Lovely Bookshelves on the Wall
Pazzo Books has all kinds of reading for all sorts of people.
Although the word “pazzo” means “crazy” in Italian, there is a nice sense of order at Pazzo Books, where everything is carefully alphabetized by author within specific genres.
Well, except for the front of the store, where unruly piles of books seem to be growing from the floor. There is a copy of “Fanny Hill,” right next to “Of Human Bondage,” sitting by “The Road,” nearby “Excuse Me While I Kiss This Guy” and “Martian Time-Slip.” Store owner Tom Nealon said he does not let the piles get out of control. When he is not purchasing or selling books, he is pricing them and filing them. It has been a one-man operation since his brother Brian left the business last spring, but Tom keeps things going, putting his own stamp on the comfortable and very browsable shop.
Have you always been a voracious reader?
I remember learning to read, then there was this dead spot in school where I couldn’t find anything that was sufficiently interesting. I vividly remember sitting out in the hall during reading time, in second grade, and timing how long it took me to read a page, then just turning a page after that amount of time while daydreaming about stuff. But shortly after, I started actually reading. I even used to fake being sick in middle school, then just stay home and read.
How long has Pazzo been around?
We opened in Roslindale about eight years ago, and we moved to West Roxbury two and a half years ago.
Why did you move to West Roxbury?
The walkthrough traffic in Roslindale was never that great, and the rent was going up. A lot of Roslindale people come to West Roxbury [to shop] so we figured we’d retain our customers.
Is West Roxbury a good place for a used book shop?
I know it has one of the busiest libraries in the system, which is usually a good sign. We get a great mix of people, of all ages, but a lot of young people. It’s mostly girls, because boys don’t read.
Is that true?
High school and middle school boys. But girls read voraciously. They read like I did when I was 13. Maybe girls just don’t play as many video games. Video games really damaged reading.
What were you doing for a living just before Pazzo happened?
I was a paralegal in Miami. Then I quit and was messing around with trading stocks. I did that for a while, but I was bored, and the market sort of tanked. I had a ton of books that I always moved around the country. Each time I moved, half of my moving expenses would be shipping 80 boxes of books. My brother, who also collects books, was getting out of college and it seemed like the time to do something.
Have there been any major changes here since Brian left?
I’ve been a little more aggressive about beefing up the collectible side of the business. And now I’m closed Sundays because who wants to work six days a week?
What sort of selection of books do you have here now?
Ultimately most of it is stuff that interests me, but I try to have some of every subject. There’s a lot more fiction than you normally find in a used bookstore because that’s what I like. But I have some specialties in the rare stuff, like 17th, 18th and 19th century cookery. I have a website where I cook a lot of old recipes – cruditas.com.
Do you find much time for reading?
Oh, yeah. I’ve been reading mystery and sci-fi lately, but I just read “The Idiot” by Dostoevsky, which is a monster. It’s 800 pages with 20 different Russian characters, each of whom has like four different nicknames. So I’m reading mystery and science fiction to recover from reading ‘The Idiot.’ Actually, I’m reading two books. Upstairs at my house I’m reading “His Master’s Voice” by Stanislaw Lem, and downstairs I’m reading the second in the John Varley trilogy called “Wizard.” I also like reading about renaissance cookery.
Yeah, you mentioned the website where you cook old recipes. Do you have a specialty?
My strongpoint is 18th century French. But I make a nice 15th century fritter dish. You take left-over bread dough, and you mix it up with a couple of eggs, fry it in a pan, then put a hard cheese and sugar on it. It’s fantastic!
What are your thoughts on the Kindle?
It doesn’t grab me personally. I like the book as an object that you can touch, and turning back pages. They’ve attempted it before. They tried it about 15 years ago, when the Palm Pilot was popular. I don’t know why it caught on this time. I think, maybe with cell phones and iPods, people had gotten sufficiently used to carrying around something like that in their pocket. I don’t know. People are always saying, “Oh, I can put 50 books on there.” But when do you want 50 books? Why would that come in handy?
Pazzo Books is at 1898a Centre St. Hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Tuesday-Saturday. Call 617-323-2919. Mention this story and get a Pazzo t-shirt for half price.