Word on the Street

Of books and road trips

A story about a rare giant squid specimen that has disappeared is the pick of the week. A story about a rare giant squid specimen that has disappeared is the pick of the week. (Associated Press)
By Jan Gardner
Globe Correspondent / March 27, 2011

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In the 1890s, sellers of rare and secondhand books flourished in New York City along six blocks known around the world as Book Row. Even into the 1950s, three dozen used and antiquarian bookstores lined Fourth Avenue between Union Square and Astor Place.

Today the Alabaster Book-shop, which opened in 1996, is the only used bookstore along that stretch, according to Alan Korolenko, a Westport resident who frequented Book Row as a young man.

A champion of independent bookstores, Korolenko now brings a busload of book lovers to the neighborhood as often as he and his wife, Helene, can find enough takers. At least three bookstores in Greenwich Village have closed since the couple started the bus trips in 2008. The next trip is May 21. On the itinerary of 18 bookstores is Mast Books, which opened last year; bookbook, formerly the Biography Bookshop; Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks, whose owner was a consultant to “Julie and Julia’’; the legendary Strand; and Idlewilde Books, specializing in travel and international literature.

The Korolenkos hand out maps so people can explore the neighborhood on their own if they don’t want to join the literary walking tour. The $70 fee is due by April 7. E-mail Helene at or call 508-673-8523 to assure that space is available. If the 6:30 a.m. departure time from New Bedford is a hardship, Helene can suggest a nearby hotel with reasonable rates.

Tapply’s last thriller
The prolific William G. Tapply kept working until he died at his home in New Hampshire during the summer of 2009. The following year his final Brady Coyne mystery “Outwitting Trolls’’ (Minotaur) was published as was “Every Day Was Special’’ (Skyhorse), a collection of fly fishing stories. Last month his final novel, “The Nomination’’ (Skyhorse), was published. In the thriller, a Boston judge who is tapped to fill a vacancy on the US Supreme Court enlists an old Marine buddy to keep his secrets hidden.

Honors for two authors
Two New England authors whose books draw on their roots in the South are winners of National Book Critics Circle Awards, announced earlier this month. The judges called nonfiction winner Isabel Wilkerson’s “The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration’’ (Random House) “a magisterial work.’’ Her parents were among the 6 million African-Americans who left the South during the Jim Crow era. Wilkerson, a former reporter for The New York Times, teaches at Boston University.

“A book that affectingly blends poetry and journalism to detail a significant moment in the civil rights movement in Arkansas’’ is how the judges described poetry winner C.D. Wright’s “One with Others: [a little book of her days]’’ (Copper Canyon). Wright, a native of Arkansas and a former poet laureate of Rhode Island, teaches at Brown University in Providence.

Coming out
“Raising Elijah: Protecting Our Children in an Age of Environmental Crisis’’ by Sandra Steingraber (Da Capo)

“The Land of Painted Caves’’ by Jean M. Auel (Crown)

■ “Horoscopes for the Dead: Poems’’ by Billy Collins (Random House)

Pick of the week
Kenny Brechner of Devaney, Doak & Garrett Booksellers in Farmington, Maine, recommends “Kraken’’ by China Mieville (Del Rey): “Mieville is one of the most original writers at work today. His books never fail to challenge the reader . . . This tale of a rare giant squid specimen that has disappeared against all seeming possibility is one of his best.’’

Jan Gardner can be reached at