Around the Bookstore

The thrill of the hunt is part of the joy of the job.


In June 2020, I became manager and book buyer for Edgartown Books. The immediate challenge was to fill the shelves as we reopened post-COVID, and to make sense of the needs of the bookstore as we entered a very strange summer.

Since then, I’ve matured a bit as a book buyer, discovering one of the things I enjoy most about my job is finding interesting books, not on the bestseller lists or most talked about, to fill out our offerings.

As I scan my online newsfeed, the mention of a book is like a shiny object which grabs my attention and diverts me from everything else. 

One day, reading an article, I read about a book coming out titled “The Creative Act” by Rick Rubin, and ordered a few, thinking ahead to Islanders Write — where we are partnering with The MV Times and MV Arts and Ideas, sponsoring the author signings and selling books at the event — as a good book on creativity to offer at the conference. It made me smile when it broke into the nonfiction bestseller lists of most major papers.

News of a movie about to be made from a book also catches my eye — like on a recent Sunday morning, reading an article about the “Barbie” movie, I discovered the very talented Greta Gerwig, the director, is next taking on the Narnia novels of C.S. Lewis. I made a mental note to watch the progress of this, as the release will probably cause an uptick in demand for the Narnia books, much loved by me.

On a Zoom call with an old friend, she mentioned she was friends with the co-authors of “Your Brain on Art,” Ivy Ross and Susan Magsamen. I bought a couple of copies, only to have them disappear in a flash. It’s a nice addition to the store.

An online article guided me to “The Empress of the Nile,” a biography of Christiane Desroches-Noblecourt, the French archeologist who galvanized 50 nations to help save the temples at Abu Simbel, rallying Jacqueline Kennedy to her side, facing down Nasser and De Gaulle. “You don’t get anywhere without a fight, you know,” the book says. Imagine my pleasure when a gentleman walked in the door and asked for the book.

A young lady walked in one day two years ago, asked for “They Both Die at the End.” I didn’t have it, though I asked her if I should. She nodded solemnly. I got it before it hit the YA bestseller lists. One hundred fifty–plus copies later, I am grateful for the lead from that young lady on a cold winter day.

As important as it is to have “Happy Place” by Emily Henry or Elin Hilderbrand’s

“Five Star Weekend” (said to be her next-to-last book), it is also important to have other books by lesser-known authors who deserve a place in the sun. The bookstore missed “On the Same Page” by Nicole Galland the first time round. When I heard of it, I stocked it, smiling when I look at the number of copies this Island story has sold.

We support, as much as we can, Island authors, delighting in their successes. Holly Eger’s “Split Rock” is an annual bestseller, along with T. Elizabeth Bell’s “Goats in the Time of Love.” Rob Kagan’s “Noah’s Rejects” blew off the shelves last summer.

A couple came in one day with their self-published “Smeagull the Seagull,” based on a true story of a seagull who tapped at their door. Every time I reorder, I am happy I was open to them.

Much of my joy in buying comes from looking for these small gems rounding out our shelves, balancing the bestsellers, and making the bookstore as interesting a place as it can be.


Mathew Tombers is the manager of Edgartown Books. Islanders Write will take place on the evening of Sunday, August 20, and all day on Monday, August 21, at Featherstone Center for the Arts. For more information, visit