Writer Makes Novel Push To Sell Books


There’s something satisfying in buying a fresh tomato from the farmer who grew it. Author Jonathan Papernick thinks people may feel the same way about buying books. The fiction writer says he’s “going old school,” hand selling his books from the back of a pushcart.

Painted fluorescent green, his pushcart is actually the kind of shopping wagon used in large grocery stores, with a sign in Hebrew-inspired letters, “Bringing Market-Fresh Fiction Directly to the People.”

Frustrated by the short shelf life in bookstores, the author of a novel, “Who by Fire, Who by Blood” and two story collections, “The Ascent of Eli Israel” and, most recently, “There is No Other,” he sought a new way to reach readers. Earlier this year, he wheeled books to his local farmer’s market in Waltham, Mass., and sold 13 books in three hours. He has since been to other farmer’s markets in New England.

“Nothing sells books like putting the book in the hand of people, talking to them, signing it,” he says. His own last name comes from “peddler of paper,” but he’s inspired by the Yiddish writer Mendele Mokher Sforim, Mendele the Book Peddler. And he enjoys the connection to immigrant history, as he’s a new U.S. citizen (he was born in Canada).

On Saturday, Oct. 2, Papernick brings his pushcart to New York City for a daylong procession. He’ll push the cart from Brooklyn to the Upper West Side, starting on Pineapple Street — where Walt Whitman first published “Leaves of Grass” — across the Brooklyn Bridge, through the Lower East Side, past Union Square and the New York Public Library, accompanied by klezmer musician Zisl Slepovick and others.

The procession ends at Sip Coffeebar and Lounge (Amsterdam and 109th Street) where Papernick will read from “There is No Other,” at 8 p.m., along with writers Melvin Jules Bukiet, Janice Eidus and Aryeh Lev Stollman

Papernick would have preferred to journey on a Sunday, but his musician friend wasn’t free. He hopes people observing Shabbat will stop and talk.

“It’s a great way to enjoy the city, he says. “I don’t have any goals for the day. I just won’t want to get fined.”