Monday, July 29, 2013

Meet Amy. She's Excited About Saturday.

Hullo dear Blogsmith readers!

This is Amy, yes, the same Amy who wrote a whole ONE post back in March when Cassandra Clare's Clockwork Princess came out (you all remember me, right?...of course you do!). I'm the newest writer for the Blogsmith and one of the Booksmith's children's booksellers.

Which brings me (sort of) to the fact that I am a huge fan of Young Adult and Middle Grade books. Young Adult is most of what I read but I’ve been recently putting an effort into reading more Middle Grade. I’m having a lot of fun with it, there are some really brilliant middle grade books out there.

Which now, actually, brings me to my real point, this coming Saturday, August 3rd at 7 PM we have a really awesome panel set up. This panel consists of, no less than, seven Young Adult and Middle Grade authors who are all a part of the Lucky Thirteens.

What are the Lucky Thirteens you ask? They are a group of authors who all have books coming out in 2013! That’s right these authors are all fantastic and new additions to our literary world. When these authors make it big you can tell everyone that you saw them before it was cool.

But really, I’ve read all of them and the best thing about these books is that there is a little bit of everything.

We have a realistic Middle Grade about a fifth grader facing the trials growing up in Elisabeth Dahl’s Genie Wishes. Think Judy Blume.

Our second Middle Grade, Kit Grindstaff’s The Flame in the Mist, is an smart high fantasy about a girl destined to save her kingdom as life as she knew it unravels. A slightly younger Philip Pullman.

Thinking a bit older?
Our first YA is Rachele Alpine’s Canary. Canary explores what happens when a girl is assaulted but speaking out will ruin everything for not just her but her family. If you’re a fan of Laurie Halse Anderson this is your book.

Erin Bowman’s Taken follows the seventeen year old Gray and his search to find out the truth of The Heist, a ritual where all of the town’s men disappear when they turn 18. Everything about this one is The Giver meets Mockingjay.

Justina Ireland’s Vengeance Bound takes the lesser explored Furies from Greek mythology and makes our narrator their third member. She travels the country and expends justice against wrong doing men while hunting down her own revenge. This one is definitely for fans of Kendare Blake and her Anna Dressed in Blood.

Next is Alex Lidell’s high fantasy The Cadet of Tildor. Renee trains to be a member of the elite Servants but struggles with, not only being the only fighting girl, but with learning that the law might not always be right. A must read for fans of Tamora Pierce.

Then there’s Mindy Raf’s The Symptoms of My Insanity. A look at fifteen year old Izzy’s crash course in high school and learning to stop and take a look around. This one is part Louise Rennison’s Georgia Nicholson and part John Green.

See?! There really is something for just about anyone who reads Young Adult or Middle Grade!

I know we don’t usually post about events in depth like this but there are a lot of authors at this one. Also, I’m really excited about it (if you couldn’t tell) and I’ve talked to a couple of the authors in brief social media interactions and they’re excited about the event and there’s just something really cool about being with a group of people so excited to be doing what they’re doing and listening to them talk about it.

I might be biased but YA/MG authors always have the best banter.

So, everyone should swing by and check this out Saturday August 3rd at Seven. You can sit back, relax, laugh a little, and maybe even learn a bit about writing.

It’s pretty much a win-win.


P.S. I don’t think all of my blog posts will be like this…

Saturday, July 27, 2013

QUIZ: Should you fire your Muse?

Guys I can't figure out how to embed a quiz function in Blogger so get out a pencil & paper or iPhone or neurally-embedded microchip or whatever the kids are using nowadays to write things down.

Should you fire your muse? A quiz:
Choose one answer per question. No cheating.

1. I am currently reading:
A) Dude, like, thirty different books. I'm running out of bookmarks. It's kind of a dire situation actually. I just can't resist that dollar cart.
B) It's this novel about this guy whose father is a drug-dealer and he recruits his son to mule drugs through small-town airports for him but then this guy double-crosses his dad after falling in love in a diner and I don't want to tell you what happens because it's really gripping but also a super moving portrait, like you really connect with the character, I swear I was moved to tears, you really have to read it, here you can borrow my copy.
C)  Something featured on NPR.
D) Something with a spaceship on the cover.

2. My ideal work space is:
A) 4am me my desk and coffee coffee coffee all the coffee
B) Around people/out in public (not necessarily at a cafe because that's a major cliche and originality is more or less the point of this whole venture but also a coffee counter within ambling distance wouldn't be too shabby either let's be honest).
C) A lush private garden. Y'know like the overgrown kind with ancient trees dripping with ivy and small woodland creatures and maybe a dilapidated hedge maze.
D) I have all my best ideas in the shower. 

3. Preferred timepiece:
A) Wristwatch/Pocketwatch
B) Phone
C) Little digital screen on the microwave 
D) Position of the sun

4. I'd dump a potential significant other if they:
A) Gave me a cutesy nickname.
B) Ate the last potato chip and then left the empty bag in the cupboard and THEN didn't even write it on the grocery list.
C) Touched my butt in public.
D) Get annoyed when I pop the bubble wrap that comes in the packages I order from ebay for the express purpose of getting bubble wrap. Life's little pleasures. Come on.

5. I believe in:
A) God
B) Myself
C) Anti-oxidants
D) Whichever answer sounds the most cynical.

Results: Yes you should fire your muse. Internet quizzes are the lowest circle of inspiration hell; the last bastion of bored procrastinators. Your muse is clearly not even trying.

Fear not, citizens! Your scores have been tabulated by our most advanced computers (they beep!) and your ideal fount of passionate creativity assessed. Google your new muse, bask in their genius, then go forth. Make art.

If you answered:
Mostly As - Natalie Portman (admit it, most gorgeous person ever, also brilliant, also I think vegan or at least vegetarian).
Mostly Bs - Junot Diaz, my favorite writer to ever speak here, by the way. Oh my god he shook my hand.
Mostly Cs - A majestic wild beast who nonetheless possesses some startlingly anthropomorphic feature(s), (eyes of measureless wisdom, can talk, is good at scrabble, etc.) Go reread C. S. Lewis.
Mostly Ds - George Takei, god-king of the internet.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Twice Sold Tales

Despite the recent downpour, it's been a busy week for the Used Book Cellar, from what all the customers are telling me, everyone's moving, clearing out their stash, giving up on collections or trying to make room for more books. But these people's "life changes" are your scores! We have so many neat treasures, in addition to an exciting sidewalk sale this weekend chock full of half-priced art books, $1 books and other surprises that await your new paycheck. You'll need to load up on cool books if this rain is in it to stay. What will you read?! Here are some suggestions:

Tuck into an old classic from a vintage Modern Library edition with newly mylared dust jackets your welcome, guaranteed there will be neat ephemera from the 50s and 60s in here, I was sure to leave a few pieces! Excellent covers, classic books you've been meaning to read for ages, we've got it all. And there are a few more in our overstock room so keep checking back regularly as we put out fresh ones.

A theology scholar sold off most of his collection so we have a dazzling array of academic and general-interest books on world religions, everything from Evil in Hindu Religions to Catholic catechisms (a must if you're trying to make sense of Dante's Inferno OR Dan Brown's).

Also, a devoted reader of science fiction and fantasy dropped off all kinds of tomes. Everything from neat space operas to the Clan of the Cave Bear series to loads of Neil Gaiman. Come get your fill before some other muggle does!

This rain could go on for days, folks. Or hours, but whatever. Get prepared for an epic flood and load up on books now BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Oh Canada

We've got a lot of travelers at Booksmith, and this summer, more than one of us has ventured across the border into Canada. For travel tips and resources to guide you into your next trip to Montreal or Quebec City, or simply to travel there vicariously through the adventures and observations of Shoshana, check out our blog at

Monday, July 22, 2013

It won't be summer forever.

Now that temperatures have subsided from the raging yet sticky inferno that was last week, it's easy to wish that summer would last forever. There are moments when I harbor that wish myself. But then I remember that if summer didn't end, we'd never get to the fall releases. And they are delicious. A few I've checked out that I'm looking forward to handing to customers:

Flora is kind of a strange girl. Ulysses is an even stranger squirrel. I won't tell you which one of them writes poetry, but Flora's more into comics. In fact, brief sections of the story are told in a graphic format. (Intermediate.)

Hilary's father thinks she belongs in a charm school. He's wrong. Before you can say "The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates," she's found her way to sea. Very nearly honorably. (Intermediate.)

After a tumultuous junior year, Josh decides to escape for his senior year. What better place to mull things over than with his uncle, Jackie Chan's biggest fan? (Young adult.)

This companion to Code Name Verity (which also stands alone) tells the story of Rose, an eighteen-year-old World War II pilot who's captured and brought to Ravensbrück, a women's concentration camp. Intense though it sometimes is, it has a lighter touch than some Holocaust novels, and the characters' personalities make the difficult setting easier to take. (Young adult.)

I'm a sucker for a good secret, and if anyone's good at the slow reveal, it's Patrick Ness. There were parts that made me shake my fist, but that just means I cared. (Young adult.)

Keep mining that awesome summer reading list, guys. But know that when you've gotten through it, some great fall books await.

Saturday, July 20, 2013


I came back from vacation last week and I'm wistful.  My tan is still in peak condition and I have the residual calm that only a vacation can invoke. I'm attempting to hold on to it not by consistently reviewing vacation photos but by talking about the books I read:

Matt Bell's In the House Upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods
I firmly believe your surroundings influence your reading experience, and my reading of this book is a perfect example.  I started out reading it in urban Boston, brought it with me and read a chunk in the mountains of New Hampshire, and finished it after I returned to Boston.  I'm grateful for the split--this book is a meditation on love, domesticity and the roles we inhabit in relationships, decorated with beautiful writing, visceral descriptions and concentrated intensity. My journey into the wilderness mirrored the novel's, and I couldn't help but think of the book's vivid setting while I stared at the stars, clear and quiet, feeling like my friend and I were the only people that existed in the world. 

Rémi Courgeon's Brindille
My French is limited to "Bonjour," intense hand signals, and asking my friend to translate for me. Yet--once I laid eyes on this French picture book I had to purchase it, language be damned.  It's about the size of my torso and has gorgeous endpapers (the depiction of being punched--how to describe it? It's cool, trust me). I love it. 

Gene Luen Yang's The Search, Pt. 2
For all you Avatar: The Last Airbender fans, you'll understand the elation I felt when I found this for sale in a Canadian bookstore a mere two weeks before the official American publication date.  My travel companion took a nap, I read the latest Avatar installment, we were both happy.

Kevin Wilson's The Family Fang
Montreal in July is one festival after the other, an exploration of art, business, and really anything you can think of. I'm pretty sure I inadvertently walked into festivals for the following: fireworks, jazz, comedy, circus performance, start-up businesses, graffiti, and those are the ones I was aware of.  The Family Fang was consumed in a variety of places, but mostly in a Montreal hotel room late at night and read aloud while slogging through Boston traffic.  The Fang's performance art kept tapping me on the shoulder as I walked around Montreal, as I simply experienced everything rather than questioning the actual definition of what I felt art was, even though this book kept prompting me to think about it. 

Terrance Dicks' Doctor Who and the Loch Ness Monster
Come on guys, I had to get a mass market in here somewhere. The Fourth Doctor puts on an unnecessarily long tartan scarf to blend in with Scots, there are Zygons controlling the Loch Ness monster, and one of the chapters ends with Sarah Jane Smith exclaiming, "That must be why Broton took the Duke's document case--he's going to attend the Conference!" 

Friday, July 19, 2013

Tattoos, Denny's and other Japanese literary symbols

Last week I wrote ad nauseum of my forthcoming trip to Japan. In order to prepare for said trip (and also because I'm super excited) I've been reading all kinds of Japanese literature to get my head in the game as it were. Here are some of my favorites thus far:

Kenneth Roxroth's 100 Poems from the Japanese and One Hundred More Poems from the Japanese, in addition to Ono No Komachi and Izumi Shikibu's poetry compiled in The Ink Dark Moon are some of the most beautifully selected words placed in a deliberate arrangement ever. I wish I could describe to you how beautiful enigmatic it is all at the same time, reading these are like feeling you're made of glass and slowing filling with curls of smoke. I can't do them justice, just read them all.

If we're going to talk about epic literature from Japan I'd be remiss in not including Tale of Genji. One of the first novels in the world, written by a LADY, it really is the coolest thing ever. But I've never finished it. I'm SORRY! Gosh.

What I have finished are some of the best modernist novels ever. Natsume Soseki could teach Raymond Carver a thing or two about deeply psychological interiority belied by understated language. The Gate is an amazing, slim novel in which the main character and his wife live childless in an idyllic picket fence house. But that's about as peaceful as it gets. The main character hates his job. The couple are spurned by their families as they married without consent, and suddenly his wife's reckless little brother squeezes the strained couple for help on top of it all. So taught, so beautiful, suuuch a good book.

Kobo Abe's Woman in the Dunes is unmissable, and Yukio Mishima's short stories in the collected Death in Midsummer are among my favorite reads of all time. His characters have amazing strength and fatal flaws and you'll need to read each story several times for the feeling that there's a detail in one word (or absence of one) that casts everything in a new light. I also recently finished Junichiro Tanizaki's Seven Japanese Tales ... one story in particular, "The Tattooer" has left quite the indelible mark on me (pun fully intended). This man is an expert tattooer and only tattoos on people when he's inspired, and he finds ultimate inspiration in a beautiful maiden walking down the street. Convinced she is a demonic scroll come incarnate he is gripped with the need to tattoo her, and as she consents the art embellishing her back begins to imbue her with magnificent power. KAPOW!

For a more contemporary Japan (the one I'll actually be in) there is the incomparable Murakami. Thus far I've only read After Dark, to be honest it's a little daunting to decide where to go from there. After Dark is amazing. It's set in Tokyo around midnight and follows all the different sorts of people that only come out at night, in addition to a young runaway who may or may not be related to a rebooted magical Sleeping Beauty dozing in the literal center of the novel. But as I said, Murakami's got sprawling epics and copious short stories. I know I'll love them all but how to decide?! Maybe I'll take 1Q84 on my 16 hour plane flight? I might be able to bang it out...

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

River Reads

When you grow up in Iowa, as I did, you don't have coasts, but you do have rivers; in fact, the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers make up the state's East and West borders. Since leaving Iowa, I have lived on both coasts, but there is nothing like a river to make me feel at home. Yesterday, my husband and I canoed on the Concord River, a river sacred to us as one year ago, we rowed down it to the spot where we were married.

This time, when we had returned our canoe to the South Bridge Boathouse, we walked back into town and ducked inside the Barrow Bookstore--a used bookstore with a great supply of New England literature. There I picked up Henry David Thoreau's A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers. A few weeks earlier, while visiting Lowell, I had seen where the Concord and Merrimack meet. Curious, I picked up the book.

"Rivers must have been the guides which conducted the footsteps of the first travelers," Thoreau writes. "They are the constant lure, when they flow by our doors, to distant enterprise and adventure; and, by a natural impulse, the dweller on their banks will at length accompany their currents to the lowlands of the globe, or explore at their invitation the interior of continents."

I had never seen the relationship between rivers and travel so clearly. It's no wonder I felt restless in my home state, with so much water flowing by, into unseen lands. A quick browse through our Destination Literature section at Booksmith proved Thoreau's point: rivers inspire travel, and, I would add, travel inspires writing. River literature is prevalent, I discovered, and makes for a perfect summer read.

One of my favorite travel narratives, Claudio Magris's The Danube, takes place along the river of that name. Patrick Leigh Fermor made a similar trek across Europe, a journey he relates in his whimsical Time of Gifts. My most recent river-read, aside from Thoreau, was Olivia Laing's To the River, in which the author walks the river Ouse, where Virginia Woolf drowned. Meander by Jeremy Seal is another newly released river-logue. Seal rows a canoe from the Meander River's source in Turkey to the Aegean Sea. Rosemary Mahoney achieved a similar feat in her Down the Nile. And expert travel writer Paul Theoux picks up the trend in his most recent novel The Lower River.

Stop in to Booksmith to pick up your next summer read--and get ready to be swept up in a current that is sure to take you out of your depth--which can be a great place to be.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

5 Books to be Caught Dead With

Morning routine: Turn off radio alarm; blink away visions of whatever NPR coverage seeped into that last dream; make the bed; shower; Cheez-its for breakfast; use phone to catch up on latest kitten GIFS while getting dressed with other hand; check GPS app to see if I'll catch the next bus (nope) or the one after (maybe); take vitamins; scrutinize the contents of my bag to gauge whether its contents reflect the idealized self-image I'd like to project in the not-so-unlikely-event that I die in my dash across the Huntington/S. Huntington intersection trying to catch the last bus that could possibly get me to work on time.

You see folks, all that I do, I do for the stricken onlookers at the scene of my untimely death. And all that I ask is that they be seized with enough morbid fascination to appreciate the tableau of my belongings strewn across the pavement. See those ticket stubs for "La Jetée" drifting in the mid-morning breeze? Notice how I didn't keep the ones for "Transformers 3" to pollute your rosy vision of my late self? And check out my splayed wallet; I hid the old Wal-Mart gift cards in back under my organ donor ID and the punch card for the local vegan sandwich shop. I'm not vegan but I'd like you to think I was. Please tell everyone you know about this unknown dead girl who so generously left the world her pristine vegan kidneys. Mourn her not because she was young but because her blood-spattered bookmark was less than a chapter from the end of Jeanette Winterson's Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

Some tips for making a good last impression:

1. Plausibility - Tempted to keep a copy of War & Peace on hand in case you bite the big one? Rookie mistake. Same goes for Moby Dick, Infinite Jest and In Search of Lost Time. If your book outweighs most newborns, no one's going to believe you haul it around just in case you get stuck in line at Starbucks. Consider instead this striking yet lightweight edition of Marcel Proust's poetry for big name cred that won't leave the mortician sneering at your pretensions.

2. Missed endings - Anyone who knows me knows I'm never without a short story collection. For the sake of avoiding awkward conversations I usually explain this as a product of my short attention span. Between you and me though, I'm just worried about making my way through 300 pages of rising action only to die right at a cliffhanger. No sir. Might I suggest Miranda July's No One Belongs Here More Than You? The yellow cover provides a sunny contrast to any grisly death scene, plus we have it on our bargain table for $6.99.

3. Traveling abroad - Keep in mind that by expiring in foreign climes you represent not just yourself but your country. Strike back at the Ugly American stereotype by tucking Sjon's From the Mouth of the Whale into your passport case. Bookseller Natasha recommends this beautifully designed Icelandic translation. Fun fact: the author is BFFL with Bjork and wrote some of her lyrics. Major street cred, no?

4. Not Anna Karenina - Sorry bro. Great book but too meta for this by far. Get your final dose of searing Russian pathos with a pocket-size copy of Dostoevsky's Notes from Underground instead.

5. Practicality - If, like me, you appreciate a dark yet brilliant pun and obsess over funeral arrangements to a degree society only seems to expect of weddings, is for you. Youlo (which I like to think is also a riff on YOLO - how great would that be?) is $50 and worth every penny. Keep a record of all your post-mortem whims and desires so that when the time inevitably comes your loved ones will know to encase you in carbonite.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Destination: Preparation. For TOKYO!

Not that I'm counting or anything but in just 40 short days I am lifting off and traversing half the globe to TOKYO! I've never been before and this is about as different as could be for me and I'm suuuper excited. I'm getting all kinds of help here at the Booksmith to get ready for the trip, too. My stack of guidebooks as I plan to cram thousands of years of history and city building into a few short days is indispensable. So far, I have:

Lonely Planet Tokyo. Lonely Planet guides are great. The writers are folks who have lived in the city for a long time, and they always give it to you straight. They manage to make you feel like conquering a sprawling megalopolis in a few days is doable with simple itineraries and affordable restaurant suggestions. SUPOIB.

DK Eyewitness Guide Tokyo. I don't want to carry a bunch of redundant books while ostensibly will be walking a good deal of my trip in humid weather. HOWEVER, DK Eyewitness travel guides, especially in regards to cultures that have different alphabets, numerical systems and food predilections are indispensable! Their motto is "we show you what other guides only tell you," and boy and howdy is that pretty much true. A full spread that shows all the coins and bills for their currency, lush photographs of food and the name for it to help decode menus, and crosscuts of important shrines, temples and museums to show you what you may see. SO helpful in a land where signs and such may be indecipherable to this gaijin.

Streetwise Map Tokyo. Streetwise maps cut straight to the chase. They show you blown up pieces of neighborhoods--the most important parts of the city--and add helpful landmarks, 3D buildings to help orient you, and are helpfully laminated and still foldable for megaplanning. I've used these on just about every trip I've ever gone on and I keep them around for forever because they're indestructible.

Crumpled City Map Tokyo. These ones are new to me. The store recently started carrying them and they're really cool looking. Well-designed, small and lightweight enough to stuff in a bag or pocket, and they're made of Tyvek so therefore tear- and water-resistant. They don't seem to be super detailed on street names but they give a good overview of the city and have metro stops clearly marked, in addition to major landmarks so I'll report back from the field but I'm hopeful it will help keep me oriented.
...and to bone up on my Japanese (it's now been 10 years since Sensei Miller taught me and my high school cronies how to say what color a bear is. I hope I don't need that sentence come August) I have:

Lonely Planet Phrasebook. Lonely Planet phrasebooks are tiny, exhaustive, and have things spelled out in Romaji (the Roman alphabet for Japanese pronunciations) so I can just sound out the word and VOILA I'm speaking Japanese. There's even a helpful page or two on flirting, though since this trip is for my 10th wedding anniversary, maybe I'll just have to take notes on those pages. Another great feature of these books are these helpful little sidebars that offer "what to listen for," so if you as a question, they give you some stock phrases that you might hear in response and what they mean. SO GREAT!

DK's 15-Minute Japanese. This is another experiment. I won't be taking it on the trip but I've already gone through several of the lessons to brush up on conversation things, get used to food-words and bone up on asking directions. These sets come with CDs so I'm NAILING it on pronunciation, and the lessons are tidy, quick, and you get a refresher of the last one when you pick it back up so if a ... couple ... of days pass between practice sessions it's not all for naught. It even includes helpful etiquette tips!

Join me next week when I talk about all the rad books I'm reading to set the mood for my forthcoming trip!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

That Feeling You Get

I'm obsessed with the work of Nicholson Baker.  I picked up a galley of Traveling Sprinkler, planning to write a blurb for his September 23rd event and be done with it, but instead I slipped and fell into his work, heading to The Anthologist, discovering an old copy of The Mezzanine, consuming The Everlasting Story of Nory, clutching House of Holes to my chest, surreptitiously ordering more while prowling the UBC for any more of his books.  I can be accused of reading too much, swaths of my free time spent turning pages and collecting books.  I love books, I love reading, but when I find a writing style that I just want to consume, devour, describe using language better suited for food--

I guess I could do a string of exclamation points in an attempt to explain my feeling of exuberance, but that's not how it feels.  I've found an author I enjoy so I'm going to ride off into the sunset, his books in my arms.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Midwest Migration

Some of the best destinations can be the last to come to mind when you think of vacation. For me, the Midwest is "home": a nest of familiarity and comfort where I can regress into old habits while visiting family and catching up with old friends. Which is exactly what I did when I traveled to my parents' house in southern Minnesota last week, with the exception of the 36 hours I spent in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area where my sister now resides. In the Twin Cities, I was surprised to find something new for me to explore in the Midwest: a stimulating metropolis rich in recreation and lush with literary oases.

Even as my plane descended I noticed something different about the grid-like neighborhoods and residential areas spreading below. Wherever there was not a roof, there was a tree. From the air, it almost looked as if Minneapolis had been planted in a forest. Along the banks of the Mississippi and the many lakes sprinkled around the city are verdant parks and green spaces to explore. Boston has its "emerald necklace," but Minneapolis wears sapphires: Lake Harriet, Lake Calhoun, and Lake of the Isles are delicately strung on the west side of town, complete with recreational trails, a band shell, gardens, and swimming areas.

We visited three bookstores, all in basically one neighborhood: "Uptown" Minneapolis. The enormous Majors and Quinn on Hennepin Ave.; Booksmart, which we discovered beneath a record store; and Birchbark Books, owned by author Louise Erdrich. Located near Lake of the Isles, this small store is so carefully curated that not an inch of its cozy corners is wasted. As a bookseller, that old feeling of discovery that usually floods me when browsing a good bookstore can be hard to come by--I often feel I've seen it all before at work. But at Birchbark Books each display introduced me to a new title, tastefully chosen, such as The Art of Migration, which captures artist Peggy Macnamara's paintings of migrating birds in the Midwest.

For dinner I had a succulent crab cake at The Happy Gnome, one of my sister's favorite eateries in St. Paul, and the following day we had brunch at the Wilde Cafe, a restaurant on the banks of the Mississippi across from downtown Minneapolis, which pays homage to Oscar Wilde with paintings of the author, a loungey atmosphere, and entrees such as "Wilde Oats."

I left the Twin Cities with the feeling that there was still much to explore, that being from a region in no way divests it of its interest or charm.  For more ideas of where to visit in the Midwest, check out the New York Times new guide to the area, 36 Hours in the Midwest and Great Lakes.

Monday, July 8, 2013

I hear it's below 90 in Canada

By the time you read this, I will be on my way to Quebec for a week, and will probably be engrossed in Rose Under Fire, the upcoming companion novel to Code Name Verity. (Wait, Rose suffers some fairly major flight mishaps, doesn't she? Maybe I should rethink this packing choice.)

The very capable Amy and Clarissa will be holding down the fort (that's what we need in the kids' section! A fort!). Both are savvy, both know their stuff, and both are a lot of fun to talk to about kids' and YA books, because both are wildly enthusiastic. So keep the questions coming, folks. (But maybe go easy on pulling books out of the spinner. They've got a lot of work on their hands.)

See you next week!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

On literature and cheese fries

"It's ok though!" I remember my classmate reassuring our poetics professor. "I read Twilight, but then I read Shakespeare. I read New Moon, but then I made myself read Emily Dickinson before moving on to Eclipse. I always read a book I should read before one I want to read. It balances out."
My professor (one of the most formidably intelligent and utterly terrifying individuals I've ever had the privilege to work with) cast a pained glance over the class (each of us mentally cursing our colleague's ballsy and potentially heretical bout of honesty).
"But that's tragic." She wrung her hands. "You're treating literature like... vitamins."

Such is the horror of those demi-gods and goddesses who have never wrestled with what constitutes a guilty pleasure. They genuinely enjoy exercise and opera. They don't own sweatpants. Cheeseburgers gross them out - they don't understand why you wouldn't prefer green tea and a salad. 

Scholar Dude likes candlelit dinners, long walks on the beach, and never seeing movie adaptations of classic literature.

I have good news, America. It's not us versus them. Those luminous pillars of humanity have no more right to organic smoothies and Rilke than you do. Smoothies are good! Rilke is good! Cheese fries and Stephen King are also good!

For my part, I've been burning through the essays and short fiction of David Foster Wallace lately. Maybe I have a vitamin deficiency that's got me craving acerbic wit and frustrated optimism. Maybe I just love his writing. Maybe you would too.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Stick To It-iveness

Not to brag but my "to read" pile
 is way more daunting.
I just stubbed my toe. There, do I have your empathy now? Good because what I'm about to confess may make me irredeemable to some. I will not finish reading a book I do not like, and I cheat on books all the time: if I see one that looks good, I grab it. I buy it. I take it home. And I start reading it, regardless of whether I was in the middle of something to which I had already made a promise. I also rarely re-read books and if I stop in the middle of something and I don't pick it back up right away, it kind of...never ever gets finished. It's happened with War and Peace and In Search of Lost Time. There are too many books and especially working in a bookstore, with all the new things ever coming in constantly, there's a need to just move, move, move on books. If it doesn't grab me early, and completely, I give up. Maybe this is a bad character trait. Maybe I'll improve my life if I stick to the books I have and go on a buying/hoarding hiatus. Maybe. But I doubt it. In the meantime I'm satisfied knowing that if the apocalypse happens, my to-read pile will keep me occupied through any kind of mood for quite a while.

So what am I reading now? Well I had been about halfway through The Rainbow by D. H. Lawrence, but I came across this beautiful out of print biography of H. D., one of my favorite poets. Asdfo w uefh wpoi wehf wofns. You lost interest right? And gave up? Been there, buddy.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Mass Market Summer

At the beginning of every summer, when I'm most excited to go swimming and my bottle of waterproof sunblock is barely opened, I pick up Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury. I've had this mass market copy since high school, the spine remaining miraculously uncracked. It has suffered under a variety of writing implements: pink glitter pen, an Eberhard-Faber Mongol #2 pencil, a Pilot GPS-Fine, and the occasional off-black hotel pen. It has been carelessly thrown into over a decade of summer bags, been splashed by three oceans, and has held all sorts of bookmarks (receipts, pens, and most notably, even smaller books). It is loved.

I've already finished Dandelion Wine, and am diving right into this summer's behemoth series: Anthony Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time, twelve complete books collected in four movements. It isn't very portable, with each volume reaching at least 700+ pages. I happened to snag two of the books in mass market editions, so I have bright orange Penguin paperbacks of A Buyer's Market and At Lady Molly's to give me a brief break from carrying around the beautiful (but giant) volumes from the complete set.

Most of the year I can't quite stand to hold mass markets.  I prefer hardcovers and trade paperbacks, sturdy independent things that can be propped open and don't need to be precisely cradled in your hand to read.  Yet, when summer rolls around? I don't mind mass markets.  They're full of badges of honor--pages torn from that time you gave a tourist directions, pages marked with directions from when you were a tourist that needed directions, folded pages, pages flecked with sunblock, back cover warped from the time you put your iced tea on it for a bit too long, pages turning yellow with age.

Monday, July 1, 2013

'Tisn't that season, but...

"Could an available bookseller PLEASE change the music?" Paul paged urgently from the register a few days ago. "It's playing a Christmas carol!" We corrected the inadvertent musical time warp in short order; this past week was literally the furthest point in the year from Christmas, and our ambiance right now is of sunglasses and picnic accessories, not one of any winter holiday, beloved as they are in their own time.

But that wasn't the only time this week reminded me of the Season of Giving. When I printed the restock report for Friday's sales, the figures made my eyes bug out. I checked my work; I hadn't accidentally entered the wrong date anywhere. The last day of school for Brookline students really was like Christmas.

Apparently, when Brookline students have a half day, and they're about to head off to various summer destinations, their first stop is their local bookstore. They load up on school-sanctioned summer reading books, on Mad Libs for camp, on audiobooks for the car, on coloring books for the plane. They rush for long-anticipated sequels they'll now have time to pass around to their friends. They squee. (We have The Elite, the sequel to The Selection, you guys. I've heard enough jumping up and down to know that this is welcome news for many.) They share recommendations with friends. They empty our shelves of Big Nate books and Divergent and everything John Green has ever touched. They tell their parents that yes, their younger siblings are probably ready for the Magic Tree House books.

Keep it coming, folks. And if you're on your merry way for the summer, may it be merry indeed.