Category Archives: independent bookstores

The Best Literary Weekend, Period.

We may be geographically biased, but we think the Brooklyn Book Festival is the absolute–and this year’s was better than ever! We rocked a reading at BookCourt; we stopped by the BBF Gala; we met thousands of new friends at the book fair; and we sold lots of books. All on one of the most gorgeous fall weekends a New Yorker could ask for. Winwinwin. Thank you to everyone who supported us, and to the talented and superfun BLP authors who made this weekend a success! ‘Til 2013!

Brooklyn Book Festival!

Join Black Lawrence Press in celebrating the Brooklyn Book Festival! We’re hosting a stellar reading on Saturday at BookCourt, and will be showing off our beautiful books at table #54 all day Sunday (with special guests). We can’t wait to see you there!

Brooklyn Book Festival Reading: September 22 at BookCourt

Celebrate the Brooklyn Book Festival with Tracy DeBrincat, Laura McCullough, Charlotte Pence, Adam Prince, and Brad Ricca at BookCourt on Saturday, September 22, at 4pm! Event details here.

On Sunday, be sure to stop by Table 54 to see all of our beautiful books, meet BLP authors, and enjoy the finest book fair in the world.

Big Jar Books, A Requiem

One of the reasons that Black Lawrence Press is working to support independent bookstores is so that gems like Big Jar Books won’t wither in the shadows of big box stores and giant web retailers. Thanks to Nora Fussner for this requiem.


Rest in peace, Big Jar Books. A clean, well-lit used bookstore on Philadelphia’s Second Street, right in the heart of Old City, it was also, in my intellectually rapacious youth, the only place I knew of in town to buy McSweeney’s Quarterly and other small-press books, in the days before McSweeney’s got a shout-out in Juno. Coffee in the front, a couple of busted wing chairs in the back, and in between, everything the readers of the city had left for you to discover.

In my memory the store was 50% literature, 25% philosophy, and 25% film theory, but that’s probably idealizing it. I’m sure there were copies of Who Moved My Cheese? among the Delmore Schwartz and Pauline Kael, but shoved at the bottom of some shelf, anomalous. Since the shop is no longer around to defend itself, I’m going to go all the way and say that each book (its price penciled inside the front cover in a little jar) was not cast-off by some poseur who didn’t know its true worth, but earmarked by a kind of Divine Librarian (perhaps one of three, a mythic trio who catalogue, loan, and due-date stamp your Life Library) for a particular volume to stick out of the shelf just so on the day you decide to stop in. Freshman year you read Robert Coover for the first time and lo, here is A Night at the Movies. Or a literature professor leans back in a swoon talking about Katherine Anne Porter: her Collected Stories can be had for a song, brandishing the old rose-bedecked cover on public transportation the mark of the enlightened.

The last time I was home visiting the family for the holidays, the space had been transformed into one of those clothing stores for too-skinny women selling $65 t-shirts and $200 pairs of jeans. My mother took a business card. “How could you?”  I hissed, planning to come back with a basket full of rotten tomatoes to hurl at the front window. “They have some cute things,” she replied. Oh, sure, without clothing we’d be arrested; but without books we’d stumble from work to home back to work again, unaware there was anything greater awaiting us.

Rest in peace, Ritz Filmbill. The summer I patronized Big Jar Books the most, I had an internship around the corner at a small magazine (barely more than a brochure) distributed for free in the neighborhood’s three independent theaters. Besides descriptions of the films, the Filmbill included restaurant reviews, movie-themed horoscopes, and the occasional trivia contest, questions for which I occasionally got to write. Mostly, though, I was gathering images for the website archive, a mind-numbing task made bearable by the free movie passes I was given and the long lunches I was encouraged to take, which frequently included detours to Big Jar Books. I wasn’t paid for the internship, only given a sporadic travel stipend, but it was one of those college summers when my dad was still happy to pay for my train fare and I spent the checks on books or, perversely, movies at other theaters. The Ritz theaters have since been bought by Landmark and the Filmbill reduced to a single-leaf broadsheet with descriptions of films currently playing, and little else. They still have $6 screenings on Tuesdays, but they also have all Landmark’s unsaveable receipt-like tickets, instead of card-stock.

Rest in peace, summer jobs that didn’t mean anything, that were about beefing up a resume for a future that seemed, in those days, impossibly far away. In the meantime, upon arrival at 11 a.m., I was not infrequently greeted with, “You’re here early” and was practically dissuaded from exerting myself. What a contrast to the overworked/underpaid not-for-profit positions of my immediate post-college years. Oh, sure, summer in downtown Philadelphia smells like baked urine, but that didn’t keep me from walking, wandering, letting the stories I’d stumbled upon tell me which way to go.


The very excellent Book Trader is still in existence, also on 2nd Street, moved from its former home on South. They give store credit in exchange for your old books and are conscientious enough to compliment your selections at check-out. Another disappointment of my adolescence was having my 18-pound tome rung up at Border’s without comment. I always wanted to say to the clerk, “I’m really going to read this, you know,” even if it took me seven years or more to get around to Gravity’s Rainbow or The Second Sex. At the Book Trader, they acknowledge your taste, and have a couple of beaten-down couches of their own, upstairs.

Nora Fussner is quickly approaching the completion of an MFA in fiction writing at Brooklyn College, at which point she’ll be available for all your proofreading/copyediting/dogsitting/ghosthunting needs.

Featured Indie Bookstore of the Week: The Flying Pig

Thanks to Alex Samets for guest blogging about her favorite indie bookstore: The Flying Pig in Shelburne, Vermont. You can support The Flying Pig by shopping their online store: You can learn more about Black Lawrence Press’s plan to support indie bookstores here.

The Flying Pig

It’s possible that the only thing I love more than books is bookstores. Libraries are great, too, of course, but there’s something particular to walking into a place full of books that could, theoretically, be mine. Bookstores are for book lovers what galleries are to art-lovers: a place where the object of desire is revered, is honored, and, most importantly, can be coveted and then brought home.

So, being a bookstore lover as much as (or more than) I am a book lover, it’s nearly impossible to pick a favorite bookstore. Sure, I love Powell’s more than almost any place on earth, but who doesn’t? Living in New York there are endless choices for intimate booksellers with arcane selections, all of which I love. But there is one bookstore that I’ve held dear for longer than all others, and that’s the Flying Pig Bookstore, now in Shelburne, Vermont.

Before the Flying Pig moved to Shelburne, it was one town away, in Charlotte. This is what you need to know about Charlotte: in the “town” of Charlotte there is one general store that is literally a general store and should evoke in you an image of the wild west, a post office (but it’s relatively new), a library (that’s new, too), and a volunteer fire and rescue station. And, a little way up the road, an elementary school. The town shares a high school with the rest of the county and borrows police from Shelburne, ever since the one sheriff passed away. It’s a small town, and I grew up there.

By that I mean I grew up within the town lines of Charlotte, but not anywhere near the Red Brick Store or the post office or the library. I grew up on a dirt road in an old farmhouse with a sheep barn in the backyard that my mom turned into a painting studio and from which we could see only one neighbor’s house, far away on the horizon.

Even so, Charlotte is a town full of artists and intellectuals living alongside berry and cow farmers, and it’s not entirely impossible to imagine that a little bookstore opening up on Ferry Road (oh, yes, Charlotte is also home to a ferry that will take you across Lake Champlain to Essex, New York) might do alright. I mean, people read, intellectuals and farmers, both. But when the Flying Pig hung up its purple OPEN flag and opened the doors to a tiny building that had formerly been a deli, it was, to be honest, hard to believe it would last long. And that was in the Nineties.

Here we are, a million years later, and the Flying Pig has moved to a bigger location in bustling Shelburne Village, carries more than 40,000 titles, and continues to be awesome in all the ways that made it a place people journeyed to out in Charlotte: it has an unbelievably extensive and beautiful collection of children’s books; knowledgeable owners and staff who a) remember my name, even though I’m all grown up, b) remember the books I like, even though I don’t visit often, and c) seem to have read literally every book they carry, though that isn’t possibly true.

I remember being in high school and driving (fairly far out of my way) to the Flying Pig after school just to look at books, just to touch them, just to talk to the owners about what had recently come in. And now, when I visit my family in Charlotte, I take my partner to visit the Flying Pig, and I have conversations with the owners where they greet me by name and ask me what I am doing, and I tell them I am getting an MFA, and they ask me what I am working on, and I say a book that might turn out to be a young adult novel, and they run to the YA section and pull down The Book Thief and tell me that this is the book that’s going to help me decide that my novel should, in fact, be written for young people. And then I buy The Book Thief, so I guess we all win.

Alex Samets lives in New York City. She will one day be very famous, either because she will write best-selling novels or because she will marry a rock star. Remember her name.

Featured Bookstore: Village Books

Chuck & Dee Robinson opened Village Books in the June of 1980 and are thrilled to now be 30 years into the business. A vital part of Historic Fairhaven, a quaint area in Bellingham, WA, the bookstore moved into a larger, fresher space in 2004, where it continues to feed the reading appetites of residents and visitors.

The bookstore sells both new and used titles and in 2009 began selling e-books and digital audio books as well. To keep up with the face-paced, always changing book world, Village Books also had an Espresso Book Machine® installed. The machine has been an exciting addition to the forward-looking store and it has opened up a new world of opportunities, especially for self-publishing authors.

Village Books hosts over 250 events each year, including the Chuckanut Radio Hour, a radio variety show that has hosted Sherman Alexie, Erik Larson, and none other than Garrison Keillor, among many others.

Village Books looks forward to continuing to be a staple of Bellingham and giving back to the community as much as it has given to them.

You can support Village Books by purchasing books from their website. To receive a 10% discount, write “Black Lawrence” in the comments field before submitting your order. You can start browsing now by clicking this link.

Village Books

1200 Eleventh Street

Bellingham, WA 98225

Tel: (360) 671-2626 / 
(800) 392-BOOK

Fax: (360) 734-2573

The King’s English

Last week Black Lawrence Press began to make good on its New Year’s resolution: to support independent bookstores. And we are continuing this week. You may remember that last week we profiled Burke’s Book Store in Memphis, Tennessee. This week we take you to The King’s English in Salt Lake City.

The King’s English was established in 1977 and is home to The Inkslinger, one of the best bookshop newsletters that we’ve ever seen. The Inkslinger, which is published monthly, is available for free via email or for $15 for those who prefer to have a print version mailed tom them. The King’s English also maintains a wonderful calendar of events, so if you live nearby, be sure to take advantage of the reading series.

You can support The King’s English this week by purchasing books from their website. To receive a 10% discount, write “Black Lawrence” in the comments field before submitting your order. You can start browsing now by clicking this link.

Feb. 9: Anis Shivani Reads at The Twig in San Antonio

On February 9th at 5 PM, Anis Shivani, author of Anatolia and Other Stories, will read at The Twig in San Antonio. The Twig is located at 200 East Grayson. For more information, call 210-826-6411.

New Year’s Resolution: Support Independent Bookstores

We here at Black Lawrence Press are beginning 2010 with renewed determination to support small, local bookstores around the country. In a changing literary atmosphere, it’s important to embrace the technology that makes sales and distribution easier, but also to protect the unique character and labor of love that are the hallmarks of small, independently owned bookstores. Plus, as an independent press, we understand how important it is to promote emerging and experimental writers.

Starting this month, we’ve decided to highlight an independent bookseller each week on the blog. The staff at Black Lawrence Press is dedicated to doing our part to make the coming decade a success for those of us dedicated to independent book publishing.

Be sure to check the Black Lawrence Press blog every week for our featured small bookstore of the week. For every bookstore that we feature, we will include information about how to purchase books from the store, either by going to the store’s website or calling one of the friendly salespeople to place a phone order. Also, many of the stores that we have lined up for this project will offer discounts to folks who read about them on our blog. Our posts will include coupon codes and discount information. This means that you will be able to save money while supporting local book shops around the country.

We are excited to begin this effort by featuring Burke’s Book Store in Memphis, Tennessee. Burke’s Book Store, which has survived the depression and two World Wars, was begun in 1875 as a family business and stayed that way for 3 generations. In 2000, husband and wife, Corey and Cheryl Mesler, who met in the store, and after working there for over a decade, bought Burke’s.

Burke’s continues to offer newly published titles, as well as new fiction, southern literature, Memphis history, and paperback classics. In the last 25 years it has played host to a wide range of writers, honored scriveners of the modern, plumbers of the collective unconscious, including John Grisham, Richard Ford, Ann Beattie, Anne Rice, Bobbie Ann Mason, Kaye Gibbons, Peter Guralnick, Peter Carey, Lee Smith, Ralph Abernathy, Archie Manning, Rick Barthelme, Charles Baxter, Robert Olen Butler, Bill Wyman, and many others. Today, muddling toward the future, the Meslers keep the old flame burning, still cognizant of their role in the community, re-energizing the store’s once semi-active publishing arm, still remembering the signed W. C. Handy autobiography, the book bound in skin, the first edition Uncle Tom’s Cabin. It’s a heady business, a calling, a place of sympathetic magic.

To support Burke’s Book Store, shop their online store at

For a 10% discount on your order, write “Since 1875” in the section of the order form marked “Special Instructions.” (Note: the 10% won’t show up on your computer screen, but will be adjusted when your is processed.)