Robert is Managing Partner of Third Place Company and you'll usually find him out at our Lake Forest Park store. He's been a bookseller for 22 years and with Third Place for 14 years. He's also a current board member of the American Booksellers Association. So yeah, he's kind of a big deal. Robert doesn't have a favorite food (which I've suddenly realized is an odd question to ask a person in a getting-to-know-you-type survey, but we're just gonna roll with it). He says he'll eat everything but will avoid sea urchin if possible...how picky. When not reading, and he reads a lot, Robert enjoys spending time with his family, cycling, going to the theater, watching basketball (don't get him started on Seattle not having a basketball team). He also enjoys cooking, though presumably not sea urchin.
What's your favorite section in the store? Essays.
The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival by John Vaillant. This true account of a man-eating tiger attack in remote South Eastern Russia is an amazing adventure story, an environmental story and great “guy” book. I also recommend it as a strong crossover for teen boys just starting to read adult books.
Favorite bookstore besides Third Place? I love The Strand in New York and Powell’s in Portland. Their size and mix of used books make them places I always stop at when I'm in those cities.
What are you reading now? I'm mid-way through a great non-fiction book by Walter Kirn, Blood Will Out: The True Story of a Murder, a Mystery, and a Masquerade. It’s a creepy fascinating account of the author’s ten year friendship with a con-artist and murderer. It’s coming out in March and will definitely be one of the big books of early 2014.
Can you read more than one book at a time? I’ll read fiction and non-fiction together, but I can’t do two novels at once. A great novel deserves all your attention. I feel like I am cheating the book and myself if I don’t fully commit to it.
Do you have to finish a book once you've started, or do you give up on books? There are too many great books out there to stick with a mediocre one. I will toss books aside after 50 pages if I'm not hooked. My big clue is how long I'll allow between reading sessions. If a few days pass and I'm reading magazine and newspaper articles but not carving out time for the book I've been reading, it’s a sign that it's just not doing it for me.
A book you regret not reading sooner? There are a couple New York Review of Books Classics that I’m surprised I wasn't forced to read in school. The Pilgrim Hawk by Glenway Wescott should be on the same reading list as The Great Gatsby and The Sun Also Rises. Stoner by John Williams is simply gorgeous.
Favorite author, or three, or five? Living : Cormac McCarthy (many authors are compared to him but his voice is truly singular). Dead : Samuel Beckett (reading his novels is like reading poetry, I can go back to them and read a few pages and reignite everything I love about literature)
Least favorite author? Not my least, but I’ll confess to having never liked David Foster Wallace, and I tried.
Do you have an all-time favorite book? I don’t. My favorite novels are too closely associated with who I was when I read them.
Guilty reading pleasure? Listening to celebrity memoirs on audio books. I walk to work and listen to non-fiction audio books on the way. I just finished Dr. J: The Autobiography by Julius Erving which was a lot of fun. The best one I've ever listened to is the Keith Richards memoir, Life. It has three different narrators, starting with Johnny Depp. It’s so conversational, you feel like you’re hanging out it your living room with Keith telling stories.
Do you keep books? Borrow them? Lend them? I had to make a rule some years back to keep our house from overflowing with books. I only keep hardcovers of books that I loved or are by authors I love and am planning to read. I’ll read a paperback but won’t keep it. I have to own my books. I don’t lend them. I’ll buy someone a copy of something I think they should read, but I won’t lend them mine.
How are your bookshelves arranged at home? Living authors and dead authors. Then arranged by country of origin, then by similar writing styles. No alphabetization. I also have a separate section for plays and books about playwrights and theater.
Do you judge books by their covers? I do. There is definitely an aesthetic part of the reading experience. I hate it when a book I heard is good or I was looking forward to comes out with an ugly cover. I’ll avoid reading it as long as possible.
A book you loved that you wouldn't have read if someone hadn't recommended it to you? There are a lot. This past year I read Philipp Meyer’s The Son. I had stayed away because it kept being compared to Cormac McCarthy and that comparison is always bound to disappoint me. But a number of booksellers from other stores kept telling me how great it was, and they were right.
Have you read Ulysses? Yes
All the way through? Yes
Are you lying? No
Currently reading and raving about?
The Infatuations by Javier Marias
I love how this novel argues with itself. It's a novel you read not for plot but for the long, no stone left unturned, passages of thought about the potential motivations behind human behavior. Making it all the more rewarding when you discover that, underneath the philosophical debates the narrator has with herself, there are pieces of a plot that feel like an homage to the greatest Hitchcock films.