Village Books staffer (and occasional NWBL contributor) Lindsey McGuirk was interviewed recently by fellow Village staffer Rachel Hanley for the store’s newsletter, and she got McGuirk to recommend a ton of her favorite books. We’re reprinting the interview here:
Lindsey McGuirk realized she belonged in the book business when she attended her first Book Expo America in 2005 and saw how insane booksellers are. She worked at Village Books as the Events Coordinator from 2005 to 2007 and then moved to North Carolina to work for Algonquin Books (the publisher of Water for Elephants). After a couple years, she realized she not only missed Bellingham and the West Coast, but also the bookselling end of the business. So in 2009, she returned to Village Books where she now runs the Espresso Book Machine, Village Books’s self-publishing program, and handles the online marketing.
What’s your favorite aspect of your job? The favorite part of my job is definitely handling our Facebook page and Twitter account. I get to have so much fun finding things to post and getting conversations started. I love engaging people in that way.
How long have you been working with the Espresso Book Machine? What does that entail? I spend about 35 hours a week meeting with authors, printing books, and doing behind the scenes things for the authors’ books, such as obtaining ISBNs, barcodes, and registering for Library of Congress Numbers. This is such a new endeavor for everyone, so I answer a lot of questions about what it entails to print on the book machine.
What kinds of books do you like to read? Has that changed over time? I’m a strict fiction reader. I used to challenge myself to read nonfiction, but I’ve never enjoyed it. I’ve always loved fiction. And when I find an author I love, I stick with them (Kurt Vonnegut, Tom Robbins, Douglas Coupland, Jonathan Safran Foer are a few).
What are you reading now? Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood. Here’s a quick synopsis. Snowman, known as Jimmy before mankind was overwhelmed by a plague, is struggling to survive in a world where he may be the last human. He’s also mourning the loss of his best friend, Crake, and the beautiful and elusive Oryx, whom they both loved.
At what age did you become an avid reader? Has that fluctuated over time? I’ve always been an avid reader. As a little girl, my mom would take me to the library as soon as school was out for the summer and I’d load up on books. By the time I was a teen, I was friends with the librarians. I hear people in college say, ‘I can’t wait until I can read books I want to read again’ and I never felt that way in college. I was still reading what I wanted to . . . and I was a lit major!
About how much do you read? I’m a very slow reader—it easily takes me a month to finish a book. Unless it’s one I’m particularly loving, in which case it’ll be a week or so. So I guess I only read 12-20 books a year. That sounds really paltry when I say that out loud.
How do you like to read? I live in a studio apartment, but I’ve designated one corner of it as my ‘Reading Room.’ I have my awesome comfy chair, a lamp and my bookshelf. The chair also faces out toward the bay, so I get an amazing view while enjoying my book.
Do you read eBooks? I don’t. I simply don’t have an e-reader and have no intentions of getting one. I’m not against eBooks. I actually think they’re incredibly practical. What concerns me is that people overlook the fact that they can buy eBooks through a lot of indies, Village Books included. Indie bookstores don’t scream “online shopping” like Amazon or Barnes & Noble. But we’re here. We’re offering the same thing. We just need to nudge people a little (or maybe a lot) to remind them that we can still be their go-to source for books as well as eBooks.
Do you have a favorite book? A favorite character? I need to list a few because naming one is impossible. I feel like the others would say, “Hey wait! Last week you said I was your favorite!” So: House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer (Oskar Schell is also one of my favorite characters), Cat’s Cradle by Vonnegut, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (Death is a charmer in this one) and City of Thieves by David Benioff. Oh! And The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. It’s not out until mid-September, but I CAN’T WAIT to start telling customers about this one.
Have you ever pretended you’ve read a book that you haven’t? Absolutely! Sometimes it’s just easier to say I’ve read a book rather than hear the gasps of disapproval that I haven’t. I actually remember a former co-worker calling me out on it once. We left a party and he said, “I know you didn’t read . . . (whatever the book was. I don’t remember now).” Anyway, he was impressed with how convincing I was at making people think I had. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not.
What are some books that you want to read but haven’t had time for? I’m ashamed to admit this, but The Great Gatsby. I’ve just never taken the time to read it, but am sure I’d love it. I don’t know how this wasn’t required reading at some point in my life, but it wasn’t. But every time I read a review of it or anything about the character of Gatsby I think, “I really need to read that already.”
Can you think of any books that made you laugh out loud? Yes. Dan Kennedy’s Rock On about his short stint in the corporate record industry. It is HILARIOUS! He was such a duck out of water and the awkward encounters he has are painfully funny. It’s one we published when I was with Algonquin and working with Dan was a blast!
Any that made you cry? Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. Oskar Schell breaks my heart every time.
Any that made made you think differently? Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals. I’m not a vegetarian, nor do I have any plans to change my meat-eating lifestyle. But reading that book changed the way I buy meat. I’m more conscious now of where it’s coming from. And if I’m at a grocery store that sells meat from questionable sources, I’ll just buy the fake stuff.
Do you have a favorite young adult book? The Book Thief, although fortunately this one has crossed over to adulthood!
Funny book? Rock On by Dan Kennedy
Horror book? House of Leaves. I suppose some people may try to argue that this isn’t horror, but this book scared the bejeebers out of me. It’s a house that spontaneously adds rooms and closets and hallways. What’s not horrifying about that?!
Series? Heh. The Boxcar Children. When I was a wee lass, I wanted nothing more than to be an orphan who finds a home in a boxcar.
Can you think of any books that would be great for book groups? City of Thieves. It’s simply a perfect book and there’s so much to discuss: the plot, the characters, the characters’ decisions, the situations they get into, the ups, the downs. This book takes you all over the place emotionally and it’s absolutely fantastic!
What’s on your pickshelf ? For those who don’t know, the top floor at Village Books, along with all of our fiction, proudly boasts shelves displaying staff favorites. Here are some books you might find on my pickshelf:
The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall. Golden Richards, husband to four wives, father to twenty-eight children, is having the mother of all midlife crises.
The Road by Cormac McCarthy. The profoundly moving story of a journey. It boldly imagines a future in which no hope remains, but in which the father and his son, “each the other’s world entire,” are sustained by love.
The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai. Lucy Hull, a young children’s librarian in Hannibal, Missouri, finds herself both a kidnapper and kidnapped when her favorite patron, ten- year-old Ian Drake, runs away from home.
Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurty. Journey to the dusty little Texas town of Lonesome Dove and meet an unforgettable assortment of heroes and outlaws, whores and ladies, Indians and settlers.
The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly. High in his attic bedroom, twelve-year-old David mourns the death of his mother, with only the books on his shelf for company.
You Shall Know Our Velocity! by Dave Eggers. A moving and hilarious tale of two friends who fly around the world trying to give away a lot of money and free themselves from a profound loss.
Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler. During Stalin’s purges, Nicholas Rubashov, an aging revolutionary, is imprisoned and psychologically tortured by the party he has devoted his life to.
Exley by Brock Clarke. When nine-year-old Miller becomes convinced that he has found his father lying comatose in the local VA hospital, a victim of the war in Iraq, he begins a search for the one person he believes can save him, the famously reclusive and, unfortunately, dead Frederick Exley.
The Highest Tide by Jim Lynch. One moonlit night, thirteen-year-old Miles O’Malley sneaks out of his house and goes exploring on the tidal flats of Puget Sound. When he discovers a rare giant squid, he instantly becomes a local phenomenon.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning masterwork of honor and injustice in the deep South—and the heroism of one man in the face of blind and violent hatred.