Saturday, April 14, 2007

Readin' in the Rain...

The weather has been foreboding of late...We're used to it though--we're New Englanders! We never know quite what to expect- Barry Burbank, Matt Noyes and other meteorologists always seem desperate for some kind of disaster to strike. As a kid, I always looked forward to the promise of a wicked snow storm (and they always promised, and I was always disappointed) but in time I've become immune to the New England meteorologist's tendency to speak in deranged hyperbole.

They weren't kidding this time, though! I was awakened more than once last night, as the wind was clawing at my roof and dancing wildly with the trees in my backyard. Oh the madness of it all! The formidable abandon! It makes me want to build a tent out of couch cushions and tablecloths...It makes me want to read in bed with a flashlight under my sheets...It makes me want to hunker down with a huge cup of tea and not resurface until I've read my favorite book, cover to cover...

When the rain pounds down so hard that it sounds a bit like Riverdance is being performed on my roof, I always feel compelled to read a good book. Rainy day reads are unlike any other. On dark, rainy days, you've really got to read something special-- something captivating and ultra delightful. A rainy day read carries the weight and responsibility of keeping the reader alert and engaged. If you're reading Prokaryotic Diversity Mechanisms & Significance on a stormy day, for example, you'll probably slip into a vegetative state within five minutes. If, however, you're reading a diverting family drama such as Through A Glass Darkly, or a rollicking, exceedingly well narrated novel about Irish rebellion, like A Star Called Henry, you'll be riveted and glad that the weather is so forbidding.

Devoted reader I certainly am, but when it's a gorgeous, bright summer day I always feel guilty about staying inside. I usually go for a nature walk, take a trip down Cape, run errands, etc. I crave the approach of twilight because it gives me permission to curl up on my favorite toile quilt and read until midnight. When the weather is this murky and unforgiving I never feel guilty about staying in. In fact, the thought of venturing into the perpetual darkness is enough to make me burst into tears. That's why I love a messy week like this. I've been given a ticket to read until my heart's content.

Here are some excellent rainy day reads that you may enjoy:

Wuthering Heights
Jane Eyre
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell
Snow Falling On Cedars
My Name is Red
Shadow of the Wind
The Shipping News
Pride & Prejudice
Freedom & Necessity
Reservation Blues

(Also, there's nothing like a good mystery or true crime to keep you enthralled on a sleepy, stormy day)

Tell No One
A Great Deliverance
The Dark Wind
The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency
And Then There Were None
Murder on the Orient Express
Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil
In Cold Blood

These lists could go on forever. What are your favorite rainy day reads?

Thursday, April 12, 2007

When an Icon Dies: Kurt Vonnegut

When a famous person dies, we all feel it; we think we personally know these strangers who live their lives in the public eye. With the passing of Kurt Vonnegut, it seems like the urgency and passion of the Sixties has faded a little more, and only a ghostly image is left of the idealism that once gripped the youth of our country. When an important voice is silenced, a voice that spoke for humanity, we all mourn.

The New York Times featured a retrospective about Vonnegut today. After reading the article, you can't help but reflect on his outlook. This excerpt from the article reminds me why I loved his books. "The title character in his 1965 novel, “God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater,” summed up his philosophy:

“Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here.
There’s only one rule that I know of, babies — ‘God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.’ ”

You can be cynical and grieving, but still love this world.

My favorite Vonnegut books are: Sirens of Titan, Breakfast of Champions, Bluebeard, and God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The I's of Bookselling: Independent/Individual

Lisa SeeBeing a bookseller has its perks. We receive free ARCs (Advance Reading Copies) from publishers months before the titles are available to the general public. Publishers send out these ARCs to generate word of mouth excitement about their books. In this competitive market of selling books, independent bookstores succeed against the odds by remaining close to what they know best...good books. Independents gain the trust of their customers, and this is the reason for repeat business. Lisa See, (see photo above) bestselling author of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, wrote an article in Publisher's Weekly that is a heartfelt first hand account of the impact even a single bookseller can have on a book. She wrote, "So at a time when the industry adamantly embraces its numbers game, I have a new appreciation for the role of the individual bookseller, who not only brings books and readers together, but can make totally unexpected things happen—one book, one customer, one book group at a time." Her words reaffirm the meaningful connection between authors, booksellers, and readers.

That reminds me of a story. Kay, our best handselling bookseller, is an avid mystery reader. Five years ago, she was enthusiastic about an author she had read for the first time named Harlan Coben. His book, Tell No One, kept her up all night; she shared her discovery with her fellow booksellers, friends, and most importantly, with customers. Over the next three years, Kay sold a phenomenal 500 copies of Tell No One. When our bookstore was planning a Mystery Panel, Kay was determined to have Harlan Coben attend. Unfortunately, his schedule was filled, but he sent Kay a personal email that was funny and very appreciative. Kay was thrilled.

Speaking of Harlan Coben, we're anxiously awaiting his new book, The Woods, which is arriving next week. It is the story of four teenagers who twenty years ago, while at summer camp, walked into the woods at night. Two were found murdered, and the others were never seen again. Four families had their lives changed forever. Now, two decades later, their lives are about to change again.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Einstein: His Life and Universe
by Walter Isaacson

By the author of the acclaimed bestseller Benjamin Franklin, this is the first full biography of Albert Einstein since the recent release of Einstein's personal letters in 2006. This book explores how an imaginative, impertinent patent clerk, a struggling father in a difficult marriage who couldn't get a teaching job or a doctorate, became the mind reader of the creator of the cosmos, the locksmith of the mysteries of the atom and the universe. His success came from questioning conventional wisdom and marveling at mysteries that struck others as mundane. This led him to embrace a morality and politics based on respect for free minds, free spirits, and free individuals. Isaacson was interviewed on NPR following his article in Time Magazine when Einstein's letters were first made public. Click here to listen to the interview.

Sign of the Times

This interesting tidbit appeared in the Shelf Awareness email today. Japanese teenagers are devouring more and more comics on their cell phones, Business Week reported. More than 300 websites offer some 10,000 stories for cell phone downloads, and last year Japanese consumers spent $20 million to view manga on handsets. The cell phone option is especially attractive to women and girls "who might have been coy about walking into a shop," as one publisher put it. However, another publisher said, "Many are still loyal comic book readers who use downloads as a way to try something they might not normally buy." Click here to read the full article.

Bookstore Buffet...All You Can Read

Bookstore hopping was featured as a pastime avid readers enjoy in the April edition of the Quill (Inkwell's monthly newsletter.) There is a website devoted to this endeavor called Bookstore Tourism. Visit the site to plan your own road trip, or join one of their organized tours. Flickr, the photo sharing website, has some beautiful photos of bookstores around the world. Definitely worth checking out!