Sunday, February 28, 2010

Book Buzz at The Bookstore's 10th Annual Book Group NIght

Pictured here are Jane, Jenny and Margie at The Bookstore's 10th Annual Book Group Night, holding some books that they just "couldn't put down."

In case you couldn't make it, we're posting a list of staff picks we discussed that night, along with a list of favorites from the local book clubs. If your club didn't make it, or if your favorite isn't listed below, feel free to add a comment with your own book club recommendation!

Jane's Picks:
Generosity by Richard Powers (paperback 8/10)
Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier (hardcover 1/10)
Saving Cee Cee Honeycutt (hardcover 1/10)
The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters (paperback 5/10)
Strength in What Remains by Tracy Kidder (paperback 5/10)
Stray Affections by Charlene Baumbich (paperback)
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead (Newbery 2010, hardcover)

Jenny's Picks:
The Crying Tree by Naseem Rekha (paperback 6/10)
Delicate Edible Birds by Lauren Groff (hardcover 1/09)
Spooner by Pete Dexter (hardcover 9/09)
Under This Unbroken Sky by Shandi Mitchell (hardcover 9/09)
Peace by Richard Bausch (paperback)
A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz (paperback)

Sue's Picks:
Ms. Hempl Chronicles by Sarah Shun-Lie Bynum (paperback)
Someone Knows My Name by Lawrence Hill (paperback)
The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa (paperback)
Last Night in Twisted River by John Irving (paperback 6/10)
This Is Where I Leave You By Jonathan Tropper (paperback 6/10)
Let The Great World Spin by Colum McCann (NBA 2009, paperback)
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese (paperback)

Margie's Picks:
Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin (hardcover 1/10)
The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi Durrow (hardcover 2/10)
Where the God of Love Hangs Out by Amy Bloom (hardcover 1/10)
One Amazing Thing by Chitra Divakaruni (hardcover 2/10)
Homer and Langley by E.L. Doctorow (paperback 8/10)
The Postmistress by Sarah Blake (hardcover 2/10)
The Hummingbird's Daughter by Luis Urrea (paperback)

Even More Picks:
Litte Bee by Chris Cleave (paperback 2/10)
A Short History of Women by Kate Walbert (paperback 6/10)
Manhood for Amateurs by Michael Chabon (paperback 5/10)
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (2/10)
Half the Sky by Sheryl WuDunn (paperback 6/10)
A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore (paperback 9/10)
31 Hours by Masha Hamilton (hardcover 9/09)
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (Booker Prize 2009, hardcover)
Notes from the Underwire by Quinn Cummings (paperback)
Union Atlantic by Adam Haslett (hardcover 2/10)

Your Book Club Favorites:
Little Bee by Chris Cleave
Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann
31 Hours by Masha Hamilton
Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum
Sarah's Key by Tatiana Rosnay
Same Kind of Different as Me by Ron Hall
Moonflower Vine by Jetta Carleton
Still Alice by Lisa Genova
Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

We'd love to make this an ongoing list, so whenever you have a great book club discussion, just post a comment here or send us an e-mail ( and we'll add it to the list!

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Votes Have Been Counted, and the Winner Is?

The Bookstore's Customer Favorite for the Decade, 2000-2009: Harry Potter!

After all the votes were counted, the clear winner was Harry Potter, pictured here "on the podium" with its very own gold medal. It couldn't happen to a nicer book.

We decided to combine all votes, rather than have a separate children's category. After all, many adults enjoy kids and young adult titles from Harry Potter to Twilight. You can tell from the handwriting on the ballots that many of the Harry Potter votes were from adults. (There was a surge of support from the slightly messier kids' ballots for Gregor the Overlander!)

For parents like me, some of our favorite memories over the last decade have come from sharing the excitement over the Harry Potter books with our children, who literally grew up with Harry and Hermione. My kids and I were so impatient to read the newest book that we were unwilling to share - I had to buy one book for each of us. We'd drag our sleeping bags out onto the front porch, and read with flashlights until the wee hours of the night. It was magical.

Some might argue that it's not fair, after all, the Harry Potter series had four books released in the past decade, from Goblet of Fire to Deathly Hallows. But still, we've only closed Main Street for one book in the history of The Bookstore: Harry Potter. Everyone at The Bookstore dreams that some day, there will be another book that can close Main Street at midnight. Until then, Harry Potter stands alone on the podium.

Bringing home the silver medal: Bel Canto by Ann Patchett, a personal favorite. After that, we were surprised how varied the vote was; the vast majority of books received only one or two votes. Which really confirms what we try to do here at The Bookstore, and that is to find the perfect book for the right reader. We can't wait to do it for another decade . . . and beyond.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi Durrow

I can't wait to help spread the word about this wonderful book by Heidi W. Durrow. It's the debut work of a young author who has already won the Bellwether Prize for Fiction, an award founded by Barbara Kingsolver to recognize works of fiction that promote social justice.

It's the coming of age story of a young biracial girl who is the sole survivor of a mysterious family tragedy. Rachel moves from Chicago to her grandmother's house in a mostly black neighborhood of Portland, Oregon. Her father is an African-American GI who met her Danish mother while on leave in Europe. Rachel is trying to figure out who she is, where she fits in, and how to make sense of her history. It's the story of every girl, but yet so much more complicated. It's tender and gentle, but difficult, poignant and thought-provoking.

Life isn't easy for Rachel, a light brown-skinned, half-African-American-half-Danish girl with bright blue eyes and "nappy hair." Her new friends accuse her of "talking white." This novel explores what it's like to live a life that requires so many hyphens. It makes you wonder: why do we still categorize people when we live in a modern melting pot world? Aren't we all a mix of something? And it's often not just black or white.

But still, young Rachel's task is more difficult than most. When she explains she is half Danish, people respond: "oh, really?" with that tone of voice that makes it a challenge. One of my favorite scenes is when Rachel is invited to a Scandinavian family dinner with a friend. Food is family, memory and heritage, and Rachel needs a good taste of kartoffel , bonner and aguker salat after a long, lonely fast from her Danish mother's cooking. Rachel thinks: "I don't want the Danish in me to be something that time makes me leave behind." It makes you want to raise your glass and give a hearty "Skal!" to this wonderful girl.

The book has haunting parallels with Nella Larsen's Passing, the 1929 story of a biracial woman who died in a mysterious fall out of a window. I'm already planning to order a copy of that book for follow-up reading.

The Girl Who Fell From the Sky would make a great discussion for a book club, or a great cross-over for teens. I had the chance to meet Heidi Durrow at the ABA's Winter Institute, and she's as nice as she is smart. I'm happy to put her book on the Staff Pick shelf at The Bookstore.