Shelf Awareness for Friday, November 5, 2021

Algonquin Young Readers: the Beautiful Game by Yamile Saied Méndez

Berkley Books: Books that will sweep you off your feet! Enter Giveaway!

Feiwel & Friends: The Flicker by HE Edgmon

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: The Pumpkin Princess and the Forever Night by Steven Banbury

St. Martin's Griffin: Murdle: The School of Mystery: 50 Seriously Sinister Logic Puzzles by GT Karber


Follett Selling Baker & Taylor to Group Led by B&T President and CEO

Follett Corp., which bought Baker & Taylor in 2016 from private equity firm Castle Harlan, is selling the company to a private investment group led by B&T president and CEO Aman Kochar.

The companies said that B&T's "related businesses are moving with the sale and general operations and leadership remain unchanged. Businesses transitioning with the sale include Baker & Taylor Publisher Services, collectionHQ, Baker & Taylor UK and James Bennett." The company focuses on products and services for academic and public libraries. During Follett's ownership, B&T left the wholesale retail business and stopped selling to bookstores.

Aman Kochar with 'Baker' and 'Taylor'

Follett CEO and chairman Todd Litzsinger said, "The passion and expertise the Baker & Taylor team possess will certainly translate into continued success for library customers. On behalf of the Follett family and shareholders, I would like to thank the B&T employees, publishing partners, librarians and library partners for the long and rich partnership we have enjoyed."

Aman Kochar said, "This is a pivotal and exciting time for Baker & Taylor. As an independent entity, we look forward to leading with our expertise and legacy and advancing our technology-based services and products. Working together on a thoughtful transition, both Baker & Taylor and Follett Corporation are committed to ensuring this change is seamless for our customers, partners and team members."

Kochar was named to head B&T in 2019 when the late David Cully retired. Kochar joined B&T in 2014 and for a time led the public library sales and technology departments.

Blackstone Publishing: Rogue Community College: A Liberty House Novel by David R Slayton

Paul Bogaards Leaving Knopf; KDPG Publicity to Be Centralized

Paul Bogaards

After 32 years at Knopf, Paul Bogaards, executive v-p, publicity & marketing, deputy publisher, is retiring, effective January 1. He plans, as he put it in a letter to colleagues, "to hang out a consulting shingle... I may be leaving the room, but I am not exiting the stage, and I hope some of us will be working together down the road."

As a result of Bogaards's impending departure, the publicity departments of Knopf, Doubleday and Pantheon-Schocken are being centralized and will be headed by Todd Doughty, who is being promoted to the newly created role of senior v-p, publicity and communications, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, effective immediately. He will serve as spokesperson for the Group and continue his title publicity work.

Todd Doughty

Now reporting to Doughty are Erinn Hartman, who has been promoted to v-p, executive director of publicity and will run the Knopf publicity department; Michiko Clark, who has been promoted to senior director of publicity and will run the Pantheon publicity department; Gabrielle Brooks, v-p, director, Knopf promotion & serial rights; Michael Goldsmith, Doubleday senior director of publicity; Kim Thornton Ingenito, executive agent director, Speakers Bureau; and publicity assistant Olivia Decker. Now reporting to Erinn Hartman is Nicholas Latimer, v-p, Knopf senior director of publicity.

Maya Mavjee, president and publisher of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, said, "In a rapidly changing bookselling landscape, publicity remains a constant to the success of our writers and their books. Whether launching a debut or bestselling author, a strong publicity department strives to reach as wide a readership as possible via our ever-expanding media and bookselling partners. I want to emphasize that our Knopf, Doubleday, and Pantheon-Schocken imprints will maintain their respective directors and individual departments, now collectively under one umbrella."

Reagan Arthur, executive v-p, publisher, Knopf, called Bogaards "an integral part" of Knopf with an "unparalleled impact on scores of bestselling and now-classic books.... His passion, creativity, and savvy media instincts have not only burnished the Knopf ethos but also shaped the reading and bookselling world at large."

She noted that occasionally he has edited titles, and recently finished work on Chip McGrath's memoir, The Summer Friend. "He has as well always kept an eye trained towards the future of publishing," she continued. "His founding of the Knopf Speakers Bureau led to the development of this important business companywide; he also embraced technologies and tools over the years to expand and find new paths to wider readership. Paul has mentored an entire generation of publicists, many of whom have gone on to remarkable careers of their own, many of whom make up the powerhouse team of publicists under his leadership here now. His loyalty to his colleagues is legendary."

She said she would "be forever grateful for his support, counsel, and wisdom since I arrived at Knopf last year. A singular figure with a wicked wit, limitless talent, expansive vision, and boundless love of reading, Paul will be sorely missed."

Bogaards said he doubted that "my stepping away will come as surprise to many of you. After all, I'm living in a cabin in the woods, where I spend late afternoons foraging for mushrooms and splitting wood. Also: I recently purchased a tractor. If you're looking for signs, start there." But he emphasized, "If you're wondering about what's next for your truly, it's not farming. It's more of what I've been doing, just a little less of it."

Hired by Sonny Mehta in 1989, he said, "I am enormously proud of my work here. No one has had a better job, or more fun doing it. I've had two of the best bosses I could ever hope for in Sonny and Reagan. I'm also grateful to Madeline [McIntosh] and Maya and Reagan for allowing me to become a remote employee before working remotely was officially a thing."

Jessica MacKenzie Devin Buys Brewster Book Store, Brewster, Mass.

Jessica MacKenzie Devin and longtime friend Sue O'Malley have partnered to purchase Brewster Book Store, a 39-year-old independent bookstore in Brewster, Mass., from previous owner David Landon, son of store founder Nancy Landon.

Devin, who left a career in teaching earlier this year and has been working on the sales floor since the beginning of September, has a strong family connection with the store. Nancy Landon was a close family friend of Jean MacKenzie and Jane MacKenzie, her mother and her aunt, who helped Landon open the store and worked there for years. When the store opened, it was children's-only and occupied a single room; now it sells new titles for all ages and owns its building.

Jessica Devin (l.) and manager Val Arroyo, who is celebrating 20 years at the store.

"It's such an honor to be able to carry on the legacy of Nancy Landon," said Devin, whose first job was at the bookstore. "We're excited about ways to bring her forward with us."

Devin hopes that all of the current staff members stay on board and reported that it seems likely they will. Going forward she plans to work at the store two days per week during the school year (her partner is a teacher) and full-time during the holidays and summer break.

Asked about longer-term plans for the store, Devin said Brewster Book Store will expand next year into an adjacent office, which will be turned into an events space. She also hopes to build on and expand the store's existing event offerings. Beyond that, she simply wants to make sure Brewster Book Store remains a community fixture.

"I think it would be naive of us to jump in and immediately want to change this and that," she remarked. She and O'Malley see themselves as currently "learning from the experts" who already work at the store. Brewster Book Store has a "phenomenal group of booksellers," she added, and it is "important not to disrupt" the great things they're already doing.

Skylight Books, Los Angeles, Calif., Completes October Book Drive

Skylight Books in Los Angeles, Calif., which celebrated its 25th anniversary earlier this week, also completed a month-long book drive benefiting three youth and community centers in L.A. 

According to Spectrum News 1, Skylight created wish lists of books for elementary school students and YA readers, and donated collected books to the East Los Angeles Community Youth Center, the Asian Youth Center and the Los Angeles LGBT Center. The wide-ranging wish lists included fiction and nonfiction, graphic novels, books by Indigenous authors and people of color, and topics like gender, identity and sexuality.

Since the start of the pandemic, Skylight Books has been running book drives every quarter. This drive came about after Meagan Domingo, a youth organizer, "approached Skylight for advice in running a drive, and the bookstore offered to join forces."

Madeline Gobbo, events manager at Skylight, told Spectrum News 1, "We worked really hard to come up with lists that reflected diverse experiences, looking for windows, not doors. Seeing people who are like you, going through experiences you might be going through as a kid is really encouraging, it's grounding, and it helps people grow and develop."

Obituary Note: Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a psychologist "who showed how everyone from artists to assembly-line workers can be transported to a state of focused contentment by getting caught in the 'flow,' a term he coined and later popularized," died October 20, the New York Times reported. He was 87. Csikszentmihalyi "was a polymath whose passions for painting, chess playing and rock climbing informed his work on subjects as diverse as the teenage brain and the psychology of interior design."

It was his research into creativity and focus, however, that became his life's work and made him a public figure after the publication of his 1990 book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. The concept subsequently became a part of popular and political culture. The Times noted that Dallas Cowboys football coach Jimmy Johnson cited Csikszentmihalyi's work "as a critical piece in his preparation for the team's victory in the 1993 Super Bowl. He even held up a copy of the book during a postgame interview."

Other public figures who praised the book included Newt Gingrich, Bill Clinton and Tony Blair, who once boasted that half his cabinet was reading it. A 2004 TED Talk by Csikszentmihalyi has been viewed nearly seven million times.

Flow, he argued, was a state of mind, a level of concentration in which outside stimuli, even time itself, seem to fall away. But flow, he added, cannot be forced. "People seem to concentrate best when the demands on them are a bit greater than usual, and they are able to give more than usual," he said in an interview with the Times in 1986. "If there is too little demand on them, people are bored. If there is too much for them to handle, they get anxious. Flow occurs in that delicate zone between boredom and anxiety."

"Laurie Santos, a professor of psychology at Yale, said Csikszentmihalyi "was such a leader in our field it's hard to do his contributions justice. I think in a world where it's become harder and harder to focus, his work on flow has become even more important."

Csikszentmihalyi wrote a series of follow-up books to Flow, including one focused on the business world, and "while he never claimed to know the secret to happiness, he never passed up a chance to offer advice for those looking for it," the Times noted. 

G.L.O.W. - Galley Love of the Week
Be the first to have an advance copy!
A Forty Year Kiss
by Nickolas Butler
GLOW: A Forty Year Kiss by Nickolas Butler

A Forty Year Kiss by Nickolas Butler is a passionate, emotionally complex love story that probes tender places within the heart and soul. When 60-somethings Charlie and Vivian--married then divorced in their 20s--reunite after four decades, they are swept up by the very best of what their romantic relationship once offered. "Anyone who has ever thought about what might have been will find this book fascinating," says Shana Drehs, senior editorial director at Sourcebooks Landmark. "The story is a brilliant exploration of a second chance at love, always realistic but never saccharine." As Charlie and Vivian build a bridge from past to present, their enduring love paving over potholes, Butler (Shotgun Lovesongs) raises questions about how life changes people--or does it?--and delivers another heartening, unforgettable novel. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

(Sourcebooks Landmark, $27.99 Hardcover, 9781464221248, 
February 4, 2025)


Shelf vetted, publisher supported


Image of the Day: Celebrating Cindy Heidemann

Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association executive assistant Larry West, former executive director Thom Chambliss and current executive director Brian Juenemann (l. to r.) took Cindy Heidemann out for a burger and fries lunch at a favorite old Eugene, Ore., haunt to celebrate her retirement. Heidemann's last day as a Northwest sales rep for PGW/Two Rivers was last week. All four are veterans of the University of Oregon Bookstore, the 100-year-old co-op that later rebranded as the Duck Store, which stopped trade sales in 2019. Heidemann said, "Collectively, we're approaching 150 years in the book biz!"

Personnel Changes at Bloomsbury

At Bloomsbury Children's, Lex Higbee has been promoted to senior publicist. She was previously publicist.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Tim Mak on Here & Now

NPR's Here & Now: Tim Mak, author of Misfire: Inside the Downfall of the NRA (Dutton, $29, 9781524746452).

HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher: Michael Eric Dyson, author of Entertaining Race: Performing Blackness in America (‎St. Martin's Press, $32.50, 9781250135971).

Also on Real Time: Senator Amy Klobuchar, author of Antitrust: Taking on Monopoly Power from the Gilded Age to the Digital Age (Knopf, $32.50, 9780525654896).

On Stage: To Kill a Mockingbird

Oscar nominee (As Good as It Gets) and two-time Emmy winner Greg Kinnear will make his Broadway debut as Atticus Finch in Aaron Sorkin's stage adaptation of Harper Lee's novel To Kill a Mockingbird, beginning January 5 at the Shubert Theatre, Playbill reported. He succeeds Tony nominee and Emmy winner Jeff Daniels, whose final performance is January 2.

Directed by Bartlett Sher, the play resumed performances October 5--after being shuttered by the pandemic--with the return of two of its original stars: Daniels as Finch and Celia Keenan-Bolger in her Tony-winning performance as Scout Finch. The cast also includes Portia, Hunter Parrish, Michael Braugher, Russell Harvard, Neal Huff, Erin Wilhelmi, Noah Robbins, Zachary Booth, Gordon Clapp, Patricia Conolly, Christopher Innvar, Ted Koch and Amelia McClain.

To Kill a Mockingbird will also launch its national tour March 27, 2022, at Shea's Performing Arts Center in Buffalo, N.Y., starring Richard Thomas. Performances will begin in London at the Gielgud Theatre March 10, 2022, starring Rafe Spall.

Movies: The Power of the Dog

A trailer has been released for The Power of the Dog, the Jane Campion Western based on Thomas Savage's 1968 novel "that has been gearing up for Oscar season push since premiering at the Venice Film Festival," Deadline reported.

Campion wrote the script for the movie, which stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Jesse Plemons, Kirsten Dunst and Cody Smit-McPhee. The cast also includes Thomasin McKenzie, Frances Conroy, Keith Carradine, Peter Carroll and Adam Beach. The Power of the Dog will get a theatrical release later this month before hitting Netflix December 1.

The film is written and directed by Campion, who also produces with Emile Sherman, Iain Canning, Roger Frappier and Tanya Seghatchian. Ari Wegner is the DP and Peter Scibberas the editor. The music was composed by Jonny Greenwood.

Books & Authors

Awards: Prix Goncourt Winner

Senegalese author Mohamed Mbougar Sarr won the 2021 Prix Goncourt for his novel The Most Secret Memory of Men (La plus secrète mémoire des hommes). He is the first sub-Saharan African to win France's most prestigious literary award, France24 reported, adding that laureates receive just €10 (about $11.55) in prize money, but the award "traditionally guarantees the sale of hundreds of thousands of books."

"With this young author, we have returned to the fundamentals of the Goncourt," said the Goncourt Academy's secretary general Philippe Claudel. Goncourt president Didier Decoin said he read Mbougar Sarr's work in one sitting, describing it as "a hymn to literature."

Alice McCrum, the programs manager at the American Library in Paris, called the novel "intellectually knotty," remarking on its "labyrinthian construction.... It's at once a police investigation but also an investigation into genealogy, politics, aesthetics--as well as questions like, what does it mean to be a writer and to write? This is really a book critic's book."

L'Express magazine (via the Guardian) said the award crowned "the revelation of the literary year," a "shining proof of the vitality and universality of the French language." Le Monde said the "impressive ambition and stunning energy" of the novel "carried all before it."

Reading with... Adam J. Kurtz

photo: Michelle Mishina

Adam J. Kurtz (aka Adam JK) is a designer, artist and speaker whose illustrative work is rooted in honesty, humor and a little darkness. His books Things Are What You Make of Them: Life Advice for Creatives, 1 Page at a Time and The OK Tarot have sold one million copies in 19 languages. His new book, You Are Here (For Now) (TarcherPerigee, October 19, 2021), is a collection of essays to inspire and encourage anyone feeling lost or overwhelmed.

On your nightstand now: 

My husband (the writer Mitchell Kuga) and I just came back from a trip to L.A. so we have a fresh stack of impulse buys from Skylight Books to read. 

A signed copy of Steph Cha's Your House Will Pay because I've followed her on Twitter for ages and not read it yet. The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic by Jessica Hopper with the new Samantha Irby intro; When Brooklyn Was Queer by Hugh Ryan; and Patricia Lockwood's No One Is Talking About This.

I buy more books than I read, but Mitchell is always reading several books at once. He likes to recommend a book just a few days before it's due back at the library so I have no choice but to get off the computer and read.

Favorite book when you were a child:

I was so into the Hardy Boys!!!! I read through the series, the Nancy Drew crossovers and then Nancy Drew. Years ago on a road trip to New Orleans, I found an old copy of The Tower Treasure while killing time before a tattoo appointment and ended up bringing Frank and Joe Hardy in--they're still falling through an attic door on my upper thigh. 

Your top five authors:

I am always excited for a new book by Gary Shteyngart or Meg Wolitzer, but I want to also talk about all the illustrative artist/author hybrids because I think it is very special to make a book that feels very distinctly human and unique and yes, giftable!!!

Hallie Bateman is a genius "illustwriter," What to Do When I'm Gone was co-written with her mother, Suzy Hopkins, and it's bittersweet but beautiful. Liana Finck is so wonderfully bizarre sometimes; Passing for Human was very tender and funny. And hello to all the weirdos making guided journals before me and since, it is so cool to exist in the nerdy space between books and art, making tools for my younger (and current) self. To me the entire gift books category is about accessible art--low price points, wide distribution and the opportunity to connect with all kinds of readers.

Book you've faked reading:

Every cookbook I've ever purchased (but they're so beautiful!).

Book you're an evangelist for:

Jeremy Sorese's graphic novel Curveball is a beautifully illustrated story of love and heartbreak in a sci-fi future, and there is something incredibly special about this art that is so rich with energy and emotion. I wish I had this book when I was a little younger, the way the characters exist outside of a gender binary makes it possible to fully slip into a character and feel deeply. Jeremy is an important cartoonist and I have gifted this book over a dozen times.

Book you've bought for the cover:

If I'm being totally honest, I will also buy a book just because Na Kim designed it. She's at FSG so it's a lot of their books, but sometimes I'm in a bookstore and I can just clock her work from a mile away. She's a genius. I hate her. Bryan Washington's Memorial? Beautiful. Raven Leilani's Luster? Gorgeous. Her new Sheila Heti cover is so good. If I didn't design my own covers, I would desperately want her to do mine.

Book you hid from your parents:

Most of my hiding was magazine related. Issues of a defunct gay magazine called YGA (Young Gay America) that first helped me feel like I was part of something bigger and okay during that formative time. But I wasn't out yet, so I also had to hide the Michelle Branch issue of Maxim.

Book that changed your life:

When we first started dating, Mitchell suggested we start a book club and bought two copies of Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being. I think the combination of timing, recommendation of someone I was completely enamored with, and the general moodiness of winter made for an impactful experience that feels further away now but no less important.

Favorite line from a book:

I love the line in the Old Testament about shellfish: "Everything in the waters that has not fins and scales is detestable to you." First of all, dramatic much? But second, people get really hung up on denying others' human rights and completely forget that God hates popcorn shrimp. 

Five books you'll never part with:

Last year we moved to Honolulu and ended up donating most of our bookshelf to Sweet Pickle Books, a new used bookstore and pickle shop in the Lower East Side. 

What I kept and why:

I was using the bathroom at Barnes & Noble and stumbled into Miranda July's The First Bad Man event, so I stayed and joined the signing line. At the last minute I bought a copy of my own book to give her and she was very polite about it despite my anxiety! I didn't connect with her book as much as my experience of purchasing it but for that reason it has to stay.

Butt Book, an anthology of the very pink queer zine of the same name. I got it for $7 thanks to a glitch on the American Apparel website, which is by far the most 2010 way to have procured this book.

A galley of Chani Nicholas's You Were Born for This that's been meticulously bookmarked (by some poor publicity assistant) to map out the specifics of my astrological chart. Shout out to the tireless assistants at every publishing house sending hundreds of books per week!

A copy of Gary Shteyngart's Super Sad True Love Story. Mainly I think about how Gary got the future exactly right as The Platforms try to flatten us out by topic to sandwich the right ads between our content.

And ummm very humblebrag #AuthorProblem but I have no idea what to do with translated editions of my own books? Mostly it's just mortifying to have a bunch of your own books on the shelf, or to hang your art on the wall, or to display an award, or to promote yourself, or to exist...

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

Imagine reading Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay again for the first time? That book really ticked all the boxes for my interests and identity. It had been recommended to me in an offhand way that my 20-year-old self internalized as "hey you're a gay Jew" and rejected, but I later bought a copy at a train station and it quickly f*cked me up. I am excited that a screen adaptation might finally happen maybe?

Tools you use to create your artwork:

Pencil and paper, baby!!! My work has always been rooted in the ethos of Things Are What You Make of Them: essentially, doing what I can with what I have. It started with office supplies and it's still largely there. Any old pencil, index cards or notepads, and my $50 scanner. 

Art is feeling something, then creating work that evokes that emotion. If your work is honest enough, the specifics of how perfect it is or isn't become less relevant than the message. I'm just trying to do my best and say my piece and connect with anyone who feels it too.

Book Review

Review: Where You Come From

Where You Come from by Saša Stanišić, trans. by Damion Searls (Tin House Books, $17.95 paperback, 364p., 9781951142759, December 7, 2021)

Where You Come From by Saša Stanišić (Before the Feast; How the Soldier Repairs the Gramophone) is a playful, formally adventurous novel that freely blends truth and fiction in its meditation on homelands. Born in Yugoslavia, a country that no longer exists, Stanišić's family was forced to flee to Germany during the Bosnian War in 1992. The line between novel and memoir is frequently blurred, with the novel mimicking his grandmother's surreal existence as her dementia progresses and the past increasingly intrudes on the present. In perhaps the novel's most enjoyable--and melancholy--surprise, it includes a branching choose-your-own-adventure with a variety of endings and fantastical digressions.

The novel's concerns are weighty, frequently referencing the unreality of being from a place that no longer exists, a diverse nation torn apart by genocidal violence. The legacy of that violence, of being forcefully uprooted, hangs over the novel, as do the protagonist's experiences of alienation as a refugee living in Germany under threat of deportation. However, it would be a mistake to view Where You Come From as a somber book. The line between the author and protagonist is rarely clear, as is the line between fact and the author's imagination. In one scene, his grandmother asks whether a book he has written is about their family. The author/protagonist responds: "And I was off: Fiction, as I see it, I said, creates its own world, it doesn't portray ours.... Fiction, in my view, I said, is an open system of invention, perception, and memory that rubs against real events...." His grandmother interrupts him to give him something to eat, noting, "Exaggerating and making things up--that's what you make your living from now." This sets a pattern for the rest of the book, the author's earnestness both undercut and reinforced by humor.

The novel is separated into short chapters, with readers receiving anything from nostalgic memories of a Yugoslavian soccer team to sardonic descriptions of the former nation's "problems" and how they were or weren't solved: "The problem of critics of the government was solved by locking them up on an island, and that definitely didn't feel exactly great, of course." The novel is determined to surprise and unmoor readers, perhaps in the same way the author/protagonist found the course of his own life surprising and disconcerting, with the author's restless imagination a constant, delightful companion. --Hank Stephenson, the Sun magazine, manuscript reader 

Shelf Talker: Where You Come From uses autofiction and playful digressions to explore what it means to be from somewhere that no longer exists.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: The Most Beautiful Bookshops in the World (No, Really!)

Barter Books, Alnwick, England

You've seen the lists hundreds of times, and can never resist the temptation to click through. Just Google the terms bookstore and world. The first page--of more than 250 million hits--offers up The 10 Most Famous Bookstores in the World; 15 Magical Bookstores Around the World; 26 Bookstores Every Book Lover Must Visit in Their Lifetime; 13 Best Independent Bookstores in the World; 15 Most Beautiful Bookstores in the World; and 22 Most Bucketlist-Worthy Bookstores in the World

It's a bookish rabbit hole, my friends, and we always dive in head first. The latest variation to cross my virtual desk came from the Financial Times, which showcased the "Most Brilliant Bookshops in the World," with FT writers choosing their favorite "awe-inspiring places to get your literary fix."

Many of the usual suspects were there: Atlantis Books in Santorini, Greece; Shakespeare and Company in Paris, France; Dujiangyan Zhongshuge Bookstore in Chengdu, China; El Ateneo Grand Splendid in Buenos Aires, Argentina; as well as U.S. stalwarts Powell's Books in Portland, Ore., and the Strand in New York City.

There were also some booksellers I hadn't often seen hit these lists before, including Jazzhole in Lagos, Nigeria; Kitab Khana in Mumbai, India; Ler Devagar in Lisbon, Portugal; Librairie les insolites à Tanger in Tangier, Morocco; Open House in Bangkok, Thailand; Otherwise in Rome, Italy; along with U.S. booksellers Marfa Book Company, Marfa, Tex.; and New York's Printed Matter and the Schomburg Shop. 

The Last Bookstore in Los Angeles

Every list is subjective, of course, and key adjectives like bestbrilliant, beautiful, famous, magical, Instagrammable or, yes, bucketlist-worthy, muddy the criteria further and are geared to spark debates.

Which is why I'm a big fan of the comments section under these lists, when available. Prepare for the "What about...?" floodgates to open, naturally, but there's so much more to be found.

"Here be FT comments at their best," one wag noted days after that bookshop list appeared. So I was inspired to venture down the rabbit hole, where I encountered:

Polite suggestions: Livraria Lello in Porto, Portugal, a consistent addition to such lists, came up early as MIA on this list.
Criticism: "Come on! No list of bookshops is complete if they omit Venice's Libreria Acqua Alta! This is the quintessential of all bookshops."
Civilized pseudo-compliment: "A very peculiar list, but with some interesting stores--and several not so interesting."
Chain bookstore fan: "Waterstones Piccadilly better than all these."
Kindle advocate: "My last visits to physical bookstores now were almost 2 years ago."
Geographical critic: "Spectacular, but bookshop desert east from Germany to the Pacific?"
Bay Area loyalist: "From the highly literate Bay Area, I'd add Moe's Books in Berkeley, and City Lights Bookstore (founded by the recently departed Beatnik, Lawrence Ferlinghetti) and Green Apple Books in San Francisco."
Sequel fan: "There are lots more that would qualify of course, like City Lights, on a list necessarily selective and a bit arbitrary. Suggest you do a second instalment!" 
Non-reader: "I hardly ever read books. Is that necessarily detrimental to my 'learning?' Well, I can only absorb 'so much.' I figure I'll never be 'a genius' anyway."
Former Hatchard's bookseller: "Agree! I worked there for a time and fondly remember selling three Ruth Rendell books to a man looking for 'something smutty' in the crime section. I told him they were full of shocking innuendo. Still makes me laugh:)"
Cynic: "I've been to these bookshops and they're all about photos for WeChat moments, not for books. You get in the way of people's photo shoots if you browse for books."
Political skeptic (and FT reader?): "Globalist, consumerist nonsense."
Just came here for an argument dude: "Strange amazon does not figure on the list."
Puzzled: "I don't really understand the point of this article? Most brilliant bookshop for what?"
FT comment section aficionado: "This was bound to inspire an infinite indulgent and good-humoured thread. I just love the comments."


A more traditional letter-to-the-editor was sent to FT from Russell Bishop of London and Maarten Klaassen of Amsterdam, the Netherlands: "Being faithful readers of the FT we were excited to see your article 'The most brilliant bookshops in the world.' As two friends living in different countries, a mutual love of books means organizing rendezvous around bookshops. Contrary to normal, we feel this time round you barely scratched the surface.... Be it as it may, the article did inspire us to commit to meeting in Powell's, Portland, as soon as is practical."

A worthy goal, and one of many reasons these lists continue to appear because this is what a best bookshops rabbit hole is meant to do. It's irresistible. In fact, even as I was writing this column, I noticed that Australia's Market Herald had just published a piece headlined "Seven of the Most Charming Bookshops in the World," noting: "If you consider yourself a true bookworm then there's simply no better way to explore a new city than through its best bookstores.... From surreal castle-like bookshops to historical literary havens, here are some of the most incredible bookshops you should visit on your travels." The lists, and the debates, go on and on. We wouldn't have it any other way.

--Robert Gray, contributing editor

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