Monday, December 14, 2009

Just the Bookstore's Top Ten Staff Picks for 2009

Our Top Shared Staff Picks for 2009:

As our loyal customers know, these books have been front and center on our Staff Pick Shelf at The Bookstore ever since their release. The staff doesn't always agree, but on these four picks we do. Chances are if you've been to the store you've heard at least one of us sing the praises of these books.

To celebrate the New Year we've put together a list of our Top Ten Staff Picks for 2009, and starting in January, we'll be asking our customers to vote for their top ten as well. And then, because we're just a little wacked out on lists, we thought we'd take a customer poll on The Bookstore's Book of The Decade. Details will be in our January newsletter.

You might notice we didn't limit ourselves to just 10. Whether it's indecision or a common rebellious streak, we each have at least 11. You might also notice how much our lists overlap. Part of this is because of the way we share our favorite reads (passing from hand to hand: "You HAVE to read this!") Another reason? They're just great reads - stop in with your Christmas gift certificates and pick some up!

Margie (
1. Little Bee/Chris Cleave
2. The Gate at The Stairs/Lorrie Moore
3. Let the Great World Spin/Colum McCann
4. Homer & Langley/E. L. Doctorow
5. Wolf Hall/Hilary Mantel
6. The Anthologist/Nicholson Baker
7. A Short History of Women/Kate Walbert
8. 31 Hours/Masha Hamilton
9. Delicate Edible Birds/Lauren Groff
10. Generosity/Richard Powers
11. Manhood for Amateurs/Michael Chabon
(Can I just keep going? How can I possibly say that one book is #10 but another isn't? How can you make a finite list out of something as magical as a good read? I also loved Family Album/Penelope Lively, Home/Marilynne Robinson, Zeitoun/Dave Eggers, Last Night in Montreal/Emily St. John Mandel, Love and Obstacles/Aleksandar Hemon, Strength in What Remains/Tracy Kidder, and about 90% of what Sue's putting on her list.)

Sue (
1. Little Bee/Chris Cleve
2. The Gate at the Stairs/Lorrie Moore
3. Let the Great World Spin/Colum McCann
4. A Short History of Women/Kate Walbert
5. Last Night in Twisted River/John Irving
6. The Wilderness/Samantha Harvey
7. Waiting for Columbus/Thomas Trofimuk
8. 31 Hours/Masha Hamilton
9. The Song is You/Arthur Philips
10. The Believers/Zoe Heller
11. Delicate Edible Birds/Lauren Groff
Tied: The Housekeeper and the Professor/Yoko Agawa

Jenny (despite our efforts, Jenny's a Twitter hold-out)
1. Little Bee/Chris Cleave
2. Labor Day/Joyce Maynard
3. Under the Dome/Stephen King
4. The Crying Tree/Naseem Rakha
5. 31 Hours/Masha Hamilton
6. The Gate at the Stairs/Lorrie Moore
7. Delicate Edible Birds/Lauren Groff
8. Under This Unbroken Sky/Shandi Mitchell
9. Strength in What Remains/Tracy Kidder
10. That Old Cape Magic/Richard Russo
11. Say You're One of Them/Ukem Akpan

And to all you naysayers who don't like lists, or who can't believe what idiots we are to have missed your favorite book (fill in the blank), please leave a comment. And stay tuned for the poll results in January, when our customers will get the last word. As they always do!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Gift Idea for Dad: When the Game Was Ours by Larry Bird & Magic Johnson

If the dad, your husband, or man in your life loves old-school basketball before the days of Michael, Shaq and Kobe, then this is a great gift idea.

Larry Bird and Magic Johnson tell the story of three decades of basketball rivalry that started with the 1979 NCAA Championship game in Salt Lake City, Utah, still the most watched college basketball game in television history. Chances are your dad not only remembers that game , but knows where he was and what the final score was. (75-64, Michigan State).

Stop by The Bookstore and pick up a copy for Dad. ($26.00 hardcover.) We'll even wrap it for you. Call ahead (630) 469-2891 or e-mail and we can have it waiting for you!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Ladies Night Out 2009: "Best Appetizers in Town!"

Women in big hats and snow boots braved the snow and slush for a fun and successful Downtown Ladies Night 2009.

Sue once again showcased her wine pouring skills at "the bar" between Nature and Sports. (Some of that delicious Trader Joe's Olive Bread is right in front of her, yum.)

20 stores and about 250 women participated in this year's event, which was twice as big as last year's. From what we could tell, everyone was in great spirits and sales were great.

I don't mean to brag (oh, yes I do) but one of our customers remarked that The Bookstore had the "best spread in town," pointing to the appetizers on the front table.

Sue, Jenny and I made samples from some of our favorite cookbooks, including Trader Joe's Companion and Barefoot Contessa's Back to Basics. Customers received a 20% discount on any of the featured cookbooks. The new Trader Joe's cookbook sold especially well -- it's pocket sized so it can fit in a purse or a Christmas stocking!

Thanks everyone for stopping in and sharing the holiday cheer. It was fun meeting new people from nearby towns -- lots of new friends and customers.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Holiday Gift Recommendation: "Women Who Read Are Dangerous" by Stefan Bollman

Women Who Read Are Dangerous by Stefan Bollman ($24.95) is a gorgeous book that would make a perfect gift for the female booklover in your life.

It's filled with a fabulous collection of paintings, drawings, prints and photographs of women reading, including such artists as Rembrandt, Vermeer, Manet, Whistler and Hopper. The painting on the cover, Dreams by Vittorio Matteo Corcos (1896) shows a young woman reader who appears slightly inspired and defiant. You can't help but wonder what she just read.

The pictures alone are enough, but there is interesting commentary by Stefan Bollman, who is an author of several books on literature, including Women Who Write (Merrell 2007). It traces the history of reading, and notes that private, silent reading is a relatively modern phenomenon.

Women who read were regarded as dangerous, it claims, because they began to acquire privacy and independence of mind. As Bollman states, "the woman who reads acquires a space to which she and no one else has access, and together with this she develops an independent sense of self-esteem; . . . she creates her own view of the world that does not necessarily correspond with that conveyed by tradition, or with that of men."

Here's to space, independence, and a little "dangerous" rebellion!

To have us hold a copy for you (with free gift wrapping!), just call (630) 469-2891 or e-mail us at

Celebrity Reader in the Window: Glen Ellyn Holiday Walk Photos with Charlene Baumbich

Here are some fun photos from the night of the Glen Ellyn Holiday Walk. Local author Charlene Baumbich had a wonderful time reading in the window and surprising passerby! All of our customers are invited to sign up for an hour of Holiday Reader in the Window too! It includes hot chocolate and a $5 gift certificate to The Bookstore! Call (630) 469-2891 to sign up now!

Photo credits: Charlene Baumbich

Friday, November 27, 2009

Local Author's Latest Book, Stray Affections, Is Featured in Bookstore Window

Loyal Bookstore customers know about our annual "Holiday Reader in the Window" program. Customers and friends of The Bookstore sign up for an hour to read in the rocking chair in our window during the holiday season. They get to sit and relax, while they watch all of Glen Ellyn hustling by. Plus, you earn a $5 gift certificate! Children are welcome and encouraged. To sign up, just call (630) 469-2891 or e-mail us at

This year, The Bookstore's Holiday Window features local author Charlene Baumbich and her new Snowglobe Series. The first book in the series, Stray Affections, is available now. It is a Midwest Bookseller's Association Pick, and would make a wonderful holiday gift (for you or someone on your list!) Charlene will be making a special appearance as our Celebrity Holiday Reader in the Window on Friday, November 27th during the Holiday Walk.

The Chamber of Commerce hosts a Village Holiday Window Decorating Contest every year, and this year's theme is "Glen Ellyn Glitters." Jane suggested we feature Charlene's book in the window display, and I voluteered to try to paint the snowglobe scene featured on its cover, complete with three different colors of glitter. (Gold at the base, silver around the edges of the globe, and snow-colored glitter at their feet.)

Working with all that glitter reminded me of all the messy art projects I used to make with my daughter when she was little. Now I also remember how hard it is to clean up glitter from hardwood floors and carpeting. (Sorry, Jane, for the trail of glitter from the back room into the Young Adult section of The Bookstore, but secretly? I kind of enjoy it. What the heck, it's the holidays.)

Jenny did a great job gathering all the snowglobes, glittery fabrics and sparkly ornaments to complete the window display. (More than one customer has inquired whether the snowglobes are for sale! -- sorry but no.) We're really proud of our little window, but we don't have high hopes for the contest. We were pretty proud of our little Polar Express train last year, with it's real headlight and glow-in-the-dark windows, but the judges didn't give us a single ribbon. So Jenny kept saying: "We're not trying to win the contest, right? We're just doing this because we're nutty bookstore people!" You've got that right, Jenny!

So please stop by The Bookstore and do your best to shop local for the holidays. Love your local bookstore, support Glen Ellyn merchants and celebrate our local authors.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Thinking of Thanksgiving? Check Out One of the Best Family Dinner Scenes in Literature

In the spirit of the approaching holidays, Julia Keller of The Chicago Tribune Books section recently asked readers to send a letter recommending a good family novel. I couldn't resist, and sent the following:

I've got to nominate To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf (1927) to the list of the best family novels of all time.

At this time of year, when families are gathering for Thanksgiving dinners, you can't find a better family dinner party scene than the one that lasted 20 pages in To The Lighthouse. Family and friends gather for a formal dinner of Beouf en Daube at a seaside retreat in pre-WWI England.

At first the guests are all pretty crabby and seem to be one word away from a family feud: the husband is frowning in a heap at the end of the table; one of the male guests refuses "to be condescended to by these silly women;" the hostess notices how shabby the room looks, and wonders how she'd ever felt any emotion or affection for her husband. This dinner party is about to become a train wreck.

The hostess knows that if she doesn't do something to coalesce the group and shepherd them into a kinder, gentler conversation, no one will. ("They all sat separate. And the whole of the effort of merging and flowing and creating rested on her.") Through the magic, intuition and sheer maternal willpower of the hostess, the candles are lit, the beouf is served, and the guests all come together in mutual admiration and goodwill.

To which I say: thank you moms and hostesses everywhere.

By the way, I have a great recipe for cranberry sauce. The secret ingredient is the jalapeno pepper.

Margie's Cranberry/Pineapple/Jalapeno Sauce

One 12 oz. bag of fresh cranberries
(Heat for 10 minutes or until they burst)
2 packed cups coarsely chopped pineapple
1/4 cup sugar
1 scallion coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 to 2 jalapenos, seeded and minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt

Pulse in food processor until coarsely chopped. Place in serving bowl and cover with plastic wrap for at least 30 minutes but no more than 2 hours. Serve chilled.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Locally Born Author Mary Doria Russell Rocks the House

I love books and the people who write them. But I don't know if I've ever had as big of an author crush as this. Let me just say: Mary Doria Russell rocks.

Looks are deceiving. She came in the room and looked like a quiet, introverted author: a petite, gray-haired woman holding a cup of tea. But then she opened her mouth, and you see she's a real pistol with a wicked sense of humor, a dazzling imagination and great stage presence. She admits she's been a ham since high school.

She's the author of four bestselling books, soon to be five. She grew up in neighboring Lombard, Illinois, and was invited back to inaugurate the Mary Doria Russell Chapter of the National English Honor Society at Glenbard East High School. She also spoke and signed books at the Helen Plum Library in Lombard.

She had us at "hello." She greeted the crowd by saying: "Hi, my name is Mary and I'm a book junkie." The crowd picked up her cue and answered her back, as if we were all at an AA meeting: "Hello, Mary!" Later, we joked that our crowd's familiarity with that greeting was revealing. Mary said with a wink, "well, we all know it from TV, right?"

She chronicled her addiction to books in the language of a true junkie. Dr. Suess was her gateway drug; Nancy Drew her tobacco ("made me look older and smarter"), Zane Grey her cocaine. Teachers and librarians were her dealers. Nothing got her more excited as a young reader than a nice, long "Also by" list at the front of a book. That's how she knew she wouldn't have to worry about where to get her next fix.

Speaking of fixes, fans of Mary's fiction are due for another one in 2010 with the release of her newest book, Eight to Five, Against, a western murder mystery set in Dodge City, Kansas featuring Doc Holliday. Mary says it's about "vice, bigotry, violence and living with a terminal disease," and claims that Doc will break your heart. Can't wait to read it -- we'll let you know when it comes out, and hopefully we'll get Mary back to celebrate.

Fun and interesting scoop on her other books: Brad Pitt wants to make a movie about The Sparrow, the story about the baby on the bomb in Thread of Grace was completely true, and she got the idea for Dreamers of the Day by seeing a documentary on the History Channel. By the way, when Brad Pitt called to meet with her about making The Sparrow, she turned him down in favor of a much needed and long-planned vacation. Although they plan to reschedule, she loves to claim that she blew off Brad Pitt. You go girl.

We have a few extra signed copies of her books left to sell at The Bookstore. Call (630) 469-2891 or e-mail us at if you'd like us to hold one for you. For more information on Mary Doria Russell and her books, go to her website.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

What Makes the Great Lakes Great

What makes the Great Lakes great?

This collection of essays by Great Lakes area booksellers and librarians answers that question in a myriad of ways, but it all comes down to the people who willingly, even joyfully embrace harsh winters and bug-filled summers, who have an uninhibited jones for Indiana basketball, or who admire a sprawling Illinois cornfield, a squeeky Wisconsin cheese curd, or a dive bar on the south side of Chicago.

I hope you come in and pick up this wonderful little book. First of all,the cover is gorgeous. That's reason alone.

Secondly, it's only $10.95, and a portion of the proceeds go to The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, (ABFFE) a not-for-profit organization that promotes, among other things, Banned Book Week. It is currently lobbying Congress in support of a bill that would better protect bookstore customer privacy. Wouldn't it be creepy if your favorite bookstore was served with a subpoena and we had to produce the titles of all of the books you've purchased? So the money goes to a great cause.

A lot of really nice book industry people (isn't that redundant?) donated their time and resources to make this book possible, which is even more impressive in these tough times for book publishing, so let's make it worth their while. Check out the Great Lakes Reader website for excerpts and the story behind the book.

Another reason you should buy this book is because yours truly (that's me, Margie) has an essay in the book about Wisconsin. When the call came out for booksellers to write an essay about their home state, I put together some of my thoughts and memories about growing up on Lake Winnebago, and sent it in. It's my authorial debut, unless you count the briefs I've written as a litigator, the cringe-worthy journals I kept in college, and all the love notes I used to sneak into my kids' lunch boxes.

But it's not all about me. There are other really wonderful stories in this book by other booksellers and librarians. The other author writing about Wisconsin (Kirk Farber, a librarian from Colorado) cracked me up by reminding me of the Mars Cheese Castle on I-94, or Hayward's enormous fiberglass musky sculpture -- Wisconsin's shrines to cheese and fish. Others write about Indiana dunes and knobs, Chicago's lakefront, Michigan's "U.P.," and Ohio's small towns. There are stories of Great Lakes women, "as steadfast as a barn beam," who snow-shoe to work with their dogs, detassle corn and grow up loving to read.

There's a wonderful theme running through many of these essays, and it's no wonder, because the writers are all in love with books. There are stories about a young girl who used to read Nancy Drew on family boat rides in Wisconsin (yes, that's me), a just-starting-out Cleveland bookseller whose savvy manager gave him a weekly must-read list, and a Michigan teen who discovered Kurt Vonnegut and Jack Kerouac (and himself) on the shelves of his local independent bookstore. If you like books, you'll like these stories.

One more final reason to buy this book: I talked Jane into buying a bunch of copies for our store, and I don't want her mad at me. So please come in and buy one or two. Heck, we'd really love it if you'd buy one for each of your Great Lakes friends and family members. And if the lobbying efforts of ABFFE are successful, we won't have to tell Homeland Security about it!

And because it doesn't make sense to walk into your favorite independent bookstore and walk out with just one book, I also recommend the books pictured below, for a Great Lakes trifecta!

State by State, A Panoramic Potrait of America ($16.99 paperback),

The Booklover's Guide to the Midwest, A Literary Tour by Greg Holden ($14.95 paperback)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Bookstore Breakfast for Breast Cancer with Meg Waite Clayton

In the photo, from left to right are; Sue, Meg Waite Clayton, Jane, Elizabeth Lewis and Margie.

The Bookstore turned pink for its Breakfast For Breast Cancer on Thursday, October 22, 2009. The event was a benefit for customer Elizabeth Lewis' Avon 2-Day Walk Team, The Wednesday Sisters. Elizabeth named her team after her favorite book by Meg Waite Clayton.

Meg donated copies of her first novel, The Language of Light, with 100% of the proceeds going toward the team. The Bookstore donated a portion of all purchases made during the event, as well as 100% of the proceeds of a raffle for pink gift baskets full of books. HealthTrack massage therapist Julie Barbee was on hand to offer free chair massages for a donation to the team.

Meg signed books, read a passage from The Wednesday Sisters, and told a wonderful story about her own mother, a breast cancer survivor whose life may have been saved by early detection.

Meg shared some details about her newest manuscript and I'm already excited. It's about four friends who meet at the University of Michigan Law School in 1979 (Meg and Elizabeth's alma mater). She drew a lot of comparisons between her new book and The Wednesday Sisters. Can't wait until it's ready for our shelves!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Local Author Book Fair at The Bookstore on Saturday October 17, 2009

The Bookstore was proud to hold a Local Author Book Fair on Saturday, October 17, 2009. Local authors gathered to sign books, meet customers and network with other authors.

Local authors included Shawna Coronado, a nationally recognized green lifestyle expert, consultant, blogger, public speaker and author of Gardening in the Nude. For more information, go to, or follow her on Twitter as @shawnacoronado.

Also on hand to inspire the newer authors was Charlene Baumbich (in photo on the right), author of the Dearest Dorothy series, and most recently, Stray Affections, a Midwest Bookseller's Association 2009 Pick. In fact, keep your eyes open for your MBA Catalog coming in the mail soon, Charlene's book is on the cover! (congrats, Charlene!) Charlene is on Twitter as @TwinkleChar and has a delightful blog that can be found at

We were also pleased to welcome Naazish YarKhan (photo above, left), President of The Writers Studio and a professional writer with over 15 years of writing experience. Her commentaries have appeared on NPR and Chicago Public Radio. Naazish has recently completed her first novel, and we wish her well as she seeks representation. For more information on Naazish, go to http://www/ or follow her on Twitter as @naazishyarkhan.

Other local authors included John O'Donnell, an English teacher at Benet Academy and author of a book about Chicago baseball, Like Night and Day: A Look at Chicago Baseball 1964-1969;

Cheryl Price, author of The Golden Aspen, a paperback children's book;

Peter Charles, author of Secret Chambers,

and Philip Kledzik, author of An Issue of the Heart and Painted Rooms.

Other local authors interested in our next Local Author Book Fair may contact us at, and we will add you to the list for the next event on June 19, 2010.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Parent-Child Book Clubs: Izzy's Book Club of Glen Ellyn

Girls Who Read: The Izzy Book Club

One of our favorite things at The Bookstore is when we get to hear from our younger readers, especially those in Parent-Child book clubs.

This month we are recognizing "The Izzy Book Club," a group of 7th grade girls from St. Petronille who have been in a Mother-Daughter book club together for over two years. The group includes Claire Graham, Patty Hupp, Sara Knapp, Sophia Minning, Lisa Mordell, Mary Nevins and Julia Sakach. They agreed to answer my questions about their book club.

Q: How long do you think your book club will last? Do you think you'll continue into high school?

A: We think it will last for at least two more years. Some of us want it to go through high school, but others think they will be too busy.

Q: What were some of your favorite books?

A: Green Glass Sea by Ellen Klages, Fever, 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson and Cornelius and the Audacious Escapades of the Somerset Sisters by Lesley M. M. Bloom.

Q: Any least favorites?

A: Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle and Everything on a Waffle by Polly Horvath.

Q: Do the moms read the books too? Do they usually agree with the girls or not?

A: The moms read the books with us, and most of the time we are split. When we read Scarlett, the moms disagreed because they had more life experiences and thought it had different meaning than the girls did.

Q: What do you do when you disagree about a book?

A: When we disagree we have to respect each other's opinions. It isn't uncomfortable to disagree because there is always at least one other person who is on your side.

Q: Do you like classics or new fiction better?

A: We love new fiction!!!!!!

Q: Have you had any fun field trips?

A: Twice we went to Chicago to see plays based on the books: Hannah's Suitcase and Esparanza Rising.

Q: Are you ever nervous when it's your turn to pick out the book? Who do you turn to for advice?

A: We are never nervous and we turn to adults for advice.

Q: Tell me about your most fun book club meeting.

A: Our most fun gatherings were Everything on a Waffle because we had a ton of good food, and Green Glass Sea because we got to decipher codes and gor rocks with Greek phrases written on them.

Q: Do you think you are better readers because of your book club?

A: Yes, it has made us better readers. It has encouraged us to read books that we normally would not touch.

Q: What has your book club (and the books you've read in it) taught you about life?

A: It has taught us that others have different opinions about books and different subjects, just like life. We all have different feelings about real life stuff. Some people think dying is sad and scary. Others think that it is happy because soon they will go to heaven. So you can disagree but you should respect others, just like in real life. We have learned so much about past history, such as the Holocaust, World War II, segregation and the yellow fever. It has made us appreciate the world we live in and makes us proud to live in the United States.


* * * * *

If any of you are thinking about starting a Parent-Child Book Club of your own, these books might be a great place to start. We also keep a list of the books selected by local Parent-Child Book Clubs, just like we do for the adult book clubs, and are happy to share them with our customers. Although Mother-Daughter Book Clubs are more prevalent, we are happy to be seeing some pretty cool Father-Son book clubs in the area as well.

If you would like to share stories and photos of your Parent-Child book club, please e-mail us at, and we'll get it posted. We especially love hearing from the kids in their own words.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

On Pingo, Parents and Imaginary Friends

As some of our customers already know, I'm obsessed with Pingo, a beautifully illustrated new picture book by Brandon Mull.

It's about a young boy who outgrows his imaginary friend. Pingo resents the rejection, so he becomes Chad's imaginary enemy, acting like an obnoxious little brother who spies on Chad's dates and hides important papers as Chad grows up. (And I used to blame "Gremlins" for that!)

When Chad is an old man, he welcomes Pingo back as his imaginary friend. The pair have wonderful adventures together, and "live happily ever after." You really have to see the last couple of pages for yourself. They choked me up.

Now I can't stop thinking about my own dad. I'm hoping he finds a friend like Pingo.

Last spring, we moved my dad into the Wisconsin Veteran's Home. After several years of dealing with his slowly creeping Alzheimer's and a puzzling, unmanageable dizziness, my family agreed that he needed more nursing care than he could get at home. He was a little reluctant, but yet not strongly opposed. "I guess it's time," is all he said. It's amazing how a few words can sum up an entire lifetime.

It helps that the Veteran's Home in King is a proud place that honors our veterans with stellar health care, cheerfully persistent nurses, and a dream location on the shores one of Wisconsin's most beautiful chain of lakes. They have a bowling alley, a bar, a theater, a library, a pottery studio and more. Local volunteers bring their dogs in for regular visits. There's a local waterski show down at the lake every Saturday in the summer. (And what's so bad about government health care?) My extended step-family visits him daily, with dogs and grand-toddlers in tow. Dad reports the food is fantastic and with the confused innocence of Alzhiemers, he calls it his "home."

But still.

His eyes often convey a clear blue emptiness. He's always been a quiet man, but now it feels like his quiet moments are really just moments of loss and confusion. He knows who we are, but it's hard to keep track of things. We return from pontoon boat rides, and he admits that he has no idea where he is. He looks up at the lake house in which he lived for 8 years without any recognition at all.

I know we're not unique. There are thousands, millions maybe, who suffer through much worse with much less support. We're lucky. But still, when it happens to your own dad, it's hard. You have guilt that you weren't one of those daughters who could be happy without leaving home. You wish you could do more and you're grateful for those who do. But most of all, you hope that some kind of happiness remains in your dad's last months or years.

What you really wish is that your dad could have a friend like Pingo.

If my dad had a Pingo, his quiet, seemingly lost moments would be filled with fantasy and flight. He and his Pingo would go musky fishing at a "hot spot" in Eagle River or duck hunting on the shores of Lake Winnebago. They'd play army, jail, "Boohla-Boohla" and lots of the other crazy little made-up games. They'd have bikes and shiny nickels and eat entire bags of store-bought vanilla sandwich cookies. They'd bomb around in a yellow Army jeep, go on a safari, and eat bologna sandwiches on Wonder bread with a zig-zag of French's mustard. Dogs would tag along wherever they went -- frolicky but obedient labs and spaniels with names like Lonnie, Hodi, Pal and Ginger Sue. They'd laugh at each other's clean, but not-that-funny jokes (I hope this rain keeps up! Then it can't come down!) There'd be no cancer or Alzheimer's or heavy meds, just sprained wrists, growing pains and St. Joseph's Aspirin for Children.

That's what I wish for my dad. And what do I wish for myself? . . . I really wish I could be his Pingo.

To have us hold a copy of Pingo ($17.95) for you, pleae call (630) 469-2891 or e-mail us at For more information, go to and search under the title "Pingo."

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Part II of My Interview with Masha Hamilton, Author of "31 Hours"

Here is Part II of my recent interview with Masha Hamilton, author of 31 Hours, our featured staff pick this month.

We are hoping Glen Ellyn falls for this book in the way we all fell for Little Bee earlier this year. It's just fun to be buzzing about the same book all over town, and I can assure you, the end of this book will make you want to come in the store to talk to us about it!

MARGIE: What did your experience as a Middle East reporter bring to your portrayal of the young man Jonas? Did it make it easier or more difficult to draw a portrait of a home-grown terrorist? After all, Jonas was just the boy-next-door. What was in your thoughts as you wrote about Jonas?

MASHA: I was in my 20s and reporting from the Middle East when I first began to think hard about young men carrying out acts of violence, and about the families of those men. You've heard the saying "one man's terrorist is another's freedom fighter." That concept reflects part of what I was thinking about at the time, and what I was trying to report about: different ways to consider the same set of facts, each way "true" on its own terms. I thought about how these men were once someone's little kid, with all those precious little kid moments. I understood that somehow their motivation made perfect sense to them, and I wondered about the roots of that motivation. Poverty and rage are easy to cite, but it isn't always so simple to trace the reasons someone grows to embrace violence to the point of self-extinguishing. As I became a mother and my kids grew, I heard stories about kids killing themselves via drug abuse, which doesn't have the idea of a "greater purpose" that Jonas is pursuing. It's simply confusion, and vulnerabiity, and fear. I thought a lot about those kids, the insecurity of those years that many of us pass through as we all struggle to figure out who we are. I thought about young adults dedicating themselves, in an obsessive and subsuming way, to a "cause" - which is, in a way, an escape from confronting adult life. Despite the fact that he is very smart, Jonas is also very insecure. As an adult, of course, he'll have more confidence. But he has to get there first.

MARGIE: I'd love to hear your thoughts behind the title (why 31?) as well as the caption at the top of each chapter, which listed the time in New York as well as Mecca.

MASHA: Thirty-one hours was what I always understood, intuitively, was the framework for the story. There was no reason at first beyond my guy, but later I added things like the number of days between menstrual cycles, the 31st verse in the Bible, the 31st name of Allah. The caption at the top of each chapter is to link these two great cities, each with their own separate, loud and demanding Gods, and to subtly demonstrate how small and braided our world has become.

MARGIE: Your love for New York just radiates off the page. It makes me want to take a NYC-31 Hours subway tour, following the paths of your characters. Any chance we could get a subway map to use as a guide as we read the book? How about a link to donate to Sonny Hirt's homeless shelter? (Oh, there I go again, confusing fiction and reality - he felt so real.)

MASHA: Here's a link to the subway map, for a few locations mentioned in the Sonny chapters:

MARGIE: What books are on your nightstand?

MASHA: Oh dear, you sent me up to take a look. A Rumi poetry book, John Wray's Lowboy, PEN America's latest journal, various magazines, Maps for Lost Lovers by Nadeem Aslam (loved it, re-reading parts), The Boat by Nam Le, Complete Poems of James Wright, 92nd Street Y Fall Catalog of events, Make the Most of Your Time On Earth: A Rough Guide to the World; Man Gone Down by Michael Thomas, and for research for the next novel, I'm reading Farewell, God Speed: The Greatest Eulogies of our Time, and Methland by Nick Reding.

MARGIE: What book would you put on The President's nightstand if you could sneak through secret service?

MASHA: Only one, huh? Maybe An Unexpected Light: Travels in Afghanistan, written by Jason Elliot and published in 1999. One of the first books I read when I was interested in Afghanistan. It's a very male book, but it humanizes the people, and draws you in the way the country itself does. Right now, the more our administration learns about Afghanistan's complexities and contradictions, the better. (And I suppose I wouldn't be allowed to slip 31 Hours right underneath it?)

MARGIE: Has the resumption of the war in Afghanistan affected your Afghan women's project? Are you able to travel there safely?

MASHA: When I was last in Afghanistan, in November of last year, I was not able to travel as I had on the previous visit. The Taliban held the south of the country and maintained a ring around Kabul. Kidnapping has been a major threat - both by Taliban militants and by basic criminals The women who write for the Afghan Women's Writing Project face a host of challenges. For example, in the days leading up to the election, those in Kabul were fearful about leaving their homes because of rumors of planned suicide bombings. Even on the best days, women largely do not go to an Internet cafe except in the company of a male relative, and even then it is an uncomfortable experience. Some of the women keep secret from their families their participation in the program. We may lose one of our writers because she may be married off against her will. It is because of the current tightening of conditions for women there, in fact, that I wanted to get the project underway this last spring - not a moment too soon.

Again, Margie, THANK YOU SO MUCH! I appreciate these really great questions, and your support of this novel. Warmly, Masha
31 Hours Trailer:

Friday, September 4, 2009

A Fond Farewell to Our Beowulf on the Beach Summer Reading Challenge

We're still smiling after our fun Beowulf on the Beach Bash on August 27th, The Bookstore's end-of-the-summer celebration for our Summer Classic Reading Challenge. So many of our customers said, "Can we do this again next summer?" Sounds good to me!

Customers mingled with glasses full of Anna Karenitinis (a delicious sour apple martini) or Beowulf on the Seabreeze (fresh & fruity), talking about their summer reads with our new BFF author Jack Murnighan. He was as entertaining in person as he is on the page, and had the whole audience entranced as he read his favorite line from To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf. Everyone enjoyed his forgiving approach to the classics, joking, "of course it's hard to concentrate on some of this stuff --they were written before cable TV!"

The best news of all, besides all the fun we had with our customers, is that the Challenge was a huge success for The Bookstore. We sold about 100 copies of Beowulf on the Beach, along with
dozens and dozens of classics to go with it. Yes, the whole staff was very psyched about it and we chatted it up a lot at the store, but we have to thank Jack Murnighan for putting out such a fun book in the first place. Authors like that (and covers like that!) make selling easy. Also, thanks to Michael Kindness at one of our favorite book blogs,, for introducing us to this challenge and for noticing our efforts. We'd also like to thank our loyal customer Sandy Stevens, a local reporter and avid reader, for her excitement and help in spreading the word.

As for me, I'm glad I tackled the challenge of reading Moby Dick. If it hadn't been for Murnighan's book, I might not have been able to see through to the humor in what I used to think was a dark, gloomy classic. I also had the chance to go deep sea fishing down in Islamorada (with my book in tow), and shared a fun moment with the Captain talking about his experience with sperm whales in the Gulf Stream. He caught a glimpse of my soggy paperback and said knowingly: " Great book!"

So yes, let's do this again! We only wish Jack Murnighan's next book would be ready in time for next summer's challenge.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Great Lobster Mystery at The Bookstore

Some of you might have already heard about the mystery at The Bookstore. It started when Jenny decorated the window with our Julie & Julia theme. We started to notice that every morning, the table in the window was in disarray, and the plastic lobster had somehow gotten out of the lobster pot. Was it a burglar? A prank? A ghost?

So we set up a security camera in hopes of solving the mystery. Look what we found!

We hope you'll stop in The Bookstore to visit our resourceful little lobster (he's back in the pot in the window, signing autographs) and share a few laughs over Sue and Margie's questionable film debut! Don't forget to pick up your copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Julie & Julia or My Life in France.

And many thanks to McGowan's Seafood for loaning us their surprisingly resourceful lobster!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Interview with Masha Hamilton, Author of "31 Hours"

Regular customers and the members of my book club already know I'm a big fan of Masha Hamilton and her previous books, including The Camel Bookmobile, which continues to sell well at our store.

So I know I have good company in my excitement for Masha Hamilton's new book, 31 Hours. It's set in post-9/11 New York City, and it's about a young home-grown terrorist and his mother's quest to protect him. (On sale Sept. 8th, more information at

I'm thrilled to report that this book is a stunningly good read, and that it will make a great book club selection. It's a suspenseful, well-paced story that keeps you turning the pages well into the night. But more than that, it's a love story about a mother desperate to save her 21 year-old son when she senses something is terribly wrong.

I read this book as I was about to drive my daughter back to college, knowing that no matter what we do as the parents of older children, we are only one phone call away from devastating news. And that no child is immune from mental illness or potentially fatal mistakes. Not even a well-loved child.

So I jumped at the chance to interview Masha Hamilton about this book. As you will see, she indulged me with long, thoughtful answers to my long, earnest questions, so I'm going to split the interview into two parts. Stay tuned for the rest, and in the meantime, if you'd like us to put a copy of the book on the hold shelf for you, just call 630-469-2891 or e-mail:

MARGIE: 31 Hours is going to make a fantastic book club discussion book. My colleague Sue and I are deeply divided over our interpretation of the book, and we're at a complete impasse. Without giving away the suspenseful ending, can you offer us some kind of clues, some crumbs through the forest that we should consider, pro and con? The more opaque you'd like to be, the better. We really just want more fuel for the fire. We can't wait to invite our customers to join the debate.

MASHA: Margie, first, THANKS for your support of this novel! I am so grateful, Re the above, there were several things I wanted to explore as I wrote. First, the possibilities and limitations of maternal intuition. Carol feels her son is in trouble, though she has nothing solid on which to base that. Her son is 21, and is supposed to have his own life at this point, so she doubts her intuition even as she feels it. I tapped into my own changing maternal role and my own amorphous fears as my children reach young adulthood. (I have three kids, ages 14 to 20.) Secondly, the place of spirituality in modern life was something I thought a lot about while writing 31 Hours. Carol at one point asks her ex-husband if they made a mistake by not raising Jonas with a religious tradition, any tradition, something that would provide comfort and a set of answers. Mara, who feels she doesn't know how to pray, enacts this middle-of-the-night ritual with everyday objects. And Sonny feels the subway is his church, his sanctuary. Finally, I wanted to look beyond the headlines and understand the humans who exist in that space. That's where the challenge of the book comes in, in my view - both for me as the writer and actually, for the reader as well. 31 Hours asks the reader to empathize and identify with difficult characters: Jonas, of course, but Sonny also.

If you are asking me about the final outcome of the story, Margie, I'm going to be worse than opaque. I have my own theories, of course, but I am going to leave that in the eyes of the reader. SO sorry!

MARGIE: The mother in the story trusts her own instincts. It feels like such a powerful affirmation of motherhood at a time when mothers of college-age children seem to be under assault for too much "helicoptering." On the other hand, there's a lot to be said for giving your older children the space to suffer through and learn from the consequences of their own poor decisions. In the face of all the advice and criticism out there, it's easy to doubt your own maternal instinct. Is this book your response to these doubts?

Yes, absolutely, as you can see above. There is absolutely no question in my mind that our role as parents must change as our kids move into young adulthood. And yet in our culture, young adulthood feels to me a little like a parenthesis in life - you are certainly NOT a kid, but nor are you really an adult yet with adult responsibilities and concerns. Our world is chaotic and confusing and violent and Jonas is a sensitive young man. When is a poor decision - and we all made them as young adults - going to have a relatively benign outcome? When might it derail a young person's future life? This is Carol's struggle. She knows Jonas will be angry with her for meddling, trying to track him down as if he were a teenager violating curfew, going to see Vic. Yet she can't quiet her own disquiet.

MARGIE: There will be more questions and answers in a future post, including the book Masha Hamilton would sneak onto President Obama's nightstand if she could get past the secret service!

My Own Julie & Julia Experiment: Casserole Chicken Tarragon

It seems like everybody's talking about Julie & Julia. We're having great conversations at The Bookstore, no doubt prompted by our Julia Child inspired window display. If you haven't seen it yet, stop by. Jenny outdid herself again! She's even got an antique French butcher's knife on display -- it's a family heirloom. Yes, there's a story there, but you'll have to stop in to hear it.

Thanks to the movie, we're selling a lot of copies of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. One of our customers reported that she made the Boeuf Bourguignon from the movie (the dish that Julie burned when she passed out on the couch). It sounded like fun, so I decided to try one of Julia's recipes myself.

When I discovered that Meryl Streep's favorite Julia Child recipe was Casserole Chicken Tarragon (sounds even better in French: Poulet Poele a l'Estragon), I knew I'd picked the right recipe. Streep admitted in this month's Glamour Magazine that she's not much of a cook. The recipe was supposedly foolproof. The family was psyched.

The family was still psyched over two hours later when we finally sat down to eat. Now I know why the French eat so late: it's because the food isn't ready yet! My hungry teenager was ready to sneak a peanut butter and jelly sandwich while he waited. The chicken had to roast in the oven for an hour and 20 minutes, but first I had to fuss with browning each side on the burner.

The browning wasn't as simple as it sounds. Julia's recipe (you can almost hear her voice as you read it) warns to be careful not to rip the skin as you turned the chicken. Ha! Of course I did, and not just once. It looked like Jack the Ripper had been there. I had no idea how to flip the chicken (Julia didn't say) until my husband showed me how to stick the wooden spoons into opposite ends of the cavity. I got a little miffed: how did he know that anyway? Just like Julie, I found myself talking out loud: "Get real, Julia! Who cooks like this anymore? We don't even like the dark meat!" Seriously, I could throw a couple of chicken breasts in a pan with a little tarragon and be done in 15 minutes. Why the bother?

Mmmmmm, . . . that's why. The chicken was moist, tender and buttery (of course), and the tarragon flavor was so deeply absorbed it made the chicken taste like something new altogether. Like something above and beyond chicken as we know it today. My son was so grateful he helped me load the dishwasher at 10pm, even if it was a school night and he still had homework left to do.

So just like Julie, I learned a little something while cooking with Julia. That time and patience in the kitchen might actually be worth it. Maybe we've lost a little something in our 30-minute recipe mentality, and it's not just the flavor. It's time with your family. It's the grateful, admiring look on your family's faces as they taste something really, really good. There's a sense of pride in the creation. And at the risk of sounding like a much better cook than I really am, it's the "art" of French cooking.

Please call 630-469-2891 or e-mail us at to reserve your copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child. ($40.00). Then share your cooking stories with us, we'd love to hear them.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Man on Wire Trailer

Here is a trailer to the Man on Wire documentary I refer to in the following post about Let the Great World Spin. Rent the video, read the book. They're both amazing.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Staff Recomendation: Let the Great World Spin

One of Sue's and my personal favorites on the staff pick shelf right now is Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann. It's absolutely stunning.

It's told from many different alternating points of view: a chorus of gorgeous New York voices, from some surprisingly sympathetic prostitutes to a grieving mother of a Viet Nam soldier. The story of the World Trade Center tightrope walker in the 1970's is woven through their interconnected stories. About halfway through this book, it felt like somebody had just grabbed my heart and wouldn't let go. After that, I could barely finish a chapter without needing time out to absorb the love and the empathy and the charm of this book.

The funny thing is, I had just watched the award-winning documentary called "Man on Wire,"about Phillippe Petit, the French tightrope walker who illegally and astonishingly crossed between the World Trade Center towers in August, 1974. It was an exhilarating story that captured the engineering and psychological challenge of the feat. One of the things I learned was the importance of the cavalettis, the additional cables that had to be strung diagonally across the main wire in order to provide support. Without the cavalettis, the main wire could have swayed, flipped or twisted, and Petit would have plumetted to the ground far below. To see the YouTube trailer for the movie, just click on "View Blog" above and go to the August 20th post.

So as I was reading Let the Great World Spin, I noticed the pictures of the cable and the intersecting cavalettis at the start of each separate section of the book. And I felt like I could grasp what McCann meant to say. That it's the intersection of our lives that glorifies life. It's at the intersection where humanity resides, where there is an answer to loneliness and grief. It's up to us to decide what to make of it.

I really hope you'll read this book and then stop in to tell us how much you liked it. To read an excerpt, just click here:

http://http// (If that link doesn't work, sorry! Just google "oprah", "let the great world spin" and "excerpt")

Monday, July 20, 2009

How's Your Beowulf on the Beach Book Coming Along? Are You on Target for the Party August 27th?

We hope you are enjoying your summer reading projects, whether you're participating in our Beowulf on the Beach Summer Reading Challenge, or you're helping your kids get through their Get Caught Reading lists.

As for me, I've picked Moby Dick as my Beowulf on the Beach book. I was going to save it for our vacation to Florida in late July, but I got a head start. That way, I'll still be on target even if I consume too many bikini maritinis to be able to concentrate at the beach. (It can happen. And then you wake up with drool stains on your book.)

I'm thrilled to report that so far, Jack Murnighan is dead on with his "field guide" to Moby Dick. Murnighan insists it's actually quite funny. Although I wasn't completely convinced, I've meant to read this book for a long time, and Murnighan was my tipping point. I never read it in high school, but I did skim it while reading Ahab's Wife by Sena J. Naslund. (The story of the imaginary wife of Captain Ahab in Moby Dick.)

But now I can confirm that reading Herman Melville at my (ahem) mature age is a riot. Melville reminds me of some of my favorite straight-faced jokesters. Those kind of people totally crack me up. You know how you try to make eye contact to get them to smile, but they just won't respond? So you're left to wonder, is it just me? That awkward moment of possible misunderstanding is so delicious.

There's a scene early on in Moby Dick where two sailors share the same accomodations at the overcrowded "Spouter Inn". (Okay, Melville's messing with me already.) Ishmael is a thoughtful teacher turned sailor who is pretty squeamish about bunking with Queequeg, a Fiji Island version of Rubeus Hagrid. Anyway, the scene is hilariously cozy, and you're left to wonder: did they just hook up? Come on Melville, make eye contact with me!

So anyway, I hope you're enjoying your Beowulf on the Beach Challenge as much as I am so far. We'd love to hear from you in the comments section below - don't be shy! You've got more than a month to go until the Bookstore cocktail party (featuring an appearance by Jack Murnighan himself!). It's not until August 27th at 7pm, so you still have time for many of the great classics in Murnighan's book. Maybe not War & Peace, but there are plenty of others under 400 pages. If you haven't picked out your book yet, just stop in and our staff will help you make your selection. (Yes, this is a great job!)

Don't forget to call (630)469-2891 or email us at to register for the party.

Happy Summer Reading!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Top 10 Things I Liked About Last Night in Montreal

I've got this weird habit of highlighting the advance reader copies of books that we pass around at The Bookstore. It's a way of communicating with the next reader: "I liked this, do you?" This book was Sue's new hardcover, so I didn't dare bring out the highlighter. Still, there were so many great lines and passages that I was afraid I would forget, so I started a list. I'm not even going to explain it, except to say, go read this book and then comment on my list when you're done. (I liked this, did you?)

Top 10 Things I Liked About Last Night in Montreal:

1. The ambiguity of Lillia's gestures on their last morning in Brooklyn (e.g., the kiss on his forehead)

2. The Icarus print on the wall of Cafe Matisse, and the shepherd who observed

3. The beauty of untranslatable words in lost languages (e.g., Dakota word for the specific loneliness of mothers whose children are absent)

4. Lillia's messages in the bibles: "wish to remain vanishing"

5. Michaela's tightrope walk

6. Eli: I want to be your language, your translator, your dictionary, your map

7. Montreal en francais= 101 ou 401.

8. "How deep in our genes is the longing for flight embedded?" ("limitless longing")

9. The pay phone in Arizona that rings at night

10. The last night in Montreal

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Thanks Back to Gary United Methodist Church Campers

I'm verklempt.

Check out this poster the kids from the Gary United Methodist Church Camp made for The Bookstore.

It's hard to decide which comment is my favorite, they're all so nice: "Our moms [heart] The Bookstore; "Your place is so quaint - better than Borders!"

It made my day.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Declare Your Independence

Let's Talk Indie.

Before I start sounding like a whiney old bookseller, let me just thank all of our customers who totally get it, the ones who come to our bookstore with lists of books they want to order, even when they know they're a click away on Amazon. (Don't forget, they're also a click away on our website too,

Amazon is like the elephant in the room. We know he's there, you know he's there, and we agree not to mention it. You might come to our bookstore because you believe in buying local, or because you have a little independent streak and like the idea of an independent bookstore, or gosh, maybe you just like us and our recommendations. Whatever your reason, we thank you. We know there are alternatives out there.

So why do some people just not get it? We just received curious comment on our blog, thanking us for an older post on Little Bee by Chris Cleave, mentioning they couldn't find out that much about it in Seattle. And then they just happened to mention that they were excited to go buy it from Amazon. That's like saying, gosh your husband is really kind of cute, do you mind if I take him out for a quick date?

Yes, I mind!

Obviously, this guy from Seattle isn't going to order Little Bee from a bookstore in Glen Ellyn, but on the other hand it would have been easy to go to and order from a local independent bookstore. Or if he is going to break down and order it from Amazon, maybe he could just be polite enough not to mention it. On our independent bookseller's blog!

Again, maybe it's just the grumpy bookseller in me coming out (grrrrr!) but geez, your book buying habits make a difference to us. We believe our community is a better place with a vibrant, friendly independent bookstore on Main Street. And to make sure that's a reality, we all have to support it. Any by support, I mean the kind of personal commitment it takes to drive around the block 3 times looking for parking. The kind of commitment it takes to wait a couple of days for us to order the book you want instead of running over to Barnes and Noble. For those of you who do make that commitment all of the time, Thank You! To those who don't (yet), just think about it the next time you think about clicking over to Amazon. Do you want a bookstore in our community?

In honor of the 4th of July, make it personal. Declare your independence.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Summer Beach Reader in the Window

What's in that glass anyway?

Margie's demonstrating the fine art of reading in the window at The Bookstore! We provide free lemonade and a $5 gift certificate. Children are welcome and even encouraged! Now through July 11th.

Margie's shown here reading Beowulf on the Beach
by Jack Murninghan ($15 paperback) in preparation for The Bookstore's Beowulf on the Beach Summer Reading Challenge. Buy the book, read one of Murninghan's picks, and join us for a Beowulf on the Beach Bash on Thursday, August 27th at 7pm. Author Jack Murninghan will join us for cocktails and a lively (not your ordinary!) book discussion. Call or e-mail to sign up.

Hope to see you in the window soon!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Summer Beach Reading in Glen Ellyn

Time for Beach Reads at The Bookstore

Even if it's rainy and cold outside today, we are ready to kick off our Summer Reading Programs at The Bookstore. The highlight of this year's program: Beach Chair Readers in the Window!

It works just like our popular Christmas Reader in the Window program. Two beach chairs are available for each time slot, so bring a friend -- or make a new one! Children and teens are welcome too. Just come dressed in fun beachwear (swimsuits, cover-ups, shorts, flip-flops & sunglasses would all be great). We'll furnish the lemonade and cookies, you bring or buy a summer reading book. Then just chill, read, and wave at the passerby from our make believe beach. Each Beach Chair reader gets a $5 gift certificate to The Bookstore. Sign up for the time slots starts now for dates between Wednesday, June 24th and Tuesday, July 14th.

Kids Summer Reading:
The Bookstore's summer reading program for kids is called "Get Caught Reading!" Read 10 age appropriate books, fill out our form, and you get a free paperback of your choice! Forms are available at The Bookstore or print a copy by clicking here:

Adults Summer Reading:
We hope all of Glen Ellyn joins us for our Beowulf on the Beach Summer Reading Challenge. It's a fun way to share the classics, and will include a summers' end cocktail party in late August or early September! Three easy steps:

1. Purchase a copy of Beowulf on the Beach (What to Love and What to Skip in Literature's 50 Greatist Hits ) by Jack Murnighan ($14.95, paperback). You can order a copy on our website: This is a great book written by a cool college professor who knows the classics inside and out, but more importantly, knows how to make them fun and accessible. For more information about this book, there is a blog called Books on the Nightstand, featuring a weekly video of Murninghan reading and discussing his favorite lines from one of the classics in the book. (Extra benefit: Murnighan is a single Indie Heartthrob. You can get a crush on the book and the author at the same time.) Click here for a recent podcast:

2. Select at least one classic recommended in Murnighan's book to read this summer. We are currently stocking our classics section with lots of cheap paperbacks. That way, you can smear sun lotion all over it and spill your lemonade, and it just won't matter! If you love the book, then buy a hardcover copy for your library later. Sue's already reading Pride & Prejudice, I still haven't decided. I just know it won't be War & Peace -- I tackled that last summer, whew!

3. Sign up for our "End of The Summer Beowulf on the Beach Bash," a cocktail party and book review discussion at The Bookstore where we'll share what we thought of our selected classics. The date will be announced in our e-newsletters and our blog, so stay tuned.

We hope everyone in your family finds time for a great summer read, or better yet, finds time for a Beach Read in our window. Call us at (630) 469-2891 or e-mail us at to sign up for a time slot.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Time Traveler's Wife (2009) Trailer

If you haven't read this book yet, you have to read it by the time the movie comes out on August 14th! This looks like a really good film adaptation of the book, at least I hope so. Then it can make my very short list of "Movies That Are As Good as the Book."

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Shelf Life at the Bookstore

Introducing: The New Staff Pick Shelf at The Bookstore

We're going to try something new. Although we pride ourselves on our customer service and our knowledge of books ("the little Indie that could"), sometimes you have to step back, take an honest look at yourself and say, hmmm, maybe we can do better.

On one recent Saturday afternoon, Elizabeth Berg walked in our bookstore, having come for a visit from nearby Oak Park, and unfortunately none of our full-time staffers were there to greet her. (I say greet, but what I really mean is drool, grovel, swoon.) She generously offered to sign some of her titles that we had on hand, and hopefully enjoyed a leisurely browse through the store. Our teen later mentioned: "an author came in today and signed this book," showing us Home Safe, Elizabeth Berg's latest fiction title.

Our (older, saggier, full-time staffer) jaws dropped. We'd missed a great chance to chat books with one of our favorite local authors. I felt bad, thinking she didn't get the reception she deserved. Unlike the day Cathleen Falsani, author of Sin Boldly walked in, and I did in fact gush all over her. So much that she actually blessed me -- that was cool. How many booksellers can say they've been blessed by a customer?

And then I started worrying that some of our other customers aren't getting the reception they deserve. As a little Indie bookstore, we love to boast that we have more passion and a more personal connection to our books than the big box bookstores. When we recommend a book it's because we actually read it and loved it, not because some big executive with shiny shoes decided to put a marketing blitz on it.

But honestly, it's a little hypocritical to make fun of a chain employee who hasn't read the book when many of our own staff at The Bookstore haven't yet either. We try to hire some of the sharpest, most literate kids in town, but they're busy with AP classes, finals and college applications, and don't always have time to obsess about the latest hot read like Jane, Sue, Jenny or I do. (And maybe that's a good thing. Save full-blown book geekdom for later in life, when you aren't worried about getting a date for the prom?)

Don't get me wrong -- they can probably still recite their favorite Shel Silverstein poem, and they can probably give you spot-on advice about whether your 12 year-old daughter should really be reading that hot new Young Adult title yet. One of our teens even has a binder of book reviews that he wrote when he was younger. So trust me, they're great kids who like books. But chances are they're not going to recognize Elizabeth Berg when she walks in the door. And maybe they won't recognize you.

So I really started to wonder: how can we make sure that all of our customers at The Bookstore receive true Indie treatment, even when a full-time staffer (and complete Indie book geek) isn't there to greet you?

Sue and I brainstormed the answer: the new "Staff Pick Shelf." Now you can browse through an entire shelf devoted to our personal recommendations. We've been busy writing up more of our blue staff pick cards, and gathering the best of the best on one shelf. As soon as our teens are done with school for the year, (And as soon as Jill gets back from Paris -- no fair!) we're going to get them busy filling out their own blue staff pick cards too. If you stroll in the bookstore, wondering what you should read next, just head straight to the new Staff Pick Shelf, and I absolutely, positively believe you will find your next good read. No matter who's working that day.

Soon you'll be seeing more blue cards over in the Young Adult and Rebecca Caudill Award List shelves too. These books are often really good reads for adults, not just kids, so both the teens and the adults on staff will be reading and reviewing them. There are a lot of mother-child book clubs in town, so we'll try to give you the perspective of both moms and teens.

Did you know that we have a whole stack of "Customer Favorite" and "Book Club Favorite" cards for you (and your kids/teens) to fill out too? If you just finished a terrific book, but can't drop by the store for awhile, just e-mail us with your name and comments, and we'll fill one out for you. Because not only do we like to talk about books, we like to hear what you think. Here at The Bookstore, we're a community of readers where recommendations go both ways!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Fancy Nancy Spring Fashion Parade and Tea Party

We hope you enjoy this video of The Fancy Nancy Fashion Parade and Tea Party sponsored by The Bookstore on May 16, 2009. The event was a benefit for the Glen Ellyn Community Resource Center's tutoring program. HarperCollins, the publisher of the Fancy Nancy books, donated one paperback book to the center for each child who attended the event. The girls and their families met at The Bookstore and paraded down to the American Balloon Company, where each girl received her own pink balloon. The parade continued down to Honey, where the posh darlins noshed on tea sandwiches, petite desserts and pink lemonade.

Treat Yourself to a Good Chuckle This Saturday, Come Meet Local Author Charlene Ann Baumbich

On Saturday, June 6th, local award-winning author and humorist Charlene Ann Baumbich will be at The Bookstore to sign copies of her latest book, Don't Miss Your Life!: An Uncommon Guide to Living with Freedom, Laughter, and Grace (paperback, $14.99). You don't want to miss this event! Charlene's irresitable charm will brighten your day.

Publisher's Weekly gave the book warm praise: "[Baumbich] has set out to accomplish what few Christian humorists have succeeded in achieving: making her readers laugh deep from the belly while simultaneously trouncing on their faulty “religious” beliefs. Baumbich's writing style is such that readers will feel as though she's conversing with herself and they are her most fortunate eavesdropping audience. . . . Readers are also treated to poignant essays on the power of imagination, the importance of questioning assumptions, awakening every sense, living in a balanced way or falling with a splat. Baumbich's text is just what the doctor ordered for a time such as this; laughter is good medicine indeed and there are plenty of guffaws to be found on every page. "

I was lucky enough to read an advance copy of Charlene's latest book, and I found myself really touched by her insights. Thanks to Charlene, I now have a special bowl with little objects I just hadn't known what to do with, like my dad's dog tags and my grandmother's rosary. Now I feel a little grace every time I pass by my bowl. And that's just one little idea I picked up from her book. There are so many more.

I've had the chance to chat with Charlene about how much I enjoyed her book. Her e-mail responses had me chuckling with appreciation for her gifts of humor and insight. In Charlene's own words, she's "wonky and wonderful." I asked her if she would mind it if I shared some of our conversation. Here's a taste:

Margie: I realized as I picked up your book that I am one of those stubborn people who doesn't really like advice. I'm not often drawn to the self-help section of a bookstore, but yet I really enjoyed your book! What advice do you have for people who don't think they need advice (or your book)?

Charlene: Please tell me I did NOT write a self-help book because that would mean people would expect that I’d first helped myself. Which I did, of course, but mostly to chips and dip.

On the topic of self-help books, I’m with you. I do not naturally gravitate toward the self-help section in book stores. I like humor and good storytelling, not even always together or in that order. Typically, the self-help section feels too … um … needy and self-helpy. I don’t mean this in a bad way, but in a “way too serious about me” way. Thus, in Don’t Miss Your Life! An Uncommon Guide to Living with Freedom, Laughter and Grace (DMYL), I give us ALL permission to bypass “self help” and instead approach the book and our lives as a pluck-and-play. In other words, pluck what you like from these pages and play it into your life. (Hear the music and laughter already?)

Nor have I set forth a ten-step program. Why? Because I would forget step two, then we’d all be lost. That is the beauty of humor and story: jump in here or there, skip around, laugh until you cry, cry until you laugh and forget about the “order” of things. After all, we are each a little wonky and wonderful, and in ways unique to us. Thus, my hope is that readers don’t look for my advice and answers within the book, but that they ultimately find themselves in their own stories. That is why I write: to help bring to life one’s own stories. I do this by telling mine, and by giving readers permission to be real. Personally, I don’t know how to be anything but that. And what would be the point? To live the rest of our lives acting like other than who we are? What a DRAG!

So, go to the DMYL section of your book store, buy DMYL, and plan on at long last finding your True Self.

To answer your question (at last!), I hope I don’t give advice. I hope the power in my stories helps readers latch onto the power in their own.


See what I mean? Isn't Charlene wonderful? Trust me, you'll enjoy this refreshing book. Come to The Bookstore, buy one for yourself and several for the birthdays and gift-giving occasions coming up on your calendar.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

South Asia Author Night: June 9th from 7-9pm at the Glen Ellyn Public Library

Please Join Us!

The Bookstore and The Glen Ellyn Public Library are hosting a South Asia Author Night on June 9th from 7-9pm. Please join us for readings and book signings by authors from the lands that gave us Jhumpa Lahiri and Salman Rushdie. Our featured authors include Tania James, Minal Hajratwala and Mary Anne Mohanraj.

We are fortunate to be able to bring such talent to Glen Ellyn. Although Mary Anne Mohanraj is a Chicagoan (she teaches creative writing, Asian American literature and post-colonial literature at U of I - Chicago), the other authors are in town for the Third Biennial Kriti Festival in Chicago. The Kriti Festival is sponsored by the DesiLit Foundation in order to celebrate and support the writers and literature of the South Asia and its diaspora. For more information about the Kriti Festival, go to:

By way of background, South Asia is a subregion of Asia, usually taken as comprising the modern countries of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. There are more than 30 million members of the South Asian diaspora throughout the world, and their literature often focuses on themes of immigration, identity, history and the crossing of cultures.

The books featured at this special event have a great deal to offer whether you're a part of the South Asian culture, or like me, open to learning more about it. These books are good even without the cultural angle, because when it comes to reading, a good story makes a good read, regardless of setting. (Customers: remember that great staff pick last year about Bangladesh? A Golden Age by Tahmima Anam? Case in point.) Each book featured at this event offers something different: there is one novel, one memoir and one short story collection.

I just finished Atlas of Unknowns by Tania James ($24.95 hardcover), an IndieNext pick for May, and I really enjoyed it. It's the story of two sisters and their family, from India to the U.S. and back, but it's the story of sisters everywhere, with secrets, betrayals and forgiveness. The sisters are smart and independent, and even if they're flawed, (actually, because of their flaws?) you'll find yourself cheering for them in their struggle to come to America. There's great storytelling, including hilarious scenes at a bikini waxing salon in Queens, and a character who would be an Indian-American Elizabeth Hasselbeck from The View. Slowly, and with great tenderness, James reveals the history of the girls' parents in India, which fills you with great hope for future of the young sisters. It's a great read. For more information on Tania James, including a beautiful video and glowing reviews of her book, go to:

Leaving India, My Family's Journey from Five Villages to Five Continents by Minal Hajratwala ($26.00 hardcover) is a memoir of one extended family's flight from India to Fiji, South Africa, the U.K., the U.S. and more. Minal herself grew up in suburban Detroit as the daughter of immigrants, graduated from Stanford and Columbia, and then worked as a journalist in California. She spent 7 years travelling and studying her family's history. It's a universal story about leaving one home and trying to build another, a story we all share as Americans (didn't all of our fathers or grandfathers have a treasured copy of How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie?). One of my favorite passages from the book is deeply personal: "For the children of immigrants are also migrants; we cross the waters daily. Some of us become seasick, others close our eyes and inhale the salt wind. Its fragrance is always bittersweet." Minal's website can be found at: For a review of the book from the Washington Post, click here:

Bodies in Motion by Mary Anne Mohanraj (paperback, $13.95), was a finalist for the Asian American Book Award. It's a collection of short stories that follow two generations of two Sri Lankan families, revealing the intimate tug-of-war between generations and genders dealing with the ebb and flow of the immigrant experience. They are thoughtful, sensuous stories covering everything from love to arranged marriages, and the pressure to succeed in America. It's been called "historically ambitious, deeply felt, and provocative in its embrace of a wide range of love and family stories." It presents us with an enlightening view of characters with one foot in Sri Lanka and one foot in America.

Amy Bloom (author of Away, 2007) once said that there are only two stories in all of literature: the story of a man who comes to town, and the story of a man who leaves on a quest. And in fact, she said, that means there is really only one story, told from two points of view: the one who travels, or the one who welcomes. Maybe that explains why these immigration stories are so captivating. Stories of travel and immigration, of leaving and coming, of cultures foreign and unfamiliar, are inherently satisfying to the human soul curious about the unknown, whether it's coming or going, welcoming or assimilating.

These authors will read from their new releases, answer your questions, and sign copies of their books, which will be available for puchase at the event, or by pre-order from The Bookstore by calling, (630) 469-2891, e-mailing ( or visiting our website For directions and further information from the library, see The event itself is free.