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His Life Among Books

31 July 2017

From The American Booksellers Association, interviewing Bradley Graham, co-owner of Politics and Prose in Washington, D.C.:

Bookselling This Week: Please talk about your early experiences with reading and books.

Bradley Graham: Books helped propel me into my first career — journalism. I came of age reading the works of Tom Wolfe, Truman Capote, Norman Mailer, George Plimpton, Gay Talese, and Hunter Thompson. They were the purveyors of the “New Journalism,” eschewing the standard model of dispassionate, even-handed coverage and instead incorporating literary devices more common to fictional works. Their creative narrative methods broke all the rules — and drew me in. I became a reporter and stayed in journalism for more than 30 years. Somehow, it seems fitting that after leaving journalism, I entered the book business and can now help others find works that might inspire them.

BTW: Did you hold other positions in the book industry before becoming a bookseller?

BG: No, I was a neophyte to the business, at least to the retail end. I had written two books but had never worked in a bookstore. Still, as a veteran journalist trained in the art of quick study, I figured, “How hard could running a bookstore be?” After six years at Politics and Prose, I now can attest, “Harder than it looks!”

BTW: How did you begin as a bookseller, and how long after starting in bookselling did you begin to feel that you had found a special vocation?

BG: I got into bookselling as a co-owner of P&P, joining with my wife, Lissa Muscatine, to buy the store in 2011. From the start, I recognized that a bookstore serves a larger purpose than simply selling books. What lifts it above ordinary retail is its role as a community center, a forum for discussion, and a cathedral of ideas. Keeping a bookstore going carries a deep sense of responsibility, but, as I quickly came to appreciate, it also can be especially gratifying as a form of service to community.

. . . .

BTW: What do you think are some of the most important changes in bookselling since you bought your store?

BG: The six years that I’ve been in bookselling have seen a dramatic shift in mood and outlook among indies. Back in 2011, much doom and gloom hung over the business amid widespread predictions that e-books would soon supplant physical books. Nowadays, the news media are filled with stories about an indie revival, and while some of this also is overdone, there is certainly justifiable renewed confidence in the survival of bricks-and-mortar bookstores. Why the shift? A combination of factors account for it, but perhaps most significant has been a deepened commitment by customers to shop local and support their neighborhood bookstores.

BTW: As an ABA Board member, what are your key goals for fostering the book industry, and bookselling in particular?

BG: First, to do more to help indies widen exceedingly narrow profit margins, whether by improving terms through ongoing discussions with individual publishers, developing new sources of financing, exploring cost-cutting options, sharing best practices among stores, or other measures. Second, further improve IndieCommerce and better educate stores about how to use online services.

Link to the rest at The American Booksellers Association


One Comments to “His Life Among Books”

  1. With B&N on the rocks he’s hoping indie bookstores will pick up the slack?

    “… but perhaps most significant has been a deepened commitment by customers to shop local and support their neighborhood bookstores.”

    Obviously not in the Bronx …

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