Monday, December 30, 2013

There's Always Next Year


Since this week's post is a list itself, I'm going to avoid listing my three favorites this week. Not to mention we're still reassembling the section after the holidays (thank you, thank you, thank you for ravaging our section. This is the only time I'm excited to clean).

The year is almost over, which I find really startling and a little bit terrifying (it can't possibly be 2014 yet). And there have been so many really fantastic books that have come out this year and next year doesn't look like it will disappoint either.

As everyone is winding down after the holidays I feel like I need to wind everyone back up. Or at least get them excited again...or, at the very least, get myself excited again. Why? Books, that's why and I am happy dancing (internally) over some of the releases next year has to offer.

In my riled up excitement I would like to share with you the ten books I am most excited for (keeping in mind that I am a shatterwit and I have probably forgotten some).

In no particular order:

1. Noggin - John Corey Whaley

This man shattered my heart with Where Things Come Back and I look forward to him doing it all over again with Noggin. I have every faith that he will write the best book about a head transplant ever (yes, you read that right). We can expect Noggin out in April. 

2. Ruin and Rising - Leigh Bardugo
Just the placeholder until we get to see the real thing.
The first conclusion I'm dying to read. Leigh Bardugo has set up a darkly beautiful quest for Alina and Mal and in Ruin we'll get the final showdown with the Darkling. It's going to be amazing.

3.Sinner - Maggie Stiefvater
While I'm anxiously awaiting the third book in The Raven Cycle Maggie Stiefvater has thoughtfully provided me with a Wolves of Mercy Falls companion book. Sinner follows Isobel and Cole in L.A. We can expect it in July.

4. The Retribution of Mara Dyer - Michelle Hodkin

I cannot wait to see what Michelle Hodkin does with the end of the Mara Dyer trilogy. I also cannot believe how she ended The Evolution of Mara Dyer. This book was initially supposed to come out last October but was pushed back. Now we can expect it in June.

5. City of Heavenly Fire - Cassandra Clare

I know a lot of people are waiting for this one. The final book in Clare's The Mortal Instruments series. With all of the teasers of characters dying, I expect a nice cry. We'll get this one in May.

6. The Infinite Sea - Rick Yancey
Noticing a trend with the placeholders?

The 5th Wave blew me away and now I'm waiting to see what Yancey does with the amazing world he set up in the sequel. The Infinite Sea is due out in September.

7. Lair of Dreams - Libba Bray

I was delighted and horrified by The Diviners and not just because the book is creepy. But because Bray left so much unanswered! Well we should finally get some answers in August.

8. Four: A Divergent Story Collection - Veronica Roth

Veronica Roth started writing a series of short stories from Four's point of view that were being slowly released in e-book format. Then the project grew and the stories all became longer than she had planned. So the collection was put off and will be released in July in a bound collection. I loved what I've read so far and can't wait to get any little bit she'll give us!

9. Dangerous Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

The beginning of a new companion series to Beautiful Creatures! Dangerous Creatures will follow Link and Ridley. Ethan will always be my favorite but Link and Ridley are such different characters from Ethan and Lena so I can't wait to see what they do. Dangerous Creatures should be out in May.

10. Darkest Fear - Cate Tiernan

I have been pretty much in love with Cate Tiernan since her Sweep days. I may not have loved Immortal Beloved as much as the others but that doesn't mean I'm not wicked excited for her new series. And this one leaves little time for us to wait since it'll be out in January.

There are quite a few others that don't have set release dates or months (keeping in mind that dates can always be moved). Stephanie Perkins' Isla and the Happily Ever After, the Holly Black and Cassandra Clare co-write The Iron Trial, Sarah Rees Brennan's conclusion to the Lynburn Legacy Unmade are all expected out in the next year (please).

As I was making this post I realized that many of these are series books. Perhaps I need to branch out some more? Anyway, these are just a few of them. There are so many more! Get geared up for the new year because there are some amazing books coming out.


Thursday, December 26, 2013

What's New in the Travel Section

The holidays just blew through the store in a twinkling blur! Now I have to go back to eating grown up food and not dreaming about all the maps selling out and Oprah choosing a National Geographic map as her Nobel Prize Book of the Month. And in the world of exciting maps, if you didn't already see it on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, we got some seriously cool new maps in from National Geographic, the perfect sort of thing to spend your shiny new Booksmith gift card on:

There's Shakespeare's Britain, Earth at Night, Mars(!), Antarctica (to go with the single guide book that actually exists AND is in stock!), National Parks of the USA, the Universe, and as always the classics are in stock as well. Super special stuff. Be the coolest kid on your block with a Mars map!
In other new stuff news, we now carry Wildsam travel guides. I believe we're the only bookstore on the Eastern seaboard with these beauties and they are MAGIC so come snatch 'em up before anyone else. They are beautifully designed and the perfect size to take on the go. They have a small chunk of graph paper in the back for notes and scraps to save, and the content is AMAZING. Beautiful essays from great writers, fascinating almanacs, hip hand-drawn maps of individual neighborhoods and all the things to see and do. They currently exist for Nashville, San Francisco and Austin (where they're based). Come check them out in person, my stunning photograph barely does them justice:

And finally, our Destination of the Month continues to be Brazil for a few short days. Come check out our copious books, maps and novels as you plan your southern migration and/or World Cup vacay.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Dear Mr. Claus,

I've never written to you before, and I'm not going to start asking for things now. I just wanted to say thanks for some gifts that have already arrived this year. If anyone else is responsible, I hope you'll relay my gratitude; I'm told you've got connections.

Thank you, Mr. Claus, for the slew of smart, fun picture books this year. Books like Xander's Panda Party for young biologists; Rosie Revere, Engineer for young logical thinkers; and The Day the Crayons Quit for young artists and activists.

Thank you for the kinds of intermediate novels that Wonder made cool, like Counting by Sevens and The Thing About Luck; for Greek gods and wimpy kids who bring the young readers to us in droves; and for the classics that parents and grandparents are still bursting to share. Every time Anne of Green Gables rings up, an angel gets her wings.

Thank you for knowledgeable, generous, funny coworkers, and for customers who express joy when they see us busy.

Enjoy the holiday, Mr. Claus. And if you need a few more book suggestions for the children of the world, my impression is that you know where to find us. We'll leave the milk and cookies in the break room. 

Yours merrily,
An appreciative children's bookseller

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Brilliancy of Audiobooks

I actually have three exciting new books this week

1. Sandry and Tris's Books by Tamora Pierce
Tris's book is the book that made me want to write. There is just something about this series that I've always loved.

2. The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson (Paperback)
I love this series. This isn't quite as creepy as the first (The Name of the Star) but Johnson sucker punches us all at the end.

3. The Diviners by Libba Bray (Paperback)
This tome is massive but it is so worth the read. It's another that's pretty creepy. Plus 1920's New York is an awesome setting.

It's only been in the last couple of years that I've developed an appreciation for audiobooks. I blame my 8th grade English teacher for thinking that listening to random chapters of the audiobook was a substitution for reading them. An idea that might have been okay if it hadn't been an awkward, read a couple, listen to a couple, read a couple pattern that really only resulted in my going home and rereading the chapters anyway, even if I hated the book.

For a long time I associated audiobooks with being yelled at for reading ahead of the tape (yes, cassette tape) in class. They just read so slow!

But in college someone told me to listen to the audio version of Max Brooks' World War Z. I was skeptical but decided to check it out. I put it on as I was packing to leave for the summer. I was startled to find myself just standing in the middle of the room and listening. Even, abridged (they've since released an unabridged version) it was amazing.

I didn't try any others though. They couldn't all be that good. I mean, World War Z is perfectly suited for an audiobook and it's full cast is amazing.

Then, at an old job, I started making caramel. It was two and a half hours of standing in the same place stirring in a figure eight. Also known as the most boring two and a half hours of my week (and sometimes I had to do it more than once). Suddenly audiobooks started looking really good.

The first ones in my new audiobook foray that caught my attention were The Wolves of Mercy Falls by Maggie Stiefvater. They took me about an hour to adjust to the voices but I fell rapidly in love with them. I started listening to them in the car on the way to and back from work too. I tried others (the Beautiful Creatures one left me thinking in a southern accent for days) and I found that I came to really enjoy them.

When I moved to Boston audiobooks became even more important when I started walking or taking public transit. I had all of this spare time and am not coordinated enough to read and walk at the same time and the bus makes me a little motion sick sometimes so I couldn't really read. So I started back up with my audiobooks.

The tricks for me are to 1: give it some time. The voices almost never sound quite like I thought and that's an adjustment, and 2: only listen to books I've already read. I know that second one sounds ridiculous but it works wonderfully for me. I get the chance to essentially "reread" books I've been meaning to and when the bus gets loud or someone starts talking to me I'm usually less angry because I already know what's going on. Also, I prefer to interpret the book myself before someone else does it for me.

Sure they're not all good. I've tried some really bad ones (nothing is worse than when a noticeably  older person is reading as a teenager and really exaggerating the drama) but there are some really awesome ones.

Emma Galvin does a really awesome job reading the Divergent trilogy (and coincidentally is also one of the voices on the last two Mercy Falls books). I never would have picked Will Patton to read the Raven Cycle but I loved them. Jesse Eisenberg reading The Curse Workers is fantastic. Alan Cumming reads Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan trilogy and does so wondrously.

Penguin Audio released a brilliant new set of Roald Dahl audio books this year too. Dan Stevens (from Downton Abbey fame) reads Boy, Kate Winslet reads Matilda, Hugh Laurie reads The Giraffe, and the Pelly and Me, Stephen Fry reads The Enormous Crocodile, Andrew Scott (Moriarty from Sherlock) reads The Wonderful World of Henry Sugar. And there are a whole bunch more. It's such an amazing collection and these readers do such an awesome job. These classics are in safe hands.

One of my favorite things about audiobooks is just hearing how the reader interprets moments differently. More than once I've been listening and thought 'But that's supposed to be sarcastic!' But sometimes you hit these moments that suddenly have more of an impact on you because of the way that the reader reads it. A character's reply could slow down a little and sound a bit more threatening or and exchange could sound more charged between characters than you thought. Certain scenes stand out to me more after having listened to them.

Since it's Christmas season I should probably tie this back. Audiobooks are brilliant gifts. Everyone has a little bit of travel time that might need occupying or some time when they're cooking and might need to hear Dan Stevens' dulcet tones. Well, we have an awesome selection and they're definitely worth checking out.

Don't let school ruin them for you.


Monday, December 9, 2013

Today's teens will be running the world soon. Here's why I'm not worried.

We had 150 people at a YA event a couple of weeks ago. Most of them were teenagers. Some of them had driven in from out-of-state. They waited patiently to meet the authors of these books (psssst: we still have some signed copies):


It was an evening about identity and lots of things that impact it, from sexuality to family to standards of beauty to fanfic.

This time of year, we keep a particularly close eye on big sellers to make sure their spots on the shelves are well-stocked. A lot of those titles at the moment are from the YA section. Among those we're checking hour-by-hour, largely because they've become popular enough for their own movies, are:

A trilogy about one way society could go very wrong, and one teen who puts everything on the line to fix it. (I notice that Mockingjay, which picks up right where the current movie leaves off, has been disappearing particularly quickly.)

A novel about the Holocaust from a unique perspective.

A novel about what makes a life valuable from the point of view of a teen with terminal cancer.

Another dystopian trilogy, which also examines how we form our identities.

Looking for a gift for a teen? We've got it. Looking for a gift for yourself? You might want to ask a teenager. They have pretty good taste.

Monday, December 2, 2013

A Post About Writing is Almost About Books, Right?

I know I usually start my posts with the three books I'm most excited we received in the kids section but November/December isn't really a heavy release time so this time I'm going to skip that part. Sorry. If you want to know which books I'm excited about feel free to ask!

I am writing this post on December 1st. This is relevant because it means that I can say that last month I took part in the mammoth NaNoWriMo.

For those who don't know, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. Writers are challenged with writing 50,000 words during the month of November (roughly 1,667 words a day). It's supposed to be a new project, one you haven't started yet. The idea is to have a rough draft of a novel done by the end of the month or, if you're me, to have a good start on a new one (I like words way too much to ever be done at 50,000).

This means that I spent most of the last month in a mental writing haze. You see, I have a bit of an obsessive streak and when you register for NaNoWriMo you get your very own graph to chart your word count. Let me tell you, you have not see obsessive until you give someone a graph to chart their daily progress. I start by being completely crazed about staying on track. Soon enough that is not enough and I have to do more. Those bars have to be above the line.

Basically, I have a lot of fun with it but usually end the month twitchy and totally worn out. It's worth it even if it doesn't end up being a project that I keep working on because, if nothing else it reminds me how important it is to write, even a little, every day.

Oddly enough, NaNoWriMo is kind of a controversy online. Plenty of writers are big fans of it. Rainbow Rowell wrote about half of her novel Fangirl during it one year. Erin Morgenstern's worked on The Night Circus over a couple (I can't even call her out on it because the book is so wonderful). There's a pretty awesome list of author who've written pep talks here.

But on the other side there are plenty of authors who aren't fans. My personal favorite author Maggie Stiefvater is sort of infamous for hating it. Last Monday I asked David Levithan how he felt and he agreed with her. They don't hate that people are writing, they just don't like the way the program is set up. And as much as I love NaNoWriMo I can see why.

I love NaNoWriMo because it's a tool that keeps me going. It gets me back on track after a year of letting myself get bogged down by work and the internet and my tendency to adopt new hobbies on whims. Sometimes I need to stop editing the same project to death and work on something new and NaNoWriMo encourages me to do that. But I'll admit that I could never finish a novel in a month with everything else I have to do and in my word count obsessive state my writing isn't always the best. Some people get really carried away by it and some people just can't write like that. Honestly, some people shouldn't write like that.

For me a big factor has always been what sort of project I've been writing. In 2011 my project was the perfect sort of thing for it. The sort of novel where dialogue is what's most important. I love dialogue, I could write it all day long. In 2012 I was working on a fictionalization of my time working in a chocolate store, that one didn't work as well. I spent too much time trying to decide how true to life it could or should be and reflecting. This year my project needed a lot of world building and had a plot that's intricate and involved, one that I probably didn't draft out as well as I should have.

And while I'm pretty sure that I'm going to toss a fair amount of this year's work, I learned from what I did. Learned how much I needed to have drafted, what sort of work I should have done before. I realized what kind of research I still needed to do. I didn't write a novel but I used NaNoWriMo as a tool to get started.

We get a fair amount of people in the store who want to write. I'm not published or anything, not even close but I think I recommend that if they do want to write that they try NaNo just once. They don't have to do it in November but just accept the challenge. It's a great way to find out a little more about how you do write. Skim the list of pep talks. Most of the authors didn't finish their novels but the learned from trying it out.


Saturday, November 30, 2013

Bookselling: An Informative Guide

In a few hours, some of the sweetest authors I know are going to be giving up their Saturday to be guest booksellers for Small Business Saturday and the Indies First movement, hanging out at InfoSmith while doling out recommendations. Kristopher Jansma (The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards) and Morris Collins (Horse Latitudes) will be here from 12-2pm, and Jessica Keener (Women in Bed) and Maryanne O'Hara (Cascade) will be here from 2-4pm.  They're excited to work at a bookstore on one of the busiest Saturdays of the year, and I salute them.

1. We do not have a public restroom.
2. Search engines are beautiful, and Google is your friend.
3. We like wordplay and ridiculous jokes.  Just sayin'.
4. Kismet is alive and well, and you'll find yourself in the middle of a busy aisle gushing over the same book with a customer. You'll feel like you've found your reading soul mate.
5. The calendars are right behind you.
6. Still don't have a public restroom.
7. The line at the register may seem long, but we typically get you in and out of there in less than 10 minutes.
8. Gift wrapping is downstairs, and yes, it is free.
9. People read everything and are looking for all sorts of things.  This is the best part of the job, and you end up learning the most random things.
10. Busy days are the most fun, and you will definitely need to sit down once this is all over!

Stop by our store, chat with our authors, and thank you for shopping with us on Small Business Saturday.  From all of us, booksellers, giftsellers, and guest authors included--thank you for keeping us here.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Catching Fire and the Art of Fandom

My Three Exciting New Kids Section Additions:

1. The Snow Queen by Yevgeniya Yeretskaya
This pop-up book prompted an impromptu gasping session between one of the other children's booksellers and I. I think we swooned every time we turned a page. The art is stunning and the pop-ups are beautiful.

2. Good King Wenceslas by Jane Seymore and Omar Reyyan
I feel compelled to point out that I really only knew of this because I had to play the song on the recorder in 4th grade but the illustrations are beautiful and one of our other children's booksellers knows the illustrator.

3. Red Knit Cap Girl to the Rescue by Naoko Stoop
The first is sort of a section favorite in the store. In the second she saves a little polar bear stuck on an ice floe. It has the same beautiful art.

On Thursday I went to see Catching Fire...twice. I went in pretty excited about it. I mean, it's Catching Fire and I thought they did a pretty awesome job with The Hunger Games (it wasn't perfect but they never are). I'll admit that I'm a big fan but I'm not going to say that I'm the biggest fan, I'm not really sure anyone can (there's really no way to tell), and there are plenty of people who know the books better than I do. So, I didn't plan to see it twice just so that I could say that I did but I did have a reason.

I'm the kind of person who sees or reads something that I'm really excited about and needs to stop and think about it. I mean in a I need to think I don't want to talk to you sort of way. This gets me in trouble. People like talking about things they've just read or seen and for most if they're really excited they want to talk about them right away. I want twenty minutes. Don't talk to me for twenty minutes. If you do, I will be irritable and you will get short, monosyllabic answers and then you will be irritable.

It's frustrating but if you want an actual answer from me you need to give me the time.

So, on Thursday I saw Catching Fire twice. Once at 8:00PM by myself and then at 11:45 with my roommate. By the time I finished seeing it the second time, I was ready to talk to her about it.

This is just the sort of fan I am.

My sisters will probably tell you that I'm a snobby fan. I don't think it's true but I think I know where they get it from. I love facts and knowing as much as I can about something I really love. I'm decent at remembering things from books but by no means the best. But I want to know everything. I want to know all of the little background information that I can get my hands on. Everything about that one side character who has that one line.

So, it drives me crazy when someone loud and proud of being a fan, needs everyone to know that they've read the books and then starts yelling about things and is wrong. If you don't remember something, that's okay but you probably shouldn't make it up and then yell about it in a theater full of people who've likely read the books (spoiler alert: Gale does NOT die in Catching Fire).

But that's my opinion as the sort of fan that I am.

On Friday (as I couldn't Thursday) I wore a District 4 tee shirt (Finnick!), mockingjay socks, earrings, and pin, and had my hair in the side braid. I was pretty Hunger Gamesed out. On Saturday for the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who I wore boots, button down, bow tie, suspenders, and mini-fez. I like dressing up. I like showing people that I'm still excited about things. If you see me wearing a shirt or something for a book or show you like please mention it to me. If you quote it as I walk by you will make my day. But if you start shrieking and squealing at me you're probably going to frighten me. I may dress up but I am not a loud, panicky fan (well, usually,  have my moments) and I don't do well things like that.

I have a quiet sort of obsessive enthusiasm.

But there are so many different kinds of fans! And it's awesome how in addition to whether someone likes a book or movie or not there's what part of the story they respond to, and how they respond to consider. There's so much more to being a fan than just who owns the most tee-shirts or who has read the book the most times.

Fandom is just sort of crazy that way.


P.S. If you're interested in the idea of fandom you should read Rainbow Rowell's Fangirl...and come to the store tonight when we'll be hosting her and David Levithan, Paul Rudnick, and Bill Konigsberg. You don't have to have read their books first, we won't judge you.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Before It's Gone

Thursday night the store's Small Press Book Club met to discuss the Pushcart Prize 38th Anthology. In it was an essay entitled "Corn Haze" Pam Houston in which she makes an aside about the denizens of Venice:
"None of the employees can afford to live there, and the whole city shuts down by ten-thirty each night because the waiters have to run for the last boat/train/bus for the city of Mestre, where there are apartments they can actually afford. Eighty percent of the palazzo windows are dark at night because they are all owned by counts or bankers or corporations, and now, because of the waive action of speedboats, the wood pilings that have stood strong under the town for more than a thousand years are finally rotting, and the whole city is sinking slowly but surely into the Adriatic Sea."
Houston's comment reminded me of the macabre post on Fodor's I saw last week, a mashup of the top 10 places to see before they disappear. Antarctica, Easter Island, and for that strange reason that it's just as far away yet seems so much closer in an intimate way, Venice, which really stung. There are also reports that Venice's government, aware of a future cataclysm as regards its massive tourism industry, are in talks to build some sort of massive carnival space outside of the city proper to lure tourists in a different direction. Because according to Fodor's website, Venice is about ready to sink into its canals. One of the biggest tourist attractions in the world may eventually no longer be able to sustain the millions and millions of visitors it receives every year. This is not only sad on an environmental and historical level, but economically as well. A whole industry is built around tourism to Venice that may eventually dry up. But it's only one of many places, as the Fodor's piece and this handy infographic demonstrate. Just as there's that handy tome "1,000 Places to See Before You Die," there are now plenty of places to see before they disappear. Maybe now before it's too late, these local governments should take a page out of Bhutan's book and put a cap on allowed tourists.

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Eight Nights of Thanksgivukkah: A muddled holiday song

On the first of Thanksgivukkah, the Booksmith gave to me...

a book with a wordless journey.

On the second of Thanksgivukkah, the Booksmith gave to me...

twins Ling and Ting, and a book with a wordless journey.

On the third of Thanksgivukkah, the Booksmith gave to me...


three factioned books, twins Ling and Ting, and a book with a wordless journey.
On the fourth of Thanksgivukkah, the Booksmith gave to me...


four Penderwicks, three factioned books, twins Ling and Ting, and a book with a wordless journey.
On the fifth of Thanksgivukkah, the Booksmith gave to me...


five festive tales! Four Penderwicks, three factioned books, twins Ling and Ting, and a book with a wordless journey.

On the sixth of Thanksgivukkah, the Booksmith gave to me...

six pairs of kids, five festive tales! Four Penderwicks, three factioned books, twins Ling and Ting, and a book with a wordless journey.

On the seventh of Thanksgivukkah, the Booksmith gave to me...

seven stacking spines, six pairs of kids, five festive tales! Four Penderwicks, three factioned books, twins Ling and Ting, and a book with a wordless journey.

On the eighth of Thanksgivukkah, the Booksmith gave to me...

Eight: hard green luck, seven stacking spines, six pairs of kids, five festive tales! Four Penderwicks, three factioned books, twins Ling and Ting, and a book with a wordless journey.

It's coming. Come on in.


Friday, November 15, 2013

Of tiny soaps and books

Let's be honest: whether you're chilling on a cruise ship, lying pool side in a tropical oasis, or hoofing it in the big city, whatever kind of vacation you prefer, your hotel room is your sanctuary. It's the place that anchors you even though it can be as foreign as your environs, where your feet rest, your domination plans take shape, and you can start to remember who you are before you head back out to character-shaping adventures. 

And for those of us who tourist around to bookstores, CNN has a great lil mashup of literary hotels the world over. Though CNN sadly missed Boston's own Omni Parker House, where Emerson and Longfellow had their literary salons and Charles Dickens read from A Christmas Carol in 1867. This week a grip of new guidebooks are swelling our shelves, from the rebooted Frommers EasyGuides, to the new Lonely Planet Best in Travel 2014 (ranking the places to go next year) and, perhaps the most lush and exciting of all, and pertaining directly to places to lay thine traveler's head, the new crop of Mr. and Mrs. Smith guides to the chicest hotels in tout-le-monde.

For the uninitiated, Mr. and Mrs. Smith guidebooks feature lush photographs of lavish hotels--the creme-de-le-creme boutiques--as well as what to do beyond the bedroom. We just received the France and Italy guides, so come snatch them and book your dream room before anyone else. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

When Did This Start Exactly?

Hokay! Three exciting books!

1. The Evolution of Mara Dyer (paperback) by Michelle Hodkin
I was once told that I looked completely crazed trying to talk someone into reading this series. BECAUSE IT'S AMAZING!

2. The Hogwarts Library by J.K. Rowling
This might be the Harry Potter obsessive in me talking but when they announced that they were repackaging The Tales of Beedle the Bard, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and Quidditch through the Ages I was so excited. And than pales in comparison to how excited I was when we actually got them in. They're hardcover and lovely.

3. Llama Llama Holiday Drama by Anna Dewdney
This is another that we go back in for the Holiday season. It's my favorite of the Llama Llama books. He gets so excited he swoons!

I recommend a lot of books. We all do. It's sort of something that everyone loves doing. And we get positively giddy when someone buys one that we recommend or picks one up from the shelf that has one of our tags on it. I don't just mean the kids booksellers. Our fiction girl came into the backroom the other day thrilled because someone had bought her staff rec. We all love it.

Unfortunately this makes it equally as hard when customers completely shoot us down. It's okay that the book isn't for you but the wrinkled noses and unsavory comments sting a little.

My most frustrating example of this is talking to a customer about books and being completely on the same page about a whole list of books and talking about why we love them and having it be a lot of the same reasons and then having this happen (I'll use Divergent as the example because it's the one that's coming up the most lately):

"Oh! Have you read Divergent yet?"
*nose wrinkle* "No."
"Really? I loved it!"
"Oh...well so many people told me to read it and that's it so good...but the books they turn into movies are never very good."

This is right about the time that I lapse into a sullen, defensive silence. I try not to but I know I'll start to argue if I keep going. Usually, I switch topics to a different, unmovied book.

I understand not wanting to see the movie version. It's rare that I'm legitimately impressed with a movie adaptation and I'm not as picky as some people, so I get that. I also understand not liking the premise of the book, or not liking a genre (I know a lot of people who are over the dystopian thing). That's fine. Not every book is for every person.

But I've encountered too many people who dismiss a book entirely because it's popular.

When did that start? Why did that start?

Books are popular because they manage to speak to a large number of people. They may not have the best writing or the most well developed plot but they have something. Something that draws people in. And that's what matters. I think most of these books say something important about people and humanity. Books that can show you something about the human condition in a way that draws you in are a wonderful thing. They make people think about themselves and how they fit into the world or relate to other people.

You don't have to like them but at least give them a shot.

Is it a fear that you'll like the book and "be just like everyone else?" Or is it just scorn for other people? I'm genuinely curious as to why books that obviously have something aren't even worth checking out but there are so few people who can have a conversation about it without attacking specific books.

Take a second when someone recommends a book to ask them what it was they liked so much about it. Maybe it will be something that will appeal to you. It never hurts to try. And, quite frankly, there are far worse ways to spend some time than by giving a book 100 pages.


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Out-of-Town Booksellers

In a week, an old co-worker of mine will be visiting Boston for the first time.  I first met her when she was seventeen and still settling on her combination between sweet and surly, and even though her name is Krysten I found it prudent and appropriate to attach the 'baby' bit and affectionately call her Baby Krysten, or BK for short. We worked together at another indie bookstore, and as much as I'm looking forward to seeing her face, I'm also interested to see what she thinks of the Booksmith.

Watching booksellers move around a bookstore they're visiting is fascinating.  They walk in, searching the shelves for the section that is their specialty.  They peruse the shelf with a critical eye, murmuring, "I've read that, it was really good," "I loved that one!" and "Avoid." They'll engage you in discussion, asking about particular shelving details and examining the shelf-talkers, roaming the store to see how everything flows and what sections are put together.  Booksellers, having experienced repeated section moves and have the muscles and eye rolling to prove it, understand the entire process behind putting particular sections together and are interested in why science and sports are near one another.  Spend 30 minutes with a touring bookseller (it's impossible to spend less than thirty minutes with one, inevitably the conversation will stretch and you will be loathe to return to the job at hand) and the two of you will have doubly long to-read lists and a burning desire to visit more bookstores. 

I hope she'll like visiting the Booksmith.  I hope she'll like walking around Boston, taking the T, and seeing what the city has to offer.  I also hope she won't mind when I go into frantic Mom-mode by repeatedly asking her if she's wearing enough layers.

Can't wait to see you, BK. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Buy These Before I Do, Please

New used book shtuff:

All these back issues of The Believer
Four bucks a pop.

One of Dave Eggers many impeccably curated brainchildren, The Believer is ostensibly a literary journal but goes all over the map in terms of content - music, art, food, politics, film, you name it. Like any McSweeney's offering, it never fails to look like a lucid acid trip and read like a jab in the ribs. 

Pictured on top: the October 2009 issue featuring a Charles Burns/Chris Ware mash-up cover because (breaking news) Chris Ware is my soul mate and I will marry him and he will make me sign a sassy illustrated pre-nup with some really breath-taking typography and things will end badly after a year or two (tops) because that's kinda how he rolls but I will worm my way into at least one book and it will be worth it, y'all. 

Hug me.
Sad Monsters: Growling on the Outside, Crying on the Inside

You could probably buy this on the basis of Colbert's endorsement (full disclosure: author Frank Lesser is a writer and humorist for Colbert's own show, but that conflict of interest is sort of eclipsed by the fact that you've gotta be pretty hilarious and brilliant to work a gig like that anyway), OR you could get the book just to adopt the tragically adorable fuzzball on the front who, as I type this, is staring at me with soulful little eyes like the last puppy at the pound. I'm dying here. Give the li'l guy some love. 

Sayonara Home Run!: The Art of the Japanese Baseball Card
In which Japan kicks our butts at graphic design.

Do I care about baseball? Is the pope Jewish? However, it's recently come to my attention that the proud American tradition of hitting/ running/ catching/ throwing/ spitting/ butt-slapping is kind of a big deal in this city. (Pro-tip for fellow sport-atheists: you'll never see an emptier bookstore than on a Sox world series night). Fun fact: this isn't the only country that considers baseball its national pastime. If you, like everyone else in Boston, are madly in love with Koji Uehara right now, may I suggest this toothsome segue into Japan's illustrious baseball history? 

Bonus: original owner's Bazooka
bubble gum baseball card bookmark
For the sports fan, collector, or anyone with an insatiable appetite for pretty pictures (hello).

Monday, November 4, 2013

Everything's early this year. Even the "what I'm thankful for" list.

The calendar looks pretty crowded over the next month or two (and, if my crystal ball is working correctly, so does the store). Before one of my favorite holidays gets lost in the tinsely, candle-y, snowy shuffle, I thought I'd give Thanksgiving its due with a traditional (well, traditional except it's on a blog) list of things I'm thankful for. (Things for which I'm thankful? I'm thankful that grammatical rule has relaxed a bit.)

Shockingly, I'm thankful for children's books. I'm thankful for the classics that get grown-up customers squealing, "Oh, The Very Hungry Caterpillar!... You don't understand. This was my childhood." I'm thankful for the titles that bring out friends' concern for each other: "You've never read The Phantom Tollbooth? What kind of deprived childhood did you have?" And I'm thankful that great new stuff is coming out constantly, especially this time of year. (New Wimpy Kid tomorrow, guys!)

I'm thankful for the kids: the ones who eat up books so fast their parents complain about it, the ones who are still discovering that reading can be about pretty much anything, the ones who know better than I do when the next book in their favorite series is coming out and will happily tell you every detail in the first twenty-six books. (I was a Baby-sitters Club fan. I get it.)

I'm thankful for the parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and assorted other acquaintances who want to share their childhood favorites, or are willing to try anything - anything - to get Junior interested in reading, or who get that yes, it's worth coming in on a Tuesday morning to get House of Hades or Allegiant hot off the presses.

I'm thankful for the best darn teammates in kids' books. These ladies do it all. They shelve and restock and cancel, they sort overstock, they pick up the dozens of Clifford books that get pulled out of the spinner and then do it again with Caillou books. They keep up with what's coming out, they read read read, and if there's anyone who knows how to communicate enthusiasm so customers understand just how much they need a book, it's Amy and Clarissa. All that, and they keep smiling and nodding at my favorite rants, never indicating that they've heard my thoughts on books with "for boys" and "for girls" in their titles once or twice before.

I'm thankful for the rest of the Booksmith team, too. These people understand that kids' books are a complex subject worth knowing something about, and many are experts in their own right. They write staff recs for intermediate and YA titles. They listen to our suggestions of what they should buy for their nephews and what we should have in the store. They shrink-wrap.

As we plunge into the holidays, we're all going to feel a bit more rushed and do our best not to sound like it. But right now, while it's still possible to walk across the store to a computer and sit there long enough to write a few sentences (okay, so I started this at the register), I thought I'd say thanks.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Consequence Books

And the three books of the last two weeks that I am excited we got into the children's section:

1. Allegiant by Veronica Roth
I have been annoying everyone with how excited I am about this book. I made keening noises at the boxes before we were allowed to open them. This book. I just...I am still filled with so many feelings. It was exactly what I wanted....I'll stop now.

2. The Mischievians by William Joyce
My love for William Joyce is a very real thing. When his Guardians series was turned into a movie I was easily the most excited person in the theatre. I was also supposed to be the Flying Book Girl from his The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore for Halloween.

3. Battle Bunny by Jon Scieszka and Mac Barnett
Alex gets the overly sweet Birthday Bunny and edits it into the incredibly awesome Battle Bunny! Beyond clever.

Consequence books are something that have come up in my life a lot recently. Partially due to my excitement over the last book in Veronica Roth's Divergent trilogy (see above) and partially because the revelation of how much I love them is a fairly new one to me.

A consequence book is a book that deals predominantly (or just heavily) with the...well, consequences of what happened in a previous book. Often they're reflective, like a character trying to deal with something that happened. Other times the action is directly the result of what happened in the previous book.

Generally, I'm, a big fan of consequences. I mean, maybe not in my own life, but in literature I'm a big fan. So, it drives me crazy when characters do something big and nothing happens. There should always be some form of backlash. If, for some reason, there's not it needs to addressed and I expect a really good reason.

I mentioned the Divergent trilogy because Insurgent (book two) is a consequence book. As I talked to people about the series (in my excitement about Allegiant's release) I came across more people unsure of the second. First I was baffled because I loved it so much and then I was just curious about what was so different about it that people who loved the first didn't like it.

Which was when I realized that Insurgent is so much about Tris dealing with what happened to her in Divergent. It has new plot in it, yes, but it's more about the backlash of the first book's violence. I though it was exactly what it needed to be.

And that was why I loved it. Roth does such a wonderful job of making her characters fully human and it's the consequence books that show how human characters are. I want to see them deal with what happened to them. When we see that they seem more human, we get a more fully realized picture of who they are.

(For the record, Veronica Roth does a really brilliant job of making her characters human outside of Insurgent as well.)

Another one that comes to mind is Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl's Beautiful Chaos (book three). I get the strangest looks when I tell people that it's my favorite. But (and I feel we're beyond spoilers now since there's a movie and the first book came out in 2009) when Lena brought Ethan back from the dead in the first book we only got minimal consequences. We saw how that impacted her, not how it impacted Ethan. Mostly because he didn't know what happened to him, but it never set well with me.

Then Beautiful Chaos came out and that's most of what the book is about. It's finding out that he lost part of soul. That he's half of what he should be. That the world is out of balance. I loved it. I loved how it was handled. It was what I wanted all along.

Just like in my last post how I wanted the loss, I want the consequences. In life great actions often have dire consequences. If a story is going to be well crafted big actions should have big backlash. And seeing how characters deal with their own actions and what happens to them makes them human.

I love books with fast paced action and awesome banter but it's the books that deal with the consequences that stick with me the most.


Friday, October 25, 2013

You, Too, Can Be On a Boat

According to the New York Times Sunday travel section, it's the time to strike if you're want to book a cruise. The deals are on now and what better way to see swaths of the world AND get away from it all at the same time? I've set up a small subsection at the beginning of our Europe section for cruise guidebooks. So come get LUXURIOU$ and load up on how to be on a boat!

Berlitz Cruising and Cruise Ships 2014  A big ol' guide for the Cruise newbie or afficianado. This is a great book to by right now as you start to plan your cruise. There are reviews of all the lines, itineraries, ideas for how to spend your time both on and off the boat, and while some details may need refreshing over the years, you could really hold on to this for future ideas for planning. This could be your Mediterranean cruise year, and next could be your Alaskan cruise year, and the same Berlitz book could guide you to all your coming adventures.

Rick Steves Northern European Cruise Ports and Mediterranean Cruise Ports  Rick Steves guides are great in general, but particularly on a cruise, if you're a do-it-yourselfer, a little budget conscious and a really excited, open-minded sort of person his guidebooks are AMAZING. Enough information that you can go through even the most overwhelming museums on your own, useful phrases in the back to make a friendly impression on the locals, and exhaustive, frank and practical reviews on everything from where to eat, when it's worth booking an on-shore excursion through the ship, and what is missable and unmissable both on the ship and off. Great for those travelling with or without families, and if you prefer investing your money in lifetime memories over fancy digs.

Fodor's European Cruise Ports of Call  If you're maybe cruising without the kids, if you enjoy the finer things in life, if you have a membership to the MFA AND the Gardner, and would spend a premium for hotels with high-thread-count sheets, Fodor's guides might be speaking your language. Exhaustive guides to the major ports of all the major cruise lines, tips for the sort of food you would eat to have a culinary experience, NOT to run home and tell horror stories about, tips for maximizing your museum and shopping trips in your quick city jaunts at each port. We have them in for Europe and new editions for Alaska and the Carribbean are on the way!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Slowly But Surely

When I moved to Boston a few years ago, I left my full collection of books at my parents' house, electing to bring select volumes and sending for more as I needed them.  Every time I go home or have a visitor from home, I bring (or ask them to bring) at least 10 books. I know I'm going to box them up and send them to my Boston address via media mail one day, but I'm holding off because this way is more fun.

Last week, I called my little brother to see if he could put together a stack for a friend of mine to pack.  I e-mailed him a list, which he promptly ignored, and when I got him on the phone it was only because he was avoiding his homework.  I had him go through a few shelves, reading aloud title after title, asking him who wrote what.  We reached San Francisco Poems by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and I asked him to pop it open and read a random poem to see if I wanted him to send it along.  After sighing repeatedly, he started reading "The Great Chinese Dragon" in a very inspired fashion. Halfway through, I asked him if he knew what it was about. "Dragons taking over Chinatown, and then people telling the dragons they can't take over Chinatown and stuffing them in basements" was his reply.  I told him what I thought it was about and debated, somehow managing to draw my sister in and starting a three-person argument about poetry, ending with my brother threatening to do his homework.

I asked for the next title. "You suck." my brother said.  I was aghast. " Christopher Moore."

Media mail can wait, I'm having too much fun with this.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Stuff Found in Used Books

Readers of our weekly b-mail newsletter will already be familiar with our Find of the Week, a feature of the the magical scraps and ephemera that used books never fail to yield. If you're not a follower, I promise there are few better ways to kill a weekday afternoon than a leisurely browse through the archives with a hot Cup o' Noodles in hand.

What you may not know is that Paul, the sassy voice of b-mail (email to sign up) and long-time curator of Find of the Week, barely scratches the surface. Our used book buyers field hundreds of new arrivals every week; by my estimation at least half of those books hold not just old bookmarks but ticket stubs, polaroids, business cards, notes, lists, sketches, pressed flowers, trading cards, even money.

So while you can still get your weekly dose of scavenged weird via our newsletter, I thought I'd feature a few of the passed over finds here every once in awhile. Paul might even let me dig through his huge box of all the old newsletter finds (eight years worth! That's 416 weeks of strange stuff, for you kids keeping track at home) and post some golden oldies for the newbies.

US Department of Homeland Security
Homeland Security Investigations
Special Agent
Violent Gang Unit



Monday, October 21, 2013

Meetings, meetings, meetings

Some people's jobs involve a lot of meetings. Maybe even enough that they find themselves complaining about the time they waste spend in these gatherings, where discussion may or may not be more rambling than productive. If this sounds familiar to you, I sympathize. But such is not the life of a bookseller.

For most of us, meetings are a rarity. Oh, we have shift meetings, where we get through about ten announcements in as many minutes. We even have occasional department meetings, which go a bit more in-depth. But such excuses to sit down only come about once in a while. And the type of meeting we had on Friday was rare enough to be a real treat. Debra the Candlewick rep came by, and she brought galleys.

Candlewick Press focuses on children's books, and it makes beautiful ones.

Fun ones.
 Exciting ones.
Thought-provoking ones.
Needless to say, when Debra pulled out advance copies of the next round of books, we grabbed. I dove right into Girls Like Us, out in May (consider yourselves tortured), because the need to pass it around was obvious. It alternates between the viewpoints of two young women, both mentally challenged but in different ways, with distinct voices and responses to the sometimes harrowing way the world treats them. This is the sort of book that's going to start great discussions with customers.
I can't wait to look more closely at the rest of the pile in my cubby. If this is what meetings are like, bring 'em on.