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!