Saturday, December 11, 2010

We'll Keep the Lights On

As the buyer for the store, I spend a lot of time in an office away from the sales floor. But the holidays means all hands on deck, so I've been spending a lot of time at the front register and helping people in the store. I have really been struck by how common it is for people to inquire after the health of the business, or to give a supporting comment like "Glad you guys are still here." What this means is that the battle to make people aware of the plight of independent businesses is being won. People have come to understand that, if they don't want to do all of their shopping at Crate & Barrel, Target and Amazon, they have to visit those funky little stores they love so well. Might have to actually get out of one's pajamas, and might not always be the easiest finding a parking space, and yes, one might even spend a couple more bucks than one would shopping online.
That's the thing: almost everything we sell at Green Apple could be bought cheaper somewhere else, if one didn't mind waiting a couple of days for the UPS driver to drop it off. Sometimes we see folks scanning bar codes with their iphones, being all sneaky like we booksellers couldn't possibly understand they they are secretly shopping online! And yet about 10,000 of you come into Green Apple every month and support us with your purchases.
Businesses are supposed to have mission statements, a short expression of the core principles of the business. The one I come back to when we sit down to do some strategic planning is Green Apple: Because People Still Need to Leave the House. And that just about says it all. So thanks you loyal Green Apple customers, we'll still be here stocking the best books and music and movies and whatever else we can sell to keep the lights on, as long as you keep getting dressed and dropping by when you're in the neighborhood.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The best books we read in 2010

[Over the next few weeks, we'll be running a series of posts featuring our staff members' selections of their favorite books read in 2010. Forgive our presumption, but we're booksellers: most of us can't limit ourselves to just one book.]

Sparks (captioning himself in the 3rd person)

After reading the NY Times list of Ten Best Books of 2010 a friend joked with me that if he had to read two books a week, his year-end list would include titles from only the last 3 months as well. (In all fairness, two of the ten books on the Times' list were published as far back as June, but pity the first, apparently forgettable, half of 2010.) I like to think that most booksellers have longer memories and are, therefore, more charitable: some of the books we'll be sharing with you were published this year, others were published twenty years ago. Some are out-of-print, some are in piled in healthy quantities on our tables. All in all, I think we've got a great selection of titles to share.

Without any further ado, here are the two best books I read in 2010:

The Way of the World, by Nicolas Bouvier (NYRB, $16.95)

The Way of the World is a new old book, having been originally published in French in 1963 and in English by the redoubtable NYRB in October 2009. (The Marlboro Press published it in the mid-90s, now out-of-print.) I read the book in January while living in the middle of Illinois, a heartless month in a cold place. Like all great travel narratives, it filled me with the urge to escape. I wrote about the book then and don't think I can do any better now:
Nicolas Bouvier’s beautifully rendered recollection of a trip he and a friend, the artist Thierry Vernat, took from Geneva to the Khyber Pass is a testament to the kind of admirable travel that leaves one breathless. The Way of the World records a trip I can never take (history renders certain things impossible), but like all memorable literature it pulls the reader along, it stirs up the depths we do our best to ignore in order to survive the office, regular meals, the slight pleasures of daily living...

...Ultimately, it may be that the most remarkable aspect of the book is not its vivid recollections of the pleasures and sorrows of the road, but Bouvier's insouciance when faced with the tribulations of travel. This attitude is best typified at the end of the book, as the traveler realizes his destination:
"That day, I really believed that I had grasped something and that henceforth my life would be changed. But insights cannot be held forever. Like water, the world ripples across you and for a while you take on its colors. Then it recedes, and leaves you face to face with the void you carry inside yourself…"
My other favorite book this year is a collection of Eliot Weinberger's essays, An Elemental Thing (New Directions, $16.95). Before even finishing this collection, I'd ordered the rest of Weinberger's books and promptly devoured them as well. Here's my shelf-talker:
Eliot Weinberger, a college drop-out turned translator (of Paz, Borges, Bei Dao, among others) writes essays unlike anything you've read. These pieces--erudite, wide-ranging, poetic--are of universal scope, touching upon topics as diverse (and cohesive) as the varieties of Chinese wind, a history of the rhinoceros in Europe, the Nazca lines in the Peruvian desert, vortexes, and a reverie on the stars that is one of the most beautiful things I've read. Weinberger's vast learning is matched by an equally encompassing sense of wonder, and his ability to draw the exotic closer, while still permitting it an air of mystery, is a thing to marvel at.

19 gift ideas from $2.49 to $1750

In our latest newsletter (archived here; subscribe here), we present 19 gift ideas from $2.49 up to $1750.  You can read that, or you can watch this.  Roller skates were involved, however subtly.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


New signage around Green Apple Books this holiday season 2010. Happy horror holiday noose.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

K to the FOG in the AM

I've got to keep this entry brief, because I'm up to my ears in holiday gift suggestions for the book lovers in all of our lives...

Tune in to KFOG tomorrow morning from 8:00am - 9:00am, when I will be sharing all the tomes I've deemed gift-worthy, during an extended holiday Morning Show appearance. No hints now, but know that my list will certainly knock your stockings off; so turn that dial to 104.5fm in The City or 97.7fm in the South Bay and crank-up the volume!

You can also stream the Morning Show live at - just click the banner link that says, 'Listen Live', it's that easy.

And don't forget that Amazon = lump of coal.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Google eBooks are here!

Green Apple has taken another small step into the 21st century. Like some other independent bookstores, we've teamed up with Google to provide you with ebooks.

Nifty things about Google ebooks:
  • they are cloud-based, so you can read your ebooks on any device, from your desktop or laptop to your IPhone or IPad. They even synch automatically as you read.
  • they are "device-agnostic," meaning you can read them on any device (from the above screens to Sony's e-reader) EXCEPT the Kindle, but don't get us started there.
  • while prices vary by publisher, Green Apple can match the prices of other sellers for most books from most publishers (Random House is the current big exception, alas).
So now you can read "e" editions of books and still support Green Apple. More info awaits you here.

We've just launched, and will soon be curating a fine selection of recommendations to get you started (this was my first ebook download). Meanwhile, please help us spread the word!