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Reading Wish Lists

The proprietors of eight of the world’s most beloved independent bookstores give their suggested titles

1. For me: “I’ve had copies of Revolutionary War–era newspapers like the Massachusetts Spy and the Boston Chronicle in my store before and I’d love to get my hands on another group of them. The history comes across differently than what you read in schoolbooks.” 

For you: “I recently appraised a handwritten document on Paul Revere’s midnight ride, penned by Revere himself. Paul Revere and the World He Lived In, by Esther Forbes, is an equally fascinating account. A best seller when it was first published in 1942, it’s a readable, in-depth history of that moment in time.”

- Ken Gloss, owner of Boston’s Brattle Book Shop, a must-visit antiquarian shop for serious collectors and amateur historians alike. 

2. For me: “In high school I had to write a paper on the American poet Mary Oliver; ever since, I’ve tried to pick up all her new works. If nobody gives me Upstream: Selected Essays by Mary Oliver, I’ll have to get it myself.”

For you: “I love to bake—I once worked as a pastry chef—and Mark Bittman’s How to Bake Everything promises to make baking accessible, but not boring, to even those most intimidated by it.”

- Emily Powell, owner of Portland, Oregon’s Powell’s Books, one of the world’s largest independent chains. 

3. For me: “I’d like to get a copy of the out-of-print exhibition catalog Recorded Activities. It was published by Philadelphia’s Moore College of Art on the occasion of a 1970 group show of the same name that featured works by leading conceptual artists like John Baldessari and Bruce Nauman. Often overlooked by art collectors, catalogs like this are actually the primary documentation of these types of experimental art practices.” 

For you: Blue Icon, by the minimalist painter Dan Walsh, would make a fantastic gift. The pages recall pixelated patterns with subtle gradations in tone. It’s an amazing, visually rich book.” 

- Max Schumann, executive director of New York’s Printed Matter, a go-to store for rare art titles and one-of-a-kind zines.

4. For me: “I prefer an ‘authentic’ novel, or fiction set in the time it was written, but Elizabeth Buchan is such a clever writer that I’m sure I’ll highly enjoy her recent debut about life in London just after WWII, The New Mrs Clifton.” 

The New Mrs. Clifton by Elizabeth Buchan

For you: “I’m so proud to be publishing Tirzah Garwood’s memoir, Long Live Great Bardfield. The book, which Garwood started in 1942 (writing at night after her children went to bed), describes how the female artist subjugated her work to that of her husband. It’s fascinating to anyone interested in the history of feminism.” 

- Nicola Beauman, owner of London’s Persephone Books, which deals in overlooked works by mostly female, mid-20th-century writers.

5. For me:Who Is Sleeping on My Pillow: Mamma Andersson & Jockum Nordström, published by David Zwirner Books, features collages, drawings and paintings—many in deep, dark, wintry colors—by the two Swedish contemporary artists. Together, their works create a nice unity.” 

For you: “I used to be a graphic designer, so I think books as objects, like Phaidon’s WA: The Essence of Japanese Design, make exceptional gifts. Intricately bound, it showcases a collection of Japanese products, from food to ceramics.” 

WA: The Essence of Japanese Design by Phaidon

- Ulla Welinder, owner of Copenhagen’s Cinnober, a temple of high-design titles.

6. For me: “I’ve wanted to pick up The Accidental Life, a memoir by Terry McDonell, for a while. McDonell is smart and funny as hell, the type of kick-ass magazine editor I worry our culture is losing.”

The Accidental Life by Terry McDonell

- Lisa Howorth, co-owner, with her husband, Richard, of Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi, long one of the South’s preeminent booksellers. 

For you: “I’m suggesting Nathan Hill’s The Nix to everyone. Set primarily in 1968 and 2011, it focuses on generations within one family—there’s a love story as well as political topics that particularly resonate now. It’s rare for me to develop the type of enthusiasm I have for this book.” 

- Richard Howorth, co-owner of Square Books.

7. For me: “I love the early-20th-century American author Mary Virginia Terhune, known by her pseudonym, Marion Harland. She wrote about matters of the home: etiquette, housekeeping and recipes, the latter often with little essays. There are likely some works of hers I don’t have on my shelf.” 

White House Manual of Cookery by Marion Harland

For you: “I’d give anyone interested in old cookbooks a copy of Harland’s Common Sense in the Household: A Manual of Practical Housewifery.” 

- Bonnie Slotnick, owner of New York’s Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks, a favorite of in-the-know gourmands.

8. For me: “I’m looking forward to Zadie Smith’s novel, Swing Time—Smith’s a terrific writer, and, from what I’ve heard, this—about a young biracial woman who develops an affinity for old musicals—will likely be marvelous.” 

Swing Time by Zadie Smith

- Jan Weissmiller, co-owner of Iowa City’s Prairie Lights, popular among students in the University of Iowa’s prestigious writers’ program. 

For you: “Paulette Jiles’ News of the World, a work of historical fiction and a 2016 National Book Award finalist, is fantastic. Set in the Wild West, it follows a man named Captain Kidd, who went from town to town reading papers to the uninformed—a real job back then. It’s a fun read.” 

- Paul Ingram, book buyer, Prairie Lights.

Top photo by Jan Søndergaard. All other images are courtesy.

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