Saturday, April 25, 2009

Kids' Book Reviews: Tales of Beetle the Bard

The Tales of Beetle the Bard by J.K. Rowling: "A Great Book"

This book by J.K.Rowling is not like the Harry Potter books because it is geared for an older audience. It is a 5 story book that captures the heart of older children. If you didn't get to read the Harry Potter's you would be really confused because you wouldn't know who some of the character's were. I think anybody who loved the Harry Potter's will love this book. My favorite story was "The warlock's hairy heart" but I didn't care for the commentaries.
John Kilinski , age 10, Forest Glen School
The Bookstore is pleased to publish kids' and teens' book reviews on the blog. Please send your reviews to: with your name, age and school.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

What Our Bookshelves Reveal About Us: Thoughts About "Important Artifacts . . ." by Leanne Shapton

I just finished a terrific new book. It's strange and wonderfully creative, a Regarding the Fountain for grown-ups. You'll have to see it to know what I mean. It's a story told through "the stuff" of a couple in New York who met at a Halloween party (dressed as Harry Houdini and Lizzy Borden), and then fell in and out of love. It's called Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris, Including Books, Street Fashion, and Jewelry. You have to piece together their love story from items in an auction catalog, including books, knick-knacks, photos, postcards, CD mixes and love notes. It's seductively voyeuristic.

I could see reading this for a really personal book club meeting, where everybody brings a small bag of "stuff" to tell a story in their life. Actually, I think one of my kids had to do this for school at St. Pet's, a teacher's get-to-know-you-show-and-tell activity. I have a vague recollection of golf balls, Pokeman cards, a sea otter beanie baby and an all-star baseball hat. (Hopefully, your bag would be a little more revealing. But then again, I'd be impressed if you really did have an all-star baseball hat!)

Of course, being a bookseller, I was drawn to the books in the fictional auction Important Artifacts catalog. I found myself snooping through their titles, noticing who bought it, what the notation was, and what the books implied about the couple's story. (Virginia Woolf, Alice Munro, self-help, erotica, cooking, poetry, . . .) Sometimes there were personal notes left inside, so personal that you felt guilty reading them. You forget it's fiction. There was a collection of duplicate paperbacks, and I couldn't help but wonder, whose were they? His and hers? How romantic! (Sadly, two copies of "The End of the Affair," one bought in 2004.) You see what I mean? It sucks you in.

It made me wonder, what would someone else think my books say about me? There's always something wonderfully revealing, sometimes misleading, about a person's bookshelves. But the problem is, I've had to cull my bookshelves many times over the years (very reluctantly, sometimes under duress) and I no longer have every single book that was significant in my life. So I came up with a kind of autobiography in books, at least some of which is pictured below. What books would tell your life story?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Main Street Just Doesn't Get Better Than This! Hot Dogs, Gelato and Books!

Yes, spring is here in downtown Glen Ellyn! And it's better than ever. Not only is the hot dog man back, we now have a Gelato Lady! How lucky are we at The Bookstore to be right in the middle of their two carts? Life just doesn't get much better than this! Unless, of course, you also find a terrific new book at The Bookstore and you're sitting on an outdoor bench with the soft spring sun on your face....

Thursday, April 16, 2009

All Books Are Created Equal

Maybe you've heard about the recent brouhaha over Amazon's delisting of certain titles based on their categorization of books as adult or gay themed. Amazon claimed they did it in response to the complaints of certain customers, and that there was a mistake in their algorithm, whatever that means. It's caused an explosion of protests among the book bloggers, publishers, authors and booksellers we follow on Twitter. Some have complained that the categorization is a form of close-minded censorship; others point out that Amazon's categorizations are overly broad, causing some really good literature to be blacklisted.

It's really struck a chord with us here at The Bookstore. Amazon is our primary competitor, and there's admittedly a little schadenfreude in seeing them caught in a public relations snafu. But it's way more than that. Here at The Bookstore we believe that all books and all customers are created equal. It's not just some first amendment lip service, it's really part of our mission as a good neighbor in Glen Ellyn.

No matter how homogeneous our little village may seem to be on the surface, anybody who's lived here long enough knows that we are a diverse, wonderful mix of people, ideas, religions, politics and philosophies. We are Cubs fans or Sox fans, and although the die-hards believe it's heretical, some of us are actually both. We had Obama signs and McCain signs all through our village last fall, and somehow we got along. (My favorite: the yards with both opposing signs!) We voted with the Civic Betterment party's candidate or for the alternative, Gary Fasules. Some watch Fox News; others listen to NPR. We might love Oprah or hate her, but we can't stop talking about her book selections. You might have gone to a Tea Party yesterday, or you mocked them with Jon Stewart. We carry your Bible Study books, but we also carry God is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens. Story of a Marriage by Andrew Sean Greer has gay characters, and it's a beautiful love story I strongly recommend.

Here at The Bookstore we just love to handsell you books. We find out what you're interested in and show you some good books you might enjoy. You have opinions and we love you for it. You come as you are. If a certain subject isn't your cup of tea, that's fine, just tell us and we can go in another direction. We'll even smile, as we did last fall, when a customer slyly turned over an Obama children's book to hide the cover. It's okay, we get you. But we turned it back over when you left. And we'd do the same for any book.

Because at the smaller, smarter independent bookstore in the heart of your village, all books are created equal. Just like you.

(Okay, now cue the National Anthem!)