“I loved the books so much, I couldn’t stop talking about them”

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Reading Club

Nicole Brinkley, manager of Oblong Books, an independent bookstore in Rhinebeck, NY, joins us for the Boston.com Book Club.

Nicole Brinkley knew just two weeks into her job at Oblong Books in Rhinebeck, NY, that she had found her calling. At the time, Brinkley had just graduated from college and applied for a part-time job at the bookstore to keep her occupied while she sought employment in the publishing industry. She quickly knew she’d rather do nothing than connect readers with new books.

“Being able to connect with the community and get the books people need into their hands is the best part of my job,” said Brinkley, who now manages the bookstore. “And I think the best part of any freelance bookseller job.”

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

“I loved the books so much that I couldn’t stop talking about them. [Book blogging] was my mom’s suggestion and hopefully I’d talk to her about it maybe a little less,” she said. “It backfired hugely.”

It was this early passion for reading that brought her to Oblong events, which quickly became one of the literary spaces she frequented regularly.

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

The store, which opened in Millerton, NY as Oblong Books & Records, now has two locations. The booksellers at the Rhinebeck site, where Brinkley works, are involved in their community both personally and professionally. In addition to the fundraising drives and public events the bookstore hosts, Brinkley is especially proud of the one-on-one relationships she and her colleagues nurture through their work.

In the nearly eight years that Brinkley has worked at Oblong, she has come to know many regular customers, including book-obsessed children who have known her for most of their lives and students who shop at her bookstore. a second home during the years they spend. in the zone. Being able to talk to people one-on-one about things they like and what they do the day they walk into the store “means a lot,” the bookseller said.

The trick to being a great bookstore, according to Brinkley, is having booksellers who are passionate about reading.

“We have a staff that reads voraciously and widely and really cares about their community and connecting with people,” she said. “We don’t just distribute bestsellers to people. We hand people weird backlists from ten years ago that we liked or a midlist book that came out two months ago that The New York Times Didn’t notice it and no one saw it again, but we read it and loved it.”

As a young reader, Brinkley was primarily drawn to what she calls “tropey fiction” – think romance novels and high fantasy – but in recent years she’s come to love “non-fiction.” nuanced and thoughtful”.

Memoirs like Issac Fitzgerald’s “Dirtbag, Massachusetts,” this month’s Boston.com Book Club pick, make his reading list because they “examine how complicated it is to be a person in the world”.

“I prefer it to be my non-fiction because if I’m reading a made-up story, why wouldn’t there be dragons? But memoirs like Isaac’s or Lulu’s ‘Why Fish Don’t Exist’ Miller who are quick to say the world is complicated and 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” works so well because of its vulnerability.

“To open the book and see how much of himself he put on the page, how much of his own experiences. I think that’s what made so many people love him,” she said. “He allows himself to carry his soul and I think that’s fascinating and important.”

For readers looking for more nonfiction reading, Brinkley recommends thinking about not just your interests, but your preferred writing styles. Someone who loves classic literature, for example, can bridge the gap between fiction and nonfiction by reading memoirs with literary prose. If you need help deciding what to read, Brinkley pointed out that your local indie is always the best place to look.

“Booksellers are what make bookstores great and everyone should support their local booksellers,” she said. “Any place can have books, but no place can connect you to books like an independent bookstore can.”

Shop “Dirtbag, Massachusetts” at: Library | Oblong books


Join our next virtual chat

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

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