Meet the matchmakers

You can have the best-stocked bookstore in the world, but without booksellers it would be nearly useless. In fact, a bookstore exists in that space where the booksellers and literature intersect. We need them to direct us to books — classics, rarities, backlist, brand-new bestsellers — and explain why we should be interested in them.

The new team of booksellers at Seward Park’s Third Place Books bring decades of bookselling experience to the neighborhood, along with a few new booksellers. And you can tell a lot about the bookstore by the books that this staff recommends. Without a single booksellers’ recommendation, how could you possibly recognize the thread that connects Joy Kogawa’s Obasan to Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age? And in a scene as overrun with novelty as comics, you need a bookseller to recommend Top Ten, Alan Moore and Gene Ha’s superhero/cop show pastiche, or else it would be lost in the gaudy flash of the graphic novel shelves.

Look at the books recommended by Third Place Books Seward Park’s Anje. There’s something here for everyone, from a trilogy of great genre page-turners — Beat the Reaper, The Martian, and Lock In — to more serious fare including Rebecca Solnit’s essential feminist manifesto Men Explain Things to Me to Nate Powell’s marvelous comics and the more cerebral sci-fi of Margaret Atwood and Ann Leckie, Anyone could find something to love in this eclectic shelf’s worth of books.

Or consider Wesley’s recommendation of Kanae Minato’s Confessions:

For better or worse, I am a self-declared book snob and rarely dabble in contemporary genre fiction. Finishing a Tana French or Gillian French novel has inspired little more than a drowsy "egh," but Confessions might be a watershed read. Its delightfully macabre plot, contemptible characters and artfully placed twists had me practically ripping out each page to get to the next.

This is a great recommendation: it places Wesley on a continuum and allows the reader to align themselves to his tastes. And the recommendation of a book called Confessions begins with its own confession, which is a literary flourish that demanded my appreciation.

The card worked on me, and I bought Confessions. Wesley is right; it’s a twisty, dark-spirited thriller, improbably narrated in the beginning by a woman out for revenge. It’s a morally compromised book, and one that might offend readers with its somewhat cavalier treatment of AIDS, but that weird ethical shakiness is part of its charm; you worry at every point that the book is going to turn into the literary equivalent of an exploitative snuff film, so you keep turning the pages to see what happens next.

And the thing is, I get books mailed to me every day of the damn week, and I’m in bookstores a lot, and I never would’ve found Confessions without Wesley’s recommendation card. No algorithm would’ve recommended it to me on a website. None of my friends would have pushed it into my hands, and no bestseller list would have alerted me to its existence. That serendipitous connection between reader and book never would’ve happened without the bookseller in the middle, to handle the introductions. That’s exactly what booksellers are for, and Third Place Books Seward Park has some phenomenal recommenders.