Win Win

By BookNerd June 29, 2009

If you didn't know about Pilot Books, you should wander up the stairs by the black-felt letter board outside the Alley building at 219 Broadway. What you'll find as you wind around is a tightly curated, cozy reading-room shop (blue walls, wall-to-wall carpeting) with some of the most inventive books being printed today, by superstar indie presses like Ugly Duckling, Les Figues, Octopus, Open Letter, Dalkey, and McSweeney's. You'll also find Summer Robinson, sipping water from a big brown jug and ready to talk about books.

Robinson opened Pilot Books on June 1st, creating a permanent retail space for the small press and limited run books she had already been selling out of a small booth at the Anne Bonny on Summit. She built out the store using mostly furniture and fixtures that she brought from her apartment, and used creative shelving options, such as molding and twine, to show off the books.

"I like the craft put into books," says Robinson. "With everything moving toward electronic now, I think we can keep books kind of special."

Robinson gave me a tour of the shop this weekend, walking through each section and highlighting some suggested reads along the way (click here to see the embedded video):


Like any book shop, Pilot Books has a "staff recommends" section, but in this case the staff is Robinson herself. Instead of generic "recommends" tags, Robinson uses categories:

"Translated"= translated. (Robinson is really into translated books. So is Booknerd.)
"Bilingual" = these translated books have both languages, an added bonus.
"Win win" = it was good.
"Yes yes" = "I liked it, and it has a picture of a naked woman on the cover."
"Ha ha" = self-explanatory.
"Genius" = "It's all about language. This book showed really great control of the language."

Pilot Books hosts weekly events, like reader's workshops (Sundays at 3 p.m.; like reading groups, but everything is short so you can just read it when you get there) and themed writer workshops (Mondays at 7 p.m.; tonight's workshop is on "repetition ala Gertrude Stein").

They also have a bunch of readings coming up, including poet Zachary Schomburg (Robinson's best-selling author, currently). For a schedule of upcoming events, visit

If you have books to sell, readings to curate, or writer/reader workshop to suggest, email Robinson at [email protected]
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