Book Blogging, Indie Style

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Have you spotted the #AtMyBookstore hashtag online this week? If you have, you’re seeing a campaign dreamed up by Nicole Brinkley of YA Interrobang, a site where YA bloggers gather to discuss the books they love. The idea? To get book bloggers out from behind the screen for a moment and into local bookstores to browse books in real life. As Brinkley wrote:

“There are few places that bibliophiles love more than a bookstore. . . But we’re told bookstores are failing, or that nobody visits them. We sometimes forget to mention them amidst the online sales and quick Internet purchases, or choose to pre-order books through easy online forms instead of visiting a local store and ordering through them. Let’s show our bookstores some love.”

After letting out a loud cheer (and discreetly brushing away a tear), we decided we’d show the love right back.

ya-interrobang-headerNow, if we were to list all the great book blogs here, you’d be scrolling for days. Of course we regularly read book coverage by our media partners such as Chapter16 (the official publication of Humanities Tennessee, our partner along with the Nashville Public Library in Salon@615); Lit Hub, which publishes bookish articles from people in the book business; and industry staples such as Publisher’s Weekly, Shelf Awareness, and BookPage. Plus blogs by fellow indie bookstores, blogs by authors, and blogs by publishers. Then there are the blog-like columns by literary types in online mags such as The Paris Review, The New Yorker, The Millions, and The Rumpus . . . not to mention real time reports on what people are reading and posting under hashtags such as #books and #reading or #amreading on Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram or pretty much any platform. There’s no shortage of bookish content online, and we each have favorite sites we swear by, pore over, and chat about in the Parnassus break room.

We also try to make time as often as possible to browse through personal blogs, the ones run by passionate individuals bursting to share their thoughts about books. It’s both mind-blowing and heartwarming to see just how many (SO MANY!) book lovers are taking to the Internet to create their own independent discussion forums. As “the independent bookstore for independent people,” of course, we’re thrilled by it all.

Furthermore, we’ve noticed an impressive trend lately: Bloggers are starting to encourage their readers to shop indie. Yes! Sure, it’s easy to put an Amazon widget on a blog — but it’s just as easy, and so much more impactful to local communities, to point people toward the stores where real-live booksellers stand ready to connect readers with books.

Local Love

pigsCase in point: Bacon on the Bookshelf. Here in Nashville, book-lover Jennifer Puryear devotes her blog to sharing what she reads. It’s almost like a book club, in fact, with many of her local friends and fellow moms reading along and contributing guest posts. We always know she’s posted something new when a customer walks through our doors and says, “I’m looking for this book my friend Jennifer just told me about…” When she discusses a book on her blog, she simply links it over to the Parnassus online ordering site to keep interested readers shopping local. We love that!

And bloggers are doing that everywhere. Just a few examples: Go Book Yourself, which offers excellent “If you liked X, you should try Y” style recommendations, refers readers to indies such as Brooklyn-based shop WORD Bookstores to purchase the titles. Coffee and a Book Chick mentions indie bookstores often in her posts and links readers over to a map where they can find SIBA member stores (Southern Independent Bookstore Alliance) and authors on tour. A Little Blog of Books, run out of the UK by a gal named Clare who enjoys “solving crosswords, drinking Yorkshire Tea and watching Curb Your Enthusiasm,” points readers to Foyles bookshops in England. Bookstore love is worldwide.

ShopIndieBluIndieBound

It’s amazing. You can browse books just like on any other book-buying site, and when you’re ready to buy, IndieBound will show you the closest bookstore, so you can buy there in person or online. Also, they feature recommendations and blurbs from real-live booksellers. It’s like all the indie bookstores in the country having a big Internet party in one place. And for bloggers, IndieBound offers a variety of great-looking widgets and badges to make it a snap to direct readers to their local shops.

GNB-twitter-Logo-A-copy-70600_74x74One blog that uses IndieBound to connect readers with books is Great New Books. Ten friends from around the country who love to read got together and formed a blogging group, where they review books ranging from literary fiction to memoir, from YA to mystery, with just about everything you can think of in between. Each review closes with this line: Link to buy this book at your local independent bookstore (we love them!) or at Indiebound by clicking here.

Thanks to the Internet, we’ve discovered BexWrites, who says, “I don’t view reading as an escape as much as an extension of reality. Books help me make sense of the world, and find my place there. I work as an independent bookseller, and I worked in a small, independent publishing house as well. At this point, books are more than a hobby or passion: they are my life.” (Can’t argue with that. Books are our life, too.)

The blogosphere has also introduced us to readers like Stacey Loscalzo, whose thumbs-up list for August included titles ranging from The Martian by Andy Weir to Among the Ten Thousand Things by Julia Pierpont and The Gift of Failure by Jessica Lahey. We’ve met more and more and more readers-who-blog — including Julie, a self-professed Entertainment Junkie who recaps her favorite reads along with her picks for great TV and film, and a bookworm on Tumblr (with a tattoo to prove it) who says, “My husband and I like to dig around local indie shops. Every town we visit, we stop by an indie book shop, and they always have the best suggestions of what to do!”

Booksellers are big readers, naturally. So it’s not surprising that folks like Josh Cook (who works at Porter Road Books) writes great lists such as “The Last Book I Bought” and  “Josh’s Just-For-The-Hell-Of-It Shred-Your-Mind Syllabus.” Likewise, the delightfully titled NOT the New York Times Book Review links every post to Powell’s in Portland.

Speaking of good blog titles, take a look at Hungry for Good Books, where blogger Trina Hayes categorizes the books she reads into food-inspired categories, such as Soul Food (spirituality, theology, books for your soul), Overcooked (good ingredients, but overwritten), and Dessert (sheer delights). When readers click to purchase the books she reviews, she sends them to her favorite indie, McLean & Eakin Booksellers, or to find their own local store via IndieBound.

Blogs Dedicated to Books for Younger Readers

7impSeven Impossible Things Before Breakfast is the brilliant work of Julie Danielson, a Nashville writer, reader, and sometime Parnassus Story Time host. Danielson also writes for Kirkus and is the co-author of the book Wild Things! Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature (written with fellow bloggers Betsy Bird and the late Peter Sieruta). She always brings a unique — and often subversive — perspective to kids’ lit.

Speaking of all ages: Don’t miss the brand-new blog Front Porch Librarian, which offers recommendations for young readers from a savvy, funny school librarian named Mary Lasley (who also happens to be a parent of teens). Lasley says the demand from school parents and her friends for kids’ book suggestions finally led her to start posting her tips online. One recent suggestion for reluctant readers? Show them a copy of the Guinness Book of World Records and let them soak up all the crazy facts. (For a school librarian’s blog that has been out a bit longer and which focuses specifically on elementary school age readers, check out Mr. Schu Reads as well.)

collegiYAteParents and kids are blogging together, as in Quiet Down There, where writer and former English teacher Laura Herakovich and her son Jack share the books they’re enjoying together. Older students are creating blogs of their own, too — for example, My Need to Read, which is subtitled, “The Opinions and Ponderings of a Teenage Bookworm and Indie Bookstore Supporter.” 

And then there’s YA! If you search “YA blogs” you’ll find more than you can count. One that makes a real effort to get readers into indies is a Tumblr called The CollegiYAte, run by a student who says, “When I’m not studying, I’m reading young adult books or attending book tours and signings.”

The list goes on and on and on, and we’re barely scratching the surface. What are some of YOUR favorite book blogs? And who are some bloggers who are making a point of supporting indie bookstores? Let us know by chiming in on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or Instagram!

PS: Back to YA Interrobang for a moment… Bloggers who participate in #atmybookstore have a shot at winning cool prizes, including some signed first edition YA novels from Parnassus Books!