Friday, October 28, 2011

Converted to E-reading?

I know you are out there, you Nook naysayers, you who decry the move to digital e-readers and e-reading. I know this, because I have been among you.

I, too, have a love of books. I love the heft and feel of a book in my hand. There's the cover art, the thickness and smoothness of the pages, how well the books sits in my hand. Books have personality and I love them. (see the recent blog post about THE NIGHT CIRCUS, a perfect example of a great book book.)


However, since one of my birthday presents a few weeks ago was a Nook, I must admit that there are things I really like about reading on the device.

I admit that at first, even though I'd borrowed a Nook before and read on it, it felt strange not to be reading a book. I missed the feel and personality of books. Books almost seemed too abstract on the Nook, much too easy to order. They are SO available and I can get them with a click of a button. And then it hardly feels as though I have anything.

So I was dubious, wondering if I would be all that enthusiastic about doing a lot of reading on an e-reader.

And then I started. Recommended by one of my co-workers, and being a book I didn't think Therapist would necessarily like (though now that I'm almost done with it I think she might like it a lot), I started reading SKIPPY DIES by Paul Murray.


And I got into the story. It didn't seem to matter that I was using a device. I was enjoying reading.

Then I made a discovery! As an active Nook seller at work, I knew the Nook has the capability to highlight and take notes. This was a feature I didn't think I'd use at all, but I do. And I love it. When I find a phrase or a passage I want to remember, I can highlight it and make notes about it. Before, when reading regular books, I'd have gotten piece of paper to mark the page. Then, when finished reading the book, I'd go back and find the phrase and write it in a notebook or on the computer. But NOW, on the Nook, I can highlight the phrase and write a note about it and it's THERE! No more pieces of paper. I love this feature.

I do this a lot when reading, so this is a boon for me. I am thrilled that it does this!

(The first phrase I found in SKIPPY DIES that I liked and wanted to remember is 'internal pandemonium'. I knew you'd want to know.)

To me, reading on a device is similar to when I started using email instead of sending letters and cards through the mail. Yes, with email there is the missing of writing an actual letter, the feel of the stationery and the look of the writer's handwriting on the paper, which is wonderful and oh-so-personal.

On the other hand, email (and texting) is so quick and easy to use. I (and I'll bet I'm not alone here) use email most of the time when communicating with others. Yes, there are downsides to using email, but there are a lot of pluses.

There are pluses to reading on an e-reader too. There's the note taking/highlighting features. I also love how portable it is. I take it everywhere with me (I have the Simple Touch, which is compact and, dare I say it, cute?) I can pull it out when I'm waiting in line at the gas station or the Starbucks drive-through, which I did not do with regular books.

Am I a complete convert to reading digitally? No. I am edging in that direction, enjoying some of the advantages of reading on a device. I can see myself going between book books and reading on the Nook. There are pluses to both. I'm glad to have the option!

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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Holiday Shopping...already!

People have started their holiday shopping...

A woman came up to the information desk. In maybe her late 60's or early 70's, she was wearing black slacks, black shirt, black and gold sweater, and had dark brown hair. She had black rimmed glasses.

"I need some books," she said. "I need books about chickens, roosters, dragons, tap dancing and World War II."

"Okay," I said. "Are you looking for specific titles? Or did you just want to see what we have on those topics?"

"No, not specific titles. I'm buying for certain people and they are interested in these things."

"Well, we have some books right here about chickens, these are mostly how to raise chickens...I do know of at least one picture book we have about chickens."

"No, I don't want to know how to raise them. The picture book would be good."

I retrieve EXTRAORDINARY CHICKENS and hand it to her.


"Oh! This is great! Thank you!"

"I don't think we have any books that are just about roosters," I said.

"But this one should have roosters in it, won't it?"

"I imagine so," I said.

"So dragons," she says.

"If this is a old is the person who likes dragons?"

"He's 17. He also likes to read about World War II. Dragons and World War II," she said.

"We have some books on dragons that are for younger kids, but I'm pretty sure we have a nice one here in science fiction." We have two books with dragon art, one hardcover and one large sized paperback. She opts for the paperback as it's less expensive.

"I am getting these now because my sister is coming and I can send them back with her for Christmas. That way I won't have to mail them," she said.

"Oh, that sounds like a good idea," I said. "So the 17 year old is interested in World War II also?" I take her over to the history section. There are two large bays just about World War II. "These are arranged by author, which makes it a little harder if you're looking for a specific topic in the war, but it's a fairly extensive section."

"Hmm," she says. "Don't you have anything like the chicken book, something about World War II in pictures?"

"We probably do." I take her over to the bargain section. "This one is about the Nazis..."

"Oh, we don't want to use that word in the title. I don't think his mother would approve of that."

"Um, okay. Well, here's one about the fighter planes of World War II..." I point out a few other titles, some about the weapons of the war, one of color photographs from World War II. I did not point out a copy of MEIN KAMPF. It didn't seem as though that would go over very well.

"Oh, that would just be too much. No," she said.

"Well, there are the books that are written about the war, some historical, some of first hand experiences, which are in the history section over where we were before. And then there are books here, which are mainly pictorial. They may be a little intense because they are photographing the war...he is'll have to decide what's best for him," I said.

"Well, I'll have to figure out what I want to do. Okay, so what about tap dancing?" she said, shifting gears.

"We probably don't have much about tap dancing specifically. We might have a few books about dance that include tap dancing. How old is the person who likes tap dancing?"

"He's 10. Well, he does take ballet too. And there's the sister who also likes ballet. She's 13. Do you have any books on ballet?"

"We have quite a few books for little kids on ballet, not a lot for a 10 year old or a 13 year old. We do have a dance section, we can see what's there..." I take her over to the dance section. There are a few books about's one...though I'm not sure it has anything about ballet or tap dancing...


"Oh no, that won't do," she said. "Her mother would not like her looking at that picture, you can bet on that."

"Okay, well, there isn't much here, I'm afraid. I can look up and see what we can order. I'll also check through the bargain section, sometimes there are books about ballet there." I look through the bargain section and don't find anything about ballet. I come back and tell her. "I didn't find anything in the bargain section, would you like me to see what might be available to order?"

"No, that's all right. This will be fine. Thank you so much for your help."

Whew! And it's only October!

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Saturday, October 22, 2011

Jack Finney

Jack Finney would have been 100 years old this month. Ah, Jack Finney...

I've always loved to read, but it was Jack Finney's TIME AND AGAIN that sparked my realization that books could change my perception of reality. In a good way.


Simon Morley works in advertising. He is approached to be part of a government experiment. He has to sign on without knowing anything about the project. They have him going back in time.

How he gets there, what he does, where he goes and what happens when he gets there are brilliantly done. Jack Finney was a master storyteller.

Sally, my extremely literate high school friend, recommended TIME AND AGAIN to me. She told me to read it carefully. I read how I usually did, by devouring the story. My reading was not as careful as it needed to be to pick up all of the plot twists that made the end make sense (Sally's dad didn't read it carefully enough either, so I didn't feel so bad). Sally had to fill me in on the bits I'd missed. (well, one crucial, mind-bending bit). It was a most delicious read.

One of my all time favorite books, I am grateful for Jack Finney's world-expainding writing.

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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Customers 29

A young Asian boy, about six years old came up to the counter with his 2-3 year old sister and his mom. The little boy put a copy of Magic Tree House #26 on the counter. Mom is holding the little girl, who has an I Can Read book about Spiderman.

In a loud voice, the boy says, "Hi! I've been waiting to see you! I've been waiting to see you since I got #25! Hi!"

"Hi!" I said back, not quite as loudly. "It's good to see you too! You like these books!"

"I do!" he says.

I see the girl's Spiderman book and I say, "You like Spiderman, that's cool."

She looks at me and says, "I like Superman."

I point to the superhero, "That's Spiderman there on the cover, do you like Spiderman?" I ask.

She looks at me. "Superman," she says.

Her mother says in a low voice, "She thinks that's Superman."

"Ah," I say. "I like Superman too. Superman is great. Looks like you've got a good book there."

The very next day the same family comes in. The boy puts Magic Tree House #31 on the counter. "Hey!" he says loudly. "What are you doing here again?"

"That's a very good question," I said. "That was quick, did you finish the other one?"

His mom said, "He gets a new one when he finishes reading one. I was going to discontinue that, but his dad wants to keep doing it, so..." she shrugs.

"Well, that's a pretty good deal," I told the boy. "You're reading them pretty fast. We're going to have to get you some harder books to read pretty soon, though."

"She has a question," one of the booksellers told me. A young woman, about 18 years old, pink shirt and jeans, and long brown hair came up to the Information desk.

"I'm looking for a book called Felidae," she said.

"That's F-E-L-I-D-A-E?" I asked.

"That's right," she said.

We used to get a cat food called Felidae, so I figured it had something to do with cats, though I wasn't aware of a book with that title. I found a romance novel with that title, and a couple of textbooks, both of them dealing with large cats (pumas, panthers, leopards, etc.). I asked her if any of those were what she was looking for.

"Nope," she said, not offering any other information. I kept looking. Didn't find anything else, either on the internet or in our system.

"Do you have an author?" I asked.

"No," she said.

"Is it about cats?" I asked. "Lions? Leopards? That kind of thing?"

"It is about cats, but not those kind of cats. It's about house cats. And murder," she said.

"House cats and murder? Okay, interesting!" I did another internet search with some different key words, "Felidae, cats, murder", and sure enough, came up with a novel by Akif Pirincci called FELIDAE: A Novel of Cats and Murder! I was not able to order it through our system at the store;, so I suggested that she try searching for it used online.

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Saturday, October 15, 2011

...As a graphic novel? Really?

I just saw THE KITE RUNNER as a graphic novel at the store the other day. Yes, that is Kahled Hosseini's stunning novel, THE KITE RUNNER. As a graphic novel. When I came back to the information desk after seeing it, I asked J., who is a fan of the medium (definitely more so than I), if THE KITE RUNNER should be a graphic novel. It seemed wrong to me, but maybe someone who really likes the genre has a different take on the subject...

"I just saw THE KITE RUNNER graphic novel back there. Should THE KITE RUNNER be a graphic novel?" I asked.


"No, I don't think so. Just because the medium is there doesn't mean that a book should be made into a graphic novel. Not all books translate well into graphic novels. Even Neil Gaiman (of whom J. is a huge fan) has had some books made into graphic novels and..." he shook his head. "It just didn't work."

I know that WUTHERING HEIGHTS is a graphic novel, as is PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. And JANE EYRE. And THE CANTERBURY TALES. It seems that many of the classics are being turned into graphic novels.

I do understand the inclination that perhaps in graphic novel form these stories will be more accessible to people who would not otherwise be exposed to or interested in them.

It's not that I don't like graphic novels; I have read some incredible ones. Craig Thompson's BLANKETS is one, as is Marjane Satrapi's PERSEPOLIS, and Alison Bechdel's FUN HOME. These are memoirs for which the graphic novel medium seems to be the perfect vehicle for the authors to tell their stories.


Am I a purist? Is making a book into a graphic novel any different than turning a book into a movie? That is, bringing the story to a new medium, perhaps bringing something new to it?

I don't know, I guess I can't make generalizations about all graphic novels. I just know that my heart just sinks when I hear that some books have been turned into graphic novels. And it makes me want to keep my eye out for the really good ones.

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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Customers 28

A man, maybe mid 30's, face stubbly, wearing jeans and a t-shirt came up to the information desk. "Can you help me? I read every night to my daughter, and we just finished A WRINKLE IN TIME and THE PRINCESS BRIDE. Do you have any recommendations with what I might read with her next?"

"How old is she?" I asked.

"She's 8," he said.

Handy that I taught third grade which is made up of mostly 8 year olds. I had a few ideas. "Have you read the CHRONICLES OF NARNIA with her?" I asked. "They are great and kind of along the fantasy vein."

"Well, she's seen the movies," he said. "Are the books good?" He seemed doubtful.

"They are great," I said. "Though if she's seen the movies...well, I think the books are really great. Maybe, though, you want to do something else with her if she's seen the movies."

I walked over to one of the young reader bays. "How about THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH?" I handed him a copy. "I love this book. I loved it as a kid and I love it now. My brother and I read it many many times when we were kids. I read it out loud to my third graders when I was teaching. I would take this book to a desert island, even now," I said.

"Wow," he said. He read the back of the book. "A tollbooth...hmmm..." he mused. "Okay." He kept reading. "This sounds perfect. Really, this looks great! I think we'll really like this! Thank you so much for your help!"


I'm glad he took THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH...I had more ideas if he didn't like that one...MRS. FRISBY AND THE RATS OF NIMH, the REDWALL series...

I have added CONTENTED DEMENTIA as one of my staff recommendations. There are now more than 100 copies in the warehouses, so maybe I will be able to handsell 100 copies of this as well as SCENT OF THE MISSING!

A customer brought CONTENTED DEMENTIA to the register to purchase it.


"This is wonderful," I said.

"Oh, have you read it?" she asked.

"I'm the one who wrote the blurb for it on the Staff Recommends bay," I told her. "It's a really different way of looking at people with dementia, and I really like the approach."

"Yes, it looks interesting." Then she asked, "Have you read STILL ALICE?"


"No, I haven't been able to read it. My mother had dementia before she died. It's just been too hard for me to read that one," I answered.

She looked at me. "It is fiction," she said.

"I know that it's fiction. It still hits too close to home for me because of my mother," I said. "I've been able to read some other novels about people with dementia...TURN OF MIND, EVENING...but I just haven't been able to read STILL ALICE. Every time I've started it, it's brought up memories of my own mother."

The woman pursed her lips and almost shook her head in disapproval. "Well it's really an excellent book."

"I've only heard good things about it," I said.

She still bought the book, I thought for a minute that she was going to change her mind because I hadn't read STILL ALICE. Yet.

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Sunday, October 9, 2011

Tantalizing Books...What to Choose?

As I drove into work today, on this dreary, heavily misting early morning, I was glad to be going to a bookstore. Is there anything better on a rainy day than being in a bookstore with some warm coffee? I don't think so either. (even though later in the day it got pretty busy and crazy and didn't feel so warm and cozy and relaxing...but that's another blog entry).

There are a lot of interesting new books that have been released or will be released soon...I'm looking forward to choosing what to read! Some that have caught my eye...

Ellen DeGeneres has a new book out...SERIOUSLY, I'M KIDDING. I love Ellen. She is one of the (relatively few, I think) comedians who can write funny as well as be funny doing stand-up. Or her talk show.


THE VERY PICTURE OF YOU by Isabel Wolff, author of VINTAGE AFFAIR is just out. I haven't read VINTAGE AFFAIR (yet!), but everyone I know who has read it has liked it, and this new one looks interesting as well.


Long anticipated, THE MARRIAGE PLOT by Jeffrey Eugenides comes out Tuesday, October 11. I'm hoping it's as good as his other books.


I've always enjoyed reading Roger Ebert's movie reviews. I know he's been struggling with cancer for quite a few years, and he has a new book out as well, LIFE ITSELF. I'd like to check it out.


I haven't read Michael Lewis yet (MONEYBALL, THE BIG SHORT, THE BLIND SIDE, LIAR'S POKER), but his new book, BOOMERANG: TRAVELS IN THE NEW THIRD WORLD, looks intriguing. His other books do too!


And of course the biography about Steve Jobs is coming out at the end of the month. A loyal Mac (and ipod and iphone) user, I'm interested to read more about his vision that has done more to make computers user friendly than anyone else.


Chris Bohjalian has a new one out, THE NIGHT STRANGERS. For me I either really like his books or not so much. We'll see how this one is.


I've loved everything I've read by Diana Abu Jaber, and she has a new one, BIRDS OF PARADISE, set in Miami. Could be interesting!


Julie Otsuka, author of THE EMPEROR WAS DIVINE, has a new one out, THE BUDDHA IN THE ATTIC, about Japanese picture brides arriving in San Francisco around the turn of the last century.


SKIPPY DIES by Paul Murray is new. Not a high profile author, it is getting good buzz. I might have to read this one. One of my co-workers said it is some of the most beautiful writing he's ever read. High praise indeed!


What will YOU be reading?

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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Notes on Some Books

THE WEIGHT OF SILENCE was recommended to me by a customer. She, new to Oregon, came into our store to connect with her new neighborhood bookstore (us!). Wearing olive green cargo shorts, a matching t-shirt, and with very short brown hair, she told me that THE WEIGHT OF SILENCE was the best book she'd ever read.


I don't always pay attention when customers tell me things like that, but this time I'm glad I did. Heather Gudenkauf tells the story of Callie, a young girl who disappears into the woods and went missing for several days. Callie had stopped speaking a few years before her disappearance. Why did she stop speaking? Why did she go missing? Telling the story through several points of view, including her mother, her brother, Callie's friend, the deputy sheriff as well as from Callie's own point of view, each vantage point provided insight into Callie and her family. A very good read.

After seeing one high school's reading list, which included Emma Donoghue's ROOM, Neil Gaiman's NEVERWHERE, and Tana French's IN THE WOODS, I decided to read Neil Gaiman's NEVERWHERE. What an excellent choice for a reading list!

Richard Mayhew lives in London. He has a rather boring job and an overbearing fiance. One night he helps a girl named Door, who leads him to London Below, a world Richard didn't know existed. He gets involved in Door's quest, leaving London Above to discover a parallel life inhabited by people (and I use the word "people" loosely here) from other times and places. Great fun.


Tom Perrotta's newest, THE LEFTOVERS, has a great premise. Millions of people all over the world disappear in an instant. It seems random, the people who disappeared are all ages, all religions, all races; there doesn't seem to be a common reason for them all to have left. Called the Sudden Departure by those who remain, it is generally assumed that it was the Rapture, though many of the Christians who are left are sure it was not the Rapture, for if it was, they (obviously) would have been taken too. When I read the premise, I thought that it would be a wonderful opportunity for humor.


Tom Perrotta chose to treat the topic differently. Focusing on the Sudden Departure's effect on one family, this books was rather somber. Laurie, the mother in the family, joins a cult-like group called the Guilty Remnant, who smoke cigarettes as one way to proclaim their beliefs. Kevin, her husband, is the town mayor, and he struggles with not only the loss of friends and family, but also the loss of Laurie and Ben to a cult. Ben first bands with the Holy Wayners, following who they see as a holy man. Jill, the daughter, lost her best friend to the Sudden Departure, but more keenly feels the loss of her mother to the cult, knowing that her mother has a choice about whether to be with her or not. Maybe I wanted this book to be written by someone else...Will Ferguson, perhaps? Christopher Moore?

THE NIGHT CIRCUS was on the best seller list the first week it was released. For a brand new author, that is pretty incredible. It is there for good reason. The circus in the story, Le Cirque des Reves, is a magical venue. At least part of the reason the circus exists is for a challenge. Two children are chosen and trained to be the contestants or challengers. They both learn magic and how to create and change how the world appears. Their canvas is Le Cirque des Reves, the Circus of Dreams.


I was (willingly!) drawn into this story and did not want it to end. It is a love story between two people. In addition it is a love story between people and the circus itself. And, I found it to be a love story between the reader and THE NIGHT CIRCUS.

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