A Conversation with Julia Fleischaker, Owner of Greedy Reads by Cara Ober

Julia Fleischaker moved to New York a week after graduating from the University of Maryland and started her twenty-year career in the publishing industry. She has now brought her love of books back to Maryland, opening Greedy Reads bookstore in Fells Point in March 2018.

Can you talk about your background in publishing in NY??

I spent more than decade in publicity at Penguin, working with authors like Gary Shteyngart, ZZ Packer, and Isabel and Ruben Toledo. Eventually I helped to launch a bilingual (Spanish/English) imprint, and then began to work mainly with our celebrity authors. I can’t lie — it was pretty fun to do the morning show circuit with Mario Lopez, visit Puerto Rico with Ricky Martin, and ride in a limo (and talk NYC condo boards) with Joan Rivers.

After so much time in the celebrity trenches, I was ready to get back to more traditional publishing, and went to work for Melville House, a really fantastic independent publisher based in Brooklyn. Being there exposed me to work from everyone to Heinrich Boll to Maggie Nelson, and I feel really blessed to have had coworkers that knew so much more than I did! I got to work with authors who would become some of my favorites, like David Peace and Philip Hoare, and was proud to have helped get our version of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s Report on Torture into stores in just weeks, helping to keep the government document in the public eye.

How did you come up with the name Greedy Reads?? Are you a greedy reader? How do you spot a greedy reader? Should we all aspire to be one?

The name really just came from the feeling I get when I walk into a great bookstore. I want to read everything!! So it’s an aspirational name for me, in the sense that I hope I can recreate that feeling for other people. I love when people really take their time looking through the shelves, because it means that I’ve done my job putting together an interesting and thought-provoking collection of books. All sorts of things get in the way of being a greedy reader — we all have obligations and pulls on our time — but I do think that reading is one of the things that connects us to the world, and helps us to see and acknowledge each other’s experiences, and can show us a path to better understanding and empathy. That’s certainly worth being greedy for.

I also liked the idea that reading could be considered decadent or sinful. Think about reading a romance on the beach or lying in the bath with a glass of wine and a book you just can’t put down. I obviously think that books are important for the community and for our society, but they can also just be fun, and that’s great, too.

How do you feel about the kindle? Pro or Anti? Why? 

I’m pretty open about my feelings on Amazon and have made the personal decision not to shop there at all. I like having locally owned stores in my neighborhood, and the only way to keep them there is to shop with them. As for ebooks, I think they’re fine! But I, and many other people, don’t enjoy or absorb or get lost in an ebook the same way that I do a physical book. There’s just something about turning the actual pages, the smell, the paper…

How many books do you own?

Who knows! A lot. Honestly, I haven’t had time to unpack them since getting to Baltimore, so I could count the boxes?!?

Tell us about your bookstore dog.

Audie! Audie is my trusted and loyal companion and shopdog, a black lab/greyhound mix who loves people and is scared of the sound of traffic, plastic bags, and falling books. She’s just the best, loves it when her doggie friends from the neighborhood visit, and if you’re lucky enough to be in the store when the dog walker shows up, you’ll see a display of pure love that only a dog can muster.

We discussed the elegant beauty of book cover design in your shop and you said, “Cover designers are the unsung heroes of publishing.” Can you talk more about this?

I do think covers are so often beautiful! I’m generally envious of people that have a good eye, or a great sense of color, or an impeccable sense of design, and cover designers certainly fit that bill. So, I definitely enjoy the aesthetic part of it and consider it art. But cover designers are also great readers! Check out the covers of some of your favorite books…you’ll probably see that the designer was able to pull out themes from the book and incorporate them. At Melville House, where it was small enough that we all worked closely together, I realized that having early conversations with the designer helped me to read books more carefully and notice things I may have missed.

Can you share 3-5 new books that you are most excited to read this summer/ or that you recently read and recommend??

American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin by Terrence Hayes (June 19) is a poetry collection for the disorienting and disturbing time we’re living through, written during the first 200 days of the Trump administration.

Ottessa Moshfegh is one of my favorite authors, and My Year of Rest and Relaxation (July 10) is a weird and affecting story of a young woman entering into a yearlong, drug-induced “hibernation.” It’s darkly funny, odd, and unexpectedly moving.

I loved The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon (July 31), about a college student falling into an extremist cult, and her formerly fundamentalist boyfriend, who watches her succumb.

What do you think about Baltimore so far? What has surprised you?? What are you most looking forward to doing here?

I am loving Baltimore! I really could not have asked for a better and more genuine welcome, from the neighborhood and the whole city. I’m totally enamored of my customers, and I love to see what they’re buying. I have to say, they have great taste (according to me).

Probably the most surprising thing has been the sense of community, and the number of small businesses and independent artists that are making it work here. It’s totally inspiring, and I love being able to stock the store with the work of local artists and makers. What I’m really looking forward to is finding the time to explore everything that is going on around the city. I read everyone else’s event calendars and listings with a mix of envy and FOMO. I’m working on it.

What are a few upcoming events in the shop in next month or two?

Events are always being added, so following me on Facebook and/or Instagram, and signing up for my newsletter at greedyreads.com, are the best ways to know what’s coming up.

I host a really wonderful book club the third Wednesday of every month, and that has been one of the greatest surprises and joys of having the store so far. Just a really lovely group of people and fantastic conversations. Everyone is welcome!

July 12, 7pm Launch of Tracy Dimond’s chapbook TO TRACEY LIKE / TO LIKE / LIKE (Akinoga Press)
A panel of local poets & writers will discuss What I Talk About When I Talk About My Body featuring Tracy Dimond, TO TRACY LIKE / TO LIKE / LIKE, Sharea Harris, dictionary, Jane Lewty, In One Form To Find Another, Mandy May, Magic: Mood Tides Sing Violet Petals, Mary Walters, Girl Flame.

Aug 1, 7pm If Only by Jennifer Gilmore
Gilmore is the acclaimed author of three novels for adults: The Mothers, Something Red, and Golden Country (a New York Times Notable Book, a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award). If Only is her second YA novel; it explores the role of choice and chance in the lives of two teenagers. Kirkus called the book “not to be missed,” writing that “Gilmore’s gritty multigenerational tale not only seeks to ask adoption’s toughest questions, but dares to offer no easy answers.”

Aug 23, 7:30pm Vox by Christina Dalcher
Vox is set in a United States in which women are no longer allowed to read or write, or speak more than one hundred words per day. It’s a page-turner that’s reminiscent of Atwood and Orwell, and feels frighteningly plausible right now.

Aug 29, 7:30pm Chesapeake Requiem by Earl Swift
Tangier Island is a 1.3-square-mile spit of land in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay, home to the prized Chesapeake Bay blue crab, and the softshell crab capital of the world. But it’s also disappearing, primed to become one of the first coastal victims of climate change. Swift spent two years on the island and this is his powerful reporting from an island and a culture facing extinction.