswell, and I added on copies of Renée Rosen's All the Lady Wants and Gabrielle Zevin's The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry. Mom needs a good plot and I thought these books would appeal to her, plus then she can then lend them out to her friends, or yes, even my sister. But one book we looked at together is Before After. We've been selling the book like crazy at Boswell--it's been our mission for fall to convert folks to its joys, but I really think it's a great book for folks of any age. It's such a great book to spur creativity. My mom and I had a great time trying to guess what would be after. For this to work, it helps to have a sheet of paper to cover the left side of the page. I'm excited to say that at least as of yesterday, we're the #1 store in sales for Before After on Above the Treeline. I have gone through this book so many times that I have decided to say that I've read it, which is something I never do for wordless picture books.

3. Animalium, curated by Jenny Broom and Katie Scott
While we're only at #10 on Above the Treeline for this book, we're still proud of our great sales. As I've mentioned on WUWM, the book is like an museum in the box (in particular, the Milwaukee Public Museum, which is a compliment, by the way). I was impressed that Papercuts had more than one copy of this (as they did for Before After) as I probably would have been tempted to use my limited inventory to spread stock around, but I think it's bold to make a statement, and if you're doing a lot of handselling, you need at least small piles of the books you love this time of year. I've had a lot of fun hand-selling Animalium; it's not just the beautiful illustrations, but the design of them. It's like the creatures are dancing on the page.

4. How Not to be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking, by Jordan Ellenberg
I have a confession. I made this book one of my five picks in our holiday newsletter, but I hadn't finished the book, so I made it my mission to read the last 100 or so pages on this trip, and I am thrilled to say "mission accomplished." Whether Ellenberg was arguing out the dynamics of elections or explaining why so many critics do not understand regression to the mean, the book was a rare thing--an accessible academic book that is also entertaining. It reminded me a lot of my classes when I was a math major--I'd sometimes get lost in the classes but I could still do ok on the tests.  It's turned out to have a nice second life at Christmas,, and the we are currently #3 on Treeline for sales. It's included because this was what I was reading the day I visited the bookstore.

A note about Above the Treeline. It's a service that lets publishers see your sales and inventory and stores in turn can compare their sales to other stores. We don't know exactly what the other stores are, but that honestly doesn't matter and keeps individual store sales confidential. I highly recommend it for small stores, especially now that it feeds info to the Edelweiss electronic catalog system and thus makes buying more efficient.

There are a lot of great bookstores in the Boston area, and while I am always nervous about bookstores cannibalizing each other, there is also an awful lot of online shopping in the Boston area. It would be great if at least some of that business migrated back to indie bricks and mortar. As I always say about Boswell and other bookstores, we'll be around as long as enough of you want us. More about Papercuts J.P. in Boston Magazine.

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