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Book 'Em

Next week, more than 150 writers convene in New York for the fourth annual PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature. Here are eight participants' picks for the city's best indie bookstore.

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Joshua Furst
Author of The Sabotage Cafe
"Back before Manhattan squeezed out the small and the local, a stretch of independently owned bookstores trailed off the edge of Union Square, down 17th Street, toward Fifth Avenue. Each one had a unique personality—there was the store dedicated to photo books, the store dedicated to feminist writing, the store dedicated to books about and from the African diaspora. My favorite was called Anarchy Books, and this name tells you everything you need to know about the place. These bookstores have all disappeared now, but their spirit lives on at Bluestockings. Not only do they sell the sorts of books that send Barnes & Noble running, they also serve as a community meeting place for radical leftists of all stripes."
Furst discusses "The Secret Lives of Cities" with Yousef Al-Mohaimeed, Juan de Recacoechea, Francisco Goldman, and Matt Weiland on May 1 at Instituto Cervantes.


Jennifer Egan
Author of The Keep
"I lived in New York one summer during college, and as I wandered, lost, though the West Village streets I happened upon the Biography Bookshop. A friendly guy behind the counter asked what I was looking for and made some recommendations. I ended up buying James Salter's A Sport and a Pastime—a writer I had not yet heard of, whose work continues to delight and influence me these many years later. One can't ask more of any bookstore than a first introduction to a superb work."
Egan participates in a panel with Asli Erdogan, Chenjerai Hove, Barbara Parsons, and Jackson Taylor titled "Writing Reality Under the Guard of Correction" on May 1 at the CUNY Graduate Center.


Rick Moody
Author of The Ice Storm
"The buyers at St. Mark's Bookshop have truly stupendous taste. I always find something obscure that I didn't know about that I am keen to read. I once found the little Hanuman Press edition of Bob Dylan's speeches to the audience during his born-again period. It was about two inches across and half an inch thick. I loved that thing, and I still read it often."
Moody will guide a discussion among Fatou Diome, Nuruddin Farah, Xioalu Guo, and Etgar Keret titled "Writing Place, Finding Refuge" on May 1 at the Brooklyn Public Library.


Rachel Donadio
New York Times Book Review writer and editor
"Now that the Gotham Book Mart and Coliseum Books have tragically succumbed to gentrification—leaving no serious bookstores in midtown Manhattan—my favorite indie is Heights Books on Montague Street in Brooklyn Heights. It has a solid selection of used books, especially fiction, poetry and art books, and it's a block away from one of the best reading spots in the world: the Promenade. My runners-up would be Crawford Doyle, the romantic ideal of the neighborhood bookshop; St. Mark's Bookshop, for lefty cultural criticism and overheard conversations; Morningside Bookshop, when you need an academic book pronto; and the Strand: big! Daunting! Smelly!"
Donadio will introduce Peter Carey, Halfdan Freihow, Janet Malcolm, and Francesc Serés, reading from their own work on May 2 at Scandinavia House.


Colum McCann
Author of Zoli

"My favorite indie bookstore happens to be a hop, skip, and stumble from one of my favorite bars. Housing Works is directly across the road from the back entrance to Puck Fair, where a fairly sublime pint of Guinness is served. What can I say? Literature and porter, I'm a walking Irish cliché."
McCann holds a fireside chat with Michael Ondaatje titled "Adventures in the Skin Trade" on May 4 at the New York Public Library.


Christopher Shinn
Playwright, author of Where Do We Live and Other Plays
"When Other Books, a bookstore in Chelsea devoted to obscure psychoanalytic texts and journals, closed shortly after 9/11, one of the only places left in New York City to find books by Lacanians was St. Mark's Bookshop. It was there, after a bad breakup, that I stumbled across a short book called Love in a Time of Loneliness. I must have now read this book—three dense, short essays about intimacy—a dozen or more times. I still go back to it before every new play (and after every relationship)."
Shinn discusses "Cultural Responsibility and the Role of the Writer" in theater with Alvis Hermanis, Moisés Kaufman, and Kate Loewald on May 3 at the CUNY Graduate Center.


Adam Gopnik
New Yorker staff writer, author of Through the Children's Gate: A Home in New York
"I am lucky to have my life bounded by two model independent bookstores: the Corner Bookstore, at 93rd and Madison, and Crawford Doyle, at 81st and Madison. My son learned to love reading at the Corner; my daughter to appreciate picture books at Crawford Doyle. To have any of my own books in their windows is to feel that something more significant has happened in my life than merely to have one more hopeful and doomed commodity in the marketplace. This may be an illusion, but it is a lovely one."
Gopnik discusses jealousy, art, politics, and, sex with Catherine Millet on May 3 at the French Institute Alliance Française.


Sara Nelson
Editor-in-chief of Publishers Weekly
"My favorite independent bookstore in New York is McNally Robinson, which is not only in my immediate neighborhood—the only one!—but has such an interesting and eclectic collection of books—and often titles on the front table that I have never heard of. There are many, many, many books I haven't read, but I'd like to think I've at least heard of most things. There's also an extremely good collection of books in translation, better than just about any other New York City bookstore."
Nelson moderates a discussion among Morgan Entrekin (Grove), Edwin Frank (NYRB), Halfdan Freihow (Font, Norway), and Michael Krüger (Hanser Verlag, Germany) on literature in translation on May 1 at the CUNY Graduate Center.


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