Borne Tour Debrief

Jeff VanderMeer

There were many amazing moments on my recent five-week Borne book tour—yet the opportunity to visit independent bookstores remains foregrounded in my mind. The experience was sublime on multiple levels.

Each adventure begins with that marvelous instant of arrival, when you step inside the threshold and know you’re about to encounter excellent curation—or you’re just bombarded with amazing books, as if the owners are so eclectic they want you to see everything all at once. Sometimes you get caught up in that initial view, and it takes a long time to venture into the bookstore proper. Other times you plunge right into the stacks and immerse yourself there, first perusing the face-outs and then going through what’s been spined.

Jeff VanderMeer

Jeff VanderMeer at Midtown Reader (Photo by Saige Roberts)

Either way, it’s an ecstatic experience, and, quite honestly, an experience that was unique at every stop on the tour. Each bookstore listed below has its own personality, its own internal logic, and every entrance felt like stepping into someone’s rich, intimate memory palace. Even stores we happened upon by chance never failed to impress—like the mesmerizing Quimby’s in Chicago, the amazing Simply Books in the Minneapolis airport, the fantastic Booklink in the Boston airport (with a dedicated staff that’s worked in bookstores for decades!), and, one of our new favorites, the quaint Little Otsu in Portland.

Jeff VanderMeer

Jeff and Ann VanderMeer at Brookline Booksmith

The bookstores share one commonality: bountiful imagination and a sense of both the sheer delight and the importance of the written word. We had wonderful conversations with the staff and managers in these places, conversations that reignited my own passion for books and for book culture.

If you’re wise, you let such places guide you and don’t try to guide them. If there’s a potent and powerful display of poetry in one bookstore, that’s what you buy. If you’re confronted by the best wall of nonfiction you’ve ever seen, that’s what you buy. Ann and I like to support local businesses, so we let the bookstores guide our literary purchases—over 80 books on the list below, ranging from bestsellers to cult favorites, household names to authors of tiny zines. We’ve accumulated enough books to enrich our reading lives for the next year, and we’ve encountered authors that we would not have heard of if these bookstores hadn’t championed them.

Jeff VanderMeer

Jeff VanderMeer at Booklink Bookstore

I’m very thankful to have had the opportunity to visit so many great bookstores in such a brief period. I hope this list of both bookstores and books will energize you the same way it has energized me. Indies are alive and well—support them.

Jeff VanderMeer at Volumes Bookstore

Jeff VanderMeer at Volumes Volumes Bookcafé

Bookstore Events
Book People (Austin, TX)
Brazos (Houston, TX)
Brookline Booksmith (Boston, MA)
BookMark It, Functionally Literate Reading Series (Orlando, FL)
Green Apple (San Francisco, CA)
The Last Bookstore (Los Angeles, CA)
Magers & Quinn (Minneapolis, MN)
Midtown Reader at The Tallahassee Democrat (Tallahassee, FL)
Anderson’s Bookshop, NIU Event (Dekalb, IL)
Oxford Exchange (Tampa, FL)
McNally Jackson, PEN World Voices (New York, NY)
Point Reyes Books (Point Reyes Station, CA)
Politics & Prose (Washington, DC)
Powell’s (Portland, OR)
Bookshop Santa Cruz (Santa Cruz, CA)
University Bookstore (Seattle, WA)
Volumes Bookcafé (Chicago, IL)
WORD Bookstore (Jersey City, NJ)

Stock Signings
The Book Cellar (Chicago, IL)
Book Soup (Los Angeles, CA)
East City Bookshop (Washington, DC)
Elliot Bay (Seattle, WA)
Greenlight (Brooklyn, NY)
Papercuts J.P. (Boston, MA)
Kramer’s (Washington, DC)
Moon Palace (Minneapolis, MN)
Mysterious Bookshop (New York, NY)
Porter Square (Boston, MA)
57th Street Books (Chicago, IL)
Skylight (Los Angeles, CA)
Subtext (St. Paul, MN)
The Strand (New York, NY)
Third Place Books (Seattle, WA)
Unabridged (Chicago, IL)
Writer’s Block Bookstore (Winter Park, FL)

Jeff VanderMeer at Volumes Bookstore

Jeff’s Book Haul

Moon Snake, Kirsten Alene (Eraserhead Press)
Field Theories, Samiya Bashir (Nightboat Books)
Hackers, Aase Berg, trans. Johannes Göransson (Black Ocean)
Toast, Kate Berwanger (Vellumtongue)
The Idiot, Elif Batuman (Penguin Press)
A Line Made by Walking, Sara Baume (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell, W. Kamau Bell (Dutton)
Goethe Dies, Thomas Bernhard, trans. James Reidel (Seagull Books)
The Gift, Barbara Browning (Coffee House Press)
Too Much and Not the Mood, Durga Chew-Bose (FSG Originals)
The Unnoticeables, Robert Brockaway (Tor Books)
The Empty Ones, Robert Brockaway (Tor Books)
Blue Eyes, Jerome Charyn (Mysterious Press)
The Caxton Private Lending Library & Book Depository, John Connolly (Mysterious Press)
Sorry to Disrupt the Peace, Patty Yuoni Cottrell (McSweeney’s)
The Inspector Barlach Mysteries, Friedrich Dürrenmatt, trans. Joel Agee (University of Chicago Press)
The Pledge, Friedrich Dürrenmatt, trans. Joel Agee (University of Chicago Press)
Land of Love and Ruins, Oddny Eir, trans. Philip Roughton (Restless Books)
Compass, Mathias Enard, trans. Charlotte Mandell (New Directions)
Against Art, Tomas Espedal, trans. James Anderson (Seagull Books)
My Favorite Thing Is Monsters, Emil Ferris (Fantagraphics)
Moor, Gunther Geltinger, trans. Alexander Booth (Seagull Books)
Killers of the Flower Moon, David Grann (Doubleday)
The End of My Career, Martha Grover (Perfect Day Publishing)
‘I’, Wolfgang Hilbig, trans. Isabel Farbo Cole (Seagull Books)
The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace, Jeff Hobbs (Simon and Schuster)
Flora Kem and Things with Things, Jon Horn
Midwinter Blood, Mons Kallentoft, trans. Neil Smith (Simon and Schuster)
Joyride, Marcus To, Collin Kelly, Irma Kiinvila, Jackson Lanzing, and Marcus To (Boom Studios)
Agents of Dreamland, Caitlin R. Kiernan (
How Forests Think, Eduardo Kohn (University of Calfornia Press)
White Tears, Hari Kunzru (Knopf)
Sonata in K, Karen An-Hwei Lee (Ellipsis Press)
Woman No. 17, Edan Lepucki (Hogarth)
Billy and the Girl, Deborah Levy (Dalkey Archive Press)
The Early Novels, Deborah Levy (Bloomsbury)
Rise and Fall: A Picture of Life, Micah Lidberg (NoBrow)
City of Weird: 30 Otherworldly Portland Tales, edited by Gigi Little (Forest Avenue Press)
Whereas, Layli Long Soldier (Gray Wolf Press)
Birds: A Year of Observation, Kyo Maclear (Scribner)
A Gothic Soul, Jiri Karasek Ze Lvovic, trans. Kirsten Lodge (Twisted Spoon Press)
Black Mad Wheel, Josh Malerman (Ecco)
Dust, Michael Marder (Bloomsbury)
The Singing Fish, Peter Markus (Calamari Press)
Thus Bad Begins, Javier Maŕias, trans. Margaret Jull Costa (Knopf)
Simulacra, Airea D. Matthews (Yale University Press)
Something Coming Through and Into Everywhere, Paul McAuley (Orion)
The Moth Snowstorm, Michael McCarthy (NYRB)
Typewriters, Bombs, Jellyfish, Tom McCarthy (NYRB)
Tender Data, Monica McClure (Birds)
The North Water, Ian McGuire (Picador)
Notes of a Crocodile, Qui Miaojin, trans. Bonnie Huie (NYRB)
Out of the Blue: New Short Fiction from Iceland, edited by Helen Mitsios (University of Minnesota Press)
On Trails, Robert Moor (Simon and Schuster)
Frogmouth, William Marshall (Mysterious Press)
The Secret Life of the Lonely Doll, Jean Nathan (Picador)
The Absolute Gravedigger, Vitelzslav Nezval, trans. Stephen Delbos and Tereza Novicka (Twisted Spoon Press)
Native Poem, Tommy Pico (Tin House Books)
Chicken, Annie Potts (Reaktion Books, Ltd.)
Prophetika, Sun Ra (Kicks Books Originals)
At the Lightning Field, Laura Raicovich (Coffee House Press)
The Horse Latitudes, Matthew Robinson (Propeller Books)
You Can’t Touch My Hair, Phoebe Robinson (Plume)
Bottom’s Dream, Arno Schmidt, trans. John E. Woods (Dalkey Archive Press)
Indexodus, Rob Schro (Gum Road)
The Iguala 43, Sergio Gonzalez Rodriguez, trans. Joshua Neuhouser (Semiotext(e))
Biogea, Michel Serres, trans. Randolph Burks (Univocal)
Last Rituals, Yrsa Sigurdardottir, trans. Bernard Scudder (Harper)
My Cat Yugoslavia, Pajtim Statovci, trans. David Hackston (Pantheon Books)
Worse Things Happen at Sea, Kelly Strom (Nobrow Press)
Black Wave, Michelle Tea (Feminist Press)
Two Women of London, Emma Tennant (Faber & Faber)
Wildness: Relations of People & Place, edited by Gavin Van Horn and John Hausdoerffer (University of Chicago Press)
Chemistry, Weike Wang (Knopf)
Thoreau’s Animals, edited by Geoff Wisner (Yale University Press)
When Women Were Birds, Terry Tempest Williams (Picador)
The Compendium of Srem, F. Paul Wilson (Mysterious Press)
The Small Backs of Children, Lidia Yuknavitch (Harper Perennial)

Jeff VanderMeer is an award-winning novelist and editor, and the author most recently of the New York Times bestselling Southern Reach Trilogy. His fiction has been translated into twenty languages and has appeared in the Library of America’s American Fantastic Tales and multiple year’s-best anthologies. He grew up in the Fiji Islands and now lives in Tallahassee, Florida, with his wife.