Saturday, June 30, 2012

Back to Reality

Whoa, remember that whole post I made a week ago about what I was going to bring with me on my vacation to read? Well PSYCH, I didn't read ANY of those! I read the Lorrie Moore a little, I tried to read the Bechdel but I completely underestimated its density; it's not the easy read I expected a graphic novel to be. It's by no means bad, just contains a lot of information and a lot of congruent time lines; it's something I am going to have to read as if it were a novel, not something I can sample here and there every once in a while. What turned out to be the winning horse re: things to read on vacation was "Song of Solomon" by Toni Morrison.

I've read this novel before, but it was in high school, and, as with many novels I was assigned to read, I was so distracted by the bubbling primordial ooze of my own angst and ennui that I found it difficult to focus on things that weren't directly about me, such as this novel. As you all know, I also take issue with being told what to read. Fellow book maven and all-round Gal Friday Natasha and I have a rule; if some form of media surfaces three times or more, seemingly randomly, in our day to day escapades, it bears further investigation. That was how I stumbled across Joan Didion's "Blue Nights", because the book just kept catching my eye, or being mentioned in articles, or by friends, etcetera, that I eventually was forced to read it.

The same thing happened with "Song of Solomon", and so I was compelled to reread it. Morrison's prose is so indescribably wonderful to me, it's straightforward and poetic at the same time. Her subtle use of magical realism is interesting, almost nonexistant, but every once in a while she will inject a passage with unexpected interference from a natural and mystical world. Plants with explode with growth suddenly, ghosts will appear as naturally as if they were expected. This turned out to be a perfect summer novel, and, to that end, my idea of a perfect "beach read". "Song of Solomon" has everything you would want out of some forgettable trade paperback you'd find abandoned in a summer home: scandal, family drama, murder attempts, sex, magic, a little perversion. Yet, unlike a flimsy dime store narrative, "Song of Solomon" has actual girth to its plot and characters, and leaves a lasting impression.

So I'm happy with how that turned out. Other updates include: turns out I do like lobster salad, I've just never had it made properly before, apparently, my sister got accepted to UMASS Amherst (YAY EMMA)and, possibly most importantly, I am taking my drivers test on monday in Watertown at 11 am. Wimps get off the road! But besides that, until we meet again, Brookline, I remain, as ever, your humble servant. Keep me in your prayers on Monday. I'm gonna bring it so hard there's gonna be an obvious surplus. Of  "it". That's right. Boom. 

Friday, June 29, 2012

The Violent Bear it Away

I'm pretty sure it's in response to the Bruins denial of the Stanley Cup this year, but for some reason, a bear wandered from central Mass, to the Cape, and finally to our neck of the woods here in Brookline. He was caught and he's going to go live in a just-right cottage in the Berkshires (pretty sure) but what about those of us robbed of a chance to really get to know a bear? Legend has it that the bear was looking for love, or that his breeding instincts were what sent him on his epic quest. If that isn't romantic enough for you, I've rounded up some choice bear-related finds in the UBC to satisfy your wild cravings.

First up: The Bear by William Faulkner. Oh man. This novella is so rich, so wild, so gritty. I can't do it justice. Just read it, you'll be done in an hour and messed up for LIFE.

Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean Auel. Technically the bear of the title bears little resemblance to actual bears. But, this is a saucy read for the prehistorically inclined on the Fifty Shades tip.

Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan. A novel-length retelling of the Grimm fairy tale Snow White and Rose Red, this is a harsh, lush novel with incredibly imaginative language and a lot of complicated sexual politics to parse out. Published abroad as grown-up, it's published as YA in the States, but I think anybody over the age of 15 should have to read this book.

Obviously there are lots of great kids book bears: Winnie the Pooh, Paddington, Corduroy. And there are authors and characters in grown up books that have ties to the ursine kingdom. Here's Gary Shteyngart with a bear:

You could check Ursula K. LeGuin. Or The Rainbow by D.H. Lawrence, in which the main character is Ursula. The end of The Howling Miller by Arto Paasilinna has a pretty epic bear chase. If none of these interest you, I'd recommend grabbing a big jar of honey and camping out in front of a marathon of Bear Grylls. Or, share your favorite bookish bears in the comments.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Little Dose of Nostalgia

Recently, I was at the register and a customer purchased a Presto Chango color pencil. Do you remember these? I do. I had a few as a kid, the thicker kind, without an eraser, that I used for special projects. I'm not sure why I loved it so much; I think because carrying around a single pencil felt more grown-up than carrying around a box of crayons or color pencils. I love when I stumble across something in our store that reminds me of childhood. I sent one of these by mail to a close friend and she got a kick out of it, and posted this picture on Instagram.
In that spirit, here are some pictures of a few of my favorite Booksmith finds that remind me of being a kid, and a few other doses of nostalgia.

Up until the age of thirteen, I lived in the Bay Area in California. My mom had an extensive fruit and vegetable garden and a honeysuckle plant that lined the kitchen window. We bought mesh bags of ladybugs at the store and let them loose on the garden so that they could kill the aphids, and even though there were ladybugs everywhere, I still loved trying to catch them in my insect-friendly Bug Bottle. I was pretty excited to see that nearly 20 years later, they still make The Bug Bottle.

Balmy summer nights on the east coast are the best. Though, living in in the city, I miss seeing stars. I had this exact chart, and stars up on the ceiling above my top-bunk bed. Spend a late night outside of the city this summer and take one of these star charts with you, or, and if you're a city dweller, make your own night sky.

We went on a lot of road trips up and down the California coast. When the trips got long, my parents would sometimes make us play the "quiet" game. When we weren't pestering our parents or trying to play quiet, we quizzed each other from Brain Quest. There are so many questions packed into this deck, and I loved that the questions went beyond the academic.  It looks like they make one now specifically for car trips. Maybe my parents were on to something.

Whenever we went into San Francisco's Chinatown I always came home with a different fold-up fan. We just got these in, in blue, purple and red for only $1 apiece. Here's a picture of my co-worker and fellow blogger, Natasha, posing with one in the Used Book Cellar.

I saw the spine of this book poking out of our children's nonfiction section and was so excited. I thought this was one of those random picture books that only I read. PEOPLE by Peter Spier is full of illustrations of people from around the world. My favorite is the beginning, where sections are devoted to the vast variety of of eyes, noses, body shapes, hair, etc. 

Speaking of books, I can't help but bring up this one. The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes won the Booker this past year, and is about the power of nostalgia, and the crazy things it makes us do.

And finally, I highly recommend the new Wes Anderson film, Moonrise Kingdom, now playing at the Coolidge Corner Theater. It captures childhood beautifully

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

As Heard On NPR

You may have heard our new Globe Corner Travel Annex mentioned on your local NPR station recently. We're excited to be part of your summer plans, bringing you the latest and best in travel guidebooks and maps.

Read more about our selection of trail maps from National Geographic, our Moon Handbooks to North, Central, and South American destinations, and the new Lonely Planet Not For Parents guidebooks series on our blog at

Monday, June 25, 2012


Check out our wide array
of hiking maps
When I was ten, I decided I would never run a marathon. This may sound like a no-brainer for most people, but most people didn't grow up in a family whose parents had medals and race posters from their four or five 26.2-milers a piece decorating the walls of their house. I eschewed the expectation that I would follow in their 26.2-mile-long footsteps for almost as long as I can remember. Somehow, I knew I would have to find my own ways to be brave. 

My older sister is different. She'd run her first marathon by the time she was 25. And when she and her husband turned 30 last year, they decided that to celebrate, they would hike the Appalachian Trail.   

The pleasures of armchair travel are many. Reading can not only take you to the places you long to go, but into experiences you never in your life would try outside of the covers of a book. Perhaps it’s the nature of the middle child to live vicariously through a more adventuresome older sibling. Maybe this ability to imagine myself into my sister’s shoes is what made me into such an avid armchair traveler...

Read the rest of this post at

Saturday, June 23, 2012

What I'm Taking on My Summer Vacation.

Hey friends. I'm writing this blog post ahead of schedule because by Saturday, I will be in Rhode Island for a week with my family. We go annually; what began as a retreat in order to partake in the festivities of my youngest aunt's wedding (over a decade ago) became a general yearly family reunion, which slowly was eaten away by entropy until now it is just my sole family unit: sister, father, step mom, and me. Even my Dad secretly hates it, but the rest of us are so in love with going every year that he plays along. The reason why everyone else, including my Dad, has lost interest in the annual Rhode Island vacation is because there's really nothing to do there. I mean, there was when we started going as a family, lo these many years ago. People went on hikes, went to various beaches, explored the outlying flora and/or fauna. I am related to more than a few birdwatchers, so that held them for a little while. Eventually, however, one by one, Rhode Island became boring, and my dear relatives stopped using up their vacation time just to sit around and talk to other Hydes about whatever is going on at work currently.

The reason that myself, my sister, and my step mom all still like it is because we are boring.

So boring. We're indoor folk by nature, meaning for us, vacation means a mostly sedentary existence. We watch a lot of movies, we read a lot of books, there's a lot of beer and ice cream involved. I walk to the beach almost daily, but I feel no real urge to go to any other beaches. I'm happy with the beach I go to. This is probably related to the fact that I have poor directional sense, and like to avoid any kind of activity wherein I could get lost. I've tried to fight this whole homebody nature, and I do love nature and being outside, but what I really want from a vacation is the freedom to do, or not to do, as I please.

And here we arrive at the nature of this blog post: what am I bringing to Rhode Island?

Obviously, since this is a graphic novel, (by a notoriously amazing graphic novelist) I reckon it will take me less than an afternoon to get through it. I realized the other day that, while I love Alison Bechdel, and while Graphica is one of my sections here at the store, I still have not read this guy. So I went crazy and bought it - yeah, I bought a hardcover, like some kind of fancypants Richy McRicherton - and, later this week, will delicately tuck it into my luggage (smash cut to: me throwing t-shirts, dog-eared trade paperbacks and bath items into a duffel while my family honks a horn repeatedly from the car outside) where I will enjoy it on a deck, I'd wager.

I'm also going to bring James Joyce's "Ulysses", because I haven't read it yet and I am intrigued by it. I probably won't get very far into it before I pass out in a bowl of potato salad. I don't really know what else to say here except that I have lofty reading expectations but usually do not meet my own goals. And if you have a problem with that, our life together is going to be really long and unsatisfying.

Oh look, another massive, ambitious novel that I have no hope of finishing. This kind of happens every year, I bring several heavy, difficult tomes with me and then I end up watching basic cable and playing video games with my sister. I'm still going to bring this guy though. I bought "Children's Hospital" when it was on remainder about a year ago, because Katie, a bookseller here with a penchant similar to mine for all things weird and funny, recommended it to me. I also find the premise promising.

I have no reason for bringing this slim little collection, except that it is on remainder right now and I started reading it and I like it, it's easy to read, it has some poetical chops that I enjoy, and it's less than 600 pages. I guarantee you, this will be the only book I want to read while I am there.

I'll tell you how things go. Until we read again, sweet gentles.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Take a Chill Pill

The recent unrelenting heat may be near its end, instead of wallowing in it, why don't you come inside, bask in our magical air conditioner, and better yet, come into the cool subterranean UBC and shop and chill.

I'll get you started:

See! It's helping already!

 So stop in and cool down. Find a book that takes place in the dead of a Swedish winter and escape all this. Or, sell us your used books for cash during buying hours Wednesday - Saturday, 10 AM - 4 PM and buy an AC. Or some frozen yogurt. 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

On Readings

Tonight I read from my novel at The Writers' Room of Boston's annual reading. I started the day feeling prepared but as the afternoon came around, the air thicker with the heat and humidity, I felt less confident. I've never enjoyed the attention you get when standing in front of a crowd, so many pairs of eyes watching you at once. Since I started working at the Booksmith last fall and helping host events, I've gotten a bit more used to that. But when I introduce the author, it's about the author and their work and not about me. Reading a part of my unpublished, unfinished novel, which only two other people have read, is terrifying.

Having to read from my own work last night had me thinking about readings in general. I've always loved going to readings, partly for the same reason I like going to the movies. I enjoy the communal aspect, the idea that the people gathered in a room are there to see one person, and are each taking away something different from the experience. Readings are just as fun to attend alone as they are when attended with a friend, and I always end up scribbling the name of new authors I want to look into or words of wisdom about the writing process. But there's also something about hearing a writer read their work in their own voice. It makes the reading experience seem more intimate, as if the writer, by adding a voice and adding inflection to the words on the page, is letting you in on a private process.

At the Booksmith we host two different kinds of readings: traditional readings, by authors of newly published books. I love these readings, and the the mix of authors we bring in is part of the reason I wanted to work here and help with events. I spent most of last year living on Cape Cod and during that time I drove up twice to the Booksmith just to hear specific authors. I sat halfway up the stairs to listen to Nicole Krauss read from Great House. And then I came up to hear my friend Alexi Zentner read from his debut novel Touch.

The other kind of readings we host are like what I read at tonight: a mix of unpublished and published authors. There is something less formal about these readings. I remember walking into The Last Bookstore when I was in Los Angeles this past January, and stopping my browsing to lean against a pole and listen to their open-mic poetry reading. At the Booksmith, we regularly host The Breakwater Reading Series, where graduate students from MFA programs in the area read their work. In fact, the first time I read from my novel was at this series, three years ago. These readings usually consist of many writers reading for short chunks of times.  More often than not, the writers have yet to published, and because the audience is often filled with supportive friends and families there's an overall positive energy to the whole experience. For me, that's how tonight felt.

In a month we're hosting a very special reading, similar to the one I read at tonight. Our assistant manager, Kate Robinson, who just published Darling Angel Meat, her first collection of poems, will be reading her poetry. If you didn't know, our staff includes quite a few writers and poets, among visual artists and musicians, and some of us will be the warm-up act for Kate. I've always loved that our staff is full of so many talented and interesting people. I see my co-workers a lot in a professional setting and hear about their work, and I'm really excited to finally hear the work itself. So on Friday, July 27th, I hope you'll join us in the Writers & Readers Room to come hear what your neighborhood booksellers are up to. Trickle in and out, lean against a pole, enjoy some snacks. It'll be a laid back, but special night. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Summer Reads

With these temperatures soaring and schools letting out for the summer, you can't deny it is summer.  All of our summer reading books for the Brookline schools are up.  We have them all seperated by grade and category for easy browsing and quick-pick-ups.

Of course we have many other books to select from for the long summer ahead.  If you are looking for an easy going middle grade series for a young girl, I highly recommend Ann Martin's Main Street series.  Flora, age 11, and Ruby, age 8, have recently moved to their grandmother's house in a fictional Massachussetts town by the name of Camden Falls.  Throughout the series the girls learn to adjust to small town life, new friends, new school, new experiences, and life without their parents.  Even though it is realistic fiction, heavy subject matter is kept very low key.  Start the first book here!

You don't necessarily need hard core subject matter books that make you think about humanity and other life changing inspirations and catastrophes for a good read.  It's nice to have a break from all that once in a while -- especially on vacation.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

GIRLS, yeah all I really want is GIRLS

This past week I have immersed myself in the controversial HBO show, GIRLS, created by Lena Dunham. I also watched "Tiny Furniture", a short film from 2010, directed by and starring Dunham herself. In fact, my roommate and I power-watched the last three episodes of GIRLS and Tiny Furniture all in the same night, and then promptly wanted to fill our pockets with rocks and wade into the Charles.
Despite the shows occasionally depressing effect, however, I find myself torn. I believe, at this juncture, I have seen the entirety of the available episodes (that I was forced to come across by, perhaps, slightly less than legal means) and I'm not sure how I feel. I saw my first episode on my parents' TiVo.
"Oh, you guys are watching GIRLS? What do you think?" I asked my stepmother, Derby.

"It's...different. Your father could only watch half of it. It sent him into a spiraling depression about the state of the current youth and he had to immediately go to bed."

What I have to state, first, is that, I feel like I am (at least partially) the targeted demographic of this show, being a 20 something female and living in a fairly urban setting. I, too, am freshly graduated, slightly afloat, single, and perhaps clinging to my fastly fading relevance and accessibility to experimentation. My first pressing question about the show was related to who the audience is - I couldn't figure out who was watching this show and feeling represented by it. I posted a status on facebook (as I am want to do) about the fact that I was perplexed by the show, and I was suprised by the response. I expected people to be cautiously supportive - after all, like it or not, people are talking about GIRLS, they are watching and they are intrigued, if nothing else. However, the responses I got were more than supportive, more than positive. "I feel like it's my life on TV," one of my facebook friends said.

I was a little shocked. Really? Your life on tv? The responses came from girls I am friends with on facebook, some I've known since high school, some I've known since grade school. One of them, an ex-roommate, is extremely sharp and independent and now lives within her means in an apartment with some friends in Washington, DC, miles away from her (beloved) parents, whom she is financially independent from and has been for quite some time. So I'm not sure how the selfish, immature, stubborn,  and maybe even slightly delusional female characters depicted on GIRLS mirror her current situation.

I think a lot of ladies feel represented by some of the emotional notes in the show, mainly, what I refer to as Boy Problems. Each character has a unique boy problem, or a unique way of interacting with men, and of course these relationships  are caricaturized and dramaticized for television, but still, this audience is able to synthesize what is at the heart of each exchange. The main character, Hannah, has a lover named Adam who is kind of weird, absent - emotionally and occasionally physically, not texting or calling her back for weeks at a time. Yet she keeps going back to him, because she finds him intriguing. What girl (or guy, for that matter) amongst us cannot claim they haven't, at one point, liked what was not good for them? Gone back for more, even when they knew they shouldn't? That must be what viewers are picking up on and what resonates with them. And, in truth, there is a twist involved in that relationship that did intrigue me, and brought another level to the show for me, so that was a nice surprise.

In fact, I can't say that the show is not gripping. I can't say that it keeps you wanting more; the cast is great, the acting is good, and it's all new talent, which I like. The assumed protagonist of the show, Hannah, played by Lena Dunham herself, is the source of much of my joy, and much of my consternation. Just the fact that Lena Dunham is on TV is awesome, with her normal sized and shaped body, tattoos, and accessible brand of real-life pretty, is something I consider a win. Other, far worthier bloggers than I, have critisized the show's lack of color, and without harping on the subject, I would like to tip my hat in their direction. Although set in Brooklyn, the show centers around a gang of white, heterosexual girls, one of whom is chubbier. The rest have the same white girl model bodies, hair and faces you would expect to find on the television. So it's one small step, and I commend the show for it. But it's just that - a small step.

One amazing thing the show GIRLS has going for it? In a recent episode, we found out that Hannah, the aforementioned main character, has HPV. The second half of the episode centers around the fact of HPV; how she contracted it, how there's no test for men, what to do now. It is made very clear the HPV is not a death senteance, that she has options. I loved this, I think talking about a touchy subject such as HPV on a show targeted at 20 somethings, and doing it in a believeable, accessible way, is no easy feat.

In the end, it's not that I disliked GIRLS, it's just that I don't think it's for me. In fact, I'm still unsure who it is for. I think female audiences of my age are just so desperate to be represented by something other than a flighty college grad on some mediocre sitcom; the mother long-suffering, the father gruff and comically oversized. We get a taste of anything that might resemble our lives, and our first instinct is to cling to it, laud it, maybe give it more credit than it really deserves. I'm not saying, stop watching it, or stop relating to it, or take it off the air. I just had feelings about it, that's all, so I did what I always do: I puked them on to the internet. You can sort them out, or not, as much or little as you like.

Here's the part where I tell you what books to read if you're pickin' up what I'm layin' down here.

Wether or not you enjoy the show GIRLS, if you read through this blog post and found me to be funny (or whatever), you might like the essays of Sloane Crosley. Crosley is neurotic, unusual (unique?), and lives in a bustling urban environment. If you are into the trend of Funny Lady Neurotics, you should definitely check her out. Also, a quick read. I keep recommending this book for perplexed family members coming in, looking for a "summer read" for their recent female graduates. Everybody knows I don't really do "summer reads" (last season, people kept asking for books to read on the beach, and I could only recommend "Room" and "Let the Right One In", because those were the only novels I had read so far that summer. They were gripping; one is a horrific novel about kidnap and rape, and the other is a genderbending vampire novel. If you read a book at the beach, it is a beach read, that is all I'm saying, in the same way that if I put a bikini on my body, it becomes a bikini body, and I don't have to go on any fasts or anything. It is already a body in a bikini, ergo: bikini body. Science.) but I did happen to read Crosley's books while on vacation and I found it just delightful.  

In the same vein do I recommend Mindy Kaling's book, "Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?" except that I do it with more thumbs ups and winning smiles. I loved this book, I think Kaling is the perfect mix of memoir author, lady comedienne, and happening gal about town, whatever that means. Plus, this is also a good pic for recent ladygrads, because Kaling talks a lot about what she did after graduating, re: moving to NYC to make her fortune.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Cattier Book Titles

After this gem of a found item in a used book:

...we recommend you check out these catty works of Great Literature:

The Great Catsby

The Blow-Up by Catazar

The Sound and the Furry


Enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Dabbling Artist

"Books, albums, they're the same. People create things." -Patti Smith

Patti Smith said the above last week in New York at BookExpo America (BEA) while interviewing Neil Young about his memoir, which is due out this fall. (The New Yorker blogged about the interview here; our own Jodie, in her elegant Jodie way, managed to encapsulate the craziness of BEA into a beautifully written blog post here).

Coincidentally, I happen to be reading Patti Smith's memoir, Just Kids. Nearly two years after it's been a bestseller, I picked it up because the instructor in my photography class showed us Robert Mapplethorpe's orchid images and mentioned the book. I had seen it so many times, on our Books We Love table, on our best sellers shelf, but it wasn't until then that I really knew what it was about: two artists trying to make it. 

There are many reasons why Just Kids is appealing, not the least the core of the book, the relationship between Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe. It was a relationship made complicated by Robert's attraction to men, but also one that was remarkably simple because it revolved around a mutual respect for each other's work and careers. However what I found most compelling about their lives is how Patti and Robert explored so many art forms. Patti Smith was into drawing and wrote music reviews for magazines before becoming the poet and musician that we know her for today; Robert Mapplethorpe actually resisted photography because it was an expensive medium to work with, and instead made necklaces, created installations, and drew.

I related to this exploration of many art forms, being somewhat of a dabbler myself. In graduate school, while pursuing my degree in creative writing, I took classes in literary nonfiction, screenwriting, column writing, and even wrote film reviews for the school newspaper, while chipping away at my novel. This summer, I decided to formally learn photography, something I've been fiddling around with for as long as I can remember. It was inspiring to see that these two greats in their own fields played with other forms of artistic expression, and that maybe, it even enhanced their eventual careers.

In that vein, here are some books that speak to the dabbling artist, young or old, or anyone with the least bit of artistic sensibility, looking for some inspiration.

Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon - This miniature book is structured around a list of ten pieces of advice about being creative. My personal favorite is rule number 5,which states that "side projects and hobbies are important," and then goes on to discuss it as a form of "productive procrastination."
How to Be an Explorer of the World: Portable Life Museum by Kerri Smith - This lively, colorful larger format book offers page after page of excercises that suggest ways to creatively interact with the world. The back includes pages where you can conduct your "field work."

Tattoo a Banana: and Other Ways to Turn Anything and Everything Into Art by Phil Hansen - Quirkier and more humorous than the others, some of Hansen's project ideas include decorating plastic grocery bags with permanent markers, making a face out of potato peelings, and window decor made of glue.


Draw It with Your Eyes Closed: The Art of the Art Assignment edited by Paper Mounument - A more sophisticated collection of assignments from established artists. Despite the title, artists of all mediums will find this inspiring.

Learning to Love You More by Harrell Fletcher & Miranda July - Miranda July does it all, from writing fiction to performing to directing. In 2002, she and her husband founded the website Learning To Love You More, where they posted assignments and encouraged readers to submit their responses. This book includes both the assignments and the best of the more than 5000 responses they received.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Freeze Your Summer

Kick your summer off with popsicles.  Or better yet, make your own!  People's Pops is the perfect place to start.  Once upon a time three friends got together to create a better ice pop.  Long story short, that idea led to a popsicle stand in NYC, which led to a critic approved book released earlier this month.

People's Pops gives the basic rundown on what is needed to make a spectacular popsicle.  I love that they encourage local produce (speaking of which, the Coolidge Corner Farmer's Market is soon to begin!) and to create your own flavors.  The recipes here are all guidelines, so no exact measuring is necessary.  If desired, you could make all of your pops sugar free, or vegan, or specifically make your kind of flavors (isn't there always that one flavor in the store bought box that no one likes?)

It may take a few goes to find perfection, but it will be well worth it.  Great tips are also included, such as, how to keep your pops from getting freezer burned, and that the sweetness taste is dulled when frozen so the mixture must be made extra sweet.  Also, this is a great way to use up extra herbs that would otherwise go to waste.  Herbs, you say?  Yes!  There are your traditional flavors, and then there are very unique flavors such as canteloupe and tarragon, pumpkin pie, and rhubarb and jasmine.


We also sell popsicle molds here!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Dispatch from Book Expo America, or the "Halapalooza of Reading Quietly in a Room by Yourself"

New York is a city of extremes. As soon as I arrived I remembered how it was possible to love and hate the city at once. “You either sink or swim here,” Pat Carrier of the former Globe Corner bookstore told me as he guided me through the labyrinth of  publisher booths crammed inside the illogically (it seemed to me) laid out Javits Convention Center. I had come to NYC for two days of Book Expo America, beginning with an author breakfast with Stephen Colbert, Barbara Kingsolver, Junot Diaz, and Jo Nesbo, the last of whom, I thought, proved funnier than our host, who kept his punch lines to Fifty Shades of Grey jokes.

After coffee with Colbert (okay, it wasn’t quite as intimate as it sounds, and listening to Colbert crack Fifty Shades jokes over blueberry muffins wasn’t exactly an appetizing way to start the day), I stepped onto the exhibition floor full of publishers, authors, booksellers, librarians, and readers all conducting the business of books, which included much elbowing for the latest free advanced reader copy. I wandered disoriented among the chaos for quite some time, unsure of how exactly I fit between the world of swanky New York publishers and the woman in front of me who just jammed a display copy I am not certain was free into an already burgeoning shoulder bag of ARCs.

Unidentified BEA attendee with bags full of free books.
I felt exactly as I had when I first stumbled off my train from Boston the night before, weaving through Penn Station crowds and onto the metro–instantly overwhelmed, intimidated, and drained by the city. But when, 15 minutes later, I had emerged from the underground up onto a quiet, tree lined street in Greenwich Village, where I was lucky enough to find a room, I discovered that I could breathe again, and deeply. Perhaps it was the refreshing contrast from home, the thrill of new streets and shops to explore, perhaps it was the contrast with the crowds of the metro that made the sudden space and sunshine more charming than was their due, but I was enamored.

These extreme reactions continued at BEA, leaving me baffled at first, overwhelmed, then charmed and grateful at once. By the second day on the exhibition floor, I began to take a few faltering strokes. I found space to think and even to be inspired in a few of the educational sessions, and I began meeting people within the book industry, talking, exchanging cards. Once conversations began to open up, I began to see inside the work that was going on before my eyes. Though I had much to learn, I was no longer an outsider.

As Booksmith recently expanded our travel section, the session that most interested me at BEA was a panel of travel publishers talking about recent trends and changes in the travel industry. Yes, people are still traveling post 9/11 and economic crisis, but their habits and tastes and itineraries are constantly shifting, as are the sources of information travelers turn to when faced with an unknown destination. This was an interesting conversation to listen in on as a bookseller trying to find the perfect guidebook for each unique traveler to visit the Globe Corner at Brookline Booksmith, and also as a traveler myself who was at that very moment trying to be at home in a city she felt somewhat intimidated by.

On the exhibition floor.
Publishers of travel guidebooks are doing their best to meet the needs of today’s travelers, who are inevitably turning to the most convenient and local sources for information. I understood this impulse myself when selecting which coffee shop to frequent in my New York neighborhood. I didn’t use a technological device, but I did look at the lines. Where were the locals going? I followed suit, and was rewarded by freshly baked bagels smothered in so much cream cheese that my breakfast resembled a whoopie pie. Local tastes can sometimes seem infallible. And when choosing where to go or what to eat, technology allows us to access our college roommate who lives in the city, or general local opinion, in seconds. The publishing industry has to answer.

And they are. I was impressed with the thoughtful conversation going on around me at BEA regarding how to get the best, trusted, local information to readers, how to edit, filter, and control that information to make sure it is accurate, and how to remain a trusted resource for travelers. The conversation renewed my faith that the guidebook is not obsolete, a belief that is backed up every day I go into work and find our freshly-widened travel aisle crammed full of travelers who want to hear from their chosen guide, be it Rick Steves, Lonely Planet, Michelin, Frommers, Fodors, Moon, Eyewitness, or other trusted sources.

The title of another session I attended intrigued me: “Discovery, Recommendation, Serendipity.” The panel discussed the role of serendipity in getting the perfect book into a reader’s hands and how to create a context for these magical moments. Might it be possible, if not to do the work of serendipity  itself, to at least do the work that might create a space—physical or virtual—in which these moments between a reader and a text, might occur. After all, wasn’t it in the service such moments as these that we were all gathered at the convention, “the halapalooza of reading quietly in a room by yourself,” as Colbert put it?  Most of the discussion surrounded the tools we have to create such contexts, such as blogs and websites, which can be used to reveal the inter-connectivity of stories and make apparent the threads of culture that make up those stories, in the hope that one of these threads might cross with, connect to, coincide with, a reader’s life experience–thus creating a serendipitous and meaningful moment.

Boy practicing violin on the street in my neighborhood.
On either end of my days at the convention, I was getting to know my neighborhood, striking up conversations with the local baristas and booksellers I discovered along the charming streets of Greenwich Village. That evening, as I stumbled back to my room, I passed a used bookshop, just two doors down from my own that I had somehow missed upon my arrival. I did not stop in at first—I had to take off my shoes after a day of traversing the exhibition floor. But I ventured out again an hour later. And there, staring out at me from the store front window, was Fernando Pessoa. I have had a fascination with the poet and his city of Lisbon for years now, and I ducked inside to inquire about the book.

“I just put that out, 90 seconds ago!” the bookseller inside told me, and I reflected that had I stopped by earlier, Pessoa and I might never have exchanged that potent glance that sometimes passes between a reader and a book. The thin volume, I sensed, was something of a rare find, from a 1985 London exhibition and full of precious autobiographical information surrounding the life of the elusive poet and his over 72 alter egos, or heteronyms.

“Can you part with it so soon?” I asked the bookseller, whose name was Zeke. He was soon convinced that he could, once I had told him of my obsession with Lisbon and opened my wallet. After we completed our conversation and transaction (which was, Zeke admitted, the fastest sale in Left Bank Books history), we exchanged cards (I’d gotten into the habit at BEA). I stepped out the door into a fresh downpour but did not mind. I knew that I had just experienced the serendipitous moment we had been discussing at BEA. There was the work of the artists, writers, curators, publishers, and a bookseller about to make his fastest sale behind it, but there was also the sense of a connection made up of countless threads beyond my control magically coming together in that moment when Pessoa caught my eye. I suddenly saw the chaos of the exhibition floor at BEA as many of those countless threads weaving and interweaving and creating a web of meaningful conversation that, at its best, might somehow converge to create a moment for a reader like the one I had just stumbled into. And I left BEA motivated to work to create a context and place for others to discover their own moments of serendipity, when a story they had no idea was coming, converges with their own.

Whenever I visit NYC I always end up, on my last day in the city, seated on the banks of the Hudson with my back to the skyline, staring out into open space, absorbing it, if at all possible. Perhaps it’s the Midwest in me, longing for horizons. For while I have learned to love the city, I have also discovered its pace: sprint and recover, sprint and recover. This was the strategy my Iowa high school basketball coach once instilled in me, and the mantra I found myself repeating under my breath whenever overwhelmed by the crowds. And while I can’t say I prefer the pace to the slow laid back swagger of the West Coast, almost lackadaisical in comparison, or to the industrious steady tread of the Midwest, or to the unceasing marathon that is Boston, I find that somehow it works—I lose my breath but always find it again, I sink, but then—buoyed up by some unlooked for thrill or serendipitous moment—I float.

Monday, June 11, 2012

What you leave behind

Hi! I'm just returning to the blog after a solid 4 months of hiding from what can only be described as the most terrifying, teeth pulling, bladder excavating time of my relatively truncated adulthood. I've missed telling you things about the back of the store. I have some new post-its. The store is doing well, so I have plenty of paper supplies. Most of them recycled, re-purposed, re-used. We are vigilantes about our scrap paper, and our Eco footprint, has been reduced to that of a small water fowl.

I was looking for an image to illustrate this, and I managed to come across this article on Sokushinbutsu , or self mummification. It got me thinking about what legacy, if any we actually want to leave. I mostly think about this kind of thing when I'm riding my bike without a helmet or my once a year reading of Emerson's  Self Reliance. (I highly recommend this practice, it's easy, and you are likely to sign up for a community class on, oh, let's say... beaver pelts or viola stringing.

The most interesting part of Seppuku, (if you ask me) is the fact that the Samurai must write a death poem before they eat their final meal and get on with it. Again; here is the idea of legacy creeping across the white glow of my google search bar and into my fingers. I tried with little luck to find a collection of these poems, and instead I rediscovered the incredible, brilliant  final collection of poetry written by UMASS professor Deborah Digges, called The Wind Blows Through the Doors of my Heart .

The poems in here have the scent of her suicide on them, and she wasn't completely finished with it before she passed, but despite this the collection stands whole, a triumph of will and life. Every time I walk past our poetry section, and see this cover prominently faced out, I am reminded of her incredible strength, and her luminous, grim genius.
And there again, is legacy. What will I have left if god forbid my little bike takes me on a rogue mission into oncoming traffic? A few blog posts, some unfortunately age inappropriate tshirts, Easter cards form my mother, and my poetry collection. That should do it.