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.


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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.