Posts filed under ‘Staff Picks’

Meet the Staff: Cody Madsen

Cody Bio (4)

I’m originally from a small town in California outside of Yosemite National Park in the Sierras. I’ve worked in bookselling for 8 years. In college, I worked seasonally at a small independent in my hometown. I came on as a manager for Book Culture in August of 2013.

What is your role as a Manager for Book Culture?
I’m the Event Coordinator for Book Culture, and help with managing the periodicals, floor managing, and help coordinate web content. I’m a semi-pro gift wrapper, and I also occasionally wear shorts and flip-flops.

How did you come to join the Book Culture family?
I moved to NYC in September of 2011 for graduate school. While waiting to board my plane in California, I sent an email to Book Culture to see if they might be hiring. On a layover in Denver, I received a reply from Chris asking if I could come in for temporary work for the coursebook rush. I got to Manhattan around 3am Sunday morning, and by 11am I was working for Book Culture. I’ve been here in some capacity ever since.

What are your areas of expertise?
I read a little all over the place. I studied cultural anthropology in school, so I can speak to that body of work. I read more contemporary fiction now, with a Tennessee Williams play thrown in every couple of books. I enjoy ‘History of the Book’ books. I read samples of most of the magazines we stock, so I can recommend the heck out of a number of those titles.

What are you currently reading?
I’ve been reading The World According to Garp for a while with some friends from college. It’s definitely something. I also recently just read Prelude to Bruise by Saeed Jones. I’ve started to read more stories, fiction and nonfiction, told from the perspective of non-American women. Some of my favorite authors in this vein are Chinelo Okparanta, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Margery Wolf, and Lisa See. I also follow APOGEE and Hello Mr. magazines for their writing.

What’s your favorite part of working for a bookstore?
The community. Bookselling seems to attract wonderful, insightful, collaborative people. I’ve made lifelong friends through my work in bookstores, and for that I’m especially grateful. My quality of life has been forever enriched. (The discount, advanced copies, and BEA are nice perks, too.)

January 16, 2015 at 3:00 pm Leave a comment

Meet the Staff at 112th: Devon Dunn

Now that you have met some of the wonderful people who work at Book Culture on Columbus, we are ready to introduce the staff at Book Culture’s 112th store! There are quite a few of us, so look forward to many more posts, reading recommendations, and exclusive insights into the workings of an independent bookstore.

Devon Bio

What is your role as a Manager for Book Culture?
In addition to all the usual managerial duties, I’m also responsible for stocking and curating our sidelines, cards, and other non-book products you see at 112th. As a buyer, I try to find fun and interesting products that fit with Book Culture’s aesthetic that I feel will appeal to our customers. It’s a great experience–especially when I can connect with other independent/local companies to bring unique stuff to Book Culture.

How did you come to join the Book Culture family? 
I moved to New York last March after several years in Boston where I worked as a manager and assistant buyer for a locally-owned retailer. When I interviewed with Book Culture, it seemed like an instant perfect fit: independent store, wonderful book selection, and one of the managers at the time even grew up in my hometown!

What are your areas of expertise?
I studied Russian Literature and Translation in college, so I have a lot of Slavic authors who are favorites of mine, and I’m always happy to debate the merits of different translations (for anything, not just Russian-language stuff). Other than that, I’ve been really into reading more female authors, as well as books about Nature, Environment, Urban Foraging, and Cookbooks.

What are you currently reading?
Elena Ferrante! I picked up My Brilliant Friend because I’d heard so much about it, and now I’m eagerly devouring everything she’s written. If you’ve been debating whether or not to read her stuff, do it!

What’s your favorite part of working for a bookstore?
Hands down it’s getting to work with people and products I enjoy. In the age of Amazon, if you’re in a book store, it’s by choice–because you like the atmosphere and comradery that these spaces offer. It’s great to know that I have something in common with pretty much everyone who walks in the door.

January 7, 2015 at 4:00 pm Leave a comment

Recommended Reading: Funeral for a Home


At 11am on May 31st, 2014 local Philadelphia artists, historians, and residents of West Philadelphia’s Mantua community gathered for a funeral commemorating the life and death of 3711 Melon Street.  Cause of death: “prolonged and multiple causes.”  The writer of 3711 Melon Street’s obituary states, “Living things die when the infrastructure of life declines or disappears.  It is no different for a house that draws sustenance from the infrastructure of safe streets, economic viability, home repairs, a stable population and city services.”  The funeral of 3711 Melon Street, one of Philadelphia’s row homes dating from 1872, was part of a public art project organized by Temple Contemporary that connects the decay and demolition of 3711 Melon with a much larger conversation around urban development and struggling urban communities. A Funeral For A Home is the beautifully designed accompanying book for the project.

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Reading the text is nothing short of an interactive experience.  The book includes full page photos chronicling the funeral and community engagement around the project, images of original historic documents, a folded up newspaper clipping of the obituary, and a manila folder in which the reader will find a copy of the home’s original deed.  The book itself is carefully and intentionally designed; a wonderful extension of a project that points to the importance of public art as a vehicle for building awareness and community engagement.

Broken up into four chapters and a conclusion written by Patrick Grossi, the project’s manager, the book’s contributing authors write about the history of the Philadelphia row home, the obstacles and importance of historic preservation in the face of urban economic disparity, as well as a detailed documentation of the planning and day of the funeral itself.  Without submerging the unique history of 3711 Melon St., Funeral for a Home further contextualizes the project “within a spectrum of contemporary public art projects that seek to memorialize, re-imagine or remediate housing in the era of the post-industrial late capitalist city” (71).  As Sue Bell Yank writes in the chapter “This House is Every House,” the project “prompts us to observe and push the boundaries of how we perceive what is happening in our own communities, how we address the future and the past, and how we recognize ourselves in the other.”

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While reading Funeral for a Home, you begin to realize how the funeral is not meant to be an isolated event in time, but is a project that works to build new relationships and opens creative ways for using forgotten space. For anyone interested in public art, urban history, and community development, Funeral for a Home is a rich window into a project whose potential and lasting effects are still unfolding.

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Be sure to also check out Funeral for a Home‘s online page to learn more about the project.


By Maxine



December 30, 2014 at 5:44 pm Leave a comment

Staff Pick



That Deadman Dance by Kim Scott, Bloomsbury USA

It is nearly impossible to write about the brutal reality of settler-colonialism without destroying all hope for a more equitable and just future. However, in That Deadman Dance, Kim Scott manages to focus on the everyday violence of Australian colonialism while simultaneously highlighting the possible reality of mutual learning and understanding. That Deadman Dance does not have the complete devastation of Scott’s earlier book, Benang, and although language plays a central role in the story, form, and ideas, neither is it imbued with the practical approach to working towards a better future that is found in the books arising from Scott’s language projects

That Deadman Dance focuses on two periods of settler-colonialism in Australia’s west. At the heart of the book is Bobby Wabalanginy, who follows the trace of the book through the non-linear narrative, befriending the new arrivals, helping them on whaling missions, and showing them how to work with the land. Bobby also moves with the reader across the major disjunction in the book. This disjunction is one of a movement from a period of toleration of Aboriginal inhabitants–and in fact, reliance upon  Aboriginal  knowledge and practices–to a period of distrust and growing intolerance. Focusing on this point in time allows Scott to show, materially, the complexity and subtleties of the relations of respect and subjugation inherent in the everyday practices of colonialism.  

Two main criticisms have been leveled against this book: that its characters are superficial and that the wandering writing leads to a longer-than-necessary book. However, the unwillingness to pin down  characters does a lot of work to problematize exclusive dualities – colonizer/colonized, black/white. I also see the characters in this book as expressing the idea that any person, any culture, remains always slightly unknowable. Scott refuses the temptation to round out the people in his stories by giving exhaustive character portraits, instead materializing within the characters this inability to definitively know. Further, on the part of the Aboriginal peoples, what some have termed ‘naïve’ in book reviews, is, rather, an exemplification of the difficulties inherent in a reorientation of vision and understanding.  And for the white colonizers, the book demonstrates the difficulty in understanding Aboriginal ways of seeing. The winding prose, too, just like the characters, epitomizes the uncertainty of the relations, the uncertainty of the future, and the enduring possibility for things to be other than the way they are. Rendering seemingly climactic events minor, Scott does not rely on momentous occasions or familiar emotional responses to drive the book. While the style challenges forms of writing that Western audiences might be more familiar with, it also embodies one of the central tenets of the book: the continuing inequity of knowledge and understanding; ways of listening and seeing. Scott says, in a well quoted verse in the book, ‘We learned your words and songs and stories, and never knew you didn’t want to hear ours’ (p.95).

This is an incredibly generous book. It does not shy away from shameful realities, but it remains playful and hopeful. The hope Scott offers is not an empty hope that if we continue to do the same things and live in the same way, that somehow, things will change, but rather a hope that comes from the fact that at some point in time, things were different; another way was possible. It shows things can be different again. In writing a moment in the past where another way was possible, Kim Scott  offers a vision for a potential future.

by Bec

August 8, 2014 at 7:12 pm Leave a comment

Staff Pick




New York Psychologist Dr. Leo Liebenstein wakes from a nap one afternoon to discover his wife is missing. Scratch that—not missing: replaced. Replaced by a woman who, in spite of looking and sounding precisely like his wife, Rema, is decidedly someone else. On top of that, Harvey, a patient of Leo’s with delusions of controlling the weather, has also vanished. To unravel the mystery of the doppelgänger, find Harvey, and track down his real wife, Leo seeks out the connection between them all. The intrigue surrounding Leo, Rema, and her apparent simulacrum is the focus of Atmospheric Disturbances, the 2009 debut novel by Rivka Galchen.

If something about identical imposters, or awaking to metamorphoses sounds familiar to you, you’re not alone; Galchen’s writing has already been compared to a staggering list of literary greats: Kafka, Hamsun, Pynchon, and Borges to name a few. The accolades are well deserved, too, for the way Galchen blends realities and bends perceptions within her prose is truly masterful. Atmospheric Disturbances is more than the absurd mystery at its core, it is a haunting and heart-wrenching look at the fragility of the human mind, and the strange and powerful mutability of love. There is a touch of the Nabokovian in her fearless inclusion of the character, Tzvi Gal-Chen, a meteorological scientist named for Galchen’s father, himself a meteorologist.

For Book Culture patrons, there is a hometown connection, so to speak, to be had as well. Glachen, who earned her MFA at Columbia and currently serves as an adjunct professor there, draws upon Morningside Heights for some atmosphere of her own. Much of Atmospheric Disturbances takes place just steps from Book Culture’s door, including favorite neighborhood haunts like the Hungarian Pastry Shop, or masters-of-the-monster-slice, Koronet Pizza. While such strict and noticeable adherence to reality could easily stifle the prose or break the reader’s suspension of disbelief with the slightest deviation from fact, there is a delicacy in Galchen’s prose that just works. The neighborhood details included by Galchen are a delightful treat for the local reader, like seeing yourself in the background of a newscast when your hair looks particularly great.


Rivka Galchen’s latest book, a short story collection titled American Innovations, was just released last month to glowing reviews. Personally, I’m looking forward to it so much I actually dreamed that I got a whole box of early-released paperbacks all to myself. This is honestly what I dream about–and once you read her work, you’ll understand why.

By Devon

June 17, 2014 at 6:07 pm Leave a comment


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