Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Destinaton: Walden Pond

Last week, after closing up Booksmith one night, I discovered that the 66 bus, whose reliable service I often depend upon to take me home to my apartment in JP, would not be at Coolidge Corner for another 33 minutes. Tired after a day of work, I sighed, left the bookstore, and began walking.

Knowing I had a 40 minute trek in front of me, I took out my cell phone. I considered it too late to call anyone in Boston, but none of my friends on the West Coast were answering. So I was stuck with myself for company on my late night walk home, with nothing but my thoughts and the abandoned streets of Brookline to keep me company.

As I crossed Beacon and headed down Harvard, I began thinking about the books waiting at my bedside for me, if ever I made it home: W.G. Sebald's The Rings of Saturn, Teju Cole's new novel Open City, and the recently re-published Conversations with Kafka by Gustav Janouch.

By the time I reached South Huntington, I had realized something. All three of these books were connected in a way I had never before recognized. Each of their deeply meditative narratives draw inspiration from the same activity: walking.

W.G. Sebald's narrator takes a walking tour of East Anglia, but his reflections travel far from England's shores, deep into the dark heart of imperialism in Africa, to the silk trade in China, and back to England's landscape, seamlessly weaving together fact and fiction as he excavates deep into England's history and culture.

Open City has a similiarly ponderous pace. "And so when I began to go on evening walks last fall, I found Morningside Heights an easy place from which to set out into the city," begins Cole's narrator, an Ethopian med student in New York City. "These walks, a counterpoint to my busy days at the hospital, steadily lengthened...in this way...New York City worked itself into my life at a walking pace."

And in Conversations with Kafka, Janouch's narrator--himself as a seventeen-year-old budding poet who has just been introduced to Franz Kafka by his father, a co-worker of Kafka's at Workmen's Accident Insurance Institution--demonstrates that walks are not only fuel for the reflective mind, but can also pave the way into deep discussions with a companion. When not conversing over Kafka's desk at the insurance company, the two escape into the streets of Prague.

Janouch's book was republished by New Directions
with cover illustration by Maira Kalman
and introduction by Francine Prose.
"I often marvelled at Kafka's wide knowledge of all the varied architectual features of the city," Janouch reports, "He was familiar not only with its palaces and churches but also with the most obscure alleys of the Old Town."

As the two roam the streets, what unfolds is not unlike a kind of Socratic dialogue, only more plausible and less didactic. The conversation of the young poet and his mentor, the darkly introspective novelist Kafka, flourishes on the city streets, fed off of the youth of one, the experience of the other, and the exhilaration of a good walk down the familiar yet ever-revealing streets of one's own city.

Inspired, a few days later I found myself pacing out the circumference of Walden Pond with a companion. When our conversation flagged, our thoughts were consumed with the fresh pine-scented fragrance of the air around us or with the minute gradations of gray on the thinly frozen pond. On the train ride back to Boston, we read passages of Henry David Thoreau's essay, "Walking," aloud to one another. "I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who understood the art of Walking," Thoreau writes, "who had a genius, so to speak, for sauntering." 

While I am not sure I have mastered the art of walking yet myself, in the meandering prose of these books I have found mentors and companions, fellow saunterers whose perengrenatious musings inspire me to skip the bus more often, to know the streets of my city through the soles of my feet.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Classic Combinations

Peanut butter and jelly. Chocolate and peanut butter. Peanut butter and crackers. There are combinations of things so genius, so beautiful, that they withstand the test of time. And then there are combinations that are new--unseen to this earth--so brilliant that one wonders why it wasn't thought of sooner. Gobs of these genius combinations floating around the UBC are waiting to be discovered by you, our humble browser. Observe:

Pandas and Antlers
from a Parisian guidebook on our DOLLAR CART, people.

Corn cobs and Edvard Munch
I'm pretty sure this was on the original canvas, it just got cut out because of some vast Norwegian government conspiracy.

Dali and tarot
So obvious. So cool. A whole book of images; surrealism meets esoterica.

(It's my birthday, ya'll)

Dear 24.

We know you don't like being told what to do, because you are headstrong and independent and have been since the very first day you exited the womb, all blue and covered in viscera. The establishment, however, feels that, since we are somewhat of a package deal, perhaps you could do with a re-assessment of your priorities on this, the anniversary of your 24th revolution around your brightest, hottest star. 23 was not bad, we're not saying it was bad, we're just saying that there might be room for improvement. Might be being the operative words here; are you listening? Okay.

24, we will require that you continue to follow your absolute own determination in matters of looks, style, personality, humor, eloquence, and gender assignment. As if anybody besides the covenant of academia could ever make you do or be anything that you were not planning on inhabiting already; as scholar and gentleman Mr. T once said, "I pity the fool". However, we urge you, 24, to continue to try to deeper understand the frailty and sensitivity of human life. Please complete your assignment of making room for the different aspects of being that keep violently occurring, as if out of nowhere, all around you. These specimens are of utmost importance, and it is the truly exotic ones that will, most likely, supply you with the most vital information.

Please, remember patience, while balancing the furtive notion that at all times, and all around you, clocks are forever ticking. Keep a certain stillness in your heart, or at least try, even when you are being the most ridiculous clown you seem hell-bent on being despite our every desperate effort. 24, please be more careful with your stubborn heart, but not too careful. Try to lead by example, let hope spring eternal, and believe that some, if not most, if not all people are generally, fundamentally, or at least partially good and wish to visit good, in turn, upon the earth. Cling to that notion of goodness as if it were the inflatable safety raft of your loss at sea.

Please maintain calm. We will reconvene in approximately 365 days, upon which we will evaluate your performance and will instate 25 as your successor. Please take care of the husk and its many physical needs accordingly, and remember, it never rains but it pours, throw excess salt over your right shoulder, 42, and the first rule of Italian race car driving: what's behind you is not important.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Hear Ye Hear Ye

In case you haven't heard, this past Monday revealed the ALA 2012 Youth Media Awards -- you may know this better as the Newbery, Caldecott, Printz, and other prestgious awards that are given each year.  We all have our mixed feelings of this year's picks, but we encourage you to form your own:

John Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children's literature:
-Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos
-Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai (honor)
-Breaking Stalin’s Nose by Eugene Yelchin (honor)

Randolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children:
-A Ball for Daisy  illustrated and written by Chris Raschka
-Blackout  illustrated and written by John Rocco (honor)
-Grandpa Green  illustrated and written by Lane Smith (honor)
-Me … Jane  illustrated and written by Patrick McDonnell (honor)

Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in literature written for young adults:
-Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley
-Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler (honor)
-The Returning by Christine Hinwood (honor)
-Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey (honor)
-The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater (honor)

Coretta Scott King (Author) Book Award recognizing an African American author and illustrator of outstanding books for children and young adults:
-Kadir Nelson (author and illustrator of Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans)
-Eloise Greenfield (author of The Great Migration: Journey to the North) (honor)
-Patricia C. McKissack (author of Never Forgotten) (honor)

Coretta Scott King (Illustrator) Book Award:
Shane W. Evans (illustrator and author of Underground: Finding the Light to Freedom)
Kadir Nelson (illustrator and author of Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans)

Coretta Scott King – Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement:
Ashley Bryan is the winner of the Coretta Scott King – Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime achievement. The award, which pays tribute to the quality and magnitude of beloved children’s author Virginia Hamilton.

Schneider Family Book Award for books that embody an artistic expression of the disability experience:
-Close to Famous by Joan Bauer
-Wonderstruck: A Novel in Words and Pictures by Brian Selznick
-The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen

Alex Awards for the 10 best adult books that appeal to teen audiences:
-Big Girl Small by Rachel DeWoskin,
-In Zanesville by Jo Ann Beard
-The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan
-The New Kids: Big Dreams and Brave Journeys at a High School for Immigrant Teens by Brooke Hauser
-The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
-Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
-Robopocalypse: A Novel by Daniel H. Wilson
-Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward
-The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt: A Novel in Pictures by Caroline Preston
-The Talk-Funny Girl by Roland Merullo

Andrew Carnegie Medal for excellence in children's video:
Children Make Terrible Pets (Weston Woods Studios, Inc.  The video is based on the book written by Peter Brown)

Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults:
Susan Cooper is the 2012 Edwards Award winner. (The Dark is Rising Sequence)

Mildred L. Batchelder Award for an outstanding children's book translated from a foreign language and subsequently published in the United States:
-Soldier Bear (Dutch) by Bibi Dumon Tak
-The Lily Pond (Swedish) by Annika Thor (honor)

Odyssey Award for best audiobook produced for children and/or young adults, available in English in the United States:
-Rotters by Daniel Kraus and narrated by Kirby Heyborne.
-Ghetto Cowboy by G. Neri and narrated by JD Jackson (honor)
-Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt and narrated by Lincoln Hoppe (honor)
-The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater and narrated by Steve Westand Fiona Hardingham (honor)
-Young Fredle by Cynthia Voigt and narrated by Wendy Carter.

Pura Belpré (Illustrator) Award honoring a Latino writer and illustrator whose children's books best portray, affirm and celebrate the Latino cultural experience:
-Diego Rivera: His World and Ours illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh
-The Cazuela that the Farm Maiden Stirred illustrated by Rafael López (honor)
-Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match illustrated by Sara Palacios (honor)

Pura Belpré (Author) Award:
-Under the Mesquite written by Guadalupe Garcia McCall
-Hurricane Dancers: The First Caribbean Pirate Shipwreck written by Margarita Engle (honor)
-Maximilian and the Mystery of the Guardian Angel: A Bilingual Lucha Libre Thriller written by Xavier Garza (honor)

Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award for most distinguished informational book for children:
-Balloons over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade by Melissa Sweet
-Black & White: The Confrontation between Reverend Fred L. Shuttlesworth and Eugene ‘Bull’ Connor written by Larry Dane Brimnerand (honor)
-Drawing from Memory by Allen (honor)
-The Elephant Scientist by Caitlin O’Connell and Donna M. Jackson (honor)
-Witches!: The Absolutely True Tale of Disaster in Salem by Rosalyn Schanzerand (honor)

Stonewall Book Award -Mike Morgan & Larry Romans Children’s & Young Adult Literature Award given annually to English-language children’s and young adult books of exceptional merit relating to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender experience:
-Putting Makeup on the Fat Boy by Bil Wright
-a + e 4ever by Ilike Merey (honor)
-Money Boy by Paul Yee (honor)
-Pink by Lili Wilkinson (honor)
-With or Without You by Brian Farrey (honor)

Theodor Seuss Geisel Award for the most distinguished beginning reader book:
 -Tales for Very Picky Eaters by Josh Schneider
-I Broke My Trunk by Mo Willems (honor)
-I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen (honor)
-See Me Run by Paul Meisel (honor)

William C. Morris Award for a debut book published by a first-time author writing for teens:
-Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley
-Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson (finalist)
-Paper Covers Rock by Jenny Hubbard (finalist)
-Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe Garcia McCall (finalist)
-Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys (finalist)

YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults honors the best nonfiction book published for young adults, ages 12 – 18, each year:
-The Notorious Benedict Arnold: A True Story of Adventure, Heroism & Treachery by Steve Sheinkin
-Sugar Changed the World: A Story of Magic, Spice, Slavery, Freedom and Science by Marc Aronson and Marina Budhos (finalist)
-Bootleg: Murder, Moonshine, and the Lawless Years of Prohibition by Karen Blumenthal, (finalist)
-Wheels of Change: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom (With a Few Flat Tires Along the Way)by Sue Macy (finalist)
-Music Was It: Young Leonard Bernstein by Susan Goldman Rubin (finalist)
Come on in or shop online at http://www.brooklinebooksmith-shop.com/.

For more information on the ALA youth media awards and notables, please visit the ALA Web site at www.ala.org.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Destination: East Anglia

If you have ever asked Lisa here at Booksmith for a book recommendation, you were probably regaled with an elaborately structured oral term paper on the book in question, and, very likely, you walked out of the store with said book tucked underarm. The art of the book review is a difficult skill to master, as any reader of the NYRB can tell you, and to give one verbally, on demand, is a talent few readers possess. So when Lisa told me about her latest read, Edmund deWaal's The Hare with the Amber Eyes, I listened with rapt attention, to learn not only about the book, but about the art of talking about books. An art cultivated in bookstore aisles.

De Waal's narrative follows the history of his family's inheritance--a collection of netsuke, Japanese wood and ivory carvings--through the Parisian and Viennese art worlds until the family's wealth was dispersed during WWII. To get a full review of the book, come on in and ask for Lisa. When she told me about the book, she compared it to Sebald. I stopped her. "Wait...who?!"

I had just begun reading W.G. Sebald's Rings of Saturn the night before. Delighted with the coincidence, we began to discuss the author. I just mentioned Sebald to a customer, Lisa told me, who had not only read him, but coincidentally, had recently published an article about him. This customer's father, I learned when I read his article for myself, had once left England for a walking tour in Germany. In Rings of Saturn, Sebald, a German, takes the reader on a walking tour of England.

Such coincidences are not uncommon in a bookstore, and, in fact, abound in the works of Sebald. To Sebald, everything is connected, so that to say he takes the reader on a walking tour of East Anglia is a gross understatement. Sebald's work is travel narrative at its fullest, a deeply-layered, multi-faceted exploration of what it is to travel, not only to new spaces, but across time. Sebald describes each place he encounters not only for what it is, but for what it has become through a culmination of its history, science, culture, and environment. He examines the wars, the explorations, the inventions, the everyday lives, and uncommon deaths that occured in these landscapes over centuries. The result is a meditative masterpiece of modern literature--a hidden inheritance for any reader to discover--that will have you running to your nearest bookstore to find someone to share such a journey with. We can't wait to hear about it.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Herakut, why you need to know that name

Take this home. I promise it will explode all over your living room.

For four remarkably productive years, the graffiti loving and street art affiliated "storytellers," Hera and Akut, have combined their artistic skills and individual specialties in order to create one odd but always exquisitely beautiful, instantly recognizable style: Herakut. It's an extremely contradictory mix of ingredients - Akut's autodidactic but top-level photorealism and Hera's classically educated though Don't-Give-A-Shit-roughness - that results in a surprisingly well-balanced fusion of respect for each other's qualities and the shared urge to capture life's anecdotes with brush and spray can. For the second time this book explores the interpersonal and creative processes behind the duo's murals and canvas paintings, which have attracted the attention of the international art scene.

The images are stunning, a little girl pealing out of a body suit of an older obese woman, "play ageing"

Mothers and children wearing animal skulls, or live heads, representing some performitive aspect of species, and perhaps gender identities

Guns, alcohol, children, flowers all enormous building sized murals offer both hilarity and haunt.

Fierce and surprising contrasts of violence and innocence make these artists unequalled.

This is an incredible book for your table, for some inspiration, and for a challenge.
Then buy their first book

Friday, January 20, 2012

Sign of the Times

Many moons ago, before I even worked at the Booksmith, I came here regularly to unload my books in the UBC. I'm from a smallish town in the Northwest, so when I came into the store with a book SIGNED by the author, I thought Carl, the buyer at the time (and now my colleague!) would be so IMPRESSED, so EXCITED, that he would buy the book and put it in a special glass case for all to marvel upon. My fantasy was short lived as I pointed out the book was signed to him and he simply shrugged.

How could he not care that the author who wrote this book ALSO SIGNED HIS NAME IN IT?! Now that I've been around for a bit, I've come to understand that it was because 1) there are a lot of authors in the area, and a lot of signings, so signed books ain't so rare and 2) not all authors are created equal (story of my LIFE), and the only authors whose signatures are worth $$$ are sadly but-a-handful.
cartoon by Andrew Weldon
I'd say that the mission of the Used Book Cellar is to contain books you want to read, or will want to once you see them because they are weird and/or unique, and at a good price. We're a general-interest kind of shop, no super-academic books, no ultra-rare and expensive things. We're more about reading and less about making a museum to the book object. So we pass on a lot of antiquarian, rare books that may be worth a lot because we're more interested in carrying books for readers. If you have a signed book, we might take it because we think it will sell, but unfortunately only in extremely rare cases will an autograph affect the book's value. We get more offers from people who want to sell us signed books than we get requests for people who want to buy signed books. It's basically just a supply-and-demand thing. Nothing personal!

In Which We Join Our Heroine On The Cusp Of Something Super Duper Serious, Namely, Viral Videos.

There's this thing that just started happening on the internet, and it began with the "Stuff* Girls Say" video. It feels stupid to say it "went viral" (because I never liked that saying, this isn't small pox okay) but it kinda went viral.

The videos, for by now, there are 3, consist of Graydon Sheppard, (Toronto-based writer and filmmaker) in drag playing a fairly simple minded "anygirl" reciting quick one liners of dialogue off of Sheppard's twitter, (Stuff* Girls Say) co-created by his friend, Kyle Humphrey. Since the video is essentially calling out an entire gender, obviously some people are going to have reservations or even be insulted by the insinuation that these are typical "girl" things to say. I, myself, wondered, while viewing, 'why aren't I more insulted by this?'

The truth is that, this is stuff* I say.

I thought maybe having a man portray the female character in the video might make some people uncomfortable, and indeed, the entire twitter is written and maintained by two dudes, which, I admit, does give me pause. However, the things girls say do not portray women in a bad or stupid light, and I think that's what makes it humorous. The stuff* girls say is so mundane and yet so female specific; as I started to write this blog post last night, I was reading some of the tweets out loud to a co-worker, and she kept wanting to respond as if I was casually talking to her. Things like, 'I'm so excited for tomorrow!' or 'first of all, ew' are so undeniably part of my vernacular, and I am an (over???)educated, employed 20 something woman. What I'm getting at is, I'm smart, ya'll. This video still applies to me.

The most interesting thing about these videos is the thousands of others they have spawned. Every culture, sexuality and gender presentation have their own "Stuff* They Say" videos, and even a broad search on youtube brings up numerous different varieties. This phenomenon is fascinating to me, and I'll be interested to see what becomes of it, and what other people think about it. Is it more insulting than perhaps I think it is? Or is it lightly poking fun at itself, because it's so clearly impossible to delineate what an entire gender "says", and yet, these are all girl things to say? I'm interested in what you guys think.

*not the original word, but another, similar, four letter word starting with S.

Stuff* Girls Say, episode 1

Stuff* Girls Say, episode 2

Stuff* Girls Say twitter

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

the ideal pet

Penguins are quite the coveted pet, at least in children's literature. And, if there was such a thing as a domesticated penguin, who wouldn't want one of these fashionable, fun creatures? Lower the room temp and make a bed in the freezer, and that's all there is to it, right? Just ask the experience of Joe and Osbert in My Penguin Osbert. Or, compare notes with the French family who is sent a new penguin every day for a year in 365 Penguins; or, the father (or better yet, ask his family) who acquires 12 penguins in the classic Mr. Popper's Penguins. Okay, maybe taking care of a penguin is a little more of an adjustment -- unless you are Elliot, the son of a science nerd. 
In One Cool Friend, Elliot asks his father if he could buy a penguin at the aquarium. The answer is "yes." But, the question is, does his father realize he means a real penguin? Elliot certainly forms a quick friendship with Magellan and is knowledgeable on caring for him. They are quite the snazzy dressers, too. This is a great, funny picturebook to add to your winter library. (ages 2-7)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Destination: Florence

I don't usually get nostalgic when shelving books. Occasionally, when a customer brings Laura Ingalls Wilder, Anne of Green Gables, and even, sometimes, Ferdinand the Bull by my register, I'll feel a slight pang. But last week, as I slid our new laminated Streetwise maps into the travel section, and happened across the gray, bumble gum pink, and seafoam streets of Florence, I was suddenly flung back into a time and place far away from Booksmith's aisles.

My father had purchased a Streetwise laminated map of Florence for me when I was a senior in high school. As a graduation present, he brought me along on a business trip to Italy. It was my first experience of solo travel; while my father was in meetings, I was set lose on the cobblestone streets, free to explore at my leisure.

As I looked at the map in Booksmith's aisle, I remembered how I had studied those streets, buildings, and parks with the intensity I used to apply to my textbooks. The result was magic. When I stepped onto the streets of Florence, the two-dimensional shapes I knew so well transformed themselves into the tangible, sensuous reality of a place.

Now, that magic worked in reverse. Instead of the images leading my imagination into a place I had never seen, each place name on the Streetwise map transported me back to Florence. As I opened the accordion folds of the map, I could almost hear the music of some Italian street grinder floating through the streets. Streetwise maps are not pop-ups, but that is the impression I got as the city's cathedrals, gardens, and museums bloomed into memory.

Illustrations from Andrea Ponsi's gorgeous Florence: A Map of Perceptions. Check it out in Destination Literature!
I traced my finger along the Arno River, stopping at Ponte Vecchio, the only bridge to survive the bombing in the war, my father had told me. The bridge led toward Palazzo Vecchio, past the Uffizi Gallery, which I recognized on sight because of how its unique concave shape was depicted by Streetwise. Above the town loomed the Duomo and next to it Giotto's bell tower, all of which appeared before my wandering feet with an accuracy that left me breathless.

I traveled back across the bridge in order to discover a large patch of green on my map, Boboli Gardens, where I ended up wandering for hours, awed by the pristine beauty of the park. I also stumbled on Piazzale Michangelo on that side of the river, affording a stunning view back at the buildings I had just discovered, simply because the name on the map intrigued me.

In one plaza, I paused too long at a fountain, and my blond hair caught the attention of a young Italian man, who asked me to dinner. I told him I had a date with my father. But before we met up that night, I followed my map to the white facade of Saint Croce, where Stendhal records a fainting fit the cause of which was thought to be simply the beauty of the city. The Stendhal syndrome, as it has since been called, seems to occur most often in the city of Florence, as visitors overwhelmed with the beauty of the streets and galleries, succumb to their emotions with spells of weakness and fainting. As I finally closed the map, and placed it back on Booksmith's shelf, I felt a little dizzy myself.

P.S. If anyone sees a bookseller struggling to refold a map in the travel aisle, please stop and help her. One of the reasons I'm a fan of Streetwise maps is their easy, fluid accordian folds. But we're selling more than just Streetwise maps. Check out a whole new array of Italian touring maps in Travel, covering every bit of Italy imaginable. If you've already been to Florence, the rest of the country awaits!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

"Keep Our Secrets" by Jordan Crane

This is an emergency blogpost by Zoe and Katrina! Do not attempt to adjust your television! Last night we were closing and discovered this book on the gift books table:

At first, I this was a slightly bizarre but interesting board book, but upon further inspection, I discovered that the point of the book is to heat up the black areas of the book with your hands or, more effectively, a hair dryer.

Even the cover is magical.

I was blown away. This book is amazing. Straight up wizardry. Come in, check it out! This has been an Emergency Blogpost by Zoe and Katrina! You may new resume regularly scheduled programming!

Those Wacky Authors!

It's no secret that authors don't make a whole lotta dubloons sitting in their rooms banging out the keys and keeping us entertained. So lots of authors have day jobs; Chuck Palahniuk was a car mechanic while writing his first book. The guy who cracks open your 'Gansett down the street has probably written 13 poetry manuscripts. Several Booksmithies have aspirations to write the Great American Novel, and our very own Ric is even already published, and we sell his volume of poetry upstairs! But sometimes, writers write to pay the bills so they can WRITE. Before Julian Barnes made it big he wrote mystery novels under the name Dan Kavanagh, because they paid better than the literary stuff that he really loved to write.

Conversely, mystery novelists Jo Nesbo and Henning Mankell have both written kids books, a pretty big turn from their dark and bloody Scandinavian mysteries. I think Nesbo and Mankell don't necessarily write kids' books to pay the bills, but it is a pretty incongruous image to think of these writers writing such quiet books as Shadows in Twilight about a 12 year old, or ... noisier, sillier books like Doctor Proctor's Fart Powder. The latter two books we both have in the UBC, and as they crossed the desk, it got me thinking about the double-lives of authors. And not just their double-lives, but the way they present themselves. We get lots of books vintage and contemporary that feature some pretty wacky author photos. Here are some recent favorites:

Author of the Bloom County comics Berke Breathed
Thomas McGuane
Christopher Moore
Do you have any favorite author double-life stories? Or author photos? Share in the comments!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Destination: Booksmith

As many have already noted, we were gratefully overwhelmed by the holiday crowds that came surging through Booksmith's aisles this season. I've heard many speculations about the cause of such overwhelming support from our community. Some say the e-book is not as popular as the media would suggest. Others say it is, and that is is because there are so few bookstores left that those of us still standing saw the crowds. Zoe thinks it's because Brookline harbors a secret crush on Booksmith. Based on the constant conversations I had and heard going on around me as I navigated the aisles this season, it sounded to me simply that people love books, and that perhaps we should not have been so surprised that they showed up to get them, for loved ones on their gift list, or for a quiet winter read.

"A written word is the choicest of relics..." Henry David Thoreau observes in Walden. "Books are the treasured wealth of the world and the fit inheritance of generations and nations. Books, the oldest and best, stand naturally and rightfully on the shelves of every cottage. They have no cause of their own to plead, but while they enlighten and sustain the reader his common sense will not refuse them."

Friday, January 6, 2012

Gratuitous Cat Pictures!

So sales have been good in the UBC lately (thanks times infinity!) so my original idea for this post--awesome author photos found on the back of books--has to be postponed because all of my favorites have found homes. BUT. Do not despair, because what I have for you is a hybrid of awesome writers (found frequently in the UBC) and CATS.

Observe, culled from the marvelous blog Writers and Kitties:

Camus! (We just got in L'etranger in! En francais!)
Julio Cortazar (you HAVEN'T read Hopscotch yet? Or Blow-Up? There's a short story in it about a guy who can throw up bunnies! We got 'em both in the UBC)
Tove Jansson! Of Moomin fame!
And staff favorite Yukio Mishima! Even samurai can love kitties!

To be closely followed by its sequel, "donkeys never lie about altruism"

This is one of those books that I feel like I shouldn't want to read, but I do. 

Friends, the holidays, they are over. At long last we can all put our feet up, heave a great sigh, and continue eating everything in the world at the same disgusting breakneck speed we have been the whole month of December, until our jeans don't fit and we're all like, "hey what happened?? Must of shrunk in the wash!"

Yeah they didn't, no, they didn't shrink in the wash. You ate a whole cheesecake to yourself yesterday, and then worked off the calories by taking a nap. And when I say you, I mean me. You know what though, that's okay. December is a tough month, especially if you happen to be in the retail world. At one point during the holidays, I was with Jamie in the break room and she bequeathed this knowledge unto me: "I am just going to keep eating, because if I stop eating, I will fall asleep and then I will never wake up. The only option is to keep eating. Keep eating or die."

It's not like I'm a stranger to stress eating, so I give myself leave to slight expansion during the winter months. Besides, I need that body fat, right? These vital organs ain't gonna insulate themselves, and I live in Allston, where the buildings are not handicap friendly and are heating by chance and whimsy alone. Maybe you freeze, maybe it's a sauna, you never know. You pray to the great Building Manager in the sky and go to bed in eight layers of pajamas and a stocking cap and you hold on for dear life. 

Lets get serious here, January sucks. So does February, and March. April truly is the cruelest month, also known as the rainy season. Winter is the worst, you guys, there's no way around it. Nobody wants to have to blow-dry their wet hair every day because it will freeze on their walk to work if they don't, nobody asks for that. It just is. If you're from Massachusetts or somewhere that has an equal or greater winter experience, then you're used to it. If you're not, I'm so sorry, it's debatable as to whether you'll survive. 

However. January 22nd is our store party. 30 Rock returns to NBC this month, and on January 27th, 1988, a sweet little baby angel was born unto this world, the likes of which had never been seen before. Cherubs gathered her in their swaddling blankets and bore her forth unto her mothers breast, where they surrounded her with the dulcet tones of their chorus. Lo, that baby was...............me. Yeah that's right, this month I turn 24 years old, so don't panic. There is still something to celebrate. Keep your chins up, Brookline, everything is going to be just fine.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

It's not regifting, it's personal

Inspiration comes from familiar, unique places and experiences. One of mine is my favorite movies, You've Got Mail -- if you know me you need no explanation on why this is. So, I was reading over an original script and -- oh, my -- so much has changed between the script and the final cut. Most of the cut scenes I am very glad they altered or removed, as they take away from the integrity of the movie. But there's one line I wish they had kept in: "My mother would never have wanted us to have a website. 'Every book you sell is a gift from your heart.' She always said that."
At first I completely agreed with this, every book you sell is from the heart. But as I mulled it over, I believe it is more appropriate to say "every book you give is a gift from your heart." Though I recommend books I love and feel strongly about, they aren't always from my heart. They can't be. For instance, when a customer asks what book to give for a Wimpy Kid and Percy Jackson fan (two series I respect but aren't a fan of), I'm going to recommend Mystic Phyles. I'm not partial to this book, but I recommend it because it is what they are looking for -- it is what their literary attention is craving. My goal, as a bookseller, is to give (a) a great piece of literature, (b) provide the customer with a book they will love and is appropriate for them.
I am not the one ultimately giving the book to this child I have never met. I am simply providing an important direction. Therefore, I think it is the gift from the giver that should be given from the heart. It's painful when when a customer chooses a random book with little to no thought as to whether the recipient will love or learn from it.
Almost always, even if I am hand selling the most inspirational book I've read all year, there's a choice that trumps it. I encourage customers to give a gift that they have a connection with. So, if someone is looking for a gift for a young girl and they loved a particular book, like, The Secret Garden, and it changed their life, I will encourage them to go with The Secret Garden. Not only will their enthusiasm rub off on the givee, but there will be a connection made from the givee to the giver. Too often, gifts are just random objects, when they really should be pieces of ourselves.  Gifts should be personal.