Friday, August 17, 2007

You Can't Stop the Beat

I just recently went to see Hairspray -- the musical-based on a Broadway musical-based on a John Waters film -- and fell in love with it. It reminds me of the best parts of classic musicals--singing and dancing and costumes, yes, but also just the incredible joy of being alive (and a happy ending doesn't hurt). If you haven't seen it yet, go mama go, go, go! (If you have and you got the reference, good for you!)

I actually grew up loving musicals. Near my house was an old-fashioned movie house called The Redford Theater. It showed classics on the big screen with an organ performance and cartoon shorts before the show, an intermission when the organ played again(!), and a ceiling painted to look like the sky with little twinkling lights for stars.

On their website you can actually see a film database with the schedules from the 1970s through today, and if you want to know the movies that shaped me growing up, this is your best way to learn--just pick any year in the mid to late '80s. I was looking at the schedule for 1988, and I have no doubt that I was in the audience for West Side Story and Meet Me In St. Louis and Showboat and Oklahoma.

So, the whole point of this exercise in nostalgia is to let you know how jazzed I am that Rough Guides has come out with a new book in their series of film guides: The Rough Guide to Film Musicals by David Parkinson. It is fan-freaking-tastic for both the beginner and old pro. I learned more about musicals I thought I already knew and am glad to have added some to my needs-to-be-seen list (Love Me Tonight, how have we never met?).

Mr. Parkinson is very informed--this is not a piece of fluff, but neither is it overstuffed with film-school jargon. I also like that he is opinionated (except, of course, for when I disagree...) without being condescending towards the films or his readers.

I should note that this is part of a great series that Rough Guides does on film. I'm quite familiar with The Rough Guide to Chick Flicks by Sam Cook, but there are also books on American Independent Film, Film Noir, Westerns, and others. I'm of the opinion that they are way better than most of the film guides out there.

Speaking of musicals, the store is quite quiet for a Friday night during the summer. Me thinks it is all the kids at home watching High School Musical 2. Darn it, why aren't I?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Best of the Bathroom

Since starting here I have become way too familiar with two very unremarkable books: What Would Jackie Do? and More Word Histories and Mysteries (I'm not even going to bother putting links). Why, if so unremarkable, do I have such familiarity? Well, dear reader, it is because galleys of them have been in our not-for-public-use bathroom since at least New Years, if not last year's Rosh Ha'Shana.

It was time for something new. But you know what? Finding a good quality bathroom read is a lot harder to come by than I thought it would be. And then a couple months ago it was like the clouds parted and the sun shining through with the arrival of a galley of The Book of General Ignorance: Everything You Think You Know Is Wrong by John Lloyd and John Mitchinson, which was just published last week.

It's all you want it to be in bathroom reading: a concise question-and-answer format that provides a quick-yet-satisfying read and allows the reader to open the book to any particular page. The questions are humorous (What was odd about Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer? Did cannibals cook their victims whole in large pots? What's the best floor of a building to throw a cat from?) or have unexpected answers (Who is America named after? Not Amerigo Vespucci. Where does chicken tikka masala come from? Glasgow. And, most fittingly, What do we have Thomas Crapper to thank for? Not the flush toilet!).

As a testament to its quality, the galley of The Book of General Ignorance was taken less than a week after I left it in the bathroom. I was really quite peeved (dare I say I was pissed off?) however posting a note requesting the anonymous bookseller to return the galley was unsuccessful. So now we're back to Jackie O. and poorly written etymology. Sigh.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Final Exam

Alie left for her summer vacation last week and won't be back until next Monday. So for the past week and the next I'll be on my own. I've done some distributor orders on my own in the past, occasionally a publisher order, but this is the first time I've been left in charge of the whole thing. Yipes! Labor Day will be my first-year anniversary here at Brookline Booksmith, and I feel like this is my final exam--showing what I've learned about ordering, cancelling, keeping new title inventory at the right levels. Can I handle it all? I think I'm passing so far...

So my apologies for not checking in last week (I'm beginning to think a constant aspect of blogging must be apologizing for NOT blogging...sigh). I think I'll have a bit more time this week, I feel a bit more in control of what's going on and even though Alie is still away other folks are back from their vacations so that I won't be needed on the floor quite so often (though being in this basement office on my own is a bit lonely--I like spending a bit of time on the floor everyday).

Friday, August 3, 2007

Making the Big Times (New York Times, That Is)

So, Dana, our fearless store manager and co-owner was quoted in the New York Times the other day! You can read the article here; it's a look at the phenomenal sales of the diet book Skinny Bitch. What's interesting about the sales at our store is that they all happened pretty much before the Victoria Beckham publicity. In fact, our sales of the book have gone down since May, when the picture of her carrying the book was taken.

(Of course, as I say this I just checked our inventory and we've sold out of the copies we had on hand--all those sales being yesterday and today! Must be a result of the article? Ah well, I'll try to get more on Monday.)

Now, I don't want to offend the 203 customers who have bought the book from us, but I hate it. With a passion. As a buyer I get to have some choice in what we stock; the best part of my job is getting to create an inventory of books that I think are worth my customer's time and money, but this is one of those cases where I just have to turn the other cheek.

I shouldn't really be so judgemental, having only skimmed the book, but I have a hard time just getting past the title. I've never been comfortable using the word 'bitch' casually. We have another great seller at our store called You Say I'm a Bitch Like It's a Bad Thing, another one for which I just can't understand the appeal. I'm glad if it gives you a chuckle, but it just gives me the willies. Ah well, different strokes for different folks.

By the way, if you want a great book on nutrition my recommendation is 10 Habits that Mess Up a Woman's Diet: Simple Strategies to Eat Right, Lose Weight, and Reclaim Your Health by Elizabeth Somer. This is one that actually helped me take a look at how I could change my diet without turning myself into a food-obsessed bore. Another fascinating and fun read is Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More than We Think by Brian Wansink. The book is full of clever experiments done by Mr. Wansink (a university professor with his own lab devoted to how we relate to food) and other scientists and psychologists that explore the hows and whys of eating beyond hunger. It reminds me of Malcom Gladwell's work with its quirky yet revelatory insights, and though its not really a prescriptive book I did find that it made me much more aware of how I eat.

Post-Potter Pick #2

Here's one more that I just loved and devoured. Still in hardcover, but definitely worth a look.

H.I.V.E.: Higher Institute of Villainous Education
By Mark Walden

H.I.V.E is a secret school designed to educate children who are just a little too bright and mischievous in the finer points of evil. Otto, who has unwillingly been enrolled, tries to escape with the help of friends Wing, Laura, and Shelby, each with their own unique ‘talents.’ This is a fun thrill ride that makes you want to get in line for the sequel right away! (approx. grade 4-7)

If evil is your bag, baby (thank you, Austin Powers), another book that came out recently is Evil Genius by Catherine Jinks (approx. grade 6-8). I enjoyed this one, though I have to admit that it didn't fully live up to the expectations I had for it. But I still give it a solid recommendation.

Also, faithful reader Tricia suggested the Percy Jackson series as another fantastic Post-Potter pick. I couldn't agree more! I love, love, love these books (as mentioned here).