Tuesday, May 29, 2018


During a summer break in Portugal, I had the pleasure on May 19 to visit Livraria Lello in Porto, long considered one of the world’s most beautiful bookshop. It also apparently was the inspiration for a lot of design related to Harry Potter’s Hogwarth University. J.K. Rowling was an English teacher in Porto and our guide said she even was inspired by the local university student gowns to devise something similar for Hogwarth. All this means that Livraria Lello can charge a 5 Euro admission (which they refund against book purchases, if any)—that’s surely one way to make an indie bookstore survive. The English-language section was limited (except for all the Harry Potter books) but I managed to apply my admission fee to Fernando Pessoa’s Message.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018


The Private Papers of a Bankrupt Bookseller is the first of a two-part faux memoir, THE BANKRUPT BOOKSELLER, by a Will. Y. Darling. While a fictional work, it does present certain believable moments in a bookseller's life -- the type of bookseller who'd go bankrupt probably from loving poetry too much (haha--as a poet, I laugh). Anyway, this book was mentioned in Shaun Bythell's highly-entertaining memoir, THE DIARY OF A BOOKSELLER, and so I followed up with ordering it. Unfortunately, this section ends with the bookseller's suicide ... which is why I look forward to reading the second part (how can there be a second part, after all, if the first part ends in death ... unless in Hollywood of course).  Here are some excerpts:

Monday, February 19, 2018


I'm off on a trip later this week and so stopped by the library to pick up "Airplane Reading" (books that I can purchase for a trip and leave behind during the trip instead of bringing them back home) from their Used Bookshelves. Picked up the following paperbacks:

I may have read The Postmistress in the past, but can't recall. For 50 cents, I'll chance it.

While paying my hefty tab, the librarian offered fortune cookies. I bit (pun intended) for this result:

Saturday, February 17, 2018


What a wonderful afternoon I spent at Main Street Books. I visited the store in part to get some "airplane reading", which I define as books that I can purchase for a trip and leave behind during the trip instead of bringing them back home. These, obviously, are usually light-er if hopefully enjoyable fare ... which I need to read often to release pressure on my brain. Anyway, for such purpose, I purchased

Besotted as I am with my cats (we recently adopted three to add to our 4th elderly cat), I also purchased these -- I could hear the cats in my mind complaining that I've binged on dog-related memoirs but not yet on their more elevated fare--

And such would have made for a good visit, except the bookseller had time for a chat and we ended up trading stories about the book selling business. I had purchased The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap from her store, which she'd not read, and so I had a good time sharing my favorite tales, specifically the guy who trawled garage sales for the hundreds of Harlequin Romances he'd end up using to acquire a treasured first edition from the bookstore (taking advantage of store credit given for 50% of the retail price of a book which might have been acquired for cents). In turn, she told me about how [being a bookseller] she "always knows how to lose business" and regaled me with how she turned on an interior designer who purchased books by color to Strand in New York where they do sell volumes of books for interior design. She also mentioned the time she was asked to curate a book collection for a family who never reads; "But," their interior designer stressed, she "must choose books that would make it seem like the family knows what they're doing/reading."

A good schmooze was had by all but that's not the best part. We discussed poetry, as she knows I'm a poet.  Amazingly to me, she says that one of the most difficult areas for her to stock is poetry. It seems poetry is among the type of books that, if people bother to have them, they hang on to them. What do you know? Then, speaking unfortunately as a poet, the key is to make people buy them in the first place which is quite a hard thing to effect. But, to make a long story, we agreed that I can bring in a lot of my spare poetry books to freshen up her poetry shelves. I do have a lot of spare copies and so was quite excited over the offer; here's a photo of the bags of books I'll be bringing to her -- and naturally I put some of my books in the pile!

I also will give her 3 books I have on Buddhism. Apparently, she also finds it difficult to stock books on this topic ... which led her to share her 3 categories of Book Buyers:

1) purchase books, read them, and are done with them
2) purchase books, and will hold on to them whether or not they liked the books because they love being surrounded by books
3)_____ [I forgot...will revert back when I recall]

A great day, a great adventure!

Friday, February 09, 2018


Given this blog's inspiration (THE DIARY OF A BOOKSELLER), I also plan to write about books about operating bookstores.  For instance, the very enjoyable

The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap is about author Wendy Welch's and her husband Jack Beck's creation of a bookstore-become-community center in a small Appalachian town. A charming read which presents many details about a bookstore operations -- the kind of detail that this genre should not gloss over. As a result, the reader also learns many unexpected things, like how they learned the answer to the question: "What is the book people want to buy after suffering a fire which wiped out their house and its contents?"

The answer: childhood reading favorites!

Another detail is how booksellers often end up listeners to the bereaved deaccessioning books from a loved one who died:

Another detail is the reader "scam" of buying from library sales for 50 cents to get credit for 50% off retail prices:

A similar situation can occur with those who scour garage sales. My favorite story on this is how Wendy and her husband, when first stocking their bookstore, used books from their personal library ... including a valuable old first edition. A "customer" came into their store, saw that book, asked them to set it aside for him, and then scoured garage sales et al for books he'd buy for cents and bring in for trade credit at 50%-off-retail prices.  So the booksellers ended up giving up a valued book for 200 Harlequin Romances (giggle) -- fortunately, that lesson learned prompted them to change their policy...

Many more charming (to the reader if not the bookseller) details abound, making for an enchanting read.

Wendy Welch also blogs at https://wendywelchbigstonegap.wordpress.com and it is as charming a read as her book.

P.S. I'm happy to report I purchased this book at a Used Bookstore, Main Street Books (St. Helena).

Tuesday, February 06, 2018


So this is a public library but, as the sign say, it carries shelves of books for sale.  And today I went all meta!  I bought two paperbacks about a bookstore.  I have one of the books somewhere in the house but not these editions and, for the price, was pleased to welcome them home. 84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff must be my favorite ever story about a bookshop!  Perhaps I've read it a dozen times and still will continue to re-read! When I was living 3,000 miles away from my parents, this was one of the books I sent to Mom through which we were able to continue conversing. She, too, read it several times -- sharing this book is one of our favorite experiences together!

The great find is The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street which I've not read and so welcome its introduction to me!  I undoubtedly would have looked for this book earlier had I known that it's a sequel to 84 Charing Cross Road. Yay! Something to look forward to!

Thanks to the donors who donate books to public libraries, allowing their use for fundraisers and enabling treasured discoveries by readers!

Wednesday, January 31, 2018


To be a poetry publisher means de facto being a poetry bookshop. Most poetry don't sell in "high" volumes (unless they're assigned as a school text). Coupled with the low margins in such sales, many  poetry publishers encourage direct purchases from them--something now possible with the internet (websites and Paypal). As publisher of Meritage Press, I also sell my books directly to customers (especially as I just disengaged relationship with my distributor due to low volume of sales. Most poetry books sell within the first 1-2 years of its release and the last published book I stocked at my distributor was released in 2008).

Today, I was pleased to mail off ten copies (I was so pleased I slipped in an extra 11th copy) of one of my "Mid-List" books but an eternally worthwhile book: Barry Schwabsky's OPERA: POEMS 1981-2003. YAY me as publisher ... bookseller! And do please check out this fabulous title!

Tuesday, January 30, 2018


Since my book SUN STIGMATA went out of print on its hardcover to revert to the paperback edition, I'd had this idea simmering in my brain. Main Street Books carries a hardcover edition, which I'm low on. So I thought to buy their hardcover and persuade them to order the paperback from my distributor Small Press Distribution (SPD). This would have the added benefit of having a book sell from SPD, which in turn would allow them to continue stocking its inventory which exceeds a dozen books. (At SPD, unless a book sells sufficiently, they will downsize the inventory to be no more than a dozen. Poetry books sell usually in the first year of their release and SUN STIGMATA is a 2014 release).

Well, I had a few spare minutes in downtown Saint Helena this morning and dropped by Main Street Books to enact my plan. To my surprise, they don't have an account with SPD and actually had ordered my book through Amazon. Well, I still bought the hardcover they were carrying. But now SUN STIGMATA's fate at SPD will have to continue to rely on that rare bird: the poetry book customer.

Monday, January 29, 2018


While at Copperfield's Books (Napa) bookstore, I noticed a donation display requesting books for COPE Family Center which is described as a place that “empowers parents with the support they need to manage times of crisis and challenging life events so their children can thrive academically, socially, emotionally and physically.”  Great idea, so I bought and donated to their bin A CHILD’S ANTHOLOGY OF POETRY edited by Elizabeth Hauge Sword.

I envisioned some kid or two getting their first exposure to poetry through this anthology, and that pleased me. But in going through the anthology’s table of contents, (again) there is little representation of poets of color … when it’s probable that much of the Center’s constituency may be kids of color.

When I read through Sword’s introduction, she had mentioned that the idea came up partly because there was a dearth of such books when she had to look for such for her son, then in second grade (if my memory is correct on my skimmed read). I believe her, so I bought the book.

But wouldn’t it be great if – and isn't it time that – such a book also was crafted with the readers of color in mind? Not to say all of that book’s poets need to be POC—William Carlos Williams’ “The Red Wheelbarrow” can certainly speak to readers regardless of their race.  But certainly enough poets of color can be presented, too…  Yes, it's exhausting to belabor this point. 

But does such an anthology exist? I don’t usually pay attention to children’s literature so I don’t know.

AND this incident also is reminding me of when I once judged a teen poetry contest. The prize books were ALL by white males, when the majority of the contestants were Hispanic and female.  I spoke up then, but also resented having to speak up again on what would seem to me to be such an obvious point (as I noted then, “You do know that the country’s Poet Laureate is Hispanic, so it's not like alternative books don't exist?” (Juan Felipe Herrera, at the time, was the Laureate).)

Sunday, January 28, 2018


While running errands, I deliberately included a bookstore stop because I’m in the middle of reading Shaun Bythell’s memoir THE DIARY OF A BOOKSELLER. I am wallowing in this book, relishing every word and hoping it’ll never end. It’s a book I would shamelessly replicate one day if I ever did the condition precedent of operating a bookstore. Basically it’s the daily diary of a bookseller, including daily sales. You start reading it long enough and you get into a meditative zone formed by mundane but somehow not tedious details of running a bookshop. I’ll post excerpts below … but in honor of this wonderful book, I decided to give some business to the nearest bookstore. Hopefully, Copperfields also stocks Bythell’s book as it is wonderful!