Friday, February 27, 2009

A Bookseller's Tour of London

What does a bookseller do in London?

Well, after the obvious, such as trying a steak and mushroom pie at the Guinea Grill (what was I thinking? I prefer vegetarian!), a bookseller goes on the hunt for a great bookstore.

The first day I ventured up Charing Cross Road and found several
bookstores, from Borders to Waterstone's to the independent Foyle's, and although I was fascinated by the different titles on the shelves in England (and different covers!), I was a little underwhelmed. Where was that classic British bookstore that lives and breathes history and culture and literary passion? Where was that UK title I've been unable to get in the States? Luckily, I had dinner that night with an American who lived in London, so I asked her. She grabbed my notepad and wrote down Daunt Books, Marylebone High Street.

Daunt Books is undoubtedly the prettiest bookstore I've ever seen. Not to put down our own little bookstore in Glen Ellyn, but really. I felt like I had conjured this bookstore right out of my imagination and onto the street in front of me. It was welcoming, with its doors wide open in the middle of a London winter -- which admittedly is no match for a Chicago winter, but still! Inside there were shelves and shelves of highly varnished dark oak, and natural light filtered down through ancient skylights. My favorite section: not cooking but "cookery." Say that with a Monty Python accent and try not to giggle.

At first I didn't even notice, but then it sank in. There weren't any flashy marketing posters or Oprah Book Club displays. There weren't even any shelf-talkers or handwritten staff pick notecards. Okay, I did find a title with a sticker from the UK Richard and Judy Book Club (Netherland by Joseph O'Neill -- great choice in case you're wondering), but when I asked at the desk, they didn't even have a list of the Richard and Judy selections. Nobody interrupted my bookstore pleasure with pushy suggestions or one of those looks that says "buy something already!" And sure enough, I was able to find a copy of Chris Cleave's Incendiary, which I couldn't seem to find anywhere else. But it was the searching and the browsing that made it feel like I'd nabbed a trophy.

That's when I realized that given the right environment, books will sell themselves. Make your store inviting, welcoming and warm, and people will come. People love to browse, because there is something about the search for a good book that is part of the pleasure of reading. We might be searching for enlightenment or education or maybe even escape, but we are really just searching for enjoyment. The pleasure is in the quest. Throw in a little conversation about books with the staff, and it's better than an hour at a pub. Definitely better than steak and kidney pie.

I'm more convinced than ever that independent bookstores shouldn't fear the Kindle. A Kindle can't open its door on a cold winter day and warm your heart better than a pint of lager. Cheers!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Little Bee Is Causing Quite a Buzz in Glen Ellyn

Little Bee Buzz:

Copies have been flying off our shelves since this powerfully emotional book went on sale a couple of weeks ago, and now we have the pleasure of sitting back and getting the feedback.

I ran into a friend at the Jewel who couldn't stop to talk: "I'm sorry, but I have to get back to Little Bee! I'm on page 150 and Sarah just lost her finger!" Another customer stopped in today who'd read it in nearly one sitting and was clearly enthralled. I know it's cliche to say you can't put a book down, but it's utterly and completely true. It's haunting but yet deeply satisfying. The ending seems to demand the reader to get engaged, to imagine and will into existence a hopeful, peaceful future.

For those who haven't read it yet and are getting awfully curious, or for those like me who have finished and are just plain sorry it's over, check out author Chris Cleave's own blog posting, "Behind the Scenes of Little Bee" at He plans to be in Milwaukee on Monday, March 2nd for a book reading at the indie bookstore Schwartz's on Downer Ave. Check out their website at, and their manager's blog at Little Bee fans, we'll see if he'll be appearing in the Chicago area in case you'd like to meet him, or you can always join us on a road trip to Wisconsin! E-mail us your interest at, and we'll keep you posted.

The Bookstore's 9th Annual Wine and Cheese Party for Book Groups

Book Club
Picks by
Staff at the
9th Annual
Wine & Cheese
Party for
Book Groups

Jenny's Picks:
Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson
Dreamers of the Day by Mary Doria Russell
The Seamstress by Frances de Ponte Peebles
The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry
Skeletons at the Feast by Chris Bohjalian
Songs for the Butcher's Daughter by Peter Manseau
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski
Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri

Jane's Picks
The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
Don't Miss Your Life by Charlene Ann Baumbich
Dream House by Valerie Laken
Farm Girl by Karen Jones Gowen
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
by Annie Barrows
The Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
The Shack by William Young

Sue's Picks:
The Clothes on Their Backs by Linda Grant
Mudbound by Hillary Jordan
Netherland by Joseph O'Neill
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
The Piano Teacher by Janice Lee
This Must Be The Place by Anna Winger

Margie's Picks:
Little Bee by Chris Cleave
American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld
The Commoner by John Burham Schwartz
City of Thieves by David Benioff
The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barberly
An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination
by Elizabeth McCracken
Gossip of the Starlings by Nina de Gramont
Home by Marilynne Robinson
How Not to Look Old by Charla Krupp

Book Club Favorite Picks of 2008:
The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
Whistling Season by Ivan Doig
The True Story of Hansel and Gretel by Louise Murphy
The Alchemist by Paul Coelho
Loving Frank by Nancy Horan
Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
The Shack William Young
Crashing Through by Robert Kurson
How Not to Look Old by Charla Krupp
Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson
Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee by Charles Shields

Glen Ellyn Area Book Club Profile: "Booked on Tuesdays"

"Booked on Tuesdays" is a Glen Ellyn book club that will be celebrating its 10th anniversary later this year. The club has welcomed a few new members over the years, but most of the members have been together since 1999.

Over the years, the club has developed a lot of fun traditions, including its annual Christmas party, featuring a hilarious White Elephant Exchange (favorites include a crochet toilet paper cover from someone's mother-in-law and the dried puffer fish wind chime!) and the annual summer backyard deck meeting with fabulous food and copious amounts of wine.

The club has a wide range of interest in books, from classics to biography to pop culture. Their picks have ranged from "Pride and Prejudice" to the beauty and style guide "How Not to Look Old." Its favorite pick of 2008 was Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson. The club likes to adopt a charity when it fits with a book, such as a food pantry for "The Glass Castle " or the real Kenyan library foundation for "The Camel Bookmobile." If there is a movie tie-in to a book, the club loves gathering at a member's house with a basement theater. Plans are underway to read and watch Brideshead Revisited in April.

One tradition that works well for this club is the way they've agreed to discuss the books. Each member gets a turn to express their opinion (sometimes a quick rating system from 1 to 10) before the floor is open for more animated discussion. That way, everyone has an equal voice, and no one person can dominate the conversation.

The club has recently developed its own blog (on Google's easy as a virtual meetingplace. Members can log on, check out the schedule, post comments and links about the books, and share photos from recent meetings. They've even used the blog as a way to vote on their next selection or their favorite book of the last year. For example, when they read "The Glass Castle," members were able to log on and watch a video of the author and her mother, which enhanced the book.

If other book clubs are interested in learning how to use a blog for their book club, e-mail The Bookstore at, and we can give you some tips. If there's enough interest, we would be happy to offer a Book Club Blog Seminar. Also, please e-mail us if you would like your book club featured next month!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Paperback Writer (the Beatles)

Paperback Writer (the Beatles)

The Beatles Wanted You To Know We Have Some Great Paperback Writers at The Bookstore!

(A special shout out to the book club gals who love Paul - was he great at the Grammys or what?)

The folks at The Bookstore have been marvelling lately how many of our favorite books of 2008 have recently come out in paperback. Great titles at a recession-beating price, including: A Golden Age by Tahmima Anam, Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout, The Commoner by John Burnham Schwartz, People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks, American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld, Matrimony by Joshua Henkin, and Loving Frank by Nancy Horan. Every single one of these would make a great book club choice!

To find out more about any of these great paperbacks, or any other book club choices, stop in The Bookstore for a fun chat, call us at (630) 469-2891, or send us an e-mail at
Electronic ordering is also available on our website at Just search by title, author or key word, link to the review, and press the order button. If it's a book club order, make sure you mention your 10% discount! You can use a credit card on the secure website, or pay at pick-up. Shipping is available too.
Let us know in the comments below if your book club has read any of these recommendations yet, and if so, what you thought.
Don't forget to send a representative to our 9th Annual Book Group wine and Cheese Party on Thursday, February 19th from 7:30-9pm.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Get Fancy and Receive A Fancy Nancy Gift Pack!

Fancy Nancy Fans!
Fans of the Fancy Nancy books who come to The Bookstore dressed up will receive a special Fancy Nancy Gift Pack, and if the store isn't too busy, we will have a little Fancy Nancy storytime just for you!
Here are two lovely little ladies who were dressed to the nines: tiaras, sunglasses, jewels, the works! After their visit to The Bookstore, they were planning on a fancy lunch with their moms, pinkies up, of course!
For the little boys out there who just don't understand this fancy craze, we also have a Slobby Bobby gift pack behind the counter as well. Just show us your messy hair or dirty jeans!
Plans are underway for a Fancy Nancy Tea Party in the spring. Details will come in our future e-newsletters, so if you're not on our e-mail list or a member of the free Fancy Nancy Club, sign up now. E-mail us at