Derby Square Book Store

Now to uncloak that layer of radio silence that has permeated around here all week. This past week, I went to Massachusetts to spend Thanksgiving with the family. In between gorging, my father and I took a few day-outings to visit various places along the coast, including a walk around Salem, Mass (emphasis on walk…too much food).

During our stroll, we came across the Derby Square Book Store, which is packed from toe to ceiling. The store is small and made even more so by the walls of books. Claustrophobics stay away but if you are a bibliophile destined for a good buy, go on in. All hardcovers and paperbacks are 50% off.

I was trying not to buy anything but at the top off of one mountain was The Alienist by Caleb Carr; it’s been a “to-read” for me for a while and I figured it was about time. I nabbed it from the top but that copy was a bit worn and then I spotted one in better condition but, alas, it was squeezed in the center of one of the store’s precarious towers. My father proclaimed with much assurance that he would be able to grab it without any fuss. To jump to the conclusion, every book in that column came tumbling down†. Once that mess was taken care (which ended with the salty employee asking if I found everything I needed), I went to the front desk to pay.

The total with tax came to $3.78 plus a recommendation from the owner, which he wrote down for me. Besides his pursuits into novels, Caleb Carr is foremost a historian. The owner recommended Carr’s nonfiction book The Devil Soldier. He told me that if I liked The Alienist then The Devil Soldier about sailor and Salem native son Frederick Townsend Ward should be next.

It had been ages since I had been to Salem, MA and it really is more than witch history and charlatan psychics. The literary history and seafaring ways are a real treat. Perhaps, in a future post I shall ramble on about Nathaniel Hawthorne and a favorite short story of mine from Mosses from an Old Manse. But for now, I encourage you to drop by Derby Square Book Store where the books are aplenty and the prices good.

I’ve featured other bookstores in the past from New York and London. Scroll through and enjoy.

215 Essex St, Salem, MA 01970
(978) 745-8804
† I suppose this makes us even for the time when I was a child and I knocked over the entire shampoo display at a drug store.

Halcyon Books & the £1 book

After a recent trip to the UK, I quickly realized that if I thought my book buying habit was unsuitable in NYC, then my habit would quickly spiral out of control into pure addiction if I had stayed in England and Scotland one second longer. What could really feed my habit would be the £1 sale going on over at Halcyon Books in Greenwich.

Halcyon Books is a secondhand shop after my own heart. Books are piled taking up the majority of the space resulting in patrons having to scooch around each other muttering sincerest apologies.

After entering Halcyon, my [book-loving] friend and I were in pure joy. These were not bargain books that are allocated to the sad boxes in front of shops. I wanted to procure a book that was not necessarily “literature” but something well-written and enjoyable. The search stopped when I came across this frightening PD James cover (left). I immediately returned all other contenders to the shelf and went to the register.

We also had a look at the inner cover flap which proved to have a whole series of equally disturbing covers (right). Of course, I thought to myself: “This is it. Absolutely no more books.” Right.

Distractions : Philip K. Dick, Gogol, and the thrifty library

As a poor writer of no importance, I must keep my spending in check. Of course, I wish I would have an endless supply of cash money and one of those fancy home libraries that  really only exists in the movies. So, to help with my compulsion, I check out the cheap books that the sellers on the New York streets offer, utilize the public library, and hit up those wonderful organizations like my favorite Project Gutenberg, et al.

I have been stuck in ¡total distraction! perusing the many free titles on Amazon’s Kindle store. When I think of free books, I generally think of books in the public domain–classics, mythology, etc. Yet, yesterday, I came across a ton of stories by Philip K. Dick that are being offered for free. If you’re like me, the summer is time for some plotty fun. Perfect!

Also, not for free but for $0.99, are The Works of Nikolai Gogol, which includes the short story, “Viy,” which was made in to a fantastic film in Russia in 1967.

Zola Books, the “anti-Amazon”

Last week, I was kindly invited to the launch party for Zola Books. I was unable to visit their booth at BookExpo America but all was explained to me at the company’s little shindig. I had heard of Zola about a month ago but I had a hard time understanding the concept because 1) I can be super dense when it comes to technology and 2) I’m not quite sure if there is any other service that is comparable so I had nothing to relate it to. I chatted with a few people but it wasn’t until I got the rundown from founder, Joe Regal (formerly of Regal Literary), was everything illuminated. He and his small group of employees are super passionate about what they are doing (especially about the aspect of Zola that will give more revenue to the author and smaller “brick-and-mortar” bookstores). According to Publishers Weekly,

Zola’s interface, Regal said, is designed to make book-buying a more pleasant and cleaner experience than it is on Amazon…Zola’s e-books are platform agnostic (meaning they can be downloaded on all major devices, including Kindle) and can be read off the site, but readers can also opt for a more interactive experience…Regal is not alone. A number of authors have invested in Zola. One writer who put her money where her mouth is, is Audrey Niffenegger. The e-book edition of her bestseller The Time Traveler’s Wife will be available exclusively at Zola when the site launches.

The article continues with a breakdown of some of the other features that Zola Books will offer. One of its goals seems to be a more positive experience for the author, readers, and indie booksellers. The website is not live yet, but I am looking forward to seeing the direction this company takes.

works in translation, AmazonCrossing

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not always the first person on top of an internet trend or whatnot, but where have I been! Why did no one pull me out of my cave and show me AmazonCrossing. According to Publishers Weekly,

Amazon has established a second publishing imprint, launching, AmazonCrossing, which will do English-language translations of foreign-language books…Amazon said it will choose titles for AmazonCrossing the same way it does for AmazonEncore–using customer feedback and “other data from Amazon sites around the world to identify exceptional books deserving a wider, global audience.” In addition to selling the titles through its own channels, Amazon hopes to sell AmazonCrossing books in bookstores
AmazonCrossing has been around for two years and I’ve only now just stumbled across it. I like the concept. It is bringing international books to a broader American reading audience. It looks like the books are reasonably priced as both paperbacks and  $3.99-$7.99 ebooks. Just more of a distraction for me from work and writing. It looks like you can contact them directly to propose a submission,

John Barth at Books & Books

For the frequent readers of this blog, you know that I’m located in the Big Apple. Because I live in NYC, I’m lucky to be exposed to many great cultural shenanigans–especially, writerly events. However, this post will be different.

I’ve noticed that many comments are from readers who wish they had something comparable in their home city.¹ Well, for those from South Florida, you’re in luck! I’ve been tipped off that John Barth will be reading and discussing a new essay from the most recent Granta. Quite frankly, I didn’t even know that Barth was still alive (many of his contemporaries have long been buried). The works of his I’m most familiar with are Lost in the Funhouse and Chimera.

I’ve been to Granta readings in the past and I’m sure the one in Miami will be enjoyable also. Here are the details:

Feb 7 2012 8:00 pm

John Barth reads and discusses his essay “The End?,” muse-inviting rituals and writing ‘nothing’ with writer and art critic Chauncey Mabe.

Granta 118: Exit Strategies (Grove, $16.99) is the latest issue of Granta, the magazine of the best new writing from around the world. This issue explores personal and political exit strategies with new work from Aleksandar Hemon, Claire Messud, John Barth, Susan Minot and more.

265 Aragon Ave | Coral Gables, Florida | 33134
¹I would still like to compile a list of book festivals, etc. that are outside of NYC and the United States. Please drop me a line if you have any info pertaining to this: acidfreepulp [at]

Behind the Longreads

Last night at Housing Works Bookstore, a dear dear dear writerly friend¹ and I went to the New York magazine Behind the Longreads panel. I usually turn into a pesky toddler squirming in their seat waiting for the moment of the final applause. However, this panel was fantastic.

The moderator was NYmag’s editor-in-chief and the panel consisted of 3 writers who published articles in the magazine in the past year. Because I had already read the articles, I found it particularly interesting to hear from the writers themselves about how much work and time goes into researching and writing the pieces. One of the writers said that his original draft was 50, 000 words! But it had to be trimmed to 10, 000 for the magazine.

Below are the writers and the articles they discussed:


¹FRIEND PLUG ALERT! My dear dear dear writerly friend is amazing. Her works has appeared in various publications including The Believer, Symphony, Forward. All of her articles for the New Yorker’s Book Bench are available in their archives.

Literary Nerd Jeopardy

The Literary Man and I braved the chill last night to attend FSG’s Work in Progress presents Nerd Jeopardy. Unfortunately, we weren’t chosen to compete but after a few glasses of red wine, I was confidently and inappropriately saying answers aloud.

The fine folks at Work in Progress compile a huge amount of literary answers/questions in the style of Jeopardy! Heckling is encouraged and according to the event website,

There are assorted prizes…You will leave the event vindicated for majoring in 19th-Century Russian Poetry. And because of the free drinks, you will also leave the event slightly tipsy.

A good time and highly recommended, but get there early because seats are limited and it’s in the basement of McNally Jackson.

52 Prince St | New York, New York | 10012

Murder on the Beach

One of my most popular posts was The Mysterious Bookshop. To catch you up to speed–The Mysterious Bookshop is a store in lower Manhattan that specializes in crime/mystery fiction. Today, one of my loyal readers (read: my mother), forwarded me an email with information about a similar store in Delray Beach, Florida. It is called Murder on the Beach. I’ve never been there so I can’t vouch for it but it looks like they have some great events coming up. If anyone in South Florida visits this store, drop me a line and let me know what you think. Enjoy!

273 Pineapple Grove Way | Delray Beach, FL | 33444 | 561.279.7790

Westsider Books

courtesy of Google

Westsider Books is seriously, one of my favorite book shops in the city. Besides used and rare books, they also sell music. A few years ago, I stumbled across this store while I was walking down the street. Anyone could have missed it. FOREVER, there was scaffolding covering the entrance.

Inside the two-level store, books are jammed everywhere. They have some kind of arrangement going on but there are still so many books inside that they have to make piles on the steps leading to the second floor. The few employees make a good effort of dividing the books into appropriate sections (fiction, philosophy, plays, etc.). I am really taken with their WWII history section which I have aptly titled, ‘The Hitler Section.’

Outside, they always have a treasure trove of $1 books and when the Occupy Wall Street library books were destroyed, Westsider offered these books up for free to the occupants.

Truthfully, I’ve only ventured to the top floor once. I’m usually perusing the well-stocked fiction section and the aforementioned wall-o-Hitler books that call the first floor home. Last month, I finally trekked up to the second floor where the rare books are kept. The prices are out of my league but it’s still a pleasure to take a look. To get a better idea of the interior of the store, I snapped a crummy photo on my cell phone (below).

2246 Broadway | New York, NY | 10024