Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Help and Woman's World

The holiday craziness is over! This weekend I had time to sit down and read for what feels like the first time in December. We had a great season here at the store, although I would've been fine with a few inches less of snow. I read two books set in the early sixties this weekend, but they could not have been more different.

Woman's World by Graham Rawle is a work of extreme creativeness and skill. Rawle built his book using 40,000 text fragments from early 1960s British women's magazines. The story itself centers around 29-year-old Roy Little who has a house-bound sister named Norma. The narrative alternates between Norma and Roy's point of view, but it soon becomes clear that the two may be not as they are first portrayed. When a murder occurs, Norma must decide if she is brave enough to survive the aftermath.

This book is very, very difficult to explain. I'm still reeling from all the twists and turns, but it is laugh-out-loud funny and Rawle does a marvelous job with the texts he culled. If you need something that has depth, but is still light and entertaining this is the book for you.

The Help

The Help by Kathryn Stockett will be published February 10, 2009. I got my hands on an advanced copy and I devoured it in three long sittings. In The Help Stockett portrays the lives of three women, two black and one white, living in Mississippi in the early 1960s. Stockett's characters are so vividly drawn I felt like they were walking around my living room as I was reading the book.

Readers of this book will fall in love with Abilene, Minny and Skeeter and they will gain new persepective of the tensions that existed in Mississippi during the early 1960s. When Skeeter, a recent college graduate, and Abiliene and Minny, two maids, decide to work together on a dangerous, secret project they discover difficult truths about themselves, their friends and families.

I don't want to write too much about what happens because part of the joy of the book is the tension and suspense that lives on each and every page. This is one of the best novels by a first author I have read in a long time; I cannot recommend it enough.

- Angela

Monday, December 29, 2008

Just a quick note

As I am wrapping up holiday bills and trying to make sense of the mess in my office, I got a little distracted by this article in today's New York Times. Ok, now I realize that it was in Sunday's paper, but I don't think I got to the "Week in Review" section yesterday. This article talks about something that we all at the very least consider, and often actually do: bargain shop. I am all for a bargain, but I don't offer many. Books are expensive, for many even a luxury item. Running a bookstore takes many more people than running a dress shop, with many more "tools". Will my customers buy fewer books because of the slowing economy? This is a question that I am trying to answer every day. So far my thought is to be smart about what I choose to stock, and what I have to special order for people. But the crux of the article is about more than just getting a bargain. It is about a fundamental shift in the book world that is getting nearer and nearer.

When Amazon started in the early '90's, people were prematurely lamenting the death of the bricks and mortar bookstore. Yes, the internet has certainly put some stores out of business, but not all. Several years ago I made the decision NOT to sell online. I just don't see the logic in competing against the behemoth that is Amazon or even Powell's for that matter. Listing books online is labor intensive, and payroll is one business expense that I try to control tightly. I guess this article has made me realize that if I want my store to survive (and I do, don't you?) I may have to alter course slightly. Food for thought. More ranting to come, I'm sure.


Saturday, December 20, 2008

Snowpocolypse of 2008!

Seriously, this snow is incredible. Today I am hearing people say things like, "I have lived here all my life and haven't seen snow like this since 1965!". Luckily, it doesn't seem to be stopping people from shopping. The weather can make such an impact on people's shopping needs. Often, when we get the first really nice day of spring, the store is dead because everyone is drying out in their garden. Likewise with the first big rain. People forget that they are waterproof and don't leave their house. We commend the brave souls who are in the store right now, listening to music and browsing for books.

We are open however, and will continue to be open unless the power goes out. Sunday 10 - 6, Monday and Tuesday, 10 - 7 and Wednesday, we will open at 9 and close at 4 so that we can go have a nice evening with our families. See you then!


Thursday, December 4, 2008


I just finished geeking out over a book with a customer. The book, Citadel of the Spirit: A Literary Compendium Commemorating Oregon’s Sesquicentennial, edited by Matt Love, it a doozy. Weighing nearly two pounds, it really rounds out the plate of Oregon literature. Contributors from near and far (across the state I mean) have painted a loving portrait of our great state. I just have to say that I really admire Matt Love's passion for writing, literature, and Oregon. The man is nothing if not dedicated. This book would make a great gift for any Oregon lover out there (we have it in the store, $30 for the paperback edition).

Another GORGEOUS Oregon book that is available now, Wild Beauty: Photographs of the Columbia River Gorge, 1867-1957 by Terry Toedtemeier and John Laursen. The publication of this book coincides with a fabulous exhibit at the Portland Art Museum. I suggest taking the audio tour. Seeing some of these prints in the flesh is such a unique opportunity. Anyway, I love this book. Since no one gives me books as a gift anymore (bummer for me) I am going to cough up the $75 and get one for myself. There are extras here at the store if you want one too...


Sunday, November 30, 2008


As a mildly reformed book collector (modern firsts, thank you very much), I loved this obituary in today's New York Times. Helmut N. Friedlaend was a monumental book collector of incunabula — European books printed before 1501. I have never heard nor read the word "incunabula" before. I am not even sure how to pronounce it.

The best part of Mr. Friedlaend's collection, is that at a certain point he sold it all. But have no fear, he never gave up on book collecting. Towards the end of his life, he was collecting Baedeker travel books.


Sunday, November 23, 2008

Busy Days.

The store is starting to get busier, which is great. This is when I really try to spend as much time as I can on the sales floor. I get to touch the books, say "hi" to the regulars, and joke with the staff. I especially love handselling a title to someone. Handselling can be so much fun. It is part psychiatry, part sleuthing. You have to know how to read people and what questions to ask to get the right clues for what kind of book they will like. To be a good handseller, it helps if you have been a bookseller for a while (at least a year), and it is really critical that you read, a lot. After some time as a bookseller, you can begin to read people, and generally tell what kind of book they will and will not like. This is certainly not fool-proof. The longer you have been a bookseller, and the more you read, the bigger your arsenal for recommendations. I can almost always recommend books to people who liked One Hundred Years of Solitude and books by Salman Rushdie. I went through a big mystical fiction kick some time back. If you are wondering, I would suggest Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin and anything by Haruki Murakami.

There are problems. I don't read much science fiction (ok, none really), so I am not much help to someone who wants a recommendation in that genre. But, I know where to get information. This is where the sleuthing part comes in. Do they like fantasy or strait science fiction? Are they a Mists of Avalon person, or more of a Phillip K. Dick fan?

But when I get someone who wants a good international mystery, a book about food, or a book of modern western fiction (a la Proulx), I can be quite helpful, and the person will leave with a list of suggestions, and hopefully a book or two.


Saturday, November 22, 2008


As a bookseller I live in a constant state of anticipation. I'm always excited about a newly discovered author or the latest title from one of my favorite authors. Thankfully since I am a bookseller I also have the perk of receiving advanced copies of books from publishers. I don't get to read everything I want to in advance, but it's always nice when something I really want to read ends up in my hands a few months before publication.

Last night I finished reading Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell. I loved Gladwell's first book, The Tipping Point, and I thought his second book, Blink, was good enough. I was hoping Outliers would be as good as The Tipping Point so when we finally received it in the store I borrowed a copy and started it right away. Outliers was not nearly as good as The Tipping Point. I wouldn't go so far as to say I am disappointed but I think his research is in this one is pretty shaky. Gladwell has to reach and stretch and pull things together clumsily to make a lot of his points. However, I think this would be a good book club book because after finishing it I have a lot of discussion questions and as I read the book I said "Huh?" quite a few times.

So there's an example of a book falling short of the mark for me. Following is a list of books that I am really, really excited to read. I hope they don't disappoint, but if they do I will probably still read the author's next book.

I read a lot of young adult and middle reader books so I only have one adult title I am looking forward to. However, I must say that a lot of really good young adult novels are coming out right now. I know some adults are reluctant to wander into the young adult section because they think the writing will be too young for them, but I know lots of adults who frequent that section and find amazing books there.

On June 16, 2009 Carlos Ruiz Zafon's new book The Angel's Game will be released. Zafon wrote The Shadow of the Wind which almost everyone on staff has read, and loved. A customer came in yesterday and asked when Zafon's next book was coming out. We started talking about how good Shadow of the Wind was and the customer was very excited to hear another book was coming out soon. It's out in Spanish and we have it in our store in the Spanish language section. Oh, how I wish I could read Spanish!

Graceling by Kristin Cashore is my current obsession right now. This book is the perfect transition book for fans of Stephanie Meyer and I think it has a better message for teen girls. Plus, teen boys will like it better than the Meyer books. Graceling was just published in October, but I already can't wait for Cashore's next book. Her writing is incredible. I read this book in one sitting; I was up until 3:00 in the morning, but I couldn't bear to put it down before I knew what happened to the characters.

The 39 Clues by Rick Riordan is difficult to explain so I'll just tell you that it is the perfect book for middle readers who liked the Mysterious Benedict Society, Harry Potter, or the Magyk series by Angie Sage. It is also a good pick for reluctant readers because it encourages participation. The second book comes out Dec. 2nd and I can't wait to read it even though I know it will leave me hanging too. This is a 12 book series that will be released over the next 2 years and kids will love it.

Skeleton Creek by Patrick Carman comes out February 10, 2009. I read the advanced copy last month and I have to admit this is one scary middle reader novel. This is a true mystery novel for kids that incorporates reading one character's journal (the actual book) and watching a second character's movies online. Unfortunately the mystery isn't solved in this book. I can't wait for the next book to be released so I can find out what happened!

Finally I cannot wait for the next book in The Hunger Games trilogy. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins is an amazing book that young adults and kids will devour. Collins has created a very intense series which gives us an idea of where our society may be years from now. This is a very compelling read, but I don't recommend it for teens below 14.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Inaugural Post

So it is not quite inauguration season, but it is definitely time to unveil our blog. This blog will be written by several members of the Third Street Gang, as we like to refer to ourselves. Postings may be erratic, so be warned. We shall mostly share stories about bookselling. Periodically we will have reviews about books. That seems fair doesn't it? We encourage you to comment on our blog, and be sure to check out our website www.thirdstreetbooks.com for more information about the store!