Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Take A Road Trip With Some of Your Favorite Authors!

Book Review: State by State, A Panoramic Portrait of America, edited by Matt Weiland and Sean Wilsey ($29.95)

Are you stuck home in the middle of this endless winter with nothing but a "staycation" in your immediate plans? Then come in, get this book and take your brain on a road trip. Some of your favorite authors are riding shotgun.

This book features 50 essays by well-known writers on the 50 states. The editors asked for a personal story about a state they grew up in, had lived in, or maybe just visited. They asked them for "the kind of story the enlisted soldier tells his boot-camp bunkmate about back home."

The result is a hip, funny collection of essays that will leave you feeling buoyant and nostalgic, sometimes laughing out loud. It includes Dave Eggers on Illinois, Susan Choi on Indiana, Ann Patchett on Tennessee, and Joshua Ferris on his family's move from Illinois to Florida when he was a kid. You're going to love Dave Eggers' piece, which somehow ranges from Abe Lincoln to Ferris Bueller's Day Off. (Did you know that Ronald Reagan was a Cubs announcer before he went to Hollywood?) Eggers' anecdote about running out of gas on I-57 on the way down to U of I will make you proud to be from the heartland.

To top it all off, there is a hilarious appendix that includes 30 different tables ranking the states in a variety of categories, including Roller Costers Per Capita (Illinois is 30th), Toothlessness Rate (Illinois is 25th), and Alchohol Consumption (Illinois moves up to 9th, behind our neighbor Wisconsin at #1. Anyone who's ever been to a Packer-Bears game knows exactly why that is. You need a little somethin' to wash down the brats and cheese curds!).

To order a copy, e-mail us at

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Snowy, Blowy Winter Party at The Bookstore

Last Sunday, January 25th, The Bookstore hosted a fun little children's party based on Bob Razcka's latest book, Snowy, Blowy Winter. Bob Razcka is from Glen Ellyn, so he knows winter. If you can't beat it, you might as well enjoy it!

The kids had a blast making little snow forts out of sugar cubes and frosting, but the big hit of the party was the Snow, Blowy Ice Cream recipe from the back of the book. We brought in a big tupperware container of fresh snow, added sugar, milk and vanilla according to the recipe, and presto! We had a fantastic snack. Of course we added chocolate syrup, sprinkles and miniature chocolate kisses. The kids begged for seconds! Thanks to all the parents for braving the cold to bring your wonderfully behaved kids to the party! Here's hoping for some fresh snow so we can go make some snow angels.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Little Bee Is Here!

Little Bee Is Available!
E-mail us at -- we'll put your name on one and hold it on the shelf for you!

The folks at The Bookstore can't wait to share this fantastic book with you. If you're one of those readers who loves being on the leading edge of a great book, then you'll want to stop by soon. The buzz around this book is getting hot, so it might sell out quickly. Waiting would be a terrible thing! If you don't believe me, here is a review by Marilyn Dahl, posted on Shelf Awareness, that claims the book is so good booksellers should offer a money back guarantee!

Chris Cleave's novel, Little Bee (Simon & Schuster, $24, 9781416589631/1416589635, February 10, 2009), will amaze and delight you, and break your heart. It's one of the finest books I've read in years, from its lyrical opening lines to its surprising end. It tells the story of a young Nigerian refugee, Little Bee, who has made her way to England but has ended up in a detention center. She is looking for an English couple, Andrew and Sarah O'Rourke, whom she met on a Nigerian beach two years earlier. Told from the viewpoints of Little Bee and Sarah, the story is tragic and sweet; its wisdom and power last long after the finish.In the detention center, Little Bee learned to make herself undesirable, binding her breasts and cutting her hair. But she has a secret:

"Once a week, I sat on the foam mattress on my bed and I painted my toenails. I found the little bottle of nail varnish at the bottom of a charity box . . . If I ever discover the person who gave it then I will tell them, for the cost of one British pound and ninety-nine pence, they saved my life. Because this is what I did in that place, to remind myself I was alive . . . underneath my steel toe caps I wore bright red nail varnish. Sometimes when I took my boots off I screwed up my eyes against the tears and I rocked back and fro, shivering from the cold. "

When she leaves the detention center, after a paperwork mix-up, she looks at the scars of another girl:

". . . a scar is never ugly. That is what the scar makers want us to think. But you and I, we must make an agreement to defy them. We must see all scars as beauty . . . Because take it from me, a scar does not form on the dying. A scar means, I survived.In a few breaths' time I will speak some sad words to you. But you must hear them the same way we have agreed to see scars now. Sad words are just another beauty. A sad story means, this storyteller is alive. The next thing you know, something fine will happen to her, something marvelous, and then she will turn around and smile."

Sarah, at the funeral for her husband, Andrew, wonders what to tell her son about Little Bee, while she massages the stump of her middle finger:

"I miss my finger most on deadline days, when the copy checkers have all gone home and I'm typing up the last minute additions to my magazine. We published an editorial once where I said I was "wary of sensitive men." I meant to say "weary," of course, and after a hundred outraged letters from earnest boyfriends who'd happened to glance at my piece on their partner's coffee table (presumably in between giving a back rub and washing the dishes), I began to realize just how weary I was. It was a typographical accident, I told them. I didn't add, it was the kind of typographical accident that is caused by a steel machete on a Nigerian beach. I mean, what does one call the type of meeting where one gains an African girl and loses E, D and C? I do not think you have a word for it in your language--that's what Little Bee would say."

If I were still a bookseller, I'd sell Little Bee with a money-back guarantee.--Marilyn DahlFrom Little Bee by Chris Cleave. Copyright © 2008 by Chris Cleave. Reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster, Inc. All rights reserved.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Transcending: Words on Women and Strength by Kelly Corrigan

Kelly Corrigan is the author of The Middle Place, currently available in paperback at The Bookstore for $14.95.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Read Any Good Books Lately? Customers, Please Let Us Know!

Even before I started selling books, I'd get this question a lot. The answer was always (obviously) yes. Now that I work at The Bookstore, I've discovered a wonderful flipside to the question-- I now love to pose it to our customers. There's no such thing as a bad answer, but I especially like it when a customer tells me about a book we haven't even heard of before.

Here's an example. I started chatting with a customer who enjoyed The World To Come by Dara Horn, one of my favorites. We started comparing notes, and found out we had similar taste. She told me about Love's Executioner And Other Tales of Psychotherapy by Irvin D. Yalom -- she liked it so much she had it tabbed and highlighted -- so of course I ordered it.

I was a little doubtful, because the book looks and sounds a little weird. I mean, who wants to read a bunch of true stories about people in therapy? (I've got my own problems!) But I loved it. It was fascinating and insightful. In one of the stories, it explains how existential therapy asks the simple question, "what do you want?" Even between perfect strangers, this question can generate some pretty intimate answers. Between a psychotherapist and patient, it can bring out the deep anxieties that underlie bizarre obsessions. Between friends, it can help us make sense of our perfectly normal denials and secret longings. I think it could be a really interesting book club discussion book. A little like group therapy, maybe?

While Love's Executioner might not be for everyone, I thought it was great, and I've recommended it to others since. But the point is, I don't think I ever would have found out about this book if it wasn't for a customer.

So, here's your chance, customers! What have you read lately that we should know about? We'd love to hear about your new find! Post a comment and be the source of a hot new read at The Bookstore.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Best Job in the World: Bookseller/Matchmaker

Not too long ago I had one of those days at The Bookstore that made me realize that selling books is one of the best jobs in the world. Sometimes you just click with a customer, and you learn enough about them to be able to recommend some really good books (that are luckily all in stock!). You end up in this happy-reader zone together, and it makes you feel like a matchmaker at a wedding.

This particular customer was a religious librarian going on a mission trip to Africa. I couldn't imagine a better fit than The Camel Bookmobile, about a New York librarian who volunteers with a camel bookmobile in Kenya, What is the What, Dave Eggers' beautiful fictionalized autobiography of one of the Lost Boys of Sudan, and A Prayer for Owen Meany, a classic must-read about faith and fate by John Irving.

It's a perfect trio of books for our customers who have been involved in mission trips to Africa or South America, through our local churches or Wheaton College. Also, keep your eyes open for a staff favorite coming out in the U.S. in February, Little Bee, by Chris Cleave. I have a rapturous post about this book when the advance copy first arrived in October. It's a shimmering, hopeful story about an illegal immigrant who escapes the horrifying civil war that descended on her village in Nigeria. I can't wait to sell it.