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 for more information about the store!