How to Help Local Booksellers, Authors, and the Readers You Love

We’re all here because we love reading. Here’s how we can Read It Forward, in the most literal sense, to support our community.

How to Help Local Booksellers

I won’t mince words: many writers and all independent bookstores operate on razor-thin margins at the best of times. These are not the best of times, not by a long shot, and the crucial safety measures that help us mitigate the spread and effects of coronavirus have the potential to be devastating for creators and small businesses that contribute to our thriving literary community. That doesn’t mean those safety measures aren’t vitally important; it does mean that when we’re lucky enough to have the energy and resources to pitch in and help others stay afloat, we should do our best to step up for them.

Take a rain check.

Find your local independent bookstore here (and know that some stores are currently offering free or reduced-rate shipping, especially for local buyers). Not interested in pulling the trigger on a specific title today? Purchase a gift card or certificate. Even better: Look up future giftees’ local stores and buy cards and certificates for them. Your mom will be delighted to know you thought of her now and when her birthday rolls around in September.

Champion new releases.

It’s disappointing to learn that your favorite author’s upcoming local reading has been postponed or cancelled. That same news is disastrous for the author him- or herself; they were banking on publicity and sales from the event. Pre-order a book that’s scheduled for release in the upcoming weeks or months. Follow its author on social media, subscribe to their newsletter if they have one, and help boost their signal to potential readers. If you love it once you read it, leave a good review at its seller’s site—and spread the word.

Is your TBR list in need of new line items? Take a chance on new work from a writer in this Twitter thread. It means everything to them.

Get recommendations for the greatest books around straight to your inbox every week.

Contribute to storytime.

As daycare and school closures affect families around the world, chances are good that the parents in your life are or will be scrambling to fill suddenly-unstructured hours for their children. Consult a curated list like Time Out New York’s 101 best books for kids of all ages, find an age-appropriate read, and fire off a cabin-fever care package. If freestyling is too intimidating, don’t be shy about asking for explicit recommendations from moms and dads; support is support, and you’ll know your gift will be appreciated.

Follow up on a recommendation.

You’ve spent the last year telling a pal they’ll love a certain book; despite your good taste and strong rhetoric, they have yet to pick it up. Act now, influencer! Take the initiative and, literally, send it their way. If, on the other hand, you are the procrastinating friend: trust your person. Buy the book.

Start (or join) a virtual book club.

It’s crucial to remember that physical isolation and quarantine as defined by the CDC are not at all synonymous with psychological isolation; we need each other’s company more than ever, and planning to video chat, e-mail, or even group-text about a collective read is an excellent way to stay safe and check in.

Need some inspiration? Read It Forward’s pick of the month is Ann Napolitano’s Dear Edward, a coming-of-age story in which a young plane crash survivor re-learns how to thrive. Seattle’s The Stranger, in turn, is just one week into its Quarantine Club—which is reading Camus’s The Plague, because nobody tells Seattle when it can and can’t deploy irony. Brooklyn’s beloved Greenlight Bookstore will be moving some of its in-store groups to Zoom, a remote-conferencing platform that’s free and easy to use; subscribe to one of their mailing lists to join an existing event, or create your own (40-minute personal meetings with up to 100 participants are also free).

Stay safe. Take care of yourself and your people. Let’s have each other’s backs.


Featured image: Greenlight Bookstore in Brooklyn

About Lauren Oster

LAUREN OSTER is a freelance writer and editor. Her second-grade teacher let her sneak out of class to read old mysteries in the library. She now lives on New York City’s Lower East Side with her husband, two cats, and a fog machine. Her work has been published by Redbook, McSweeney’s, National Geographic, HGTV, and others; she tweets about culture, smuggling fireworks, and plastic animals at @lmo_nyc.

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