“I loved books so much and I will never stop talking about them.”

book club

Nicole Brinkley, director of Oblong Books, an independent bookstore in Rhinebeck, New York, joins us at the Boston.com Book Club.

Nicole Brinkley knew just two weeks after working at Oblong Books in Rhinebeck, New York, that she had found her connection. At the time, Brinkley was a recent college graduate and had applied for part-time work at the library to keep her busy while she searched for jobs in the publishing industry. I quickly knew there was nothing I’d rather do than connect readers to new books.

“Being able to connect with the community and put the books people need in their hands is the best part of my job,” said Brinkley, who now runs the library. “I think the best part about any independent booksellers job.”

Some of Brinkley’s childhood memories include wandering the local Hudson Valley library system in search of her next reading. She talked so much about books with the people in her life that as a teenager, becoming a book blogger seemed like a natural next step.

“I loved books so much, I won’t stop talking about them. [Book blogging] It was my mother’s suggestion and I hope to talk to her about them a little less often.” “It backfired tremendously.”

It was this early passion for reading that led her to events in Oblong, which soon became one of the literary places she frequented regularly.

  • Excerpt from the book: “Dirtbag, Massachusetts” by Isaac Fitzgerald

The store, which originally opened in Millerton, New York as Oblong Books & Records, now has two locations. Booksellers share the Rhinebeck location, where Brinkley works, with their community on both a personal and professional level. In addition to donation drives and public events organized by the library, Brinkley is particularly proud of the one-to-one relationships that she and her colleagues nurture through their work.

In the nearly eight years that Brinkley worked in Oblong, she was introduced to many regular clients, including the book-obsessed kids who had known her all their lives and college students who made her library a second home for the years they spent in the area. The bookseller said that being able to talk to people face-to-face about the things they love and what they do on any day they walk into the store is “very important”.

The trick to being a great bookstore, according to Brinkley, is to have booksellers with an ardent love of reading.

“We have a crew that reads voraciously and widely and really cares about their community and connecting with people,” she said. “We don’t just give people bestsellers. We give people weird back lists from a decade ago that we loved or a middle list book that came out a couple of months ago. The The New York Times I didn’t notice and no one reviewed it, but we read and loved it.”

As a young reader, Brinkley was mostly drawn to what she calls “tropical fiction” – think romance novels and high fantasy – but in recent years, she has come to love “accurate and thoughtful novels”.

Memos like “Dirtbag, Massachusetts” by Isaac Fitzgerald, and this month’s Boston Book Club pick, make it a reading list because it “examines the complexity of being a person in the world.”

“I prefer it to be nonfiction because if I’m reading a made-up story, why aren’t there dragons? But memoirs like Isaac’s Diary or Why There Are No Fishes by Lulu Miller are not ashamed of the fact that the world is complex and that people aren’t perfect [are] Really interesting to me.”

Every great work, regardless of genre, gives readers something to connect with, and for Brinkley, “Dirtbag, Massachusetts” does well given how vulnerable it is.

“To open the book and see how much he put himself on the page, and how much of his own experiences. I think that is what made a lot of people love him,” she said. “He allows himself to take on his soul and I think that’s a wonderful and important thing.”

For readers looking for more reading of non-fiction, Brinkley recommends considering not just your interests, but your favorite writing styles. Anyone who loves classic literature can bridge the gap between fiction and realism by reading memoirs in literary prose. If you need help deciding what to read, Brinkley assured that your local indie music is always the best place to look.

“Booksellers are what makes libraries great and everyone should support local booksellers,” she said. “A place can only have books, but no place can connect you with books like any independent bookstore.”

Buy “Dirtbag, Massachusetts” from: Library | rectangular books


Join our next virtual discussion

Join Isaac Fitzgerald and Nicole Brinkley on Monday, August 22nd at 6pm, as they discuss his new memoir.

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