Monday, August 18, 2014

Books on the Bottom Shelf

Serendipity is one of the great joys of shopping in a bookstore. You wander in, maybe not even planning on buying anything, and you walk out with the exact book you need to read right now, just because the cover caught your eye while browsing. These powerful moments are created by the physical interaction between the reader and the store. But, surely, you’ve noticed in your travels that the physical world has some limitations. Our space is finite which means there will be books on bottom shelves. The cruel forces of organization and alphabetizing conspire to make it almost impossible to just bump into one of these books.

Perhaps the books most victimized by this cruelty of order are those works of adult fiction written by authors whose last names begin with “z.” Not only are they all the way at the end of the fiction section, not only are they all the way down on the bottom shelf by the floor, they are also right next to cafe seating. Often, you can't bend down to look at them even if you wanted to. So I decided to show some love to the bottom shelf and share some of the best books you’ll probably never see while browsing.

Green Girl
A brilliant work of alienation, Green Girl is the story of Ruth, an American in London drifting through jobs, men, and friendships. Zambreno’s book was originally put out in a limited run by a small publisher, but now with wider distribution, Green Girl should become a post-modern classic.

Loteria 
By turns affecting and inspiring, Loteria is a powerful novel that heralds the arrival of an outstanding writer, one who reminds us of the importance of remembering even when we are trying to forget. Seems a shame that such a beautiful cover is so rarely seen.

Stefan Zweig:
Thanks to Wes Anderson and The Grand Budapest Hotel and the new biography, Zweig is having a bit of a moment. Start with his novels like The Post-Office Girl, Chess Story, and Beware of Pity, or, if you prefer big beautiful hardcover editions, just get The Collected Stories of Stefan Zweig.

The Silent Woman 
The publishing world is hard enough on feminist works in translation without the array of shelves hiding Monika Zgustova’s novel. A rapturous novel of love, longing, and exile, The Silent Woman depicts a twentieth century woman's life against a backdrop of war and political turmoil. Monika Zgustova was born in Prague and lives in Barcelona, Spain. She has published seven books, including novels, short stories, a play, and a biography. Silent Woman was a runner-up for the National Award for the Novel, given by the Spanish Ministry of Culture. Zgustova has also received the Giutat de Barcelona and the Mercè Rodoreda awards in Spain, and the Gratias Agit Prize given by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Prague. She has translated more than fifty books of Russian and Czech fiction and poetry, including the works of Milan Kundera and Vaclav Havel, into both Spanish and Catalan.

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