On Saturday I took a very very long walk. This is the walk I took: http://goo.gl/maps/SBvTa . It took awhile. I saw many neighborhoods. I was on the phone with my mother and so I wasn’t paying attention to where I was, and then I looked up and realized that everything was in Yiddish. It was a walk across Brooklyn. Or I guess up Brooklyn.
I wound up in Greenpoint, which is where the hipsters live, plus I think a lot of Polish people (I wanted pierogies but I already had dinner plans with friends and so I was sad, but, hey, at least I have friends. I also learned that paczki means package, not jelly doughnut!). When I got on the G train to leave I looked around and frankly did not understand what people were wearing but they were all very very cool.
I went to Greenpoint to go to Word Brooklyn, which was stop number two on Dana’s Ridiculously Long and Financially Draining New York Summer Bookstore Tour Extravaganza. I’d been wanting to go to this store since I saw their then-manager speak at ABA’s Winter Institute in… 2011? I think? She was on a panel (with the co-founder of Greenlight Bookstore, which is also in Brooklyn, and the manager of Saturn Booksellers, which is in Gaylord, Michigan and which I went to a couple of summers ago on my way home from up north) about social media and bookselling.
The store is a really small space, or at least a much smaller space than I’m used to, but they way they use it to showcase the store’s personality is excellent. There are displays of their monthly bestsellers and weekly staff picks, really well curated sidelines (although I’m not sure why the adult shirts say “I’ve read books” and the kids’ shirts say “I read books.” Are the adults finished?), and a TON of handwritten shelf-talkers. One of my favorite things (and one of the things Word is famous for in the ridiculously geeky indie bookstore world) is their dating message board, where you can put up a slip of paper with your favorite books and your email address and hope to meet your book soul mate. (There’s also a posting space for finding roommates in Greenpoint and Williamsburg based on book love.)
Other kinds of sections fall by the wayside: there’s one general nonfiction section that houses everything from essays to biographies to science. But I think that choosing to focus on staff recommendations and community building is definitely the way to go for a small store like this. This is the whole point of an independent bookstore, right? To stock a super well-curated collection of books that your staff has read and loved and will recommend like crazy. This is the kind of place you go to when you have no idea what to read, because you know someone who does have an idea will tell you.
Of course, I wound up accidentally buying a book I already own. So I guess I have to go back. Oops.