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.