Wednesday, June 26, 2013
I've been feeling pretty tired and scattered. Today I actually sat down and looked at the calendar and saw that I've been at my new job less than a month. And during that month, I had about a week of overlap time where I worked my last job and this new job.
As a good friend reminded me, there is much to adjust to with a new job. New co-workers, new industry (I'm still in retail, but instead of books, I'm selling food), new operations, new commute, new schedules. Lots of new.
I do feel as though I'm starting to get acclimated. I'm feeling more comfortable there both with the people on my team as well as with the work I do.
One of the things I scoped in on right away was the bookcase in the break room. It's there for staff to bring in any books they're done with and want to share. It's a small bookcase with three wooden shelves, and it is full of books. Seeing that little bookcase helped me feel more at home.
When I went into the break room yesterday, I saw that the bookshelf was a mess. Some of the books were shelved neatly, spines out, but many were shelved with spines IN, and more books were stacked on top of the other books. Still others had fallen behind the books. The little bookcase needed some love.
So I straightened the books on the bookcase on my break. Of course I did.
I got to see in more detail what books were there...there were a few about food - NEW GOOD FOOD, INTUITIVE EATING. There were a few mass market paperbacks - a Janet Evanovich, a Dean Koontz, SECRETS OF THE YA-YA SISTERHOOD, a couple of Michael Crichton titles. There were also a few decent trade paperbacks - TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE, LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST, ONE DAY by Peter Nichols. But most of the books seemed like ones people brought in because they didn't know what else to do with them. Like books you'd find left over at a garage sale. There was a large hardcover Webster's dictionary, some old textbooks - DISCOVERING AMERICAN HISTORY, BIOLOGY: LIFE ON EARTH, and a few random obscure titles - THE MALE CROSS DRESSER SUPPORT GROUP book, THE ESSAIC REPORT, and an old small paperback called SURPRISING AMSTERDAM that had black and white drawings of scenes of Amsterdam. There was even a vinyl LP by Elton John.
It doesn't seem as though people use the bookshelves much, as some of the books I briefly saw on my first day are still there and many of the titles didn't seem to be ones people would be that interested in. But maybe that can change.
Having the shelves neat makes them more inviting. And perhaps we'll be able to cull some of the books that seem less likely to be picked up by team members. Is anyone really going to be very interested in a 1987 version of BIOLOGY: LIFE ON EARTH?
I know it will take more time before I feel settled into the new job. And I daresay I'm not done being tired and feeling scattered. But I know I'll be keeping an eye on that break room bookcase. And that will help.
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Friday, June 14, 2013
I have always been a reader of dust jackets and back covers of books. I have liked getting a sense of what the book might be about to see if it might interest me.
Therapist is a believer in not reading the dust jacket or back cover to decide if she's going to read a book or not. She looks at the title, the cover, and reads the first line or first page to see if she's drawn in. She believes that the editorial comments on the dust jacket or back cover may misrepresent the book or maybe even worse, tell too much about the book.
With these books, I have to agree with her.
I've been a Norah Vincent fan ever since her first book, SELF-MADE MAN in which she chronicles her experience of dressing like a man and living in the world as a man. (Read my blog post about that most excellent book here: http://notthenewyorktimesbookreview.blogspot.com/2010/01/self-made-man.html).
With THY NEIGHBOR, even as I was reading the dust jacket, I knew it was telling too much of the story. I knew that this was a book I wanted to read without knowing much. But one can't unsee what one has seen, or unread what one has read. I read the book anyway and did really like it, but wished I'd just read it without reading the dust jacket.
THY NEIGHBOR is Vincent's first foray into fiction. Nick Walsh lives alone in the house he grew up in. Nick tries to deal with his issues, or rather NOT deal with his issues by drinking and using drugs. He also spies on his neighbors. Intense, a little creepy, and well done.
A SIMPLE PLAN
I picked this up after reading a recommendation by Gillian Flynn, who said she rereads this book at least once a year. She praised its tight storytelling and plot development. You may have seen the 1998 movie of this story. I didn't read the back cover, nor had I seen the movie, and I was glad to be able to experience the novel without input from the movie or the back cover. Gillian Flynn's praise was more about the writing style and less about describing the story itself, which is a good way to praise a book. I was quickly drawn into the story, told by Hank, as he, his brother, and his brother's friend make a discovery and make a decision about what to do about it. A Simple Plan. A plan which, as you can imagine, becomes anything but simple. Well-crafted story-telling makes this a great read.
AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF US
Looking for something to read, I picked up this advance reader copy that Therapist received from librarything. There was a letter from the editor, giving a brief synopsis of the book and the publisher's encouragement to read it. I did not read this letter before I read the book.
I liked the title a lot. The title implies that there is an "us" to chronicle, which intrigued me. However, there wasn't enough in the beginning of the book to make their friendship believable in the first place, so when troubles came, supposedly in the friendship, I kept wondering why the book was supposed to be about their friendship and not just about one of the girls. Also, towards the end of the book Rebecca, the narrator, says, "but you'll want to know how I ended up with your father," which seemed to come out of the blue to me...oh, she's writing to her child? And yes, I had expected that she got married, but before this reference, there is NO reference to this future spouse. I think the book would have been much stronger had it been just Rebecca's story. That would necessitate a new title (and I like this title, just maybe not for this book). I was disappointed.
Would reading the dust jacket have helped (had I had one to read)? It's hard to imagine that a dust jacket description could have (or should have) redeemed this book for me.
MEMOIRS OF AN IMAGINARY FRIEND
I read about this on a booksellers' brief Facebook page, written by someone I didn't know. I'd never heard of it before. The person said that one of the reasons they liked it so well was because of the unique voice of the narrator - an imaginary friend.
I bought MEMOIRS OF AN IMAGINARY FRIEND without reading the back cover or knowing anything else about it. When I started reading it, I was immediately drawn in as Budo told the story of how he came to be, and about his friend, Max. Budo's voice was unique and engaging, similar to Enzo in THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN, or Mathilda in MATHILDA SAVITCH. Worth reading!
I still often read dust jackets and back covers. But sometimes I find myself taking a page out of Therapist's playbook, bypassing the dust jacket and relying on the writing of the book itself, and reading the first page or few pages to see if I am drawn in.
How about you?
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Monday, June 3, 2013
Life turns on a dime. Indeed it does.
Tonight will be my last shift at the bookstore.
I find myself a little sad and on edge as I get ready for my shift today.
Deciding to leave the bookstore was not an easy decision for me to make. I have worked on and off in bookstores since I was a teenager, putting up with low-ish pay and sometimes challenging working situations to be able to stay in close proximity to books and the people who love them.
But bookstores have been doing a lot of changing in recent years. The advent of digital reading devices and the explosion of online shopping have dramatically changed book shopping habits. People who use digital reading devices purchase less paper books. They may come into the store to browse, but then purchase them on their device, which does nothing for the individual store's bottom line. People also come in and browse at the store, but when they find out that the online price is so much cheaper, they often go home and buy the books online.
In addition, Borders is gone. The company I've worked for has closed two stores in our metro area, and opened one new one. People - customers and staff alike - wonder if bookstores can remain viable. It is unsettling.
Bookstores, at least the one I work for, seem to be in the middle of an identity crisis. They need to figure out what they want and need to be.
I love books. I LOVE books. I love being around them, I love talking and writing about them.
And I have loved working in a bookstore. But recently, working in a bookstore (for me, all I can say is how it's been for me), has become less about the joy of books and reading and more about trying to struggle through a shift.
I have felt as though I've been on the front lines, spending less time talking about actual books with people, and more time explaining changes and policies - why our stores closed (leases were up, we opened a new store), whether the store I'm currently in is going to close (not that we know), why are books cheaper online (less overhead, buying them here means you get to come in and have customer service and carpets and lights and bathrooms and chairs), and how do you use a Nook anyway?
Changes in the bookstore industry, as well as the climate of my individual store brought me to my decision to leave. Even though I've been with this company for almost ten years and worked in four different stores, it is time for me to move on.
This decision to leave is more about me choosing which dime on which to turn my life, rather than leaving the dime turning to fate.
Even though I chose this dime, I am having a lot of feelings today...sadness to say good-bye to some great co-workers, sadness not to be around the books on a daily basis, sadness maybe even that I want to leave, as well as being a little on edge about all the changes for me personally (I start a brand new job tomorrow!).
Part of the decision about leaving the bookstore has been wondering what that means for me and this blog. I've really enjoyed it, but wondered if me not being at the bookstore makes the blog less appealing, or that I would have less of a draw. That has been scary and sad for me as well.
However, leaving employment at the bookstore doesn't mean I won't still read or write about books (or maybe even write another book!). I'm just not sure what it will all look like yet!
I invite you to stay tuned and see what happens!
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