A place is not really a place without a bookstore.
A.J. Fikry is a bookseller and the owner of Island Books (which by the way has the most beautiful slogan ever: “No man is an Island, every book is a world”). If there’s one thing you need to know about A.J, well he is a big snob. He doesn’t like children books, fantasy, young adults, series, poetry, chick lit or even debuts. What does he like? Short stories!
A. J’s life is a big mess right now. His lovely wife Nic just died, the bookstore sales aren’t that good and to make matters worse his rare copy of Tamerlane by Edgar Allen Poe has been stolen. But all of this is about to change when a strange package appears at the bookstore.
We are not quite novels. We are not quite short stories. In the end, we are collected works.
The book is divided into chapters. Each chapter starts with A.J’s thoughts on different short stories. I quite enjoyed reading his opinion on The Luck of Roaring Camp & What We Talk about When We Talk about Love. The book is well written and the language is quite beautiful.The characters are unique in fact it’s probably the only book I’ve read and loved all of its characters with no exception (even Mrs.Cumberbatch!). Everyone should read this book. Eveyone!
We read to know we’re not alone. We read because we are alone. We read and we are not alone.
– The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is now a New York Times Best Seller, the #1 Indie Next Pick, and the #1 Library Reads Selection. How did this story come to you?
I published my first novel about a decade ago and these last ten years have been a time of enormous change for the publishing industry. For instance, when my first book came out, there were e-books, but no one read them! Essentially, I write books about issues I’m trying to figure out, and with The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, I wanted to write a book about why bookstores matter to a community and how the stories we read define our lives.
– Why did you choose to start the book with Rumi’s quote: Come on, sweetheart let’s adore one another before there is no more of you and me?
It’s interesting. No one has ever asked me that question before. It’s a love poem, of course, but it’s also about the temporary nature of all things —paper books, bookstores, childhood, parents, us. In life, it is sometimes tempting to act as if because something is impermanent, it has less value. But everything is impermanent. We must love what we love for as long as we can. We must honor what we love by acknowledging its impermanence.
– You know everything you need to know about a person from the answer to the question, what is your favorite book? What is yours?
Favorites are difficult. I’ve been telling people it’s Charlotte’s Web. I think it is such an incredibly wise novel about mortality, friendship, but also writing. Charlotte the Spider is kind of my Yoda. But it might just as well be Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris. I love this book for its humor and narrative jauntiness. I just finished The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer, and that’s my favorite book from this year, I’d say.
-Maya had a unique childhood. Have you thought about writing more about her? Maybe a sequel?
Yes, I have thought there was more to explore with Maya, but I don’t necessarily see myself writing a sequel anytime soon. I like where I’ve left everyone.
– A.J Fikry is a huge fan of short stories. What about you? Do you have any favorites?
I am a fan though I don’t write them. My favorite collection from last year was probablyBobcat by Rebecca Lee. For individual stories, let’s see… I love “Brownies” by ZZ Packer and “In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson is Buried” by Amy Hempel.
Many Thanks to Gabrielle Zevin for her time and kindness.