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Buy Dan’s Book: “How Not to Read”

One of our own staff members, Dan Wilbur, has published his first book! The title is How Not to Read: Harnessing the Power of a Literature-Free Life (Perigee/Penguin). You know Dan as the annoyingly friendly guy in a tie telling you to purchase the one book he finished reading this year. Well, this year, he’s only recommending his own book. How Not to Read is a humorous self-help book based on Dan’s hilarious literary blog, betterbooktitles.com, devoted to lampooning all the great works of literature one image at a time.

Pick up the book in the store and we’ll give you 10% off, or order it to your home and we’ll pay the shipping.

Buy the book!

Holiday Newsletter 2011

 Holiday Newsletter

Celebrating 40 Years of Independence-Yours and Ours! 

December, 2011


Click here for our holiday gift recommendations! (PDF format)


 Our Store

We asked Susan Scioli if she remembered the first book she sold when she opened the Community Bookstore in November, 1971.


“Of course I do,” she responded. “It was The Whole Earth Catalog. It was a huge seller for us. Our best seller.”

We should have guessed. What better book to launch this flagship independent bookstore (Brooklyn’s oldest and one of the oldest in all New York City) than the legendary guide to independent action and thought. What better manual for a neighborhood filled 40 years ago with oldtimers and newcomers who refused to follow the herd to the suburbs and who were rolling up their sleeves to prove the pundits wrong about the irreversibility of inner city deterioration.


For all that Park Slope has changed in 40 years, some things remain exactly the same. Our customers are still fiercely independent and herd-resistant. That’s why Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84 has outsold the #1 book on the Times best-seller list, Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs (a book we like very much), more than two-to-one. And why we have sold 21 copies thus far this year of Seneca’s On the Shortness of Life and not a single copy of the #2 best seller, Bill O’Reilly’s Killing Lincoln. (If we sound like boastful adoptive parents, we cop to the charge.)


Our customers’ biases have put each of the store’s owners-from Susan to Catherine Bohne and now us-in a challenging but enviable position: we can’t follow some easy, cookie-cutter pattern in stocking our shelves, but we can stock our shelves almost entirely with books we are proud to sell. That pride extends very much to this year’s list of holiday gift suggestions.


The whole staff pitched in on this project, but limitations of space and time, plus our personal biases, make this list incomplete. There are many, many more excellent gift books in the store. Come in, browse, talk to us, talk to your fellow shoppers; partake of community at the Community Bookstore.


Have a wonderful, happy, healthy (and independent) holiday season.


Ezra Goldstein and Stephanie Valdez, co-owners 


Some things you should know about shopping at our independent neighborhood bookstore:

* We discount every book we sell through our Frequent Buyers Club: for every $100 you spend, you get $10 off. No fee, no cards, no annual renewal. We keep track of your spending.

* We can order almost every in-print book. Weekdays, we can get many books in 24-48 hours. You can place orders on our web site.

* We can ship books almost anywhere in the world at minimal cost-and that includes gift wrapping and personal messages.

* When you shop local, you invest in your community, in your neighbors and in yourselves. For every dollar you spend, twice as much will be reinvested in the community by a local store than a national chain. We donate to every local school that asks us. The chains don’t. We helped pay for the holiday lights on 7th Avenue. The chains didn’t.

* Our free services include gift wrapping, delivery in the neighborhood, bad jokes, a handsome cat, an ugly bearded dragon and, often, free cookies and coffee.

Catherine writes from Albania

It is a cool evening in late spring, in Valbona.

This is a place where seasons last very long. Winter, while it happens, is a lifetime of long snow, a black and white world of silence and fleeting daylight. There is a daily battle to feed yourself and your animals, to gather firewood, dry it, then burn it and keep warm, and in between long, long hours of sleep. Summer is a riot of lush green-ness, in which one thing no sooner ripens, than it’s replaced by another – strawberries, cherries, rasperries, watermelon, thona, hazelnuts, chestnuts, pumpkins. They are, to paraphrase Anne Sexton, “Too many to eat.” We no sooner go to bed, than we’re up again. And then, suddenly, it’s over. Again. In between, are these sweet and enticing days – Spring and Autumn – when it rains and it rains and it rains, and then suddenly, brilliantly, comes one perfect, un-ripe but promising, day. This day is one of those.

It rained for four days before today, and for four days after today. But today, the day of our first “annual” (we hope – someone once laughed at me for calling something “The First Annual” which they said was by definition an oxymoron) Pastrimi Pranverore – Spring Cleaning – the weather was bell-clear perfect. The sky was blue, the mountains around us were splendid and soaring and the earth was beginning to smell good. The sun was warm, but the breezes were cool. The beautiful blue Valbona River chuckled.

I spent the day with Alfred’s cousin Petrit, and 42 local school children, and assorted teachers and parents. We wandered the valley for four hours, picking up trash. For me, coming from New York, we do not have so much trash here. It is so beautiful. But Alfred tut-tuts about trash, and after picking up bits of candy wrappers, plastic bottles, and finding dumps of baby diapers (oh all hail progress!) neatly bundled with their self-afixing tapes floating in the river in little pustulant herds, I can see his point. Further down the valley, where it opens up and becomes most heart-rendingly beautiful, the road is becoming lined with little impromptu dumps – where people inclined to be tidy have lumped together their undigestible garbage, butane canisters, bits of rugged athletic shoes, indecipherable plastic bags once containing who-knows-what, the odd car carpet and, oddly, a pillow. Well, nevermind, because we were there, to pick it all up, and if we could not conquer the floating diaper caches in their entirity, we did fill 100 bags with trash (more-or-less – some of the children were very little, and their idea of “full” cannot be judged harshly by those of us with more height and years), and for now the Valley is very clean again. We piled it all, some three trucks full, on a sand bank by the river, and came back the next day to douse it in gasoline and set it on fire. Here it would not burn any trees. Of course, here, it also went into the air, and the bits left will be reliably washed away by the river, downstream, to where, for one, we live, but others too. But there. Something has to be done with it.

Today, on the today I began by writing about, it is a cool, late-spring evening in Valbona, and having worked hard all day, the community has come together to celebrate. The children, all 42 of them, are seated, two by two, at a long table of honor. A feast has been prepared, and local musicians are playing traditional music. I, the American, have been dressed in an inherited grab-bag of traditonal clothing, as are several of the children including notably 3 of the boys. Another young girl is in a sort of pink dream of a ball gown. The children are all dancing. Blerta, the English teacher, gets up and does a spirted jig. Admira leads a group of studiously po-faced adults in a circle dance. I join in with my borrowed floating scarves, thick wool skirts, and bright blue socks.

As it happens, there are several tourists at the party, or, as they’re called here, “guests” or “visitors.” When not dancing, I sit at the table with two Americans who are staying with us, and whose pre-stated interest in local culture was in fact a large part of the impetus for this party. Carol is here visiting now with her husband who plays the Kaval, but the week before she was coincidentally in nearby Bajram Curri, working, monitoring the Albanian national elections. I’m in the pale middle ground of ignorance on the elections. For me, the elections mainly meant that Alfred was gone all day. As the “mayor” of something – perhaps our little hamlet? – he was responsible for collecting the voting boxes and delivering them to Bajram Curri. I never knew, before this day, that he was the Mayor of Anything, and anyhow this is an English word that is used here for anyone in charge of anything, so I’m not sure what it means. I only know he was away all day, and long into the (rainy, rainy) night, and I was scurrying to keep the restaurant running, and to send him food, and to be ready for him to come back at night. That the elections happened, I know. That there has been much discussion of them, in grumbling, growling, growing undertones, I know, but I haven’t had all that much time, what with the weather and life, to find out so much, so I’m curious what Carol can tell me.

Thus we begin chatting, on this fine spring evening, with the children dancing around us, and the valley clean and sparkling.

“How was it?” I ask, and Carol says something like “You know, there were a few sloppy protacol mistakes, but on the whole it was pretty well ordered.” And that is good, except . . . . except . . . .I find myself wanting to say: It isn’t during the election that the corruption happens. At least not here. It’s before. It happens when the existing government goes around offering to put people on public assistance in return for their votes. That’s when you should be watching. Of course, when this public assistance amounts to just under 25 dollars per month for a whole family, you could argue that if that price is worth selling your vote for, then probably that money is so needed that they ought to have it . . . but still. It’s not “rregul” or straight. And it’s even less straight when that money isn’t paid to anyone, as it isn’t occasionally, because the local government Head has a better private use for it, and of course no one can complain, because if they do, someone will find out that half of them never should have had it at all. Or, the corruption happens when the people here proposed an alternative candidate for the Democratic Party – an educated young journalist with a track record of good work, against the corrupt and blatantly self-serving incumbant – and the nomination was flat out refused by Albania’s Prime Minister Berisha himself. The man was simply not allowed to run. Take this pig, or no pig, was the message. Except that no pig isn’t even an option, come to think of it. It’s THIS pig or – what will you do about it? It happens when Valbona has unanimously not voted for the corrupt incumbant for the last several elections and is none the lest served with him, and has to live out yet another four-year-long term of punishing neglect at best, and harrasment or theft at worst. The punishment of being law-abiding, when the law is itself against you.

And it happens when 42 very small school children pick up the trash that should have been removed by a functioning municipal government. It happens when the local school teachers and farmers lucky enough to own trucks organize themselves to collect it all, and then don’t know what to do with it – and none of their letters to Komun government or Albanian ministries are answered, so they burn in on the banks of the bluest river in Albania, the bluest river in imagination.

It is a cool and perfect spring evening in Valbona. The cuckoos are calling, and woodpeckers, Qukupiku, are as well. High overhead golden eagles fly. Some crazy beetles climb with enormous

antlers over everything. Climb on my fingers and peer at me. The bears are awake, and the wolves

are present but receding. The flowers are rioting. The children dance. And the cows, for some odd reason, stand and scream at the place where last year, a bridge used to be.


How to Write a Fantasy Novel(s)

So, you’ve read Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones and everything Robert Jordan has ever written. You’ve also taken the time to get a job at Tor so you can be around new fantasy books before they’re sold in bookstores. Now you want to know how to write one of your own. There’s something you should know — it’s easier than you think! Here are a few basic things that every fantasy novelist should keep in mind:

1. There must be no fewer than twenty-five characters; all must have vital roles in the plot.

2. Each character’s name should either be a) extremely short (no more than four letters long) and almost exactly the same as several others (i.e. Jor, Jory, Jof, Jef, etc) OR b) moderately long and absurdly hard to pronounce (i.e. Eilomare, Marglwyn, Xxyzfrakzym, etc)

There should be enough of each of these that keeping track of who is who is extremely difficult.

3. Make sure that in addition to the main human characters, there are at least three other races of humanoid-like creatures, each following rule numbers 1 and 2. Commonly used examples are: goblins, elves, orcs, or anthropomorphically enhanced animals such as wolves, owls, or cats.

4. Places and things (such as kingdoms and magic books) should also follow rule number 2. Example: The Realm of Shym, Aeosmier’s Book of Deathly Death Spells , etc.

5. 90% of characters’ names (and places and things) MUST HAVE at least one uncommon letter. Mostly ‘w’ and ‘y’ will suffice, but other acceptable letters are ‘z’, ‘x’, ‘j’, and obscure vowel combinations such as AE, eo, ao, and umlauts, accents, and other marks above or below letters that change pronunciation that people ignore because they don’t understand.

6. Have at least one, but preferably two (one for good and one for evil), major castle and weapon. Most commonly castles, old, and swords, legendary.

7. The plot must contain no fewer than two important quests, with at least five side-quests each which must be completed before any more progress can be made on the main quests.

8. Family feuds. Father/son, brother/sister, stepmother/daughter. Doesn’t matter, just have lots of them.

9. Chapter titles should be either only the number, or names of important characters. When choosing the latter, chapters should focus on their namesakes.

10. Chapters focusing on specific characters should be organized in such a way that nothing happens chronologically, and once a character’s chapter occurs, that character should not make an appearance for at least another five chapters, or fifty pages, whichever comes first.

11 (optional). Throw in some ice zombies and you’re good to go!

A Report from the Frozen Wasteland of Coney Island in January, 2011 Regarding the Successful Delivery of Cleopatra, Just After the First Blizzard of the Year Or, RFWCIJRSDCJAFBY: An Exerpt from the Staff Provisional Log of the S.S. Community Bookstore

By: Waltah

I made a delivery to the outer reaches of Brooklyn, well out of our regular delivery range. When I agreed to do it, I was under the impression that I was on my way to someone’s house. I figured the woman must have misunderstood our Direct-to-Home system, and thought we would deliver her copy of Cleopatra anywhere. I thought, ‘Why not?’ It’ll be a nice change of pace, and I’ll have time to work on some potential storylines while on the subway.

So I Google Maps’d the address, and found out I was going to the Seacrest Healthcare Center. Not knowing anything about the Seacrest Healthcare Center, I assumed it was a home for the elderly. I memorized my route, hopped on the Q Train, and settled in to write.

Upon reaching Coney Island, I remembered that it does get colder the closer you are to water, and I was now as close as I was going to get to the Atlantic Ocean without jumping in and going for a swim. I scrunched myself up to keep warm, but the cold made up its mind to pierce through my jacket, my scarf, and my hat, no matter how uncomfortable I decided to make myself by scrunching. Luckily, the center wasn’t more than a few blocks from the train station.

When I arrived at the center, I found out it wasn’t a home, it was a hospital. It was an Honest-to-God hospital, complete with motion-activated slide-y front doors and those saltine crackers they always make you eat, because ‘your system isn’t fully recovered from the highly invasive surgery we just performed to remove that whole watermelon from your spleen.’ Then again, maybe that was just me. Also, I may have been on several thousand prescription drugs at the time.

Reception gave me a bit of a hard time, possibly because of my ankle-length black trench coat and the fact that I was talking in as thick a Chicago mobster lingo as I could, carrying a package, asking to see a patient I didn’t know personally. At least, that’s what I imagine the receptionist was thinking when she looked at me and said, “Sign in, please.”

As it happened, our customer’s room was only a few feet away from the front door. I was relieved I didn’t have to add to my already suspicious behavior by peering into room after room.
The one inside the room who the book was for was not the nurse, or the lady stuck in bed with an IV drip. It was the one closer to the door in a wheelchair, her leg propped up with a steel contraption around her ankle. Long screws were buried in her leg at every which angle. She identified herself by saying, “Oh its Community Bookstore with my book!”

I handed her the book, and she launched into fountains of thank-yous, finishing up with a “You know, this book is the reason I’m here in the first place.” Of course, this piqued my curiosity. Who wouldn’t want to stay and hear a story that started like that?

So she explained to me that she had ordered the book from us last month, and she had been told it would arrive in a couple days. Of course, as I mentioned earlier, the book was Cleopatra, and we all know what happened with that. We called her up and told her that the publisher sent off our order to Barnes & Noble instead, and we wouldn’t be getting it in as soon as previously believed.

Meanwhile a friend of hers downloads it on their Kindle and offers to let her read it. Our customer goes to her friend’s house to borrow the Kindle, but doesn’t quite make the last step on the way up the stoop to the front door. SLIP! CRASH! ANKLE-BREAKING-NOISE (I guess that would be SNAP!)! BOOM! Well, no BOOM!, but you get the idea. She said the least she could do now was get the book from us and actually read it.

Lima pointed out, upon my return and dramatic retelling of the events of my delivery, that this is a good example of why the Kindle is evil. I would like to put forward that it is not only evil, but an evil mastermind. We are lucky its plan backfired this time. Next time, we may not be so lucky.

Slant of the Slope, Holiday Edition

The Slant of the Slope makes its triumphal return! (Modesty? Bah, humbug!) It includes our holiday recommendations and a bit of chapter. If you have trouble reading the PDF, let us know or come by the store and pick up a printed copy.

Click here to read the PDF of our newsletter.

The Plot Thickens

There’s big news at the bookstore–and we don’t mean the arrival of Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom, Suzanne Collins’ Mockingjay or Wolf Hall in paperback (though they have perked things up considerably in a month to which, usually, the adjective torpid barely does justice). No, we’re referring to the return of the mystery swap, a bookstore institution whose abrupt disappearance several months ago left Slope sleuths scratching their heads.

The solution, as in the best mysteries, was deceptively simple; as a clue, we’ll merely say spring cleaning got a bit out of hand. (Forty years ago, speaking for the older members of the staff, we would have skipped the cleaning and gone to Ft. Lauderdale, but one finds one’s fun where one can these days). Swap rules are simple: exchange one pre-read mystery for another and give us a dollar for each book swapped. Because we cleaned out most of our old stock we’re down to not much, so we will find some appropriate way to recompense anyone who brings in bagd of mysteries to replenish our shelves.

Speaking of Ft. Lauderdale, that cultural reference may be lost on most of you who tweet, but we’d like you to become followers of “CommunityBkstr” all the same. We’ll be tweeting about such things as hot new books, coming events and the rediscovery of forgotten gems–not unlike our risen-from-the-dead mystery swap.

Back in Stride

It’s been a bit quiet of late at the old bookstore (celebrating its 39th year!) what with owner Catherine Bohne’s determination to park herself in one of the few remaining places on earth (Albania’s Valbona Valley) reachable by neither Internet nor cell phone. We are, however, regathering steam, energized by Catherine’s faith in us to run the store in her absence, and by the wonderful loyalty of our customers to our book-lined and somewhat Bohemian lair, as distant from a big box chain store as Brooklyn is from Bajrum Curri (the Albanian village where Catherine goes once a week to shop).

What better way to get things going again than with a reading this Wednesday, 7pm, by Brooklyn’s own Jennifer Egan? In its rave view of her newest book, A visit from the Goon Squad, The New York Times wondered “whether this tough, uncategorizable work of fiction is a novel, a collection of carefully arranged interlocking stories or simply a display of Ms. Egan’s extreme virtuosity.” You can ask the virtuoso yourself Wednesday evening, and hear a bit from what we think is one of the best-crafted, most intriguing and most readable books of the year.

More news coming soon!

A Visit from Jennifer Egan!

Jennifer Egan reads from her acclaimed new novel, A Visit from the Goon Squad, Wednesday, Aug. 11, 7pm.

Help Us Help the People of Valbona!

Dear Park Slope!

Hi – It’s Catherine, writing from an internet cafe in Bajrum Curri, Northern Albania — I’ve owed you all a long-promised email for a while now, but the longer I wait, the longer the story gets . . . . So now (typically) I’m writing to ask for your help.  As some of you know, since last July I’ve been spending a lot of time in Northern Albania.  It is the most beautiful, magical place, with some of the best people in the world (after Park Slope, of course!).  Also, typically, I’ve gotten involved in trying to help people here.  For the last 10 months that just consisted of basic stuff (websites, puttering), but in the last two weeks a situation has blown up here.  And of course I’ve sort of ended up in the middle of it.  The Valbona Valley where I’ve been half-living is traditionally one of the toughest places in Europe – they don’t call it these the Accursed Mountains for nothing!  Perhaps in order to survive the people have become both adapted to the land AND fiercely protective of each other — really GOOD to each other.  And to me!  Now the local government -  which, like most government in Albania, is very corrupt – is moving to grab land in Valbona.  And the Selimaj, my adopted family, are standing up to them.  This really is the little guy fighting against huge forces.  Will you help?

Here are the two videos I made so far which summarize the situation – I was up all night making the last one, so I’m sort of blotto right now, and I think the videos will be clearer than I will be.

Valbona Land Grab – Part 1 (5/9/10)

Valbona Land Grab – Part 2 (5/10/10)

And yes, in case you were wondering, it WAS me with the camera, so Islam Byberi was threatening old men and a smallish woman in a little pink sundress.  Nice, eh?  It’s worth pointing out two other facts:

1.  50% of the population of Valbona is under the age of 18, the highest percentage of young people in any village in the Margegaj Komun (local district).  So the old men you see fighting in these videos are not just protecting their own interests, they are fighting for the future of the children of Valbona.

2.  The Komun has published reports to various foreign investors promising over 80 infrastructure projects to benefit the people of Margegaj Komun and Valbona specifically, including really important things like bringing running water to the houses of Valbona village.  They were supposed to start work this summer.  They haven’t.  Instead, they’re rushing to build this tourism complex (with Ping Pong) which (you may have noticed) employs mainly members of the Head of the Komun’s family (who live in Shoshan, not Valbona).

I have more video from the protest at the work site that I’ll send as soon as I can.  It shows the police arriving on Saturday, May 8th, and declaring that all work should stop until a judgment is made by the local court on Tuesday (tomorrow).  You should probably also know that yesterday, while I was in town frantically uploading the first of these videos, the Selimaj returned to the work site, and met workers arriving to continue construction, against the police order.  They police actually came with them, and the Selimaj protested.  The police upheld the order to stop work, at the cost of three Selimaj volunteering for arrest – Zenel Ahmeti (45), Gent Ademi (35) and Naim Selimaj (29).  While in police custody, the Chief of Police entered their holding cell, asked “Which one of you is Gent?” and then hit him.  This is of course illegal.  And if you’re wondering who the Chief of Police is . . . yup.  Another Byberi.  (Gent’s out now and charges are being filed.)

Here’s what you can do:  Please write to the American Embassy in Tirana.  Here are the two addresses I could find online.  Maybe you have access to better addresses?



Phone: +(355) 4 2247 285

For good measure, you could cc the Albania media (and any other media you know):

AND you could cc the two funders of the project:

Council for Europe Development Bank : info@coebank.org
Fondit Shqiptar i Zhvilliment:

You could say something like:
(although I’m certainly not the best expert on how to write these things)

Dear Ambassador Withers:

I am writing to urge you to use all possible pressure to encourage the Albanian Government to address the ongoing situation in Valbona, Tropoja.  I know the people of Northern Albania have a deep affection for the American people following the events in Kosovo and that they believe we can help them when no one else will.  In honor of this friendship I believe the American Embassy should take an interest in the unethical actions of the local government, particularly as threats appear to be being made to an American Citizen.

Here are two videos which give more information.
Valbona Land Grab – Part 1:
Valbona Land Grab – Part 2:

Thank you sincerely for your urgent attention.

That’s it!  Don’t worry about me though – the Selimaj won’t let anything happen to me, and I’m actually enjoying fighting a good fight.  (Alfred keeps trying to protect me, which I keep trying to point out is useless since although it’s very sweet, I really don’t know how to deal with it.)  I figure that if I get threatened, I must be doing something right!   Anyhow, I’ll be home soon and tell you all a lot more about it.  (Meanwhile I’ve got a baby rabbit in my hat and have to run down to the veterinary clinic to find out how to feed it . . . Eshte githmone dicka – “It’s always something”!)

The rest of the time, the valley really is the most peaceful place!  You should come visit!  (look at www.journeytovalbona.com)

Much THANKS, on behalf of the People of Valbona,
and from me too!

All Love,