Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Open the box, and there you go...

There seems to have been a rush this past week over  fantastic new picturebooks arriving.  Even though new books are a constant for most of the year, there is always those few that will catch your eye.  Yeah...

The Queen of France
by Tim Wadham
Does this illustration remind you of a certain grumpy bear?  Well, that's because Kady MacDonald Denton also illustrated Bedtime for Bear and Visitor for Bear!  When Rose wakes up, she's feeling a bit royal.  Don't worry, she's not one of those other children who throw tantrums or fling demands when the crown goes on.  She has quite the unique imagination, this little girl!  When the Queen of France pricks her finger, she is off to find the Royal Physician -- found right after she visits her make-believe basket -- and continue on her way.  This little inquisitive queen has a lot of fun when talking to the parents' of Rose.  Yet, when she, the Queen of France, wants to trade places with Rose, what will happen?  Who will her parents keep?

Press Here
by Herve Tullet
Really, press the dots.  And then again.  Shake them, rub them, blow them away...  You know, it's odd that nowhere in this book does it say "laugh," but that's the result whenever this book has been opened in our kids' reading area!

(or press here:

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Quiet Nights

8:30 pm on a Tuesday night at the Booksmith. Things are quiet. It's a bit chilly out for late March, yet our aisles are full of browsers silently reading or having conversations. It's calm. The Used Book Cellar is slowly emptying out after another successful event. The regulars have come in to buy their newspapers and visit with eachother, or to get their dog a biscuit. It really wouldn't be the same without them. There are no children around, the after-work rush has long passed. The phone is silent. For us this can be a nice time to catch up on shelving books or paperwork or....blogging. Once the weather gets nicer this sort of peaceful evening doesn't exist. That's when people are out and about, meeting at the store before and after dinner, coming in to stumble upon their next favorite book. Tourists are buying postcards and laughing at the silly books we have up at the register. The doors are open and traffic passes by outside, sometimes loudly. But for now, winter is still hanging on a bit and this Tuesday night is coming to a close. Goodnight, everyone.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

More Spring Reads

As the snow dissipates and the tips of thin branches glimpse a tiny hint of white and green, this is a sure reminder that spring is right around the corner.  And, of course, what better time to read spring-timish books than in the spring?

Owls in the Family
by Farley Mowat
Billy's family has all sorts of animals and even two wounded owls, Wol and Weeps, aren't anything much out of the ordinary.  Join this wild adventure that begins in the springtime of Saskatchewan.  You won't stop laughing until the end.

Ages 8-12

Daisy Dawson is on Her Way!
by Steve Voake
Imagine if you were able to talk to animals.  Daisy Dawson is the only girl who can really understand what animals say.  And, with her discovering this in the spring with so much happening, she is always running late.  This is the perfect spring first chapter book if you are venturing out of early readers.

Ages 4-8

Felicity Floo Visits the Zoo
by E.S. Redmond
Don't let the flu keep you in with a spring fever.  As you will learn, from Felicity Floo, there is quite a sneezing and nose rubbing hullabaloo when one fails to wash her hands.

Ages 2-8

I'm a Backyard Scientist
by DK

Grab your buckets, trowels, and seeds.  It's time to start planning a garden.  From the kitchen table to your backyard, this book will open your eyes to the wonder of life right in front of you.  And you ccan keep watching your creation grow.

Ages 4-8

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Why is this night different?

This night is different because it signals (finally, some might say) the beginning of spring. And to many of us, that means the approach of a holiday with a major focus on that question and others. Why is this night different? Why are we singing all these songs and eating such strange food? Why is there a wind-up frog on the table?

Passover is a month away, but as you know if you've ever prepared for it, that's not all that long. But it's not just about cooking and cleaning. It's also about sharing the ancient story of the Jews' escape from slavery. If you need a little help sharing that story with the young people in your life, we've got you covered.

For the youngest of young readers, we have books that present Passover in its simplest elements: P is for Passover by Tanya Lee Stone, Four Special Questions: A Passover Story by Jonny Zucker, Dinosaur on Passover by Diane Levin Rauchweger, and The Great Matzoh Hunt by Jannie Ho. Older readers might enjoy the gorgeous fold-outs in Harriet Ziefert's Passover: Celebrating Now, Remembering Then, the humor in Rebecca O'Connell's Penina Levine is a Hard-Boiled Egg or Dave Horowitz's Five Little Gefiltes, or the fresh perspective in Miriam's Cup by Fran Manushkin or Passover Around the World by Tami Lehman-Wilzig. If your young reader wants to follow along during the seder, check out Sammy Spider's First Haggadah by Sylvia A. Rouss, Family Haggadah by Elie Gindi, or My Very Own Haggadah by Judyth Groner.

So come on by the kids' section! And if you'd like to know how to make a kosher-for-Passover charoset pie, just flag me down.

Friday, March 18, 2011

look bitty kitty

"Cracks through the sunshite
Makes the world below look bitty kitty."
- Jackson Theriault, 4.5 years old, January, 2011.

This morning when I picked him up from preschool, Jack's teacher made sure that he showed me his worksheet where he matched up the pictures of words that rhyme. On the ride home I gave him words and asked him what words he could think of that rhymed with them. It took him a while to really get the idea, but once he did his face lit up like he was on a Ferris wheel. If you know Jack, that's about as good as it gets.

"Ok Jack, what rhymes with street?"
"Well, S starts with street..."
Yup, and what rhymes with street?"
"That's not a real word."

So now our unwitting poet knows how to rhyme. It took me about thirty-one years to voluntarily pick up a book of poetry, with the result that I find myself so lost in the ocean of poetry that every poem I read now either seems unbelievably brilliant and earth-shaking...or obnoxious. And now, as my reward for rejecting the art form, my son may very well embrace it, and I will finally receive the education that I so sorely need.

Monday, March 14, 2011

reading = people watching.

The sign on the horse's blinder says...."stay back I bite." I do not believe this horse bites. I think the owner would prefer drunk "pub-crawl" attendees not commune with Sheila (or whatever the horses name is.)

Either way I stood there, this past Saturday (in what felt like spring) and photographed the horse.
I was a bit tired from roaming the aquarium, that when I noticed a drunk broseph stumble over to my subject....

I didn't warn him about the sign on Sheila. I think part of me wanted to see if the written warning was truthful. Then I heard myself think that, and said (to myself) did you kinda want to see Sheila bite Logan (or whatever his name is)?
I love people watching, and reading especially good narrative poetry brings me closer to a humanity that I'm often distanced from.
On the trip home, I didn't have anyone sitting in front of me to creepily watch. That's where having a collection of kick-ass poetry comes in. The good stuff is better than hoping a horse bites a stranger.

Come in and check out our selections of new poetry. There's some filthy-brilliant-sick-funny stuff here. There's tons of staff recommendations to help guide you to the perfect collection...just in time for poetry month! (Or did I miss that?) Either way...It's more entertaining, and makes you look less crazy than say....taking photos of empty seats.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Share the Wealth

One of the most common statements I hear is that "there are so many books, how do I know what to read next [or give my child to read]?"  I quite agree.  There's so much out there with varying content levels.  Great writing.  Poor writing.  Interesting reads.  Thought provoking picturebooks.  Please-don't-waste-your-time-with-this-here-book kind of reads.  Fantastic novels that are a great for a sixteen-year-old, but would, er, not be so great for a ten-year-old... 

While we are always eager to find the perfect book to place into your hands -- or for a loved one -- I recommend this here website.  Anita Silvey knows the ins and outs of children's publishing.  As a a matter of fact, she was the original editor for the Curious George books.  In Children's Book-A-Day Almanac, Silvey explores notable children's books for all ages, both classic and contemporary.  It is a great way to build your reading list.  Do you know the best part?  With every book that is published there is, of course, a story behind the story and how it came to be published.  Anita's wealth of knowledge for thousands of children's books is revealed.  Everyday there is something new to be learned.

"Daily children’s book recommendations and events from Anita Silvey.
Discover the stories behind the children’s book classics . . .
The new books on their way to becoming classics . . .
And events from the world of children’s books—and the world at large."

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

History class

I'm almost finished reading Erik Larson's new book (it comes out in May,) In the Garden of Beasts, about the American Ambassador to Germany and his family as they experienced Berlin in the early 1930's when Hitler was rising to power. It is fascinating, engrossing, and just as I did with Devil in the White City, I am really learning about this particular slice of history. Larson is filling in gaps for me, changing my perspective.

He's also leading me to want to read more about this era, especially Hans Fallada. Turns out, the daughter of the Ambassador knew Hans Fallada through some friends and wrote a particularly detailed diary account (as it seemed everyone did at that time) about a visit she made to his house in the countryside. As I was reading this chapter I thought, Oh, hey! It's that Hans Fallada guy! He has a book on our Books We Love table! I haven't read anything by him but now I most certainly will. How could I not be interested when Larson and his diarists paint such a vivid picture of this world famous author about to live through one of the worst times in modern history? Now I need to know!

Erik Larson is the best. Not only do I love his book, but he's got me wanting to absorb as much as I can about everyone he mentions. I want to go to Berlin and walk down Tiergartenstrasse where the Ambassador lived. I want to read everyone's diary. I dare say he is the best teacher I've ever had.

Monday, March 7, 2011

March of the Authors

I just returned from Tennessee where I visited my parents for a few days, and I was reminded how exasperatingly generous they can be. My father is one of those people who will not let you turn down a gift. I mentioned that I'd been considering getting a Kitchen Aid mixer. It's heading to Boston as we speak, which is great, because I really need to make more delicious pastries from this (P.S., We love you, Joanne Chang. Please come back. Bring pie). I tried to tell him it wasn't necessary, though, and we spent a good five minutes going back and forth. We've had full fights over this sort of thing.

If my family carries on any part of our Hungarian/Italian heritage, it's the culture of hospitality. For as long as I can remember, anyone who ever entered our house left well-fed. When my parents moved, the movers got four square meals and more soda, gatorade and fresh lemonade than they could possibly drink. When two of my friends drove through my hometown while I was out of the country, I suggested they stop at my parents' house. My Mom had a full tray of lasagna and a fresh-made bed ready. This was the guest bed, by the way, which is softer and more comfortable than my parents' bed has ever been.

And I think this is where I get it from--this desire to tell you again and again about our events, to badger you into showing up to see the great authors we've got coming in. I am my father's son, and when I know an event is going to be awesome, this flip switches in my head, and it takes a force of will not to go running through Coolidge Corner, dragging people inside (I'm not above it, I'm warning you).

"Here," I am saying figuratively with a bad accent, "take the Sheri Holman. A perfectly good Sheri Holman. It would be a shame to let her go to waste. Come on. It's good for you. You're a growing boy. You need all the Sheri Holman you can get. Put some meat on that brain. Ah, and for seconds we have some Jasper Fforde. You'll love it. I know you will. Just give him a taste. A little taste. Here, have some more..."

So, forgive me, please. I know what I'm doing and how tiring it can be. But really, you'll love this stuff:

Pro-tip: if you see something published by Grove/Atlantic or one of their imprints, pick it up and begin reading. I don't care what it is. They put out amazing books. And Sheri Holman's Witches on the Road Tonight just proves this rule. It is haunting and vivid and beautifully written. It's a family epic/horror story told by a stylist who can stand toe-to-toe with any high-literary author. And because it's such a mix of genres, I really worry that it might get overlooked, when in fact it does it all so well that it should be treasured by all sorts of readers.

What Douglas Adams did for science fiction, Jasper Fforde has done for the world of literature. He's one of the most playful, funniest, and absurd wordsmiths alive today. Beyond that, his stories are solid detective novels with action, adventure, and cloned dodo birds. Doctor's have been known to keep a copy of The Eyre Affair on hand; if a person can read it and not laugh, their funny bone is broken. (note: books should not actually be used as diagnostic tools...except books of diagnostic medicine).

Half travel-memoir, half survivor story, half mother's narrative, Susan Conley's Foremost Good Fortune will appeal to anyone who has ever felt alienated in a new country or in their own skin, anyone who is or knows a cancer survivor, parents, anyone who just really loves a good true story. I mean, come on, I've done the math. It's like a whole 1.5 books of goodness.

Deb Olin Unferth's Revolution is quite simply the perfect story for anyone who was ever or will ever be nearly twenty, stupid, and in love. It's a startlingly honest tale of foolish idealism. It's wry, sharp, and funny. But it's also tender and full of a longing for purpose, of straining against one's own age and limitations. I finished it yesterday. I would like to read it again very soon.

And she's going to be in conversation with DeWitt Henry, whose own story of growing up, Sweet Dreams, will break your heart in a hundred places. Slower, more meditative than Unferth's memoir, it's like a collection of those stories you ask your parents and your friends for again and again--of pranks and coincidences, lazy summers, and skeletons peaking from their closets.

Popular science books are my guilty pleasure. When I just can't read any more fiction, I pop open a Gladwell or an Ariely and go to town. Joshua Foer, brother of Jonathan Safran Foer and the rest of the ridiculously talented Foer clan (genetic experiment?) has written one of the best reads I've found yet in Moonwalking with Einstein. It's funny, quirky, and full of fascinating facts and studies told in a not-too-brain-taxing way. And it's about how he went from being a normal, forgetful person to the freaking U.S. Memory Champion. If this isn't the most talked about book of the year, I will be flabbergasted. Flabbergasted, I say, and not just because I wanted to use that word.

Then there's the Breakwater Reading Series, which is always exciting and bumping...standing-room-only for tales and poems by new writers who are still so underground we hold the event in our basement (yeah, I know that's where we hold most events, but you get what I'm saying).

And all of that--All of it is just the next two weeks. I mean, surely it's got to slow down after that right? It's not like Hallie Ephron, Paula McClain, Caitlin Shetterly, Harlan Coben, Jacques D'amboise, Steven Schlozman, and Mark Warren are coming after that or anything...oh, wait.

"You liked the first course? Well here comes the second. You really must try some of this Hallie Ephron--perfectly done, I tell you. Just the slightest resistance. Al dente, we say."

Oh, and don't even get me started on dessert--or April, as I like to call it.

Friday, March 4, 2011

the round table.

Three booksellers, two writers and a painter, are wondering what the hell the problem is. The cocktail of hope and desire and suspicion and surmise gets passed around the, actually, square table piled waist high with Patti Smith, Malcolm Gladwell, Barack Obama, Jaron Lanier, Michael Lewis, John Banville; and we are all careful with the cup as we pass, but if, as Jodie wishes, Marcel Proust were at table, and if, as Gene surely would have it, David Foster Wallace could be here to drain his share, and if, as I like to think I desire, Jackson Pollock could keep himself from drinking everyone else's share, if they were with us at this table, things might make more sense. What is the problem? Are there no readers? If there are readers, are they thinking, are they comparing, are they judging, are they applying what they confront on the page to their own experiences? Are there writers? Are the writers reading? Are the writers synthesizing what their peers, living and dead, have to offer, and are they overturning it, exalting it, destroying it?

Are there no stages, other than Oprah?
Are there too many stages, any of a million blogs?

When Beckett and Joyce put pen to paper it seems, from this distance, that the world was their stage, and that the world was listening.
Later, when David Foster Wallace put pen to paper, a bunch of writers got excited to write about eccentric geniuses in boarding school.
When who paints? Yeah, I like this gallery, too, do you want to go get a drink somewhere now?

I don't think there was any end to this conversation, I don't think there will ever be.

But I'm the one writing this momentary fragment of my impression of a conversation that was loosely based around a vague unsettling feeling that goes something like "what the hell is the problem here?" which was shared by three young people who are actively engaged in their passion. And while the feeling is vague, and its presence unsettling, it is shared.

It is shared.
It is shared.
It is shared.

I am the one writing this, so I will offer my conclusion. I say that we are in a brilliantly lit Dark Age. We can all see every last thing that everyone else is clamouring to show us. We are all hyper-literate, communicatory omni-presence is at our fingertips and spilling into our ears, and every word and every image is backlit and projected; aimed at everyone of us and pinning each of us in the spotlight of our own stage.

How do the brightest lights - the ones among us whose fires, in an earlier age, would have lit up a world bathed in its own natural state of darkness - make themselves seen now? The contrast is turned down to zero, the brightness up to one hundred. What is on the other side of this moment? And if, as my wife lamented recently, with rage rippling under the words, everything in the modern world is all sewn up, where is the slipped stitch that those with the knives of creation can exploit?

When Proust wrote, he felt all the time in the world, and he made a story out of it.
Who among us feels they have even one day?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

That's why so many kids are named Jacob, too, isn't it?

A recent arrival in our Young Adult section has a single rose against a black background for its cover. Another has a similar design but bears two wilting tulips. The titles of these romantic teen offerings? Jane Eyre and Sense and Sensibility, respectively.

A co-worker had to explain to me that both these novels, along with a couple of others similarly redesigned by HarperTeen, are referenced in the Twilight series. Once she mentioned Twilight, it was easy to see what inspired these new covers.

Brontë and Austen readers are all English majors, right? Stephanie Meyer's audience only wants brain candy, no?

There are many reasons to like a book or to be interested in reading it. You adults slinking around the YA section needn't look so nervous. We, of all people, don't judge.

WAIT! I forgot!

SORRY YA'LL I got totally sidelined because of my scholastic woes/poetry crush/yogurt that I forgot to mention that last night was our Jodi Picoult event! Paul and I were working the tickets (and just generally workin' it) outside the Coolidge Corner Theatre, where the event was held, and then it was back to the bookstore for the book signing.

The event went really smoothly, thank you to everyone that came down and waited outside the theater in the freezing cold! I didn't get to see the reading but I was up close and personal near Jodi for her signing and I was really impressed with her professionalism and cordiality; she seemed genuinely psyched to speak to and take a picture with every single one of her fans, the line of which snaked even out our front door at one point.

And, as always, if you didn't manage to make it to the event you should stop by the store or give us a call in case we still have signed copies for sale.

In which we join our heroine tubthumping midst the undergrads, or whatnot

What is the deal with my university and its need to constantly blast the infernal hippity hop in the cafeteria while I am just trying to poorly do my logic homework and listen to my favourite ABC comedy sitcoms on hulu? There is some part of the closed-circuit channel that they insist on playing that is just a 10 or 15 minute loop of somebody whistling the same tune, over and over again, at a totally unnecessarily loud decibel. Is this like psychological* warfare, Umass Boston? Are you trying to 'break' me?

Other fun facts about my day at school: I have decided to name my future memoirs "EXCUSE ME IS THIS YOGURT NONFAT?" because that is the very sentence I was FORCED to utter mere moments ago when the nice flamboyant cafe guy (who makes the dreamiest mochas, honestly, mochas born of a benevolent spirit, angel dew dripped from the very eaves of the kingdom of heaven) rang me up.

Honestly, Zoe. And you call yourself a feminist. I will have you know he didn't hear me, and I bought it anyway because everybody in line behind me heard me and I felt a deep and poignant shame at even having asked.

Ok. Content time, I guess.

Last night I devoured this saucy little number by Mary Karr. I think I am the dumb one but I didn't know Karr wrote poetry, which is very sad because, as you all know, I am 23 now and look at all this time I've wasted. Its a short, beautiful book of poetry and the fourth poem is called "Disgraceland" and ends:

"when my thirst got great enough
to ask, a stream welled up inside;
some jade wave buoyed me forward;
and I found myself upright

in the instant, with a garden
inside my own ribs aflourish. There, the arbor leafs.
The vines push out plump grapes.
You are loved, someone said. Take that

and eat it."

Can you even stand how fantastic that is? Karr does not take herself too seriously, even when talking about love and sex and becoming a (w-o-m-a-n) woman, which I really look for it a good poem. If you read it let me know so we can talk. My email is, but don't get too smart on me, its hard for me to pretend that I know things via the internet. The truth comes out, and the truth is...well. All fluff, no substance. That's my style. No, but this yogurt nonfat?

*a word I spelled so wrongly the first time around that even spellcheck didn't understand what I was trying to say. SHAME. DISGRACE. Well tra la la back to school work, isn't edumacation gr8????

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Nice move Random House! It isn't cheaper in the jungle anymore!

Random House announced that it will reverse its decision and sell their ebooks at a set price, effectively leveling the market for indies to sell RH's books at the same price as Amazon. HOW COOL IS THAT? You can buy your ebooks from us : here : and know that amazon isn't selling most major publishing house-titles for cheaper! (They were losing an average of $6 dollars a book, to monopolize the market, then drive their prices up...sound familiar wallmartskies?) This means you can continue to support your local independent bookstore for all you reading needs, including ebooks. If you have a kindle, here's a trick for making your reader read epub (our) books. *It's a secret.
We want to provide our customers with options. If you want to read ebooks, and support can! More and more publishers (all the big ones) have a set price for their ebooks, so that ugly thing Amazon does may become a thing of the least with ebooks.