Booksellers Rock! Debra Linn, Books & Books

Debra Linn is a Miami Beach native and former newspaper sports editor (17 years and lived to tell!) who found her way to Books & Books five years and four new stores ago.  A part-time bookselling job quickly became a full(est)-time Events & Marketing job with co-director Cristina Nosti (two Events & Marketing directors – that’s how many events they do). Because her job includes handling YA events, Debra knows more teenagers now than when she was one. Her hair seems to be most memorable to people, but she also wants you to know she likes the Miami Dolphins, beer and simple declarative sentences. She’s never met a double entendre she doesn’t like.

.What books recently rocked my world: This is not a shameless Algonquin plug (OK, maybe it is a shameless Algonquin plug, but it doesn’t make the love any less real):

When She Woke by Hillary Jordan. Didn’t think it was going to be for me at all, but I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it.  (Publishing October 4, 2011.)

The Girl Who Fell from the Sky by Heidi Durrow. Read it in one plane flight (a long plane flight) and turned into that person in the aisle seat crying as she reads.

Long Drive Home by Will Allison

Create Dangerously by Edwidge Danticat

Where She Went by Gayle Forman – but I haven’t finished any of them yet because my personal civilian book club chose Bossypants this month.

Best damn event(s) we’ve hosted: We host 60 author events a month (really), so it’s tough to pick just one or two. Instead, I’m going to tell you about the two most memorable damn events:

1) When I broke my toe while dressed like Medusa in a Gothic style church. Clipped the pinky toe on my right foot on the base of a pew (“busted it up good,” to quote my doctor) in front of 500 kids awaiting Rick Riordan’s arrival. I’m still awaiting my gold medal for not cursing at the top of my lungs — in a church, in front of 500 kids – upon smashing the toe. The following week, I hobbled around BEA with my broken toe.

2) When I broke my toe climbing over a barricade of my own making at our Ricky Martin signing. Fourth toe on my right foot. The barricade was made out of pricey limited edition art books. Six days later, I hobbled around Spain with my broken toe for my long-dreamed-of trip there.

Most entertaining author(s) we’ve hosted:

I never laughed so much as at Ann Patchett and Alexander McCall Smith’s events. And Dave Barry (but he’s Books & Books family, so it doesn’t feel so much like “hosting”). Plus last week I got to watch Robert Sabuda create a pop-up right before my very eyes. Brilliant. Oh, and the Pete the Cat author and illustrator, Eric Litwin and James Dean. I was singing, dancing and jumping around – and it was my job!

Strangest question a customer has ever asked:
It’d be the strangest if I didn’t hear it with such frequency at author events, “Do you sell the book?”

Why our store kicks ass: When you walk in any of our stores, you know immediately that you’re in a Books & Books store – and yet each one has its own personality. Quiet but with an energy. Warm and inviting like you hope a bookstore will be and still new, modern, classy – and knowledgeable. Our carefully curated selection is just that. Every book is there for a reason. And here’s how dedicated and enamored of books we are – Children’s Book Buyer Becky Quiroga’s right arm is tattooed with original works-of-art drawn on her flesh by Eric Carle, Mo Willems and Lane Smith.

What makes our neighborhood and customers awesome: Well, one of our neighborhoods is a Caribbean island. Another is the most lucrative shopping mall in the United States. Another is the heart of South Beach. And another is Gate D25. … No, in all seriousness, Miami is like no other place on Earth. It’s a world unto itself with a mix of people and cultures and ideas – all combined with a whole lotta humidity – and that makes it truly vibrant (if not a little sticky.) Our customers don’t come to cultural events at the store; they are the cultural events. They bring the ideas, the questions, the give-and-take and passion that visiting authors always remember. And a book is a commitment to our readers, a bond shared, a discussion started – with much more to come.

I promise you won’t find this at any other store: A table signed by three presidents (Carter, Clinton and W.), two First Ladies (Clinton and Laura Bush), two Secretaries of State (Clinton and Albright), Julie Andrews, Barbara Walters, Kurt Vonnegut – and Paul McCartney (!), among many others.

Why I do what I do: When you recommend the right book for the right person, you’ve given him a gift for life. And when you bring the author of that book in for an event, you’ve given that reader a memory for life. (Wow, that sounds hokey. Yikes. But it’s true, I guess.)

If I weren’t selling books I’d be: A former newspaper sports editor forced into a buy-out and looking for a job.

Books that changed my life: Me by Ricky Martin and Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan (see aforementioned broken toe stories).

Top three authors, living or dead, I’d invite to my dinner party: William Shakespeare (see aforementioned fondness for double entendre), Nathan Englander (not a wasted word in his writing) and George Clooney (has George Clooney written a book?  Well, he should).

Top three songs on the soundtrack to my life: “Band on the Run” by Paul McCartney & Wings (first thing I ever bought with my own money – when I was 6).  “Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns ‘N Roses (my college boyfriend used to sing it to me – GNR was never so sweet).  “Let’s Stay Together” by Al Green (no explanation needed).

My last meal request: Smoked fish dip at Le Tub in Hollywood, Fla., fried calamari (accompanied by a Hazed & Confused pint) at Lou’s Beer Garden in Miami Beach, pan con tomate from La Boqueria in New York, boquerones at that place in Barcelona (accompanied by an Estrella Galicia pint), baguette, pumpernickel onion rolls from Joe’s Stone Crab, radicchio and arugula salad, my mother’s brisket (legendary!), mashed potatoes, Bob the Potato (my creation), Chef Bernie Matz’s yuca fries from the Café at Books & Books (and that pan-fried grouper sandwich that goes with them), roasted asparagus and wilted spinach, ricotta cheesecake at Specchio in Surfside, Fla., Key lime pie at Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen in the Keys, carrot cake from Publix and chocolate chip cookies.

6 Comments On This Post:

May 18, 2011
11:01 am
Susan says...

I left Miami in 1996. I visited often. I loved the store in Coral Gables it was so warm and cozy. I sure miss your store. I live in Myrtle Beach, SC. There is nothing like your store. I am sorry to say, I did not take advantage of the events. When you have something, you take it for granted. Also, your book festival was, great, I hear it has gotten bigger. In Myrtle Beach, we don’t have much of cultural events. The Key Lime Pie looks great as well.

May 18, 2011
11:11 am
Elizabeth says...

Yes, Debra rocks!

May 18, 2011
1:19 pm
Aaron John Curtis says...

Debra Linn rules. Books & Books wouldn’t be half of what it is without her.

May 19, 2011
12:12 am
Margaret says...

This is awesome. DEBRA is awesome. She is a gift to books and to the world. Nevermind sports! And food!!…Oh my goodness, how long can a comment be? Now I’m hungry. Thanks Algonquin for asking the questions.

May 23, 2011
9:41 pm
Gloria Noriega says...

This is wonderful Debra!!! Not only do you ROCK, but you have the best sense of humor ever!! Great picture and fantastic interview. Laughed like crazy, with the toes stories and the George Cluny book more than anything. You’re GREAT, and have a gift with tweens/teens ( I’ve never heard anyone say such beautiful things about C., in public. Love you for that)!!

August 16, 2013
11:59 pm
PJ says...

So glad i found your post. I was looking for a great key lime pie place not too far away and not too expensive. Thanks for the post@ We’ll be giving it a try tomorrow.

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