Friday, June 28, 2013

Stay Sharp in Summer

Summer is coming up. Time to zone out in front of the television, eat a lot of sugary ice cream and forget everything you learned last year.

...OR IS IT?

What if I told you that there was a way to 1) learn new things about math while 2) LAUGHING OUT LOUD. How? You might ask.

Oh, I'll tell you how.

By picking up this rare jewel of a used book recently acquired in our Used Book Cellar, Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks.

This slim lil volume comes complete with some of these old chestnuts:

Without geometry, life would be pointless.

Q: What do you get when you divide the circumference of a jack-o-lantern by its diameter?
A: Pumpkin Pie.

Q: What is a catenary?
A: A string held by a kitten at each end.

...and SO MAN MORE. Run, don't walk.

Also, if you like used books, reading in the summer and not walking down the stairs your friendly, helpful and eager used books staff have curated a brilliant collection of books perfect for summertime reading that are now in a handsome bookcase at the top of the stairs, next to the newspapers. Come check it out!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

How to Choose a Travel Guide for Your Little Sister

I'm travelin' home next week, back to the Midwest. My little sister has promised to pick me up from the Minneapolis airport and basically be my chauffeur for the week. In payment, I promised to bring her home a guidebook for her upcoming trip to Turkey. It wasn't until I hung up the phone that I realized the weight of responsibility I'd just assumed. My sister is a grown, independent woman who has lived in the Philippines and traveled SE Asia, but she's still my little sister, and she's bravely traveling by herself to Istanbul next month, with only whatever book I put in her hands as her guide.

Lucky for me, Turkey is our destination of the month at Booksmith, and our shelves are crammed with options for both guidebooks and literature to escort you around the country. The wide selection, however, did not make my task easier. I've spent the past week pouring over guides and unfolding maps, trying to find the best fit for my sister.

I lingered long over our new slim guide to Istanbul's Bazaar Quarter, which offers four tantalizing walking routes through the city's Grand Bazaar and the Egyptian Spice Bazaar. Then there was The Sultan's Istanbul, which acts as a guide to the city's past, taking you back to the era of the Grand Tour, to the Istanbul the intrepid traveler of the 18th century might have seen. Ultimately I decided I needed to find a fuller guide to the country, though both of these guides would make an excellent supplement.

Next I flipped through DK Eyewitness's guide to Istanbul. I love Eyewitness guides for their aesthetic. They are full color photographs, architectural drawings, and wonderful cultural information about art, museums, and cuisine. I considered a few pocket guides: Eyewitness's 10 TenFodors, and Lonely Planet before deciding I needed to get my sister a guide to the full country, so she has the option of spreading out from Istanbul.

Now I was faced with the difficulty of determining a Fodors from a Frommers, weighing the reasonable price of a Globetrotter Guide, and oohing over the full page color photographs of the Insight Guide. Ultimately, I decided on Lonely Planet's guide to Turkey, which had a full 84 pages on Istanbul itself. While each of the guides seemed to provide sufficient and interesting information, Lonely Planet fit my sister's taste and style of travel--a little off the beaten path--while still being crammed full of the practical info she'll need to keep herself well fed and safe. Plus there were three whirling dervishes on the cover.

Next I went to our "Map Files" and found a wonderful laminated map to Istanbul from Marco Polo that folds up into pocket size. Finally, the most difficult choice: what should she read? We have so many great novels and travel narratives on Istanbul, it was a hard decision. Would she like The Bastard of Istanbul, a novel about an Armenian American girl who travels back to Turkey in a search for identity? Or Joseph Kanon's mystery, recently released in paperback, Istanbul Passage, which has been flying off our Books We Love table? Or would she go in for a travel narrative like Jeremy Seal's Meander, which follows the river of that name from its source in central Turkey to the Aegean Sea? I finally settled on a compromise between the fictive and real narratives and bought her the novelist Orhan Pamuk's memoir Istanbul. The man even has a museum in Turkey based on one of his novels.

My choices won't be for every traveler. Everyone has their own taste and style when it comes to hitting the road--whether it's packing light or taking your bedroom with you, dining at an expensive restaurant or trying the local market, couch surfing or luxury hotels, museums or mountain trails--so not every guide works for every traveler. At Booksmith we carry a variety of guidebooks and travel literature so you can find just the right traveling companion for you--or for someone you love.

Monday, June 24, 2013

A lot can happen in a summer.

You can go somewhere new.

So can your pants.

You can learn more about the world.

Even if others think you shouldn't.

You can start to question what else is out there.

You can learn to manage on your own.

You can get grounded and end up writing obituaries and also deal with a lot of epic nosebleeds. (Okay, maybe only if you're Jack Gantos.)

Just make sure you leave some time for reading.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Big Books, Small Presses

As an avid reader and lover of all things books, I get really excited by small scrappy upstart presses that publish really bold, beautiful books that are a little bit grainier, hard-edged, strange or literally foreign for the big guys to pay much attention to. Small presses print translations you can't find anywhere else, raw, gutsy memoirs, poetry that burns bright with cleverness and an experimental air. They're small enough to take risks on books they believe in and while I LOVE me some books that the big guys print, I think a book club dedicated to small presses would A) give some recognition to books without big promotional budgets that might get overlooked, and B) encourage all you smarty Booksmith shoppers to go to a book club where it isn't necessarily a novel we read, but maybe a collection of poetry, or a book of literary non-fiction. I'm not a  poet but sometimes Wave Books prints a book of poetry so beautiful I have to read it and when I do I want to talk about it because I DON'T UNDERSTAND POETRY BUT I THINK I LIKE IT A LOT ANYWAY. What does this meeeean? Let's talk about it together!

If the prospect of the Small Press Book Club appeals to you, drop me an e-mail and I'll contact you before September when we'll (hopefully) start to meet. Meetings would be once a month for about an hour, and there would be SNACKS. E-mail me if you're interested! The more people I know are interested the more likely this will work out. And that means MORE snacks to you, the consumer. E-mail me at natasha -at- brooklinebooksmith -dot- com.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Happy Anniversary, Rand McNally Atlas!

It may seem strange to celebrate the anniversary of an atlas, but ever since we got the 2014 Anniversary edition of the Rand McNally Road Atlas to North America in, I haven't been able to stop selling it. Everyone seems to be hitting the road this summer, from our very own Shuchi, who will be driving through the open spaces of Wyoming and Montana this week with Gretel Ehrlich, Annie Proulx, and Rand McNally in the back seat, to the customer who told me his student visa was running out, but before he returns to Asia, he's driving his car across the states to visit his brother in LA. He doesn't know the way, exactly, or how long it will take, but now he's got his Rand McNally.

Hearing about these planned adventures got me thinking about past road trips, with the trusty Rand McNally I received for a high school graduation present (Got someone graduating? Take note). I used the atlas to get myself out of Iowa. At first, I made the mistake of driving across Nebraska--where it was just me, sky, and a Buffalo Bill Cody museum that contained a lot of plaques with horrific stories of the American hero's conquests of buffalo, and a stuffed two-headed calf. But after that Rand McNally set me right, sending me across Colorado, where I visited friends in Denver, then drove straight into the Rockies. Somewhere in Utah I needed a place to camp, opened my atlas, found the remote Flaming Gorge on the Utah page, and pitched a tent. Then it was up through Jackson Hole and across Montana, through Boise, along the Columbia River Gorge and into the Northwest, which would be home for the following three years, until I tossed Rand McNally in the back seat for a return trip.

Now on the East Coast, when urban living wears and the city presses in, I recall those open spaces and stretching skies, and random place names picked from an atlas transformed into memories. Then I'm tempted to throw away my T pass and buy a car, just to have a place to store my Rand McNally for when the road calls again.

Monday, June 17, 2013

"In which every chapter is better than the one before"

This is the beginning of the end; the beginning of my last week at the incomparable, tremendous, stupendous Brookline Booksmith.

To be clear: it's not closing!! I'm just moving away, returning to my homeland of coffee, books, and Honda Civics (Seattle).

It's been such an extraordinary nine months and I really don't know how to say goodbye when it feels like I've hardly finished saying hello. Rather than trying to say it myself, I thought I'd let some fabulous authors say it for me. So here they are - favorite last lines of some of my favorite books:


"And so the boy and his friend went home together, talking of wonderful things all the way."

Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers

"Hey, Earthman? You hungry, kid?" said Zaphod's voice.
"Er, well, yes, a little peckish, I suppose," said Arthur.
"Okay, baby, hold tight," said Zaphod. 
"We'll take in a quick bite at the Restaurant at the End of the Universe."

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

"And Little Sal and her mother went down the other side of Blueberry Hill, picking berries all the way, and drove home with food to can for next winter - a whole pail of blueberries and three more besides."

Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey

"So ... be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O'Shea,
you're off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So ... get on your way!"


"And it all began with a dream."

Brontorina by James Howe, ill. by Randy Cecil

"When I grow up ... I too will go to faraway places and come home to live by the sea."
"That is all very well, little Alice ... but there is a third thing you must do."
"What is that?"
"You must do something to make the world more beautiful."
But I do not know yet what that could be.

Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney

"All their life in this life and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth had read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before."


Brookline Booksmith, I love you. I have how you creak, I love how you look, I love your dusty bookish fifty-one year-old charm, and I love the people who work tirelessly to keep you successful and brilliant. Since I can't bear to actually say the words "bye" and "good" to you (not necessarily in that order), I'll just say,

"Until we meet again!"

Friday, June 14, 2013

Rainy Day Happenings

On super-gross rainy days I like to read engrossing take-me-far-away books. Right now I'm on A Feast for Crows, book 4 of the Song of Ice & Fire/Game of Thrones series. Book 4 has a lot of chapters set in Dorne, the mythical southern lands of George R. R. Martin's fantasy kingdom Westeros, a land of sun and sand and the source of all good wine. Coupled with all the drama, bloodshed and intrigue of the series, it's just the ticket to transport one away from this constant rain.

But honestly, reading on a rainy day is a no-brainer, and no book in particular is any more alluring when it's raining out and you have a nice blanket and cup of tea inside (in my opinion). I've lived in Seattle though, where it rains 9 months of the year and if you ever use the weather for an excuse to not do something you'll never leave the house. And there's plenty of things to do in Boston given the cruddy weather! Our special orders guru Russ just scoped the Samurai! exhibit at the MFA. Nothin' like a sweet museum to get you out of the weather and into another world. It'll be like standing around in a Mishima novel or Kurosawa movie!

Or, you could swing by the Booksmith. Load up on fantasy and samurai novels and then stick around for tonight's event. The Bash poetry series is hosting three amazing poets at 7 PM: Sampson Starkweather, Ana Božičević and Dan Chelotti. They're all amazing poets, totally different from each other so it will be like a smorgasbord! And nobody loves rain more than poets, right? Sorry that was a really horrible generalization. But I'm right, right?

So there's plenty to read or do whether you let the rain get you down or not! Come see us!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Your assignment this summer: Read something good

The vast majority of our summer reading section is up and ready! Each year Brookline Public Schools creates an extensive list of required books by school and recommended books by grade, and we turn that list into a highly categorized section of the store. (A few schools are still deciding on their required titles; feel free to give us a call to find out whether your school's titles are available yet. In the meantime, in addition to the Brookline list, we do have a small section for the Boston Latin list.)

Here's the thing: It's a pretty amazing list. What I love is its acknowledgement that, at any age, there are many ways into reading and all of them are worth encouraging. Each age group has about 8-10 categories, everything from "Out of This World: Fantasy and Science Fiction" to "Too Good to Miss: Classics" to
Get Real! Nonfiction" to "Play Ball! Sports Books" to "A Way with Words: Poetry" to "Just for Fun: Humor" to "Take a Look: Picture Books for Older Readers" (which often includes graphic novels). The pre-k and kindergarten list includes beginning reading books, but it also includes alphabet and counting books. The first and second grade list has chapter books, but also books that are easier to read. There's a "Listen Up! Books for Families to Read Aloud" category at many levels. The seventh and eighth grade and high school lists include popular YA as well as plenty of adult fiction and nonfiction.

Not all schools have required titles for all grades, but the books that are required carry the same spirit: reading is supposed to be fun. Andrew Clements, the master of the funny school story, keeps popping up. That's not to say the books aren't thoughtful or that horizons won't be expanded - you try reading Gary Schmidt's Okay for Now or Deborah Ellis' The Breadwinner without learning something - but by and large, these are also accessible books, the kind that make it easy to make friends with the characters. They're books that many kids won't mind reading on summer car trips or in their bunks at camp. They might even get passed around.

Come browse the summer reading section. Even if you don't have a Brookline student in the family. It's got something for everyone.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Bruins Booksmith!

Chilling my my gnomies
While doing research for this blog post I discovered a list of the Bruins favorite books compiled by the Mass State Library system to encourage kids to read more.

Milan Lucic's fave? Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss. Johnny Boychuk recommended Old Yeller (in case breaking Penguin hearts isn't enough). Tyler Seguin recommended The Alchemist.

But it's an old list, and lacking in some important players. Would Tuukka like the Moomins? Maybe Horton digs Chuck Palahniuk's Fight Club, and maybe Chara keeps Roald Dahl's BFG on his nightstand.

Upstairs we have a sports section with some cool histories of hockey and the Bruins in particular, and if you want suggestions for Finnish literature I got that in spades. More bear related books are here.

Either way, tonight's a big night for our ice skating bears so here are my recommendations for the team:
  • Getting Things Done by David Allen
  • Winning by Jack Welch
  • The Success Principles by Jack Canfield

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Return to Book Expo America

New York City's Bryant Park is lovely on a summer evening. Back-lit by the warm glow of the New York Public Library, the park's green lawn spreads across the square, empty save for a sprinkler system and a sign or two asking people to keep off the grass. And people do. But they gather at its edges, like spectators at a game that will never be played, talking quietly or simply staring. At what? I can tell you that they are looking at something, but that something is the absence of everything. The lush green grass and the fathomless empty space above it--through which a few bats swoop noiselessly--is a novelty in New York.

I joined them on the sidelines after attending this year's Book Expo America, where people like you, reader, who like to read silently to themselves in cozy spaces, gather together in an uncharacteristically extroverted celebration of that very act. Readers, Booksellers, Writers, Agents, Teachers, Librarians, Publishers--representatives of the literary community of America--all come together for a few days of chaos and connection at the Javits Convention Center in New York City.

While I am someone who needs a Bryant Park after a day on the trade floor, I still find the expo incredibly stimulating and motivating. I was heartened by the warm reception my co-workers and I received at each glance down at our name tags that let people know we sold books at Brookline Booksmith: from local presses, to BPL librarians, to loyal customers, my name tag never failed to garner a welcome. The most notable reception had to be from the folks at Lonely Planet and the least notable from the notorious Grumpy Cat who was snoozing when my coworkers and I snuck up behind for a picture, after waiting in line for over an hour.

And following those greetings were inspiring conversations with those who have joined the book world out of a common love of literature--even if that very passion has us heaving a huge, but happy, sigh of relief when we return to our Bryant Parks and cozy corners and curl up for a nice, quiet read.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Fancy Nancy by Mo Willems ... ?

This is my mix-n-match post, inspired by an awkward mix-up in wording on a summer reading shelf talker, in which I throw a bunch of titles and authors into a hat and explore what some well-known titles might look like if penned by a different author.

... or maybe Fancy-Pants Nancy and Her Handy Parisian Phrasebook would be a more Willems-esque title ...

... one morning, a five-year-old catches her parents kissing and begins to wonder if her hatred of Meaning Boy Jim might actually be something else ...

 ... I don't have anything clever to say about this, to be honest. It's basically the most disturbing combination I could come up with ...

... actually, I see this one more as a mash-up of Frances the Badger and Olivia the Pig. Either they'd kill each other or they'd be best friends and rule the world through combined force of will. Either way, I'd love to see it! ... 

... see Katniss run. Run, Katniss, run! Also, see Eric Hill break down a complex plot line into its most basic elements: life + isn't + fair.