Monday, September 30, 2013

Sometimes 'Should' Isn't Enough

Three books I'm most excited about since my last post:

1. The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater
Guys...guys...This book is amazing. Amazing. (And she's going to be at the Boston Book Festival, if anyone wants to see me hyperventilate.)
2. Untold by Sarah Rees Brennan
I..just...this book! You can't see it but my hand is on my chest dramatically. I love this book.
3. Battle Magic by Tamora Pierce
I started writing because of her. And she's been so influential on so many YA authors that you should check her out if you haven't already.

Something that comes up for me a lot as a bookseller, reader, blogger are books that everyone loves. Books that so many of my friends just adore, and bloggers who seem to have similar tastes as me rave about, and authors that I love love as well. I get so excited to read these books. I have such high hopes for them. I expect so much from them.

Sometimes it all works out and I join the masses and fall head-over-heels for a book (ie. The Fault in Our Stars). But there are these other times that I read the book and I realize that I'm spending the entire thing on the edge of my seat. Not because I'm so into the book but because I'm waiting for that moment where it all clicks into place. That moment where I realize why everyone is obsessed with this book.

And then the book ends and that moment has never come. I still don't get it. I want to, so badly. I'll go back and reread bits and pieces and scenes that almost became that moment. But I still just won't see it. I mean, I should like this book, right? It sounds like everything I love. Everyone else thinks I should. But I don't.

Then people will ask me how I liked it and I have this moment where I feel like I should like. Where I feel like my reputation as a reader is dependent on liking this book. No one will trust my judgement if I didn't like this book.  Then I usually stammer out some sort of answer like,

"Oh...uh... it was...uhm...hmmm. I can see how you liked it..."  "..."

I usually promise to go back and visit the book again, thinking maybe it was the circumstances in which I read it. Let's be serious though, with the reading list as never ending as it is, I probably won't go back. I have too much else I want to read or already liked and want to reread.

There are times where I try to figure out what might not have clicked with me. There are also other times where I think about it a little and then let it go. It's not always worth it. It took me a while to figure out that it didn't matter.

I don't have to love every book (no, I won't give examples). No one has to love every book. I wouldn't believe you if you told me that you did. We're different people.

I actually find it really interesting when two people who have so many other books in common so strongly disagree about one of them. It makes me wonder what drew them to the others to begin with. If it is a completely different set of traits that they are finding in common between the other books.

So, aside from everyone being different, and that being okay, it's actually really interesting that we are so different. It's why we booksellers ask so many questions about which books you like before recommending others. We want to find a book you'll really like while understanding that it doesn't necessarily have to be the most popular.

I don't love every popular book or every book that someone else thinks I will. But I still love some really fantastic books.


Friday, September 27, 2013

Booksmith: A Baedeker

Brookline Booksmith boasts an impressive population of an average of 35 staff. It is a utopia with no political affiliation, religion and a beneficent government by triumvirate of wise elders, one of which operates as acting Matriarch.

Booksmith matriarch Dana
Its high season is the late fall to winter, when the crowds come in droves for the fantastic shopping. A good time to visit would be anytime that they are open, from 7 days a week, Monday - Thursday 8:30am - 10pm, Friday 8:30am - 11pm, Saturday 9am - 11pm, Sunday 9am - 9pm.

Its capital is the stately Books We Love table, located at its Westernmost corridor. Its northern border is the eclectic and funky Card & Gift Room, a sprawling marketplace popular among the young and old.

Explore the vibrant international bazaar at the Card & Gift Room
The Southern border is the Point of Sale Mountain Range, a prominent feature both denizens and visitors can "check out."

Point of Sale Mountain Range
Past this region is the breathtaking New Hardcovers and Fiction wall, a favorite spot of the trendy and intellectual.

Along the Easternmost border of Booksmith is a sweeping theme park for children.

People watch and enjoy an espresso at the delightfully tiny tables
An oft-forgotten yet treasured landscape is the subterranean catacombs of the Used Book Cellar. Built among the ancient ruins of old offices, a video and record store is a twisting labyrinth of half-priced, gently used books with a small staff of well-informed natives that operate on a slightly shifted time zone, buying used books from Wednesday through Saturday 10am - 4pm.

Transport to a landscape of antiquity in the Used Book Cellar
This new edition of the Brookline Booksmith Baedeker is edited by Natasha, originally from the Used Book Cellar but a recent move now allows her to divide her time evenly between her native land and the Travel section, which she now oversees.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

One Week

The past few weeks have jammed themselves together in my mind and I am unable to separate them.  Yes, they come one after the other, but each can be a self-contained unit filled with activities and details that say too much about you. So, for lack of a better topic, my week:

Seven days ago, I got a pumpkin latte from Peet's.  As per my last post, I am consuming everything pumpkin until it runs out or I've stockpiled pumpkins and have (improbably) learned to make things with them.

Six days ago, we hosted Linda Ronstadt at the Coolidge.  She amazes me--she's such a performer, willing to put herself out there and be genuine and lovely while still pushing herself for her fans.

Five days ago, I was at a party and ended up talking about books with other book people, surprising no one.

Four days ago, I had a day off.  Unable to completely extract myself from books, I ended up re-reading Franny and Zooey. 

Three days ago, I bought a rocking chair to complete my reading nook.  I believe rocking chairs are most comfortable when your legs are draped over the side and you can rock back and forth by shifting your weight, and this chair is perfect.

Two days ago I met Nicholson Baker, an author whose work I am obsessed with.  I made sure that I didn't have coffee earlier that day, attempted to be as calm as possible, and only let out my full energy on the podium, during my introduction, when I somehow ad-libbed that I was having a 'hyperventilation moment.' I tried so hard to play it cool and failed in the most epic manner, but I have no regrets.  There are infinitely worse things than a bookseller rabidly obsessed with your work.

Yesterday Jodie left the Booksmith for good.  Now our former travel buyer, she is one of the most genuine people I know and I'm doing my best not to think about the fact she is gone, because I think I might cry.  I really adore my previous co-workers, and while I am so proud of them for getting amazing jobs, having babies, moving across the country, etc., I can't help but be sad that they're gone.

Today I went with a few booksellers to New England Comics in Coolidge Corner.  Only one of us went in with the intent to purchase, but we all left with something in our hands.  Afterwards, we sat quietly while devouring the comics we purchased, which felt just right.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Without a Map

“It’s not down on any map—the true places never are.”
(Herman Melville, Moby Dick)

A job offer in Minneapolis kept me busy this weekend, scouring ads for a new apartment and packing up the old. But in the midst of the whirlwind such a transition kicks up, I paused preparations for a final pilgrimage in Boston.

My destination was not marked on any map that I could find, and in the end I left my apartment on foot with a backpack of picnic snacks, a pen and notebook, but no map. I was determined to find the base of what I call my “fairy tower,” a mysterious white spire topped with a sea green turret that chases me on my walks to work and dodges and dances on the horizon each evening when I return home. I have seen that tower from every point in this city, but have never found it.

As I left my apartment in Jamaica Plain, I peered anxiously at the horizon, waiting for my goal to appear in front of me. Usually it would show up, slightly to the right of Stop n’ Shop, hovering over the Jackson Square T station. Today it was gone.

“When the rainbow disappears, the leprechauns still remain,” my husband, companion for the trek, mystifyingly assured me.

And he was right. We followed the Southwest Corridor Parkway around the corner of Jackson
Station, and there was the tower, perched high on an embankment of houses and autumn-tinted trees, with no clear path leading to the top.

Keeping our goal in sight, we crossed the traffic of Columbus and came to a stop: a Y in the road. We chose to go left, though soon we were cutting right on a series of labyrinthine switchbacks that led us up the hill, past haunting mansions in decrepit states of disrepair, and a life-size, slightly creepy statue of Christ perched on a large rock at the corner of an empty lot, hands outstretched as if to bless our pilgrimage.

As we climbed higher, now and then I would catch views of the city and surrounding neighborhoods: the Prudential and John Hancock buildings marking downtown, the white blight of the Vet’s hospital I pass every day on my way to Brookline, the dome of the abandoned church down the street from my apartment. The monuments of my life in Boston were beginning to shift behind me, uprooting from their chronological anchors in my habitual every day to move on the tides of elusive memory.

Soon after we passed Jesus, the tower appeared around a bend, first its bleached trunk with winking slits of windows, then its whole, but we still had to climb a steep bank of sharp rocks to reach our goal, finally firmly rooted in the center of a green square.

As I circled the tower I craned my neck, trying to see into the dark windows beneath its peak. A seagull flew by, perhaps with a message for a captive princess in its beak, but the windows kept their secrets, reflecting only the cloud-dappled sky. We sat down to our picnic fare beneath a weeping willow crying the golden tears of autumn. I knew I had come to say goodbye.

In life there are no maps, only the ever-shifting unknowable future. But that future is anchored in place, in destinations which we can come to know and love for the moment that we inhabit them—or is it that they inhabit us, because even as I set out on my next journey, I feel this place inside of me; Boston now a captive of my memory.

And because you still need maps to most places, we’ll still have a vibrant travel section at Booksmith to help you get to your next destination. My co-worker Natasha, who has been buying back your books in the Used Book Seller, will be managing our travel section in my absence. A veteran traveler, newly returned from Tokyo, and queen of two geography bees, in 4th and 8th grade, she’ll be there to guide you on your next journey. Safe travels.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Happy Banned Books Week from a pretty darned intellectually free place

Everyone has a different idea of what constitutes "appropriate content."

I've talked with a lot of parents about what's right and what's not right for their kids to read. Some parents want to avoid anything "scary." Others ask about the The Hunger Games and relax as soon as they learn that although it's about teenagers being forced to fight to the death, it doesn't have any sexual content. Many shoppers are a little more anxious when they're looking for gifts for someone else's kids, which I can understand; it's one thing to say that your own kids are ready for a book that contains x, y, or z, and it's another thing to be the aunt who brought the book.

What I love about the customers in our kids' section, though, is that the question is pretty much always what's appropriate for the particular kid in question, not what should be published or be on our shelves. (Once, long ago, a customer told me casually that he wished we wouldn't stock Barbie books. I don't love them either, but I believe in their right to be here as long as people want them. In any case, that was the end of it.) People around here seem to get that what's all wrong for one reader might be just right for another; even siblings have different levels of scariness tolerance or ability to understand difficult topics.

If you ask me about what's in a book, I'll be as honest as possible to the best of my knowledge and recollection. (I apologize now if I don't remember that s-word on page 342.) When I give you the summary of a book, if something controversial is an important part of it, I'll tell you that up-front. What constitutes "controversial" changes over the years, of course. LGBT characters, for example, are gradually becoming the norm in young adult books, and their presence isn't necessarily the thing the book's about anymore. (That's a little less true of books for younger readers, and if you're looking at the graphic novel Drama for an eight-year-old, for instance, I may mention to you that there are some boys with crushes on boys just in case this is the reader's first introduction to that sort of thing.)

In any case, I'm very, very glad that Brookline seems to be cool with our having books on all sorts of topics that kids might wonder about. And as always, if you have questions about anything, just ask.

Happy Banned Books Week.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Crunchy Leaves, Smooth Books

Autumn time is the happiest time of year for bookstore types. All the best books are coming out, the weather is perfect for warm tea or pumpkin spice lattes while you curl up in a cozy blanket and read all the books, or curl up in a nice scarf and fend off the chubby squirrels preparing for winter in the Common. There are tons of great books the store is jazzed about released this fall: Jumpa Lahiri's Lowland, I've already started tucking into Anya von Bremzen's Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking and the new David Wiesener book Mr. Wuffles are just the tip of the autumnal iceberg.

In addition to all the new fall books, the UBC has cured curated a fine selection of meats books that are perfect for autumn: Ivy League campuses going back to school, spooky New England ghost stories, young couples falling into piles of leaves, the whole gamut of super-satisfying fall time reads! We've got a nice new case at the top of the stairs, for the discerning book lover on the go who might not have the time to get lost in our subterranean bookshelves. The selection changes daily so come quickly and come often! And if there's a special book you love to reread every fall, let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Booksellers in Autumn

For the past two weeks, every flavored beverage that has touched my lips has pumpkin in it.  Pumpkin beers, pumpkin latte, and I have a honey and cinnamon sugar set-up at home for rimmed glasses.  I've unpacked my cardigan collection, am sighing over maroon-colored everything, and am already pressuring people to go leaf-gazing with me (I'm from Arizona guys, I have to be like this to fill the non-Boston-native quota).

We had a staff meeting the other night, where a few publisher sales representatives came in to tell us about fall books.  In addition to getting pizza from OTTO (my love of their mashed potato bacon pizza is legendary), we were treated to a night of drinks (thank you Dana!) and books.  After oohing and aahing over titles, and numerous interjections from me (there are a lot of fantastic authors coming in for events, not to brag or anything), we walked away very well-educated about fall books.  We got to pick out the books we wanted and had a raffle for a few more titles, and also fought and smack-talked other booksellers in an attempt to trade for a book we really wanted. 

1. Best American Guide to Infographics 2013, by Gareth Cook: Design! He's also coming here for an event 10/15
2. Co-Mix: A Retrospective of Comics, Graphics, and Scraps, by Art Spiegelman: This book is a. gorgeous and b. mine, not yours.
3. Boxers/Saints, by Gene Luen Yang: I first read this as an egalley, was alternately ecstatic for the opportunity to read it/devastated I didn't first read it as a hard copy, and then became really happy when I snagged (a.k.a. made sad faces at Natasha) it for myself. 
4. Balaboosta, by Einat Admony: Look at it.  Just look at it. If I have to explain any further, you are bad at cookbooks.
5. Provence, 1970, by Luke Barr: M.F.K. Fisher, Julia Child, James Beard and more in one area, talking food and meeting at really seminal and important times in their lives.  Gossip, the ability to make the joke about too many cooks in the kitchen, you get the idea.
6. Allegiant, by Veronica Roth: There weren't any actual copies of this book at the store, but when our HarperCollins rep Anne said the title, about ten of us leaned forward and held our breaths.  If there was a galley--oh, the blood!
7. Falling Upwards, by Richard Holmes: Hot air balloons.  Hot. Air. Balloons.

We already knew too much about books, and now we know even more.  Come on in, we're ready for the holiday onslaught.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Music and Written Word Universality


First, the books I am most excited we got in the children's section since my last post:
1. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black
   Black has a way of exploring a thought to be over-done trope in such an interesting way. Her books always seem to say something about society.
2. CardCaptor Sakura (vol 2&3) by Clamp
   We already had the first and fourth and I'm excited to finally have the middle two. This is still one of my favorite manga series. Plus, Clamp's art is pretty much unparalleled.
3. Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan (paperback)
   This book has one of the most unusual premises and it delivers on everything it promises. It's funny and a bit heartbreaking. They, of course changed it's beautiful hardcover cover but the inside is still the same.

So, I'm one of those music people. Not musical, exactly. I gave up the clarinet in fifth grade and, though I was in choir, I shouldn't be allowed to sing in public. I mean that I listen to a lot of music. If I'm not reading or watching something I am listening to music. I write to music, I stick-figure to music, I clean to music, and I get a bit twitchy if I'm working and music isn't playing. It may not always be my favorite music but I generally feel better if something is at least playing.

Something that I continually find fascinating is the interaction between literature and music. I'll be reading a book and suddenly something will happen or the tone of a scene will remind of a song. Or, more often, I'll be listening to music and I'll have this moment where I go:

"That! That's what [insert character name here] was feeling when [insert event here]!"

And I feel like those are such fantastic moments because they show this connection and universality in what the character is feeling and what the songwriter was doing.

In my own writing I spend hours collecting songs into playlists. Some of it is, admittedly, a way to procrastinate but I end up with these brilliant playlists that cover different tones I want to set (fight music, walking in the city at night, Inevitable declaration of love music) or are character specific and constantly evolving  as the character does.

Looking back on them is one of my favorite things because so often, I leave them in the order that I've added the music and it is a sort of growth chart of the character or an evolution of the story line.

While, I never thought I was the only one who connected music to what I was reading/writing I had enough people stare at me blankly when I said:

"Doesn't this song remind you of [insert character name here]?"

that I started keeping my music book excitement to myself.

But I'm definitely not alone in this. Fairly recently authors (at least YA ones) have started release the playlists they created while writing certain books. Stephanie Meyer used to have them printed in the back of the Twilight series, Rachel Caine did the same with her Morganville Vampires.  Even more recently authors have posted them online.
More than that, readers ask about them. They want to know what music the author likes, what tone the author had in mind for specific scenes or what sort of music the characters, themselves like. The connection between the written word and music is becoming more recognized.

And I kind of love it.


Friday, September 13, 2013

Being a grownup

This Tuesday I celebrated my 28th birthday. I'm officially a decade into adulthood and therefore a bonafide, card-carrying grownup. I also read tarot cards and do a big spread at the beginning of the calendar year AND birthday year.

 This year, my "concerns" as I spread the cards out were balancing all the crazy projects I want to do (running my own press, translating a book, writing my own novel) with all the normal stuff of grownup life that I still haven't nailed down (exercising, flossing, reading more from my to-read pile). So I spread the cards and all these 4s of things kept coming up. 4 of Pentacles, Swords and Wands. The Emperor, who is #4 in the major arcana. FOURS, man. Clearly the universe was sending me a sign. If you arrange things into four you have a nice little square foundation, and indeed, a proliferation of 4s in a spread suggests establishing a structure, routinizing things, getting organized and stable for things to work going forward.

 Clearly the cards suggest that while I really do want to get a million things done, I need to set up some sort of structure for making that happen. So my resolutions for my 28th year are to start small, and start flossing daily. I'm 2 for 2 on that one (#nailingit) and to read more, some friends of mine are starting up a book club to finally read all those books on our to-read pile that we're embarrassed we haven't read yet. Especially as booksellers and book reviewers, which many of us are. So on the inaugural meeting, to fit my new resolution, I'm really pushing for Zadie Smith's White Teeth.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Bookshops. People. OTP?

I can get lost down the rabbit hole of "What Your Bookshelf Says About You to a Date" or "The 12 Best Dates in Fiction"-type lists, unable to extricate myself as I shake my fist or nod knowingly while being surprised I landed on a dating website with never ending lists that send you to more lists (books, you can really get me to go anywhere).

As I read these lists, I keep imagining two people meeting up for a first date with high hopes, reviewing literary references while frantically rereading the last Pulitzer-winning novel in fiction in an attempt to impress the other, deflating when the other person's reading list eclipses their own. I've tested potential friendships and relationships by bringing people to bookstores, the easiest way for me to get a read on someone new.

The way people move through bookstores can reveal a lot about them.  Can they browse the shelves as long as I do?  Do they like to touch spines, and how do they handle books? What section do they make a beeline to, if any section at all?  Can they find the entrance to the used book section?  Do they maintain a list of books he has been searching for used?  How many books off the best-seller list have they read?  Are they doing the antsy 'get me out of here' dance? Are they comfortable talking about books they have read?  Does they answer the impossible question 'Do you have a favorite book?' with ease, or do they hesitate while trying to battle out favorites internally?

There are really no right answers to the questions above (well, except for the antsy 'get me out of here' dance, unless this is a restroom emergency calm it down), but bookstores are part of our social landscape, just like movie theaters and coffee shops and concert venues.  They're where I've met and bonded with some of my favorite people, and I've seen countless others do the same.  All else fails, and you can't find your perfect bookstore companion? Buy a book.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

From Poutine to Opera in Montreal

As we approached the restaurant outside Montreal’s Jardin Botanique, the unmistakable strains of an opera aria greeted us. We were exhausted after three days of trekking around the city and its parks, including the botanical gardens, where we had been greeted by enormous living plant sculptures presented by various countries for the Mosaicultures Internationales Montréal exhibition. After all that walking, it was delightful to find ourselves sharing tapas and a bottle of wine on a sun dappled terrace while being serenaded for free by members of the Opéra de Montréal.

We had spent our first morning at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. (If you missed Chihuly in Boston, he’s now on exhibit in Canada.) I could have spent the whole day among the paintings, but we opted for an afternoon strolling through the tree-lined avenues (designed by Frederick Law Olmsted) of Parc du Mont-Royal, where we were stunned with a view of the city and the St. Lawrence.

The evening before we had dined at an exquisite French and Portuguese restaurant, but now I pulled my companions across the street to sample poutine, a local dish with a history to, well, maybe not recommend it—a hearty dish of potatoes and cheese curds smothered in gravy, poutine, according to my Lonely Planet guide, was eaten by early settlers trying to survive the long winters. We washed down our meal with some beer and walked through the Old Town and onto the quays until it was time for a light show at the city’s famous Notre Dame Cathedral. The show was complete with historical re-enactments and dramatic voice actors.

We spent a day in Little Italy, at the Marché Jean-Talon, a sprawling market full of fresh produce, then went south on a hunt for bookstores. Our favorites were Mona Lisait where the owner played us classical guitar as we browsed and complimented our French, and Les Aux Points Cardinals—a travel bookstore with a full room of maps and gorgeous globes. After touring the sleek and modern bibliothéque nationale, we followed our Lonely Planet guide to Le Petite Extra for a dinner that would only be rivaled by the tapas on the terrace the next evening.

Autumn had begun to touch the trees surrounding us in the Jardin Botanique, and as soon as the tapas disappeared and the sunlight began to fade, I was cold. I left the table to procure a chocolat chaud from inside the restaurant, and, when I returned, my companions greeted me with a warm, soft wrap they had just procured from the restaurant for “la jolie jeune fille.” Cozily wrapped and sipping my hot chocolate, I found in this gesture an attention to comfort and beauty that rivaled that of Europe, and soaked in the strains of a robust Carmen as my last evening in Montreal twinkled into twilight.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Chin up, kids

We know, kids. We know. Summer's been awesome, and at least some of you are probably a bit, dare we say, unhappy about returning to school.
But where else can dozens of comedies and dramas take place all at once?

Where else can you discover along with the people around you how much cooler your insides are than your outsides?

Where else can you get - and learn to avoid - the Cheese Touch?

Where else can you exert power over the very words we speak?


Where else can you show off the two-ponytailed hat you found in your underwear drawer?

Where else can you crack your slate over the head of the future love of your life?

Stay in school, kids. You never know what might happen.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Bookstore Tourism: Tokyo Edition

Still recovering from massive jet lag accrued over my recent flight over the International Date Line, I was reading Murakami's Sputnik Sweetheart as I tried to lull myself to sleep at something resembling a decent hour. It's still hard to get to bed on time, and harder still to wake up in the morning and feel alert during the day, but since the time change between Brookline and Tokyo is (only) 13 hours, according to Wikipedia I only have 5 more days to recover from the jet lag. I should be right as rain just in time for my birthday! Anyway, back to the Murakami. At the beginning of chapter 6, the narrator says: "The day the letter arrived, I'd gone out to Shinjuku for the first time in quite a while, picked up a couple of new books at the Kinokuniya bookstore, and taken in a Luc Besson movie." While in Tokyo, I stayed in Shinjuku, and visited this very Kinokuniya, with it's staggering 8 stories of books.

There were tons of bookstores in Tokyo, and even a neighborhood of used bookstores near the major universities. The reading culture in Tokyo is alive and well, with many of the passengers on the clean, efficient Tokyo subway lines reading paperback books carefully covered in leather, canvas, fabric and even tidy paper book covers. The displays in many of the stores were gorgeous and vibrant, twisted stacks to the ceilings, beautiful piles wrapped around the bookshelves, and book design is beautiful there, with many of the books in similar trim sizes, with a sewn in bookmark in the popular-sized paperbacks. There's even a magazine devoted to the art of book design and illustration!

Kinokuniya was a little special for me because even though it's technically a chain, the only others I've visited were in Seattle and New York, two cities near and dear to my heart. I bought a copy of Alice in Wonderland in Japanese at the Seattle location, with a cool slipcase, and in New York I bought Finn Family Moomintroll in Japanese complete with illustrations. In Shinjuku, I loaded up on cute magazines with bunnies and stunning Japanese architecture magazines, and even rode the elevator with a real live attendant decked out in lace gloves and hat. I was on the hunt for a particular book and having trouble with the organization at one point (it didn't seem entirely alphabetical, even knowing the Japanese alphabet), and when I asked for help, the very kind and gracious bookseller bowed, ran to the computer, looked at me, excused himself and apologized profusely, dashed past me and returned with a Japanese to English dictionary and pointed at a word. "Not in stock." They have a single word for that! I thanked him, bought my treasures, which the cashier placed elegantly in the bag, taped shut, bowed and thanked me.

All of this was a microcosm of my stay in Japan, orderly, elegant, everyone takes such care with details and politeness I felt so welcome and happy and impressed and overwhelmed and soothed all at the same time I had a hard time leaving. So how about it kids, who's coming with me to set up Booksmith Tokyo?

Wednesday, September 4, 2013


I've spent the past two days unpacking my belongings and settling into my new apartment.  Instead of figuring out where the trash and recycling goes, I've been creating reading nooks.  I've moved the furniture at least three times already, seeing how the light hits at different points of the day and how it works with the rest of the room.

The thing I haven't yet gotten to is my collection of books.  Unpacking books promising hours of sifting through pages, looking up book cover designers, and organizing them into random categories, all things I love.  I save this for last, long after I've put away my clothes, assembled all the furniture, and rearranged all of the silverware in the most accessible fashion.  This time, I've told myself I won't double stack. I'll keep my books in check and buy more bookshelves when I need them, but I know what these shelves will look like in three months.  They will be haphazard, stacked in piles, threatening to fall off the shelf or squash another book.  They will have been opened and read, loved and lent out.  They will contain notes, receipts, and currency.  Some will be in perfect condition, some will have bent pages, some will have warped pages from being read in the tub.  Their number will grow as I get used to the new place, and when it's time to move out I'll do it all over again.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Reader's Dilemma Number 678

Hullo again!

Since's it's been awhile since my last post I'm going to do the top four books I'm excited we got in the children's section in the last three weeks:

1. The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater (paperback)
Easily one of the best books I've read in the last few it

2. Llama Llama and the Bully Goat by Anna Dewdney
My love for Llama Llama is, perhaps, excessive for a 25 year old.

3. Love in the Time of Global Warming by Francesca Lia Block
Her books were such an important part of my high school life. I'm excited for her take on the Odyssey.

4. The new Harry Potter covers. They are absolutely lovely. Even if Dumbledore and Lupin have rather silly looking mustaches. I bought the boxed set.

And now, my current dilemma.

I am a rereader. I know a lot of people who aren't. That's fine, I don't understand it, but hey, if that's your thing go for it. I just have problems reading a book once and then letting it go. There are too many that change every time I read them. Too many that I just want to read again and again.

Which leads to my problem. The thing about reading lists is that they keep growing. This is a beautiful and terrible thing. I will never be caught up, no matter how hard I try. I love that there's always something new but also feel immediately bad when someone asks "have you read..." and I have to say 'no.'

But with so many new books coming out it's hard to make time to reread my favorites. My most common method is to make a list and alternate. Currently I am rereading Tamora Pierce's Circle of Magic series but I feel bad that I have so many books that I haven't read that are out or coming out that I've broken it up, saying that I'll read two of those and then another, newer, book and then the other two. But sometimes I get grumpy about breaking up a series like that.

If I can find them in audio format I'll listen to them on my way to work (I won't listen to an audio book unless I've read the book before. I get less upset if I miss parts when the bus gets particularly loud) while still reading newer books. Not every title is available in audio format though and some of them are expensive and/or difficult to find.

I can't not reread, I just end up pining for the old favorites (I'm looking at you Howl's Moving Castle) but I also begin to despair over the growing to-be-read pile as I'm sliding comfortably back into familiar worlds.

There isn't really a solution to this problem and, in terms of problems, it's really not a bad one to have. But if you ask me if I've read a book and I looked pained and say 'no' please know that it's a legitimate pain.