Book People: Emma Straub

Emma Straub is a writer and part-time bookseller at BookCourt in Brooklyn. Her debut short story collection, Other People We Married, will be published in February 2011. More information can be found at

Why do you work in a bookstore?

Where else would one want to work? Bookstores are quiet, beautiful spaces, filled with well-designed paper products and smart people. I love being able to talk to people about books all day, to physically thrust something amazing into readers’ hands. I can’t tell you how many copies of Jennifer Egan’s “A Visit from the Goon Squad” I’ve sold recently just because one customer overhead me telling another customer about how much I loved it. I suppose I could also work happily in a chocolate chip cookie factory (I hear they’re called ‘bakeries’), but that seems infinitely more dangerous.

Is there a book that you would be embarrassed to tell your friends how much you enjoyed?  (Or, what was your last guilty pleasure read?)

I don’t get embarrassed very easily, at least not by my reading material. If I’m ever embarrassed about a book, it’s usually one I haven’t read yet. It took me several years to read “The Corrections”, “Olive Kitteridge”, and lots of other really wonderful books. So I suppose I have to sit mum from time to time and not participate in a conversation. Though whenever people come in to BookCourt and buy “Freedom”, which I have yet to read, I can regale them with stories about how I once had dinner with Jonathan Franzen. So it all works out in the end.

What are the first five sites you visit every day?

And now we really do arrive at the ‘guilty pleasure’ portion of the blog. I check Twitter, Facebook, The New York Times, and then one of a number of my favorite blogs— Slaughterhouse 90210, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, The Millions, Perez Hilton. Oh yes, Perez. Can’t forget about Perez. Hey, at least I don’t go there first. Sometimes I’m having a conversation with a friend and I will suddenly find myself able to rattle off Zac Efron’s entire filmography. I suppose that’s why.

Three authors, desert island, thirty second response:

If I’m taking books, I’ll take “Middlemarch” by George Eliot, “Wuthering Heights” by Emily Bronte, and “The Secret History”, by Donna Tartt, all of whom I think would probably be fairly useless on a desert island. (I may be underestimating Donna Tartt here—in my experience, small Southern women are a great force to be reckoned with.) If I’m taking the authors themselves, then I’m going with Jon Krakauer, Ben Percy, and my dad, Peter Straub. That way, my dad and I can sit around and talk about soap operas and butter while Jon and Ben go build us a treehouse and then make us some smores.

Where is your favorite place to read?

I like to read and write in bed, but I’ll do it anywhere: on the bus, on the train, in my office, in extremely short, surreptitious bursts at the bookstore. When I was a child, I would horrify my older brother by reading during baseball games and the like. I’m pretty sure I still would, if I somehow found myself at one. They do have the Shake Shack at the new Shea Stadium, though, so I could also have a satisfying lunch. Is it still baseball season? That sounds like a delightful outing.

(Photo credit: Allison Michael Orenstein)

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