Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Jane's Holiday Picks For Kids 2010

Jane Stroh is pictured above with two of her grandaughters, Lydia and Gloria, reading one of their favorite holiday books, Christmas Kitten, Home at Last. Here is Jane's annual list of holiday recommendations:

At the top of my list this year is a small gem of a book, The First Christmas by Anthony Knott. A tiny book written in rhyme with lovely pictures, it is a treat to share with your favorite child.

If you want to share the first Christmas story with the special toddler in your life there are two interactive books I'd recommend: The Very First Christmas Changing Pictures and The Busy Christmas Stable. A great complement to these stories is the Usborne Sing-Along Christmas Carols, which includes a CD and the words to several Christmas carols.

Another favorite of mine this year is Saint Francis and the Nativity by Myrna Strasser. This beautifully illustrated work tells the story of what was probably the first reenactment of the Christmas story and how St. Francis brought Luke 2 alive for his parishioners.

The next on my list is Christmas Kitten Home at Last by Robin Pulver. It is a sweet story, beautifully illustrated. My four year-old granddaughter loved it!

There's a great new story, The Elves' First Christmas by Atsuko Morozumi, about how the elves came to know and work with Santa to make all those Christmas toys.

Yet another wonderful and touching picture book is Christmas in the Time of Billy Lee by Jerdine Nolan. This is a story of faith and belief in what we can't see, and the power of that faith. If you have trouble loving snow this is a book for you.

Nonna Tell Me A Story by Lidia Bastianich is a story that celebrates the family togetherness of Christmas, not the giving and getting of presents.

Some of my favorite children's authors have given us some special presents this season. Tomie De Paola has a collection of some of his best Christmas stories in one lovely volume entitled Joy to the World. There is a new Charlie Brown Christmas pop-up book this year. Helen Lester has added to the Tacky collection with Tacky's Christmas, which includes a CD with some of Tacky's favorite carols. Fans of Ana Dewdney's Llama Llama series will love Llama, Llama Holiday Drama.

For our Jewish friends there are two new books about Hanukkah. Eight Winter Nights by Laura Melmed is a wonderful picture book written in rhyme, telling the Hanukkah story night by night. The back also contains a brief description of the history behind Hanukkah and some Hanukkah traditions. Hanukkah Mice by Ronne Randall is a small book with lovely illustrations, perfect for little hands.

There are many more great holiday books including old favorites like Polar Express that we have in stock, so please stop by and check them all out! And Happy Holidays from all of your friends at The Bookstore.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Chicago Author Month Wrap-Up: Chicago Literary Tour Ideas

We had a great time joining Jen Karsbaek at Devourer of Books in her month-long focus on Chicago authors. We discovered some fabulous new books, hosted some really cool authors, and added plenty of other books to our personal wish lists.

Before we sign off on this bookish adventure, we wanted to mention a few of our favorite Chicago books that present some of the best opportunities for book club "field trips." For Chicago area readers, or any other readers planning a visit to Chicago, here are some suggestions for a Chicago Literary Tour.

Sister Carrie (Theodore Dreiser, 1900) is one of my favorite Chicago novels. I recommend Sister Carrie to our local book clubs because it offers moral ambiguity, an early feminist sensibility and layers upon layers of social commentary that are as relevant today as they were 100 years ago.

Sister Carrie is ripe with opportunities for an interesting historical Chicago Literary Tour. The online version of the Pennsylvania edition includes a list of all of the locations mentioned in the book, from Carrie's sister's flat at 354 West Van Buren to Carrie and Drouet's love nest at Ogden Place. I would recommend starting your Sister Carrie tour on State Street, because Carrie was so easily seduced by the charms of department store windows. You could stroll through the old Marshall Fields (it will never be Macy's to me), and then have lunch or a drink in the historic Palmer House Hotel on Monroe Street (where Drouet and Hurstwood stayed in Chapters 24-27). If you're adventuresome, your tour should include a visit to the near west side, particularly Skinner Park (formerly Jefferson Park), where Carrie meets Hurstwood ("on a rustic bench beneath the green leaves of a lilac bush") and they first discuss the possibility of running away together.

Devil in the White City (Erik Larson, 2003) is also set in Chicago's Gilded Age, and like Sister Carrie, shows both sides of the coin. This book combines a chilling true crime story with an insider's view of the planning and building of Chicago's World's Fair in 1893. The Chicago Architectural Foundation currently offers a Devil in the White City Bus Tour. Interest in this book is likely to rise again as they begin filming the movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio as the serial killer.

The Lazarus Project (Aleksandar Hemon, 2008) is another great Chicago novel, a National Book Award Finalist and the winner of a Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize for Fiction. I first raved about this book in a blog post nearly two years ago, and have since hailed Hemon's 2009 short story collection Love and Other Obstacles.

The Lazarus Project is based on a true story from Chicago history. In 1908, Chicago Chief of Police George Shippey murdered Lazarus Averbach, a Jewish immigrant who had gained entry to the Chief's Lincoln Park home. No one really knows why Averbach was there, but Shippey erroneously believed he was a Jewish anarchist who had come to assassinate him.

Shippey's home is located on the 2100 block of North Hudson. Geoffrey Johnson of The Chicago Magazine created a video depicting scenes related to the Averbach story, including Averbach's two burial sites and the foyer of the home where the murder occurred. My dream Chicago Literary Tour would have to include a walk through the Hudson Street area of Lincoln Park in honor of both Hemon and Averbach.

Loving Frank (Nancy Horan, 2007) is based on the love affair between Frank Lloyd Wright and his neighbor Mamah Cheney. It is set in Oak Park, Illinois, where Nancy Horan lived in Oak Park for 24 years. When my book club read this book, we enjoyed an outing to the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio. If you can't get the chance to get to Oak Park, Nancy Horan has a narrated video of a Frank Lloyd Wright Neighborhood Walking Tour on her website. In addition, there is a new Loving Frank Tour at Taliesen, Frank Lloyd Wright's home in Spring Green Wisconsin, which is located approximately 2.5 hours northwest of Chicago.

Our month-long focus on Chicago area authors has shown us that just one month is clearly not enough time. The Bookstore would love to form a Chicago Area Author Book Club, with regular Chicago Literary Tours. To let us know you're interested, please add a comment below, call us at (630) 469-2891, or e-mail

For anyone who can't seem to resist adding more books by Chicago authors to their nightstand, check out this list of books that were included in five and a half years of the Gaper's Block Chicago Book Club. Our Chicago Author Month was clearly just the tip of the iceberg.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Chicago Author Month: Melanie Benjamin as a Celebrity Bookseller

As part of our month long celebration of Chicago area authors, we extended a unique invitation to one of our favorite local authors, Melanie Benjamin. We thought it would be fun if she came to The Bookstore as a Celebrity Bookseller, in order to recommend some of her favorite books to our customers. Melanie gracefully accepted our invitation, even if she is deep into the proofing process of her next book (The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb, due to be released in July 2011).

As many of our customers and local book clubs know, Melanie has always been a big reader. At book club visits, she is often asked to share her favorite reads, and has even thought about putting together a list of book recommendations to hand out. In the meantime, here is the list of books we gathered for Melanie's own Celebrity Bookseller Picks:

March by E. L. Doctorow (Melanie's favorite historical fiction)
Homer & Langley by E.L. Doctorow
Howards End by E. M. Forster (turn of the century British literature)
Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier (Melanie: "so creative")
Mrs. Kimble by Jennifer Haigh (fiction: the three wives of Mr. Kimball)
Later, at the Bar by Rebecca Barry (similar to Olive Kitteridge)

On Melanie's recommendation alone, I brought home a copy of Later, at the Bar. I love it when I get an enthusiastic recommendation for a book that's completely new to me. Customers enjoyed talking to Melanie, and quite a few even picked up a copy of Melanie's current book, Alice I Have Been.

We even had a fun moment of bookstore serendipity when a customer identified herself as Brigid Pasulka's mother-in-law, and I was thrilled to be able to tell her, "I love Brigid's book - I just blogged about it as a part of Chicago Writers Month!" (A Long, Long Time Ago & Essentially True, October 13, 2010 post)

Bookstores are like that. They bring good people and good books together. A special thanks to Melanie for sparing some of her time as a busy writer to come hang out with us at The Bookstore!

Pictured above is the paperback cover of Alice I Have Been, which will be released on December 21st. Although I loved the cover in hardcover, I love the new paperback cover in a whole different way. The Bookstore is hosting a reception for Melanie after the holidays on Thursday, January 27th at 7pm. Mark your 2011 calendars now!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Chicago Author Month: Kevin Guilfoile's The Thousand

Chicagoan Kevin Guilfoile's new thriller The Thousand has already received huge accolades, and has been compared to The DaVinci Code and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I can see why. The book features a creepy Pythagorean cult, and a tough, young female detective who would make a good match for Lisbeth Salander.

For Chicago area readers, this book is even more thrilling. It's set in Chicago, which is perfect, because this town has the same tough, gritty unrelenting energy as the story and its characters. There is a gruff Chicago cop, all accent and attitude, a flashy criminal defense attorney with dangerous secrets, and a fearless but tiny young heroine named Canada Gold. And plenty of powerful bad guys.

Chicagoans will enjoy the settings throughout the city, whether it's Chinatown, a posh Lincoln Park home, a gritty Lakeview bar or Mr. Beef. During an enormous power blackout in the middle of a hot steamy summer, refugees from the heat and the dark camp out in Lincoln Park and along North Avenue Beach. All trails lead to the Gothic north side mansion formerly owned by the Archdiocese of Chicago. It's a city well suited for a thriller, and Guilfoile plays it up just right. (I'm already picturing the film crews.)

The story begins as the conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is on trial for the murder of his young mistress. Although the jury finds him not guilty, we know he did it. Within 24 hours of the verdict, the conductor is murdered and the prime suspect, the father of the murdered mistress, commits suicide. The murder weapon is never found but the investigation is closed. All exciting stuff (are you with me so far?) but this is just the beginning.

Fast forward ten years, when the same murder weapon is used to kill a Chicago doctor with suspicious ties to the long-dead conductor. The conductor's daughter, Canada "Nada" Gold, is now all grown up, but struggles with a mysterious brain implant her father insisted that she have as a young girl. The implant gives her superpowers of observation, which she has been putting to good use as a card counter and a private investigator in Las Vegas. Nada Gold heads back to Chicago, where she and a cool Chicago cop head straight into a dangerous conspiracy.

Different factions of The Thousand, a cult-like group of men and women who have descended from the disciples of Pythagoras, are engaged in a life-and-death battle for control of their mathematical secrets. Depending which faction you follow, these secrets could either destroy the world or lead to universal harmony. Tough little Nada Gold and her bizarre brain implant are caught right in the middle.

If you are thinking that this kind of creepy and suspenseful plot would only come from a writer who is a little weird and unglued, with poor hygiene and a head full of conspiracy theories, you would be wrong. Kevin Guilfoile is no Unibomber; he is a funny, smart Notre Dame alumnus who lives with his family in LaGrange. In fact, it was a sweet, older Notre Dame philosophy professor who gave him the idea to pursue the Pythagoras angle. Guilfoile has been a writer for McSweeney's and The Morning News, and has written a previous medical thriller called Cast of Shadows that some have compared to Michael Crichton. Sue and I got to know him through The Morning News Tournament of Books, where he leads a team of judges through a strange but wonderful March Madness bracket of book match-ups. Guilfoile's approach to book awards is hilarious, irreverent and just plain fun. He is the kind of guy you'd love to meet for a chat over a beer.

That's why we are especially excited to welcome Kevin Guilfoile to Chicago Author Night at The Bookstore on Thursday, October 28th at 7pm for a book discussion and book signing. We are also pleased to be welcoming debut author Joelle Charbonneau, whose debut comedic mystery, Skating Around the Law is a bookstore favorite as well. (For a great review of Charbonneau's book, go to

Please come meet these two incredibly nice, incredibly smart Chicago Area writers, and share a beer or a glass of wine. To register, please call The Bookstore at (630) 469-2891 or e-mail

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Chicago Author Month: The Night Bookmobile by Audrey Niffenegger

Chicagoan Audrey Niffenegger is best known for her popular novels, The Time Traveler's Wife and Her Fearful Symmetry, but has now created The Night Bookmobile, a graphic novel that combines all of her talents.

Niffenegger is not only a talented writer, she is also a visual artist. She trained at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and received her MFA from Northwestern University. She has been an exhibiting artist and a book arts professor at Columbia College in Chicago for many years.

Niffenegger first conceived of The Time Traveler's Wife as a graphic novel, but the time traveling images were too difficult to draw, so she turned it into a regular novel. As many of our customers know by now, The Time Traveler's Wife was set in Chicago, with scenes that ranged from cultural institutions like the Art Institute and the Newberry Library to unique Chicago restaurants like Ann Sather and the Berghoff. (Check out this cool Time Traveler's Wife Chicago Landmark map.)

Like The Time Traveler's Wife, The Night Bookmobile is set in Chicago. The haunted bookmobile makes surprise appearances in front of Story Studio, a writing arts center in the Ravenswood neighborhood, Wrigley Field, and in an alley near The Empty Bottle on Western Avenue.

The Night Bookmobile is the perfect vehicle for Niffenegger's gifts. As Neil Gaiman says on the back cover, it is "a love letter, both elegiac and heartbreaking, to the things we have read, and to the readers that we are."

The haunting story and pictures will appeal to anyone who has ever described a reading experience as "pure heaven." Imagine a bookmobile filled with everything you have ever read: not just Judy Blume, Nancy Drew and The Fountainhead, but also college textbooks, cereal boxes and your own diary. (Go ahead, imagine your library now. Fun, isn't it?) I enjoyed pouring over the lovely pictures of the Night Bookmobile's shelves, counting how many of those books would be in my Night Bookmobile too. But as pleasing as the possibility of your own private library in eternity would be, this chilling tale makes you realize . . . be careful what you wish for. It comes at a very high price.

We highly recommend The Night Bookmobile to our customers who might enjoy a haunting tale about books. It would make a great Halloween or holiday gift for the adult reader in your life.

Looks like we've made another great Chicago Author Month discovery. Come check out our Chicago Author Shelf at The Bookstore, which includes this and Niffenegger's other books. (The Night Bookmobile, Abrams ComicArts $19.95)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Chicago Author Month: A Long, Long Time Ago And Essentially True by Brigid Pasulka

I have no idea how A Long, Long Time Ago & Essentially True escaped my attention for so long. Somehow it made it onto The Bookstore shelves, both in hardcover and paperback, without finding a champion among our booksellers. Only recently did I learn that the author was from Chicago, an English Teacher at Whitney Young Magnet School, and the winner of last year's PEN/Hemingway Award.

What a perfect book to add to my list for Chicago Author Month. Especially because this book is set in Poland and is written by a descendant of Polish immigrants -- and Chicago just happens to have the largest population of Polish-speaking people living outside of Poland.

I am now utterly devoted to this book. I've already been raving about it to my friends and customers, and I've tucked one of our blue staff recommendation cards between its pages. I feel like I've just found a new go-to recommendation in paperback. I'm just sorry I'm so late to the game.

For our customers who haven't yet discovered this book's charms, it's a two-part story: one told like an enchanted fairytale, beginning with a love story in a small Polish village on the eve of World War II, and the other told 50 years later, as the lovers' granddaughter comes of age in modern Krakow, searching for her past and her future at the same time. The elders' experiences during the German occupation, such as hiding in the forest with the Polish resistance, brought to mind some of the things I enjoyed about the movie Defiance. The granddaughter's quest reminded me a little of Jonathon Safran Foer's Everything Is Illuminated.

In a video interview on her own website, Brigid Pasulka explained that Long, Long Time Ago was based on a combination of "essentially true" stories that she gathered from her own experiences while on post-college visits to Krakow. She tells how she used to sit down and ask older Poles to tell her stories, and they did. In that way, Brigid bears some resemblance to the granddaughter in the book, who realizes that the often heartbreaking stories of her grandparents' generation should be preserved and savored.

There were times when the modern story, which features a "lost generation" of young people in post-Communist Poland of the 1990's, didn't seem able to hold its own weight against the intensity, romance and magic of the older tale. However, the book eventually wove the two stories together, giving the granddaughter a sense of purpose, identity and history. What a nice ending. Highly recommended, with a special thumbs up for our book clubs.

Please stop in and check out Brigid Pasulka's book on our Chicago Author Shelf next time you're in downtown Glen Ellyn. In the meantime, you might enjoy exploring her website.

A Long, Long Time Ago & Essentially True by Brigid Pasulka (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $13.95)

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Chicago Author Month: John McNally Appearing October 14th

Ghosts of Chicago by native Chicagoan John McNally has been released in paperback just in time for Halloween.

I know what you're thinking: creepy noises in the middle of the night, a cold white mist? Actually, not that kind of ghost. The ghosts in this book are different, and so much better. They're lost souls, dead or alive, searching for someone to listen to their lovely, haunting stories.

This short story collection includes a series of stories written in the imagined voices of lost Chicago legends, including John Belushi, Gene Siskel, Walter Payton, Richard J. Daley, George Pullman and Nelson Algren. This is really creative stuff: imagine Walter Payton and Refrigerator Perry on a road trip after the '85 Superbowl, Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert in a snowball fight, or John Belushi remembering the acres of pot fields near Champaign, Illinois. For native Chicagoans, there is even a story about WGN's Creature Features and the silent goose. (The same goose my husband's side of the family always brings up when they're "in their cups" and reminiscing about their Chicago area childhood.)

One of the things I love about short story collections, especially for book clubs, is the way you can pick out your favorite stories and compare your list with others. My favorites in this book included The Immortals and the strange and funny so-called Contributor's Notes at the end. At first you wonder why anyone's Notes would be so long (26 pages), but you give McNally the benefit of the doubt. An introductory paragraph is the funniest and most honest author biography I've ever read, but you'll be left puzzling for days, how much is fiction? Check it out:

"After attending a famous writers' workshop in the Midwest, he worked as a short-order cook, bouncer, grave digger, lumberjack, carnival barker, florist, disc jockey, and busboy. Most recently, he was employed as a groundskeeper. He has no permanent place of residence. He owns a 1976 Ford LTD, inside of which he could, if necessary, store all his worldly possessions, This is his first published story."

For fans of McNally's novel After the Workshop, Contributor's Notes offers more sharp wit and McNally's smart, satirical take on the pretensions and idiocy of the publishing world and the creative writing programs that feed it.

Perfect, then, that McNally has also written The Creative Writer's Survival Guide: Advice From an Unrepentant Novelist, a "subjective and idiosyncratic take on the writing life." It's an honest guidebook for aspiring writers who want the truth, and not just the "you can do it!" reassurance of family, friends and many magazines and writing conferences.

Whether you're an aspiring writer or merely a reader who appreciates good, smart fiction, please join us for an evening of cocktails, cheese and crackers with John McNally on Thursday, October 14th from 7:00-8:30pm. We will mingle and chat from 7-7:30, and then we'll hear John talk about his books. (I for one am dying to know about John's supposed jobs as a lumberjack and carnival barker.) Book signing to follow. Please call The Bookstore at (630) 469-2891 or e-mail us to let us know you're coming. We'd hate to run out of cheese.

Ghosts of Chicago was another great discovery for Chicago Area Author Month. You can find this and McNally's other books on our new Chicago Area Author Shelf at The Bookstore. Highly recommended.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Chicago Author Month: Long Way Home by Laura Caldwell

Long Way Home by Laura Caldwell (Free Press Books)

When Jen at Devourer of Books told me about her plan to dedicate the month of October to Chicago area authors, I said I would be happy to join her. She had gathered a list of Chicago authors with upcoming books, and there was a new one by Laura Caldwell that caught my eye.

Long Way Home is the remarkable story of Laura Caldwell's pro bono work on behalf of Jovan Mosley, a young Chicago man who gave a false confession to the Chicago police, and then sat in prison for nearly six years awaiting trial for first-degree murder.

Caldwell was a civil litigation attorney in Chicago before she quit to be a full-time writer. She calls herself a "lapsed lawyer" although she is a Distinguished Scholar in Residence at the University of Loyola School of Law. I knew she wrote a detective series with a high-heeled heroine, but I'd never read any of her books before.

I picked up Long Way Home expecting an interesting journalistic piece, but I was wrong. It was so much more. While the book does provide all of the details of a tragic murder on Chicago's South Side and exposes the shocking flaws in the criminal justice system at 26th and California, this is no dry tale. This book has the pace and suspense of a well plotted courtroom drama, with the heart and soul of the best memoirs. I was in tears by the time the verdict was announced.

I had expected to be a harsh critic. Before I read this book I was skeptical about the notion of false confessions, at least in the absence of outright fraud or torture. Isn't a "false confession" just a confession that the accused later regrets? Back in my law school days, I worked both sides of the fence, first as an intern in a public defender's office and then in a D.A.'s office. Call it bias, cynicism or just plain reality, most of the defendants I met had the opposite problem: false claims of innocence. The jury in Caldwell's story had to struggle with these same doubts.

Jovan Mosley's story changed my mind. There were overzealous cops, missing police reports, delayed Miranda warnings and false promises of leniency. Add to that the problem of Chicago's outrageously overburdened criminal court system, and a nice, innocent kid, and you have a six year nightmare that never should have happened.

But Laura Caldwell's book isn't necessarily about blame and tragedy. It's an old-fashioned, big-hearted story about truth and justice and the courage to believe that good things can happen to good people in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. There's laughter and humor along the way, as Caldwell and Mosley's lead attorney Catharine O'Daniel work to keep Mosley's spirits up through the ordeal. Long hours of trial preparation turn the trial partners into punch-drunk girlfriends. Caldwell does a great job of capturing the surprising collegiality among the judges, cops and attorneys who work in the courtrooms at 26th and California. I would have to agree that the practice of criminal law seems way more "civil" than civil law in Chicago. And best of all, the courtroom scenes and jury deliberations are as well drafted and dramatic as those in a Scott Turow novel.

Long Way Home was a wonderful discovery for Chicago Author Month. I've already put Caldwell's detective novels on my reading list, especially the Rome Affair. As Caldwell explains, it was the research for The Rome Affair that led her to Jovan Mosley. And it's Jovan Mosley's story that will lead me to Caldwell's other fiction.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

October is Chicago Area Writers Month at The Bookstore

Welcome to our month long celebration of Chicago area writers. Throughout the month of October, The Bookstore and its blogging partner Jen Karsbaek ("Devourer of Books") will feature book reviews, author events, book discussions and guest posts with Chicago area authors.

Together, we will be reviewing new books by debut authors, new releases by some of Chicago's well known authors, as well as some of our old favorites by Chicago literary heroes. In addition, The Bookstore be celebrating the introduction of its new Chicago Area Author Shelf, which will include these books as well as many other Chicago notables.

We hope you can join us for our various Chicago Area Writers events in October. The first is on Thursday, October 14th at 7pm with native Chicagoan John McNally. McNally is the author of Ghosts of Chicago (a Chicagoland Indie Bestseller, 2008), After The Workshop (Indie Next Pick and Bookstore Staff Pick 2010), the Creative Writers Survival Guide and more. McNally will talk about his books and give advice to aspiring writers from his guide book. Free wine and cheese with the purchase of at least one of his books. Please call (630) 469-2891 or e-mail to register.

There is a Halloween Open House event for families planned on Saturday, October 16th from 2-5pm, featuring Glen Ellynite J.D. Gordon, author of Kritterkreep, a spooky middle grade/junior high school level Halloween story set right in Glen Ellyn. The open house will include free candy, silly bandz, coloring pages and raffles. Anyone who purchases a copy of Gordon's book will be invited to join in free pumpkin painting. Pumpkins may be purchased outside The Bookstore (proceeds going to St. Mark's DuPage PADS Pumpkin Patch fund) or at St. Mark's. For every book purchased, Gordon will donate $2 back to St. Mark's Pumpkin Patch. Support your local bookstore, a local author, and the local homeless all at the same time.

Finally, mark your calendars for Thursday, October 28th at 7pm for a Chicago Author Night Party at The Bookstore. Area readers and writers are invited to share wine and cheese, and enjoy a book discussion with area authors, including Kevin Guilfoile and Joelle Charbonneau. Kevin is from LaGrange, and is the author of the hot new thriller set in Chicago, The Thousand. Joelle is the debut author of the fun, sexy mystery, Skating Around the Law.

In the meantime, stay tuned to The Bookstore's and Devourer of Books' blogs for more news about our exciting line-up of events and reviews. And stop in to check out our new Chicago Area Author Shelf at The Bookstore. Local authors interested in getting their book on our new bookshelf should come introduce themselves at our events!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Meet Our Book Blogging Partner, "Devourer of Books"

Over the last year, we've been partnering with Jen Karsbaek, an area book blogger known as "Devourer of Books." Maybe you've met her at some of our author events and parties, or seen her book blogger bookmarks inside her favorite books at the store, but here's a chance to get to know her better.

Jen is a 20-something wife and mom to an adorable little boy named Daniel (seen in the photo "reading" Pat the Bunny). She's a former history major who grew up in California, but came to Chicago to teach in the inner city with Teach for America. She currently lives in Palatine.

This gal can read! The folks at The Bookstore read a lot, but even we're no match for Jen. She has a passion for reading and a depth of knowledge that spills out in every conversation -- no wonder we're such good friends! We rely on her to give us a heads-up about books she's loved, authors to watch and publishers to meet. In turn, she spreads the good word about independent bookstores. Once she even came to The Bookstore as "Bookseller For A Day," which she found "exhausting but fun." We recently sat down and had a chat.

Margie: How and when did you ever get the crazy idea to be a book blogger?

Jen: I first heard that there were people who wrote about books on the internet from a thread on Library Thing and I basically thought "Hey, I love to read! I have opinions! Everyone in my real life is sick of hearing them all the time, maybe the internet would be interested!" This was January of 2008, and I started my blog in February of that year, after poking around a bit to see what people were doing.

Margie: How many books can you devour in a good week? A bad week?

Jen: Last week was a good week and I finished six books, but that is a bit misleading because I had two books I'd been working on and had almost finished at the beginning of the week. One was also an audiobook -- and one was "Mockingjay," which I stayed up late to read. I don't think I can read much more than that in a week. A bad week I'll finish two to three books and one of those will definitely be an audiobook. I consider a month 'good' if I read eighteen or more books, generally.

Margie: How do you manage to get so much reading done with a one year-old? Any tips? Mothers will want to know!

Jen: My number one tip is to have a book with you at all times. Daniel has a habit of falling asleep in the car from time to time, and that is prime reading time. I always make sure I have a book in my purse I can pull out. I make time to read: I'll do it instead of turning on the TV, and I'll often choose to settle down with my book after he goes to bed instead of picking up his toys. He's just going to get them out tomorrow anyway, and I'd rather get some reading time in than have a clean floor for ten hours overnight. Also, audiobooks! I have about a 40 minute commute each way to work, that used to be wasted reading time, but now I grab an audiobook and that's an extra book per week that I can read. Plus when I do break down and clean everything up, I throw in my audiobook to make it a more pleasurable experience.

Margie: What has been your biggest discovery you've made while book blogging?

Jen: The magic of publishing houses and their imprints! Finding an editor/imprint that you love is like finding an author you love, only much more prolific. Some of my favorites are Amy Einhorn Books, Harper Perennial, Algonquin Books, and Unbridled Books. I am also discovering W.W. Norton at the moment. Before blogging I never paid attention to who published the books I was reading, and I was really missing out.

Margie: What are your top 3 (or so) books that you've read since you started blogging, if possible?

Jen: Not even possible, I don't think. I've read too many great ones. Some of my top reads of the last few months have been Nobodies Album by Carolyn Parkhurst, Red Hook Road by Ayelet Waldman, and The City and The City by China Meiville.

Margie: And of course, what about Daniel's favorite books?

Jen: Babies Nose to Babies Toes is his number one, he's loved it since he was 3 months old and still does at 14 months. He had a deep and abiding love for Pat the Bunny, but not quite so much anymore. Lately he has been enjoying Just Like Daddy, The Very Busy Spider, and The Baby Bathtime Book. Also, his entire room is decorated in The Very Hungry Caterpillar decor.

Margie: I guess I'll let you go, I'm sure I'm holding you up from a really good book right now! Thanks for sharing.

Jen and The Bookstore are planning to collaborate on a special Chicago Literature Month in October. For more information, go to Jen's blog. We're planning reviews of a wide variety of Chicago area authors, including John McNally, Kevin Guilfoile, Sara Paretsky, Charlene Baumbich, Joelle Charbonneau, Laura Caldwell and more. Stay tuned for news about two very special Chicago Author Events at The Bookstore in October!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Come For Coffee, Talk About Freedom!

The media has readers all in a frenzy about Jonathan Franzen's new book, Freedom. First, Franzen's on the cover of Time Magazine, next, Barack Obama receives an advance copy from a bookshop in Martha's Vineyard and makes the nightly news, then the New York Times actually calls it a masterpiece. And this is all before the book even goes on sale on Tuesday, August 31st.

What's a regular reader to think? Is Freedom really worth it? How can it possibly live up to this hype? Our customers want to know.

Sue and I have the scoop. We too snagged an advance copy (our own little Barack Obama book club -- too bad he didn't even know it) and we're here to tell you that Freedom does indeed live up to the hype. We loved it.

If you loved The Corrections (and we did) you'll love Freedom. It's the same kind of astute, penetrating family drama, but this time he's analyzing the Berglunds, a suburban family of the 90's who drive Volvos, shop at Whole Foods, get milk delivered in glass bottles and preserve historical homes. You'd swear he was writing about Glen Ellyn.

Sue and I can't stop talking about it. Our only debate is how much we loved it - is it our favorite novel of the year? -- maybe. Was it perfect? -- no. We both agreed there was a chapter or two that didn't work for us, such as a weird Haliburton-type scheme in the later part of the book ("Bad News"). As smartly written as it is, I feel as though it lacks a certain soulfulness that I look for in my perfect book, whatever that might be.

But as Sue said: "this one belongs in a class all by itself - I just can't compare it to anything. . . . The writing absolutely blew me away." As for me, I loved the psychological depth and complexity of the characters, and Franzen's brilliant, almost superpower of observation. And the writing: you savor the words, you're addicted to the narrative. When you're done, you wish you hadn't started it yet. You'll want to call Patty Berglund on the phone and have a nice long talk: "How's Walter?" you'll want to say, "and the kids?" It's just that good.

So yes, we're definitely recommending this book, and we invite you to stop in to buy it and come back to talk about it. The Bookstore is going to have free coffee available this Friday, September 3rd, from 10am until noon. Stop by as you're spinning around downtown and we'll have some "coffee talk" -- whether it's about Franzen's buzzworthy Freedom or any of the other great fall books we're recommending.

Hope to see you soon!
Sue, Margie and all the folks at The Bookstore

Monday, August 23, 2010

Good Times at 50th Anniversary Bash

Thanks to everyone who turned out for our 50th Anniversary Party on Thursday, August 19th. We had a big crowd, lots of fun and plenty of cupcakes. The crowd broke into a spontaneous "Happy Birthday to The Bookstore" that gave most of the staff the goosebumps. It was just that cool. Kind of like when the crowd in Elf sings a Christmas carol to help Santa fly.

And if anyone is worried The Bookstore won't be around for another 50 years, you can stop worrying right now. Here is the winner of the "Most Voracious Reader" prize for The Bookstore's 50th Anniversary Readathon held in June: she's a Glen Ellyn third grader who not only read 26 hours on her own, but also led her Readathon Team to a total of 364.5 hours in just one weekend. Something tells me with young customers like her, The Bookstore will be in good standing for decades to come.

Thanks, Glen Ellyn readers, for your support and for your belief in the benefit of a local independent bookstore.

Happy 5oth.

Kids Author Event With Janis Simms

On Saturday, August 21st, author Janis Simms joined us at The Bookstore for a storytime based on her book, Grandma's Basket. Youngsters ages 3 to 7 enjoyed the storytime about a grandma trying to fill a basket full of vegetables. Healthy apple and carrot snacks were included, along with coloring pages from the book. The author has a new children's picture book coming out in October about friendly (not scary) spiders, so stay tuned!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Highly Recommended: American Music

My first question to my colleague Sue upon her return from a vacation is always the same: "What did you read?" This summer, she came back absolutely enthralled with American Music by Jane Mendelsohn. She handed me her copy like it was a present, and I started it that night.

The writing in this book is so good, so lyrical and so lovely that you can't rush through for the sake of the story. If I hadn't been borrowing Sue's copy, I would have been highlighting every other page. (I do that when I'm taken with a good line -- and then call the book "highlighter worthy.") This is one of the most highlighter worthy books I've read this year.

The story is about an injured Iraq War soldier with deep psychological wounds. He is a patient in a veteran's hospital, where he meets a massage therapist whose hands are like magic. Whenever she touches him, mysterious stories are revealed to both of them as if they're having the same dream. Stories about other lovers in other times, including a story set in the jazz age, where music, time and history blend together in the middle of a swing dance. The book goes back and forth from the developing relationship between the soldier and his therapist, and the stories that unite them. The reader shares their curiosity: what do these stories mean? What do they have to do with the soldier? Maybe the stories will lead to his cure, or lead the the soldier and therapist into love. It's a compelling mystery.

The story is good, but it's the writing that totally got me. When Mendelsohn says, "For a soldier's body is a work of art that contains his country's history," I felt as if all of the honor in the Gettysburg Address has been distilled into one simple sentence. When the therapist says to the soldier: "Your body is like a haunted house . . . . And it seems as though I live there," I could feel their connection down to my bones.

I can't wait to start hearing customer feedback from this book. I expect it will earn a highly devoted following. If you stop in The Bookstore on a Friday when Sue and I are there together, you'll be sure to hear us chatting it up some more. We hope you won't leave The Bookstore without it!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Little Ways to Keep Calm and Carry On Book Launch Party on September 9th at 7pm

"No worries." It's the new catch phrase.

As if.

Everybody worries. It doesn't mean you need a shrink. But every once in awhile, when the stress level gets a bit too high, you might wish you had a little coach sitting on your shoulder to give you some tips on how to calm yourself down.

We're really excited to be hosting a book launch party for former Glen Ellynite Mark Reinecke. He's a Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Northwestern University and an expert on anxiety. He's managed to put all of his expertise into a cute, handy little guidebook for everyday life. Who doesn't need a little extra help to keep calm in these stress-filled times?

The book launch party will include various treats and pleasures to help you "keep calm and carry on." Enjoy an evening with wine, chocolate and calming treats from Namaste, a neighborly downtown Glen Ellyn salon. Mark will give a brief talk about his book and will then sign and personalize your books.

The book is small, handy and inexpensive ($14.95). It would make a great holiday gift for your slightly stressed friends and family. Please RSVP to the party and place your pre-orders for the book by calling (630) 469-2891 or e-mailing

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Blessings of the Animals by Katrina Kittle

The Blessings of the Animals (Harper Perennial paperback original, $14.95) is on our August Staff Pick list, and all of our customers who know me well probably know why. Just look at that cover! It makes me want to drive out to my favorite barn and hug a horse.

This is a wonderful story about a woman named Cami Anderson who is a veterinarian with her own animal hospital, an animal rescue volunteer with the Humane Society, the mother of a teenage daughter, and the wife of a moody restaurateur. The very day Cami gets a call to rescue some severely neglected horses (she brings home the most damaged one, a handsome but angry kicker) her husband tells her "I don't want to be married anymore." Cami has to learn what is worth rescuing, and what isn't.

I was enthralled with every single passage about Moonshot the wounded horse. He had painful abscesses in his hooves, but responded to Epsom salt soaks and Cami's slow, gentle efforts to untangle the bird nests in his tail. By the time Cami is able to saddle-up Moonshot and sit on him without getting bucked off, you're not really sure who has rescued whom.

This is an enjoyable book that would be appropriate for both women and teen girls. I plan to pass it along to my favorite horse trainer, who is just as gifted with horses as Cami. Maybe I'll even stop out at the barn and brush out a horse's tangled tail, because there's nothing quite like the blessings of animals.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Happy 50th Birthday Bookstore: Books From 1960

In celebration of our 50th birthday, The Bookstore is hosting a 50th Anniversary Party on August 19, 2010 at 7pm. All of our customers, including kids, teens and adults are invited to enjoy the cake, drinks and raffle prizes.

In case you weren't even born yet, or in case you were but can't seem to remember, here is a list of a few of our favorite books from 1960:

Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss
One Fish Two Fish ... by Dr. Seuss
Cricket in Times Square by George Selden
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Hawaii by James Michener
The Leopard by Giuseppe di Lampedusa
The Rise & Fall of the 3rd Reich by William Shirer
Advise and Consent by Allen Drury
(1960 Pulitzer Prize)
Goodbye Columbus by Philip Roth
(1960 National Book Award)

We love surprises, so we'll just drop a hint at this point: some of our raffle prizes just might bring you back to 1960. Please join us and share in the 60's fun! RSVP to (630) 469-2891 or See you then!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Come Celebrate Our 50th Anniversary on August 19th!

The folks at The Bookstore are pretty excited. We're getting ready to celebrate our 50th anniversary on August 19th at 7pm, and all of our customers are invited to stop in to join the celebration. Oh, by the way, there's cake, prizes and raffles for free books!

In the meantime, we just thought you might like to hear our story. If you have your own stories or memories you'd like to share, please add a comment below or e-mail us. We'd love to add your stories to the history of the store.

The Bookstore was founded by Vic and Rosamond Du Jardin prior to 1960, but moved to its current storefront at 475 N. Main Street in Glen Ellyn in 1960. The old brick building dates back to 1892, and was originally home to McChesney's General Store. When McChesney's moved out, they left behind an old safe that looks like it belongs in a wild west movie. We still use that safe today, and include it on our historical tours to children and senior citizens. At that time The Bookstore occupied a double storefront, including the space that now houses our neighborhood knitting shop, String Theory.

The Du Jardins were a colorful pair; Rosamond Du Jardin was the author of teen fiction set in the malt shop era, including such titles as Senior Prom, Boy Trouble and Double Date. Vic Du Jardin was an avid reader. According to village legend, if you came in the store and asked Vic for a certain book, he'd interrupt his own reading, put his finger in his book to mark his spot, and point vaguely over to a part of the store, saying "if we've got it, it's over there." He would continue reading until you came to the cash register, at which time he'd put his finger back in his spot in the book, ring up the sale, make change and put your book in a bag, all without losing his place in his book. Although your 21st century Bookstore hopes it offers more helpful service, we are still avid readers with a passion for books, just like the founders.

Jack and Marguerite Rice purchased The Bookstore from the Du Jardins in 1973. The south half of the store was made into a record shop, and The Bookstore was limited to the north half. According to their son David Rice, it was named "The Book Store - M. Rice - Prop. 1973" in order to hearken back to the small town stores his parents had known in their youth. David remembers many New Year's Days spent doing end-of-the-year inventory at the Book Store with his extended family, watching bowl games on a portable TV they'd set up in the store. David speaks fondly of his time spent as co-manager on and off throughout the 1980's, enjoying the camaraderie with fellow booksellers. Camaraderie with fellow readers is still the key to The Bookstore's success over 30 years later.

In 1987, Marguerite Rice was ready to retire and sold the Book Store to Barb and Dwight Reed, who owned it until 1997. In 1997, the Reeds retired to operate another independent bookstore in Frankfort, Michigan. Jane Stroh had been an employee of the bookstore since 1985, and in 1997, she and her husband Tim purchased it from the Reeds. Although the store is known in town as "The Bookstore," its official name is "Just the Bookstore, Inc." I heard that when people would ask Jane for the name of her new business, she would say "The Bookstore," and they would say, "just The Bookstore?" Jane's reply: "Yes, just The Bookstore."

I've always loved the name "Just the Bookstore." It's a little self-deprecating, a little falsely modest; we are, after all, much more than just a bookstore. We'd like to think we're a meeting place, a salon, or a community center. We've encouraged generations of Glen Ellyn children to read. We've employed many smart, bookish teens, and sent them off to success at some of the finest colleges. We've been there for you for 50 years, perhaps counselling you through personal troubles or celebrating your success by recommending just the right book or the perfect poem. We gossip, we chat, we laugh. We make faces at your squirmy babies; we humor your Twilighty teens, and we support your charitable causes. But most of all, we share our love of reading with the village we truly love. And thankfully, for 50 years now, the village has loved us back.

So in honor of all of these wonderful things, The Bookstore has been hosting a 50th anniversary celebration all year long. Every month, we've held a raffle for a $50 gift certificate to The Bookstore. Anyone who spends more than $50 that month is included in the raffle. In honor of its 50th year in Glen Ellyn, The Bookstore was also a key sponsor of the 1st Annual Downtown Glen Ellyn Bookfest, and was responsible for bringing notable authors to our village for the first time for some truly unique literary events. Finally, in a desire to to not only give back to the community but also to promote literacy in Glen Ellyn, The Bookstore has been the proud sponsor of the 50 Hour Readathon, a benefit for the Glen Ellyn Children's Resource Center that took place over a 50-hour period in June.

All of the teams and participants in the Readathon are invited to our celebration, where awards will be announced and prizes will be presented. The categories include: Team Spirit Award, Most Voracious Reader, Most Voracious Readathon Team, and Most Money Raised (Team). Even if you didn't participate in the Readathon, we hope you can make it to the party to help us thank those who did.

Please join us! Call (630) 469-2891 or e-mail us at to RSVP. If you have your own stories to add, please comment below.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Book Blogger Appreciation Week: Bookstore Blogs

Starting a bookstore blog has been one of the best things our bookstore ever could have done to meet the challenge of the digital age. Our little bricks and mortar store suddenly had a voice that could be heard far away from the store. You used to have to wait for customers to drop in during business hours and browse. We'd take the time to chat about our staff picks or the latest hot book club choices, and hopefully sell armfuls of books to eager readers. And of course we still do that every single day. But thanks to our blog, we can also have those conversations while our customers are in their jammies, on the couch or on the road.

Our main goal has always been to communicate with our customers -- we link to the blog in every customer e-newsletter - and to bring to them a focus on books and events that we don't have time for in a short newsletter. But we've also used our blog to connect to the wider world of bloggers, readers, authors and fellow indie booksellers out there, and we've learned that it makes us better booksellers. We're more up to date on new releases, we hear the buzz from other bloggers, and we make friends and connections that help us put good books into the hands of good customers.

So, in recognition of what blogging has and can yet do for our bookstore, we are entering our blog in the Book Blogger Appreciation Week Niche Award Category for Bookstore Blogs. It's hard to choose which posts are our favorite (isn't it like admitting you have a favorite child?) but here's the list:

1. General Bookstore Post #1: What Your Indie Will Do For You (6/30/10)

2. General Bookstore Post #2: Introducing: Book Blogger Bookmarks at The Bookstore (3/3/10)

3. Book Recommendation #1: Remarkable Creatures, Remarkable Women (1/17/10)

4. Book Recommendation #2: April Picks on the Staff Pick Shelf at The Bookstore (5/1/10)

5. Book Recommendation #3: Local Author's Latest Book, Stray Affections, Is Featured In Bookstore Window (11/27/10). (In case the judges consider this post more of a general bookstore post than a book recommendation post, I will offer one more book recommendation post for consideration.)

6. Book Recommendation #3.5: The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi Durrow (2/15/10)

We're really looking forward to being a part of this year's BBAW. Here's wishing good luck and great reading to the judges and all the other book bloggers.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Staff Pick: The Nobodies Album by Carolyn Parkhurst

Our customers probably saw Nobodies Album by Carolyn Parkhurst on the sidebar of our July newsletter under "Staff Picks," but I wanted to tell you how it got there and why we love it as much as we do.

As you can see, the picture on the cover is beautiful, mysterious and sad, which makes it absolutely perfect for this book. It looks like a little boy is lost at sea, standing on a life preserver, looking away from the viewer. That's how the book starts: there is a grown boy who needs to be saved, but he's looking away.

There are many wonderful layers to this book. In one way, it's the story of Octavia Frost's effort to save her 27 year-old son Milo, from whom she's been estranged for four years. Milo is a young rock star accused of murdering his girlfriend in their MTV-style Hollywood home. But it's not just murder charges from which Milo needs to be saved. He needs to be saved from the pain of a family tragedy that occurred when he was a boy, from the wounds of being a survivor in a fractured family, and from the harm that more recently came from his own mother's words. Milo was deeply hurt by the way Octavia described a fictional family in one of her previous novels; it came too close to being an autobiographical account of their own family tragedy. Parkhurst reveals Octavia and Milo's true family history so slowly and tenderly that when you finally learn what happened, you feel like you've suffered their loss as well. You'll "get" Milo and you'll want to save him too.

But in the meantime there's a mystery to solve, aging rockers to meet, and most importantly, books to rewrite. Even before the murder, Octavia had sensed that she wanted to rewrite her life and to reach out to Milo. She had just rewritten the endings of her previous novels in a genre-bending new manuscript called Nobodies Album, named for a musical game she and Milo used to play. As if lifted from Octavia's imaginary manuscript, there are sections in this book for each of Octavia's previous novels that include the title, the jacket copy, the published ending and Octavia's revised ending.

For the reader, these fascinating faux-novels can work like complimentary short stories that reveal even deeper truths about Octavia and Milo's past. You'll find yourself playing games with these stories-within-the-story: which one is your favorite? Which one had the best revised ending? Would it change anything if Milo would read the revised endings, or is Octavia's apparent change of heart enough? Can you ever really rewrite your life?

My favorite story was The Human Slice. It could stand alone as a haunting short story about parental regret, loss and memory. A whole family suffers when baby Jonah dies in a horrible, preventable tragedy. Later, a strange new disease strikes their community and causes selective memory loss, so that those who are stricken are unable to remember sad events. Is it a gift to be relieved of the pain of remembering Jonah, or is it a loss? If you're like me, that question will haunt you for a long time to come.

The unique combination of these highly original faux-stories with a rock-star murder mystery and a lovely tale of mother-son reconciliation makes for a fabulously original, deeply satisfying read. Please stop in and pick up Nobodies Album before your own summer is nothing but a memory.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

What Your Indie Will Do For You

This is just a little story about a little indie that has been a valued part of our small village life for over 50 years. And maybe you'll see why we're still here, in spite of all the odds against small-time booksellers.

A customer strolled in yesterday looking for a book to read while her car was going to be repaired. And I sympathized. The only thing worse than waiting for car repairs is waiting for car repairs without a book. It's unimaginable. It's torture.

She had a couple of books in mind, and one of the was The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. "Ooh, I said, that is a good one." But of course we were out. I checked the computer, and I learned that it would be in the next UPS shipment due to arrive any minute. (We love our adorable UPS man Gary, who cheerfully stacks our boxes in groups according to Purchase Order number, making it so easy to unpack and sort.) I asked the customer: "What time is your car appointment? If you can stay and browse for a little while, the UPS man will probably be here soon."

That's when my colleague Jenny, who is a contagiously cheerful gal, looked out the window and said: "Oh my goodness, there goes Gary now!" She jumped up and chased Gary down the sidewalk, where his dolly was parked in front of another shop. Jenny checked the packing slip on each box that was addressed to The Bookstore, and found the one we wanted. She opened the door of the other shop, and hollered to Gary: "I just stole one of our boxes!" and ran back to the store like she had just captured the flag.

Our customer was thrilled. We opened the box with the excitement of a couple of four year-olds at Christmas. We all had a good laugh. And our customer said: "I'm going to tell everyone about this. This is the best customer service I have ever seen! They don't do this at [fill-in-the-blank-big-box-bookstore]!"

Damn right.

Because that's why we're here. We love getting books in the hands of readers, and we'll even chase down the UPS man to do it. And maybe that's why we've been here for over 50 years.

Just a little something to think about as you start your Independence Day celebrations. Declare your independence and resolve to shop more Indie.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Bookfest Wrap-Up

First of all, a huge heartfelt thank you to all of the wonderful folks who made it to The 1st Annual Downtown Glen Ellyn Bookfest: A Village Celebrates Books. It takes an unbelievable amount of faith to plan an inaugural event like this, and what can The Bookstore say, but thank you - we did it! And whoever arranged for that beautiful blue sky day in the middle of a stormy week: we owe you.

It took a village to put it together - literally. We had an incredible partnership with The Downtown Alliance, Bundles of Books and the Glen Ellyn Public Library. Rosemary from Bundles of Books first suggested the idea of bringing local authors to downtown retailers through the Downtown Alliance, but The Bookstore and the Library took it even further by planning an entire day's worth of literary events. We hope you got to participate in some of these truly unique events!

My own Bookfest Day began at Bells & Whistles Snackery, where The Bookstore and Bundles of Books hosted a social networking breakfast for writers and readers. Sue and I represented The Bookstore, and met a lot of the participating area authors. We introduced them to our book blogging friend and collaborator, Jen Karsbaek from, and business cards flew from hand to hand.

Our own in-house event, "Bagels at The Bookstore" started at 10am with the wonderful Pamela Ferdinand, Chicago area co-author of Three Wishes, and continued with Dick Nogaj, the founder of Habitat for Humanity DuPage, and the author of Don't Retire, Get Inspired. The Bookstore buzzed all day with Bookfest excitement.

In the meantime, my colleague Jenny was handling all of the author events over at the library, including a children's event with Glen Ellyn children's book author Bob Raczka and Wheaton author and historian Glenette Tilley Turner. Jenny also handled the Featured Author Event at The Glen Oak Restaurant with 68 Rooms children's author, Marianne Malone. Jenny says it was an awesome event, and assured me "it was everything you hoped it would be!" Families have already marked their calendars for our Family Author Luncheon next year!

While Jenny and Marianne had the kids enthralled, I was hosting an appearance for our Adult Author Luncheon at Bistro Monet. What a wonderful pairing: Stephanie Cowell is the author of a new book, Claude and Camille: A Monet Novel, which is about young Claude Monet and his first wife Camille. Bistro Monet planned a delicious three-course luncheon to match. Stephanie charmed every last guest with her stories about young Claude, whom she compared to the irresistible Johnny Depp. (Which has already got me thinking about movie rights and casting!) We all made a wonderful connection with Stephanie, who honored us with unbelievable praise on her blog, calling it "one of the loveliest book events of my writerly life."

Sue and I were thrilled to have our friend Barbara Rinella, a Chicago area book review celebrity, join us at Bistro Monet. Barbara has a huge following as a performer and book dramatist; her act is part stand-up comedy, part celebrity impersonation and part literary review. Over the years, Chicago area readers have enjoyed her dramatizations of such books as The Commoner, The Life of Pi, Loving Frank, John Adams, Shanghai Girls, The Other Boleyn Girl and many more. I'm not going to make any major announcements on Barbara's behalf, but I'm just saying she could do a real bang-up job personifying Camille Monet. I think she got some great material from our lunch with Stephanie Cowell. Barbara Rinella fans, stay tuned!

After lunch, there was a terrific panel discussion at the library between Melanie Benjamin, Glen Ellyn author of Alice I Have Been and Kelly O'Connor McNees, Chicago area author of The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott. I wasn't able to be there (bummer -that's the only downside of being an event organizer - you can't make every event!) but everyone who did told me they did a great job and had a wonderful discussion. What a great team. By the way, did you hear? Kelly's book was selected for Oprah's 2010 Summer Reading List? Woo hoo!

The library also had a series of afternoon events for kids and teens, including storytelling workshops and a Teen Poetry Slam.

In the meantime, much of The Bookstore staff was over at Glenbard West High School, preparing for Elizabeth Berg's appearance and book signing. What a perfect setting for her new book, The Last Time I Saw You, which is about a 40th high school reunion. Elizabeth was warm and funny, as was Charlene Baumbich, one of our favorite local authors who introduced her. One of my favorite parts of every book reading is the Q and A, and Elizabeth Berg is masterful at it. Someone asked her how her early nursing career affected her writing, and her response is still fresh in my mind: she said that nursing taught her "unconditional acceptance" of the patient -- and thinks that ability to empathize with others has made her a better writer. Think about it: Elizabeth's unconditional acceptance of her own characters must be what gives them such honesty and truth. Interesting.
Anyway, for our final Bookfest event of the day (whew!) we got to go enjoy a program called "Get Lit" at Tap House Grill, hosted by area authors Charlene Baumbich and J.A. Konrath. What a great way to unwind from an exciting day! We got to hear all about Charlene's new book that will be released on September 21st: Divine Appointments, the second book in her Snowglobe Series. Fans, stay tuned for more information about her upcoming reading and book signing!

For those of you who came and enjoyed this inaugural event, you'll be happy to know that we're already thinking about next year. We're taking the feedback we've received from authors and participants, and hope to make it even better. For those who missed it, you don't want to miss it again! Pencil in Saturday, June 18, 2011, the week right after Printers Row Litfest. We'll keep you posted through our e-newsletter, Facebook and Twitter.

But first, I'm going to enjoy some good summer reading. Just for the fun of it -- no fancy events involved -- just my book, my front porch and me.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A Great Read for Teens on a Mission: The Heart is Not a Size

As Glen Ellyn teens prepare for their summer volunteer projects, including the big Team Readathon this weekend, we thought we'd share a reading recommendation. A good book doesn't just distract and entertain, a really good book can also inspire. So whether your teen volunteer work takes you near or far, we think you'll be both entertained and inspired by this book, The Heart is Not a Size by Beth Kephart.

Beth Kephart has written a guest post for The Bookstore's blog. Enjoy her insight, advice and perspective as a person who has been on church missions herself:

"There's something about getting up and out of the house and into the world of others that can change the shape of a life, and even the shape of a heart. I've always been happiest when plunged into a classroom of aspiring writers or polishing the pews in my church, or photographing young dancers in their first real performance on a stage, or helping a neighbor plant a garden.

I was enormously happy, too, when I joined my husband, son, and several others from my church on a mission trip to Juarez, Mexico, in the summer of 2005. We were there to help build a community bathroom in a squatter's village. We were also there to get to know the children and families who live without running water and in terrible poverty. I don't think I slept more than a half hour that entire week. I hardly ate, and the dust and heat were overwhelming. But my heart was so full of the people I met and the stories that they told that I felt just slightly empty when I returned home. I wanted the chance to do more.

There's an alivedness that erupts from those experiences, a goodness that settles in, a greater perspective about the world, and a deeper knowledge about yourself. And there's need everywhere - a chance to do good without ever stepping onto a plane or even leaving your own neighborhood. You can bring a meal or two to those homebound by age or illness. You can help teach someone new to this country how to read, or you can organize a fundraiser on behalf of a family in need, or you can make arrangements to have your choir sing at a retirement home. Whatever you do, it will make a difference - to those you serve, and to yourself.

I encourage you to check out these web sites, for inspiration:"

-Beth Kephart

Stop in TheBookstore for your copy of The Heart is Not a Size. It would make a great Readathon book this weekend!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Readathon Update: Bells and Whistles 50 Hour Reading Station

Readathon Update:

We are thrilled to report an exciting offer from Bells & Whistles in support of our 50 Hour Readathon the weekend of June 18-20!

In case you haven't heard about the Readathon yet, The Bookstore decided to celebrate its 50th Anniversary by hosting a 50 Hour Readathon to benefit the Glen Ellyn Children's Resource Center.

We have brochures at The Bookstore explaining the rules, along with Reading Logs and Pledge Forms. Sounds complicated, but it all boils down to this: (1) gather a bunch of readers, (2) read whatever you want over one weekend (June 18-20), and (3) collect some money from folks who want to support our efforts for the GECRR. The goal is for your team to reach a total of 50 hours ALL TOGETHER over the entire weekend. So it's totally doable, especially if your team is big.

You must report your results to The Bookstore by July 1st (basically two questions: how many hours? and how much money?) Every single dime of the money you collect goes to the GECRR. The Bookstore will have a Birthday Party for all of the participants at the end of the summer where we announce the awards. Free cake too!

Readathon organizers are encouraging participating teams of readers to read together on the day of the GE Bookfest (June 19th), and we've been working to select a handful of Readathon Reading Stations for the day of the GE Bookfest. One of the Rain or Shine stations will be The Bookstore window. A sign-up sheet for one-hour time slots is available at the desk.

But now we have an announcement about an even more awesome Reading Station! Bells & Whistle Snackery has stepped up to the plate and volunteered to help in a big way. And I mean a really BIG. WAY. They have offered to host a "50 Hour Reading Station" at Bells & Whistles. That's right. It actually lasts 50 hours! Bring your sleeping bags! Can't make the entire 50 hours? No biggie - any hours spent reading that weekend count, whether or not you make it to 50. You can also find a "pinch reader."

Here's the scoop: It starts at 6am on Saturday, June 19th with breakfast. They're offering 50% off all meals, free coffee and ice cream over the entire 50 Hour period, and then a free breakfast on Monday morning at the end of the Readathon! They're getting the word out to area teens and are offering to verify time spent at the Readathon for any service hours students might need for school or church. Obviously, teens will need a parent's permission to participate.

The Bookstore was so pumped up by Bells & Whistles offer that we have donated over two dozen free books to the Bells & Whistles Reading Station. We picked titles that we thought would appeal to older kids and teens, and they are free for any participants to read during the Readathon. (You can even take them home when you're done.)

To sign up for the Bells & Whistles Reading Station, e-mail them at They will have Reading Logs and Pledge Forms at the Snackery, so you don't have to do anything but show up with your sleeping bag and a lot of spirit!

Many many thanks to Bells & Whistles for their participation in the Readathon. Partnerships like this is what our village is all about. And it's all for a good cause: the kids in our village who need a little more help to succeed. So lets do it.

For more information, call The Bookstore at (630) 469-2891.