Peek at the Staff Picks Shelves From Indie Bookstores All Over America


We have to admit — though we love pretty much everything about brick-and-mortar bookstores, one of the best parts is often the staff picks shelf, where we’ve found (and enjoyed) many an unusual recommendation or neglected classic. To celebrate this great tradition, we asked a few of our favorite bookstores from around the country to send us pictures of their staff picks shelves, so you can soak in the expertise of hundreds of literary staffers without having to leave your seat (though, in a minute, you’re going to have to get up and go to a bookshop). After the jump, peek at the staff picks from Flavorpill’s local WORD to other indies across the land, and tell us the best book you’ve picked up after a staff recommendation in the comments.

Photo Credit: Dave Wheeler

Photo Credit: Dave Wheeler

(Click on the images to see larger versions.)

Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle, WA

From curator Dave Wheeler:

With over 100 titles displayed at any given moment, our staff proves our versatility of interests, appreciation for alternatives to mainstream obsession, and endless appetite for works of all kinds. You can tell from the pictures that our ‘staff recommends’ wall features old titles, new titles, kids books, poetry, politics, erotica, and architectural design, and more! But I think what’s most fun about this display is getting to read what each of my colleagues loves about their recommendations. The corresponding tags for the books suggest why this book is one to read and enjoy and cherish. You can read each staff member’s recommendations on our website. We also have a display this month that ties in to the new book My Ideal Bookshelf, for which we’ve cobbled together the most influential and memorable books of our lives, just like the authors in My Ideal Bookshelf.”

Paul Ingram, buyer and host of Paul’s Book Club, with a quality pick. Photo Credit: James Davies

Photo Credit: James Davies

Prairie Lights, Iowa City, IA

From co-owner Jan Weissmiller: “Located in the heart of our store, the staff picks section represents the widely varying tastes of our large and literate staff. We find it an excellent way to steer our customers toward the books we find exciting. These books generate the lively and stimulating conversations our customers have with us and with each other. We know from their feedback that they find things in our staff picks that they would not have found on their own.”

Photo Credit: Lacey Dunham

Photo Credit: Lacey Dunham

Politics & Prose, Washington, DC

From Lacey Dunham, Director of Marketing:

We are not an algorithm. At Politics & Prose, we use the talents of our exceptionally well-read staff who are eager to share their opinion on books. From literature in translation to NYRB classics, Russian satire to mysteries, graphic novels to “any good story told well” (as one staff member says), our staff picks shelves represent the diverse tastes and interests of the professional booksellers who shape the identity of our bookstore. As our motto says, “so many books, so little time.” Recently, we’ve started asking authors come for a reading to share their “Desert Island Reads,” a selection of books they’d like to have with them if they were ever stranded on a desert island. For March, Ayana Mathis (The Twelve Tribes of Hattie) selected books.

Ayana Mathis’ Desert Island Reads: Magic City — Yusef Komunyakaa To remember childhood in all its wonder and terror, in its boundless imagination.

Gastronomical Me — M.F.K. Fisher To remember the pleasures of food, and the delights of language and how the two are similar.

The Gay Talese Reader — Gay Talese To be reminded of wit and style and things urbane.

Beloved — Toni Morrison To tear me open, then stitch me up again

The Book of Hours — Ranier Maria Rilke To aid in the contemplation of mysteries (I imagine there would be a lot of that on a desert island).

Photo Credit: Jolene Torr

City Lights Books, San Francisco, CA

From Publicity and Marketing Associate Jolene Torr: “We also feature our current favorites weekly on our blog and update our website with new recommendations each month, browsable by staff member — enjoy!”

Photo Credit: Heather Duncan

Photo Credit: Heather Duncan

Tattered Cover, Denver, CO

From Director of Marketing Heather Duncan: “Jackie is our store’s Book Blogger, and you can read more from her here.”

Photo Credit: Jenn Northington

Photo Credit: Jenn Northington

WORD, Brooklyn, NY

From Events Director Jenn Northington: “This display features some recent picks from our staff newsletter. Our staff have pretty diverse tastes, and we try to feature a little bit of everything — kids, cookbooks, fiction, history, you name it. Of course, sometime a book takes the store by storm, and then we fight over who gets to pick it (Red Doc> being the most recent example)!”

Photo Credit: Stephen Sparks

Green Apple Books, San Francisco, CA

From New Books Manager/Buyer Stephen Sparks: “Our Staff Picks display is in many ways the heart of the store, sitting under a glowing neon sign, drawing readers toward its warm glow. Like any display, this one changes, but we’ve found that a certain mix works best. There are always a few modern classics (Didion, Barthes), some motivational titles (those dealing with creativity do well), a few Bay Area-specific books, and a healthy selection of overlooked titles. In fact, since booksellers are fond of bringing to light neglected books, the last category is probably most represented on the display, with titles like Jack Black’s You Can’t Win and David Ohle’s Motorman taking pride of place.”

Photo Credit: Zack Zook

BookCourt, Brooklyn, NY

Powell’s Books, Portland, OR