In '' Reading the Room,'' the chief buyer for City Lights Booksellers in San Francisco shares his passion for the trade. For a '' once-in-a-lifetime experience,'' he listened to nearly 40 albums to accompany a musician's memoir.

.-  What makes you good at your job?

Tenacity, patience and attention to detail.

.-  After a week of work, are there times when a book is the last thing you want to look at?

After a week of work the last thing I want to look at is a spreadsheet. A book is always welcome.

.-  Have you ever bought a book from Amazon?


.-  Have you ever folded over the corner of a page to keep your place?

In 65 years of being a reader, I must have at some point. It is a practice I deplore.

.-  What books are on your night stand?

'' Dark Soil,'' edited by Angie Sijun Lou; '' Exhibit,'' R.O. Kwon; '' Weird Black Girls,''  Elwin Cotman; '' Colored Television,'' Danzy Senna; '' Lost Writings,'' Mina Loy : '' Any Day Now ;  Toward a Black Aesthetic, ''Larry Neal '' The Editor : How Publishing Legend Judith Jones Shaped Culture in America,'' Sara B.Franklin;  '' The Bookshop : A History of the American Bookstore,'' Evan Friss; '' No Edges : Swahili Stories''; '' American Abductions,'' Mauro Javier Cardenas; '' Catalina,'' Karla Cornejo Villavicencio.

.-  What's the last great book you read?

Hari Kunzru is one of my favorite writers.  His most recent novel, '' Blue Ruin,'' is the concluding book in a series that began with  '' White Tears,'' followed by '' Red Pill.'' Kunzru's exploration of race, class, artistic creation and privilege in contemporary society are deeply enthralling.

.-  You write that '' this is one of the richest and most rewarding times to be a reader of literature.'' Why?

In the past two decades we have seen the emergence of a brilliant cohort of authors :  Colson Whitehead, Victor LaValle, Ayana Mathis, Elaine Castillo, Tommy Orange.

And the literary progeny of Ishmael Reed, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Joy Harjo, Anna Castillo, Jessica Hagedorn, Octavia Butler and Samuel R. Delany, to name a few.

Parallel to this we have seen a litany of exciting international literature being translated and published by presses like Dalkey Archive, Open Letter, Deep Vellum, Two Lines and Dorothy, a publishing project.

The last two Nobel Prizes in Literature have been published in the United States independent presses : Seven Stories [ Annie Ernaux ] and Transit Books [ Jon Fosse ]. Literary riches await the curious reader in their local independent bookstore.

.-  Why, then, do many people say books don't matter the way they once did?

My response is very parochial. At City Lights we see a growing enthusiasm, particularly among younger readers [ from my perspective, anyone under 40], for printed matter. 

The World Students Society thanks The New York Times.


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