Next fall, Coffee House Press, distributed to the trade by Consortium, will publish Our Favorite Books, a compilation of 25 lists of independent booksellers’ favorite titles that began as a project of Micawber’s Bookstore owner Hans Weyandt for the store blog. Our Favorite Books will also feature a short bio of each participating bookseller and anecdotes relating to their lists or handselling in general. Proceeds from sales of the book will benefit the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression.
“We talked to Coffee House and came up with a concept that would be interesting,” said Weyandt. “We don’t want it to just be a reprint of these lists,” which were sent to him from indie booksellers across the country in response to a call-out on the store blog. “We want to know who they are as booksellers.”
“We’re very excited about doing a book with a bookseller,” said Jessica Deutsch, marketing and sales director for Coffee House Press. “We thought this would be a fun way to support the stores and share the interesting stories they have.”
Deutsch said that Coffee House Press thoughtfully considered the people that would be interested in such a book. “It would be people looking for book recommendations,” she said, noting that Our Favorite Books would appeal to the same type of readers who are responsible for the popularity of Nancy Pearl’s Book Lust and Book Crush.
“These booksellers offer interesting perspectives as professional readers, so we wanted to showcase those perspectives,” said Deutsch.
The project began in August when a Micawber’s customer asked Weyandt for 10 book suggestions from his top 100. When Weyandt began to look up the store’s bestselling books, the customer clarified: she wanted to know some of his favorite books.
“I had never made a list like that,” said Weyandt, “so it got me thinking that it would be kind of fun to get lists like that from other stores.”
He began by calling friends at other bookstores, and eventually opened the invitation on the store’s blog to booksellers across the country. He requested a list of their top 50 favorite books, or — in the case that choosing personal favorites was too daunting — a list of their favorite books to handsell.
Weyandt has posted each of the 33 lists he has received on Micawber’s blog and shares them with customers. He uses the lists as a selling tool, and they have proven to be a good conversation starter, he said. Customers often bring up which bookseller’s list they liked, and Weyandt even heard of a customer that e-mailed a store to argue about some of the books that made the list. “We’ve been getting a lot of feedback back and forth, and that pleases me,” he said.
Regarding the decision to donate proceeds from the book’s sales to ABFFE, Weyandt said, it was “a group that all of us could get behind. It’s a good and fair cause, and they have done a lot of work on behalf of our stores.” And, fittingly, several of the booksellers’ lists feature titles that have been banned or challenged.
“We are delighted to be the beneficiary of a book promoting so many wonderful titles,” said ABFFE President Chris Finan. “ABFFE has fought challenges to many of them.”