Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Advice for the Travel Writer

A few weeks ago while teaching a travel writing seminar, I had students place themselves on a map on the wall. Where were they from? Where had they been? Soon the map was covered with post-its. Between the eight of us, we had covered the continents, from Spain to New Zealand. While we marveled at our mobility, we also had to face a serious question. If the world is this connected, what is the place and purpose of travel writing, a genre that developed with the discovery of the world? Explorers used to write home, describing the new lands they saw. Today, if a reader can type Tahiti, they can see paradise.

Simon Garfield's new book On the Map opens with a spread Facebook's map of connectivity. Someone put in all the coordinates of Facebook users, and out of the void a map arose, formed through millions of threaded connections. Despite the fact that we can travel the world on our iPad, the genre of travel writing persists. People still feel compelled to write what they saw, and I can vouch for the fact that there are readers out there, because I talk to them every day, as they browse our Destination Literature shelves.

So travel writers: take heart. We've got books to guide you through your process. Lonely Planet has just released the newly updated Guide to Travel Writing. From craft to query, travel writer Don George provides expert advice to help you write, sell and publish your tales of adventure. While the audience, focus, and form of the genre might be in continual flux, the folks at Matador Travel have done their best to map out the place it still holds for contemporary readers and to give you some ideas for how to stay up-to-date with the newest innovations. Click here to read the article on their blog.  And finally, to sample some of the current travel writing published, pick up Travelers Tales new anthologyThe Best Women's Travel Writing 2013. And look for The Best American Travel Writing 2013, due out in October.

Through these books and my own travels I am convinced that the appeal of adventure persists. No matter how much of the world is known there are still the infinite revelations of the self that occur during each encounter with a new land. And so we keep reading.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Customer Assistance: A Poem

(written for last week's Booksmith Staff Talent Show)

Our schedule has thirty names upon it.
The regulars may know us all by face.
But here's a bit of customer assistance
in telling who is who around the place.
Well, Dana runs the show; she's there surveying
the details from her elevated perch.
And Lisa's our Premier of Product Placement,
the maven of the movement of the merch.
There's Peter wading through receipts and errors.
He brings us bags of bagels anyway.
The galleys in our cubbies come from Alie.
We swear we'll get through all of them someday.
When something breaks, it's time to call on Bruno.
His day is full, for furniture is fickle.
Call Daniel for a detailed book suggestion,
a thorough search, or yummy homemade pickle.
The Shire's tallest honorary hobbit
is Erik, always noting and observing.
And Jamie plans events and tweets and tumbles.
Her skills at multi-tasking are unnerving.
In rain or shine, there's Jon receiving boxes
of nearly every book that's introduced.
And Jodie travels 'round the lonely planet
with Waldo and with expertise in Proust.
And holy crime in Italy, our Kobos
would languish if we lacked the help of Kat.
And Katie runs the blog, designs our flyers,
and works on many stuffs on top of that.
When music decades-old is on the speakers,
then Liz is here, and Waltham feels her lack.
There's Lydia; she's dreaming of a kitty
and shelving with a zipper down her back.
The chocolate and the books from smaller presses
and lots of music knowledge come from Mark.
Paul quotes his witty children and informs them
of how to read a C.S. Lewis arc.
At closing or when helping with receiving,
Ric's known for being chill and easy-going.
And likewise, Russ, with saintly stores of patience
keeps often-very-special orders flowing.
There's literary Shuchi, known for Grub Street
and elephants, which populate her book.
And hey, I'll take some pity on the new guy,
so Tom, this time, at least, you're off the hook.

Now, Amy loves YA, and blogs, and magic
and drawing awesome figures out of sticks.
And biased though I am, I think our section's
the best within this mortar and these bricks.
Clarissa joined us recently and added
her energy and voice into the mix.

The UBC is quietly kept humming
by Carl in his uniform of plaid.
Natasha's love of fairy tales is deathless,
so check her chapbooks out - they're crazy rad.

The C and G has windups, earrings, candles
and stuff of every nature that appeals.
It's Kerri who decides on every item.
She gets it right, and does it all in heels!
And Bacon sizzles, belting '80s music.
Her workload gives us all the heebie-jeebies.
A stranger in a wig? Well, that, most likely,
is Julia, creator of the chibis.
There's no one aging quickly at the Booksmith.
We're all kept young by sweet and youthful Tate.
And Joe's returned to find a store of changes
and help a most creative team create.

Well, that's the team in-store. As you can witness,
the group is vibrant, active, and alive.
So how come I don't hear a page of "got it"
for customer assistance to Reg 5?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

PSA: Linda Ronstadt Edition

Mark just popped in to tell me that Simple Dreams by Linda Ronstadt is our top seller this week, which may blow your minds as the book isn't even out yet.  We've been taking preorders all week, filling out author signing request forms and taking people's addresses.  We've fielded calls, processed Internet orders, all of that good stuff so that people everywhere can get signed copies or tickets to her event.  Everyone on staff under the age of 40 has seen the video below and should know how to pronounce Tucson (TOO-sahn) so I know we're ready.

I'll stop dancing and tell you the point of this post: we can get books signed for you.  When you see an author on our event calendar and can't make the event, pre-order it by phone, Internet, or in person and we can get it signed for you.  Are you in California? No problem.  We'll ship it.  Are you in Turkey?  No problem.  We'll ship it.  Let us know and we'll get it done, however many copies you want.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Back to School

The summer is winding to an end, and while there's still time to get a last trip or two in before schools start up, if you're a teacher, it may be time to start thinking about getting back behind classroom walls. Or, at least, to start planning how you are going to decorate those walls. At Booksmith we've got wall maps to illustrate your lessons, help your students see the world from a different perspective, or simply to let you daydream about new destinations.

The What's Up South? World Upside Down Map will have your students asking questions like never before. Why do we think North is Up? Who decides how we view ourselves in relation to the rest of the world?

While the Peters Projection maintains the traditional compass points, it strives to distribute area in a more accurate way. The world is round, so there is no way to portray it in a perfect projection. However, this map can get students asking more questions relating to distribution of power. Why does Africa appear smaller than the U.S. on a traditional map?

And for elementary teachers, National Geographic has a series of Kids Education maps, including the U.S., World Political, and World Physical. Lamination helps protect from sticky fingers and tears, and the large size, with each country or state delineated by a different color, turns a third grade geography lesson into a visual treat.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Why the history section was lined with strollers

No, the kids' section hasn't completely taken over the store. It just seemed that way this Saturday, when a line of strollers stretched halfway down Aisle 3. Twenty, count 'em, twenty people gathered at 10:30, all to hear The Circus Ship, Mustache Baby, and Llama Llama and the Bully Goat read in Clarissa's dulcet tones.

Our recently revived Children's Storytime is different every time, but it's growing! We've had small crowds and large crowds like yesterday, very young crowds and savvier crowds of kindergarteners and first graders. The whole thing is super-informal; though we pick out the books ahead of time, we let the audience influence our delivery. (If you hear us call it a "story hour," don't take that second word literally.) Kids of all ages are welcome, babies and toddlers included, as long as their grownups are on hand. We read new books; we read favorites; we read good stuff, we think.

To reiterate the vital stats, Children's Storytime takes place at 10:30 on the third Saturday and last Sunday of every month; upcoming dates include this Sunday, 8/25; Saturday, 9/21; and Sunday, 9/29.  It takes place right in our kids' section; you'll know it's happening if we've dragged out the giant striped rug (thanks to many booksellers for their help schlepping that thing). No need to sign up; just show up!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Book v. Movie GO!

Now that the Ender's Game trailer is around like gangbusters book sales for the sci-fi classic are picking up, and while I'm probably going to see the movie, it rears the ugly head of the age old debate: book? movie? which is better? avoid one and cherish the other? are the genres mutually exclusive or can they coexist in harmony. Given that there have been, in history, at least two examples of really great movie adaptations of books that are equal in awesomeness (IMHO) than I think it can be done, and if an adaptation is poorly done, let's just blame the test market. Or whatever.

So. Books that are just as good as the movies. For me, number 1 forever and always is Room With a View - the Merchant & Ivory is just as good as Forster's classic, I don't care if it's heresy, there I said it.

Furthermore, Cold Comfort Farm. The version with a baby Kate Beckinsale totally captures the spirit, charm and one-liners of Stella Gibbons classic satire, and every time I watch it I want to read the book again, and conversely every time I read the book I want to watch the movie.

There are a couple recent Masterpiece Theatre adaptations that I felt were as good as the books, the latest Jane Eyre with Ruth Wilson and Toby Stephens (I cry at the engagement scene every time I watch it, just as when I read it SNIFF), North and South with Richard Armitage (grrr) and Hardy's Tess with Gemma Arterton is GENIUS casting, because there's something about Arterton's totally sweet and trusting doe-eyed face that reminds you throughout the film, just as Hardy reminds you throughout the novel, that Tess is the sweetest, most innocent milkmaid with the worst luck. Ultimate heart breaker!

How about you? Any adaptations that you enjoy as much as the book? Or possibly MORE than the book? Tell me in the comments!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Seventy-Seven Books

I have seventy-seven books on or near my desk right now, mostly publisher galleys.  Seventeen are for upcoming events, two are dictionaries, three are YA novels, four are graphic novels, one is highly recommended by another bookseller, and I've been highly recommending at least eight of the titles to other booksellers. I've read at least fifteen of them, I'm very earnestly planning to read twenty-three of them, I'm tepid about six, and I should probably take about fifteen of them home already. I can tell you why I chose each one, whether it be because of the blurb, the description, the author, an upcoming author event, or because I liked the cover.

I might be on the extreme end of book hoarding, but I swear I need them to do my job. I'm not alone--it seems like every bookseller has loads of books spirited away and a towering pile of galleys that could easily be used to make a book fort while protectively guarding an advance reader's copy they can't talk about yet because the release date is far away (in my case, Paul Harding's Enon, 27 days til pub date, it is amazing and I really want to talk about it).  I work at Brookline Booksmith.  This is what I do.

Do us Brookline Booksmith book hoarders a favor. Come on in, ask us about our favorite books, let us talk about the latest book that we marveled over and can't stop gushing about. Get a recommendation for a book you might not have normally stumbled upon yourself, fall in love with it and tell us about it so we can continue to rationalize the piles, shelves, and heaps of books we consume on a regular basis so we can give quality book advice.

Monday, August 12, 2013

If It's What's Inside That Counts Why Did You Have to Change the Cover?


First off, I want to tell you the three books I am most excited about us getting in the kids department since I last spoke to you:
1. Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins (my love for it's companion book Anna and the French Kiss is pretty much legendary).
2. Journey by Aaron Becker (Shoshana called it Harold and the Purple Crayon meets The Wizard of Oz).
3. The Boy Who Swam with Piranhas by David Almond (I have a thing about piranhas plus a childhood love of David Almond and a current love of illustrator Oliver Jeffers).

Now on to today's ramble.

So, I’m kind of a Harry Potter fan (says the girl with the sign of the Deathly Hallows tattooed on her wrist while wearing a tee-shirt with the Hogwarts crest on it) and in case anyone was unaware, at the end of this month Scholastic is releasing a new set of Harry Potter books. These paperback versions will feature the art of Kazu Kibuishi (of Amulet graphic novel fame). The art itself has already been released for our devouring pleasure and they’re brilliant but I’m not sure I’m happy about it.

I have really mixed feelings about the matter. Kibuishi does beautiful artwork but, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, I’m a pretty sentimental creature so the Mary GrandPre covers will always be my Harry Potter covers. I remember waiting for the release of the cover images and in some ways they are the Harry Potter books for me. The thought of those illustrations becoming harder to come by (the original covers will only be available in hardcover, though, it will take a while for them to die off in paper, I imagine) makes my heart hurt a little.

On the other hand, I also collect different editions of the books so I’m kind of excited/exasperated that there is (yet) another set for me to get. Kibuishi does such a fantastic job of capturing the feeling of the scenes that he chose and I really hope his artwork can grab a different set of people than GrandPre’s (even if Harry probably doesn’t need the help pulling in an audience).

Anyway, this got me thinking of how publishers change cover designs. This often happens from hardcover to paperback, sometimes they just get reprints or anniversary editions, and, other times, the really bad times, they’ll change them in the middle of a series, leaving us with a miss-matched set of covers and a wounded soul.

Here are some of the wonderful, questionable, and minimal cover changes that have occurred in my world.

Holly Black’s Curse Workers got a redesign just before the third book came out. Even though we’d already seen the cover of the last one it was never printed. The new covers give a completely different feel. Admittedly, they took a little while to grow on me.

From this:
To this:

Stephanie Perkins' Anna and the French Kiss and it's companion novel Lola and the Boy Next Door were redone for Lola's paperback release. This means when the third novel comes out (tentatively spring 2014) the cover will match the new look of the first two. These also have a completely different look, but I can't lie, I really love them.

From this:
To this:

Sometimes cover changes happen from hardcover to paperback but aren't that major of changes. For example the softcover release of Maggie Stiefvater's The Raven Boys has the addition of a sketch of the Raven Boys themselves in the background. This one keeps the same feel as the original and might even tie in the cover of the second better.



Other times a cover goes through a progression. Maureen Johnson's The Name of the Star had one cover for hardcover, and then it looked like we might get the UK cover and then was printed with a completely different one in paperback. I'm glad we didn't get the UK one and the third is probably the best of three (even if it doesn't do justice to the creepy factor of the book) and is the one the cover of the second in the series matches.


The really weird times though, are when books get completely repackaged, title and all. I am never 100% sure why this happens. I know it has something to do with marketing but to change even the title of a book always seems a little extreme.

Like Robin Wasserman's Skinned series which came out and looked like this:

Then a few years later they came out The Cold Awakening trilogy and looked like this:

The new covers are pretty cool all lined up like that but...what? I'm not even sure what to do with the complete revamp of the series. I hope more people picked it up. It does look a little more modern?

Anyway, I could be at this all day long (Sarah Rees Brennan's Unspoken cover! It was so pretty, so unique, why did you have to change it?!).

Some of the cover changes are really well done, some I even really love. But no matter how well done they are there's always a little part of me that rebels against changing the face of something I really like...even if it's for the better.

I think part of it changes how I sell the book and what sort of audience I think will be willing to pick it up. Look at the Curse Workers covers, especially the first one, they're so different and that's going to change how I go about recommending it.

But no matter what the covers look like it's the same text inside the book and they're all really fantastic reads. You should come in and check them out.

And seriously, I have another set of Harry Potter books to buy...


Friday, August 9, 2013

Fun Finds

The UBC has gotten quite a haul of rad books in this week. Just as I was pricing a few, I noticed these two creepily related covers:

 Another book has a rather dapper author photo, worth the price of the entire book in my humble opinion:

We have a bunch of great exceptions to our no-hardcover rule:

And some neat oldies and goodies that if you haven't read yet you should hurry down and grab now:

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

August Shenanigans

It's August.  Boston empties out, people who haven't yet squandered their vacation time have fled, the city is quiet (ish) and waiting for September when Boston's population explodes.  This is the perfect time of year for putting shenanigans onto the Booksmith event calendar, when we take off our glasses and party like it's 1999.

Friday, August 23rd at 7pm
A lot of really interesting, talented people work here.  In addition to a slew of writers, we have cosplayers, comedians, artists, all sorts of people, but no jugglers. I really wanted there to be a juggler on staff, really really badly. I'm going to be reading a sestina I wrote for Shuchi about spatial reasoning, Amy will be doing her stick figure drawings, Ric and Jodie have signed up to read poetry and prose, Katie will be making a brilliant short film, and rumor has it Jes is searching for her childhood clarinet. I don't think anyone will be singing, but that's because...

A Reading with Rob Sheffield Sandwiched by Karaoke Hours
Saturday, August 17th at 7pm
I read Love is A Mix Tape years ago, cried, and fell head-over-heels for Rolling Stone writer Rob Sheffield and his deceased wife.  Let's be honest with ourselves, this guy can write. Fast forward to a few months ago when I learned of Rob's new book, Turn Around Bright Eyes: The Rituals of Love and Karaoke.  The karaoke party didn't really appear in my brain, rather, it climbed onto a cloud playing Hall and Oates and settled gently onto my shoulders.  Want to get in on this? E-mail events@brooklinebooksmith.com with the subject heading KARAOKE! and your top 3 song choices to be assigned a time slot.  If you don't, Rob Sheffield may be subjected to two straight hours of me singing a Hall and Oates medley and he may never return to the Boston area.  Come on guys.  Do it for Rob.

A Reading with Toby Barlow
Thursday, August 8 at 7pm
There aren't any overt shenanigans connected to this event, and it's technically the most 'normal' reading out of the ones I've listed here. I loved Sharp Teeth and I really adore Babayaga, which is the most shenanigan-laced book I've read in quite a while, and this is coming from the woman who has been steadily consuming Doctor Who mass markets this entire summer.  You should go.

*If you know how to juggle and would like to juggle in the Booksmith Staff Talent Show, please e-mail events@brooklinebooksmith.com with the subject header: I Am The Juggler You've Been Searching For.  Please include a brief description of your most adventurous juggling attempt to date.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Beach Reads to Sink or Swim to

It is August already, and I have yet to make it to the beach. Were I still living landlocked in Iowa, where I grew up, this might be excusable, but when you live in a coastal city, at least one dip in the ocean during the sunny season is mandatory. So tomorrow I'm packing my beach bag (have you seen the gorgeous bags we stock in the Card and Gift Room?!) and heading for the waves. I've got my suit, I've got some snacks (check out our adorable hand-dipped "beach pretzels" on display at the front register!!), but...what should I read?

The term "beach read" has a bad association in my mind, akin to "airplane reading" and shelved in my imagination somewhere between Fifty Shades of Gray and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Not that there's anything wrong with a light summer read. But, I would argue, there's also nothing wrong with reading something literary while watching the tide come in.

I finished Moby Dick on Revere Beach--a beach accessible by T (blue line) from Boston. I began the tome on the Cape, and when Ishmael writes about the restlessness that span of blue called the Atlantic conjures up in him--inspiring him to knock the caps off the heads of passing pedestrians--I knew exactly what he meant. Already read it? Monique Roffey's new novel Archipelago will take you on an equally exciting sea voyage through the islands of the Caribbean.

I distinctly remember the exact way Virginia Woolf describes a bay in To the Lighthouse because I was sitting on a beach in Acadia National Park admiring the "great plateful of blue water" before me. For those who need a good romance during balmy summer months, Woolf's first novel, The Voyage Out, is the perfect escape. A much more accessible and straightforward read than her later novels, The Voyage Out is a coming-of-age story, love story, and travel narrative wrapped up in one delightful read.

If beach read means laughs in your mind, Gerald Durrell's My Family and Other Animals is the perfect summer getaway packed into a book. The Durrell family escapes a dreary England for the sunny beaches of Corfu, where they are plunged into many adventures in nature. For something reflective yet light, tuck Anne Morrow Lindbergh's classic Gifts from the Sea into your picnic basket.

If you are someone who likes brevity during the summer months, the newest edition of The Best Women's Travel Writing has just arrived from Travelers' Tales. Each of these lively adventures takes only minutes of your time, and can be set down and picked up again between dips in the ocean. Happy swimming.

Monday, August 5, 2013

A tale of 24 Waldos

Yes, now it can be told. Twenty-four was the official number of cardboard Waldos hidden among our shelves at Wednesday's Find Waldo Party. The intrepid young detectives, many clad in Waldo camouflage themselves, earned raffle tickets by finding some or all of the slippery, stripy fellows. The raffle winner would receive a Where's Waldo boxed set, but for many of those looking for him, the thrill was really in the hunt. One group of preteens, who'd joined the search spontaneously and quite successfully when they saw what was going on, had to leave before the drawing. I offered to take down their contact information in case they won, and they debated whether that was worthwhile, as they weren't as interested in the prize as they'd been in the activity (or perhaps already had their own Waldo books). "Well, if we win," I heard one of them say, "We can give them to Children's Hospital."

But the kids weren't the only stars of event. Waldo himself made a live appearance, and what an appearance it was! Eagle-eyed visitors spotted him peeking out from behind bookshelves, dancing down the aisles, even sneaking up on browsers as they focused on our map selection. We booksellers (a certain travel guru in particular) watched him in fascination, and he had his younger admirers, too. His emulators were many, and the Waldo costume contest was a spirited competition. The adorable, bespectacled winner received a book of Waldo posters, and the runners-up got Waldo postcard books. One very young runner-up, striped from head to toe, found a use for her first postcard immediately: she colored it for Waldo.

The perfect activity for a summer afternoon? I'd say we found it.

For Elephant and Piggie, however, the search continues.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Thirty-Two-Hour-Long Read

So the last part, the missing piece as regards getting ready for my trip and books is what to bring with me! I've got a 16 hour flight (both ways) and various train rides during the trip during which I will think to myself "I really should read right now," but be too nervous-excited to do so. As travel lit guru Jodie said after her recent return from a trip, "You always think you'll read more than you actually do." Too true, and I have many trips' experience with which to back this notion up. BUT GUYS THIS TIME I'M REALLY GOING TO READ A LOT.

Because I've found the perfect book.

  • It's 3 books in 1, ergo a great length.
  • It's Scandinavian (I won't need to read about Japan while I'm there, right?)
  • According, again to Jodie, it's a fairy easy read with romance and history (perfect for a vacation, right?)
What could this perfect mystery book be the photo of which you saw as soon as you loaded the blog post? Sigrid Undset's mega-Norwegian-medieval epic Kristin Lavransdatter

I don't have the mega cool 3-volume edition Jodie snagged from the Used Book Cellar, but I have the new translation from Penguin all in a tidy volume, so my unbridled optimism tells me that this is the trip that I finally finish this book I've been meaning to read for years. 

As I learned with my last airplane trip in which I started Cloud Atlas, and promptly finished on the T-ride, the trick to reading a lot of a book on a trip is perhaps to start before you go, so you can carry that momentum over lands and oceans. So I've read through ALL my to-read pile and am currently on the last book before Kristin, so I'll have a good head start before I leave and will for surely finish it finally just as I descend back into Logan at the end of the month. Right?