Book Smarts

Three Houston Independent Booksellers Win James Patterson Grants

The bestselling author brings holiday cheer to local literary leaders.

By Jeanne Lyons Davis December 16, 2016

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It's difficult for independent bookstores to compete with Amazon's endless inventory (and same-day delivery), lightweight tablets that hold up to 3,500 books and, let's face it, tons of binge-worthy Netflix programing that makes picking up a book anything but a novel idea.

James Patterson, bestselling author who has sold more than 350 million books worldwide, understands the struggle. Every December, the writer gives a "bonus" to standout independent booksellers across the country, ranging from $1,000 to $5,000, in partnership with the American Booksellers Association.

This year, Patterson selected 149 winners who were nominated by store owners, fellow booksellers, publishing professionals and even shoppers. Nominees were celebrated for their "contagious enthusiasm, knowledge across all genres, innovation and, most importantly, dedication to books and reading."

“I loved hearing about the passion these grant recipients have for the work they’re doing—each is committed to hand-selling and carefully curating book recommendations for each person that walks through their doors,” says Patterson. “The attention these employees give to their customers is intrinsic to keeping them interested in reading. Booksellers can really make a difference in people’s lives, and I’m glad to be able to acknowledge their contributions in some way.”

This year, three Houston booksellers were amongst the country's 149 recipients: Cathy Berner of Blue Willow Bookshop, John Kwiatkowski of Murder by the Book and Annalia Luna of Brazos Bookstore.

"Winning this award has shown me that it is not necessary to be the face of a bookstore to be appreciated by the larger book community, and it's validating to know that even the more oblique ways of bookselling are valued by readers and shoppers alike," shares Luna, the shipping and returns manager at Brazos. "I'm thankful Mr. Patterson recognized booksellers from fellow Houston bookstores, Murder by the Book and Blue Willow Bookshop," continues Luna. "True—Texas is not New York or California, but the Houston literary scene is active and vibrant. It's comforting to see our city get exposure."

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