All posts by trav

At the heart of it all, I’m a fan. A fan of books and bookstores. A fan of fiction and non-fiction. A fan of authors and publishers. And most of all I’m a fan of great conversations sparked by books. All that to say - I really need more bookshelves.

New Books I Am Looking Forward To This September

Books about books are my absolute favorite. I love them all and if this batch of new books hitting store shelves this September are any clue, it’s going to be a great fall season. Anyway, I figure, if you’ve happened to land on this blog, these may be books you’d want on your radar as well.

Here are three that I am looking forward to reading. They all come out in September 2018:

I’d Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life by Ann Bogel. This is one I’ve pre-ordered. It officially releases September 4, 2018 in hardcover. I’ve not read Bogel’s other book, but I do keep up with her popular bookish podcast What Should I Read Next. She is a huge lover of books and seems to be an even bigger fan of readers, so I think this short collection centered on “the reading life” will be very interesting.

The Lost Art of Reading: Books and Resistance in a Troubled Time by David Ulin. I LOVE the idea of “reading as a political act”. I honestly believe that if everyone would just sit down, slow down and read more books, the world would be a much better place. I’m anxious to see what Ulin has to say on the matter. This one came out back in 2010, but this new 2018 hardcover edition (releasing September 4, 2018), being published by the cool folks at Sasquatch Books, has a little extra added in reframing the book in light of the current condition of things.

Bibliophile: An Illustrated Miscellany by Jane Mount. There are a gazillion miscellany books out there about books, reading and the like. But Mount’s new hardcover book will certainly earn a place on the bookshelf due to her unique book-loving artwork. Back in 2012, she did a book with Thessaly La Force titled My Ideal Bookshelf and it remains a fun one to pull down to flip through. It’s a big hit with visitors at the house too.

Book Review: White Tears by Hari Kunzru

Hari Kunzru’s newest novel White Tears follows a couple privileged hipster college-educated white boys as they try to chase down, record and sell authentic black music from the dawn of the blues era. But what starts out as a snarky take on cultural appropriation and the current music scene in the U.S., ends up taking a dark turn down into the pits of American segregationist history.

For all of the beauty and fresh authentic sounds the American blues brings us, we forget why it’s called the “blues”. The stories, horrors and ghosts that gave birth to all the haunting words and rhythms were real. And it was bad.

Kunzru’s story zips back and forth through time, pulling on threads and connecting dots between the pain that birthed the blues, music laws, the 1960’s music industry and the “only vinyl will do” trends of the current decade.

I enjoyed the beginning of the book and the writing is solid. I wasn’t expecting the honest-to-goodness ghost story that crept up to help drive home the point of cultural appropriation and entitlement, but I have an appreciation for why and how Kunzru did this. Sometimes we just don’t know what we’re messing with and should just leave it alone.

It’s good to stop while reading this book and think about how the ideas are playing out “for real” in the story. It’s easy to forget the sting of all those ideas and themes, once the story starts chugging along and characters start dying and disappearing mysteriously.

I have to admit I’m a sucker for a well done all-type book cover and White Tears does look good (it’s another great one by the modern dust jacket master Peter Mendelsund) face out. Overall, I give White Tears a 3 out of 5 stars.

Price Matching at Barnes and Noble

Yesterday, I had a great Barnes and Noble experience, in Birmingham, as they are now letting customers get the BN.com price, in the store, and I want to share.

I needed a copy of Mark Larabee’s Pacific Crest Trail book (which is a beautiful book, by the way). I called my indie shop down the street and they didn’t have a copy.

I went to BN.com and saw that the book was $36 (which matched other online retailers) compared to the $50 in-store price. That’s a great discount. I was also able to see that a local Barnes and Noble store had it in stock.

Then I remembered a little birdie telling me that B&N is running a price matching program for B&N Members. I am not sure why they aren’t trumpeting this.

I walked in a local Barnes and Noble and asked the manager about it. She confirmed that it is real and then shared some of her thoughts about it. I would say she was neither plussed nor upset about the practice, just that…

“…customers have been confused by the different prices in store and online and have been asking for this for a long, long time”.

I thought that a pretty fair assessment.

All I had to do was go up, give them my B&N Membership number and the cashier showed me the special “compare to current BN.com price” button, on the register. It took all of 2 seconds and I checked out with the lower online price + tax. The cashier said that if you always ask for the comparison (again after your member # has been entered) the system will give you the lowest price possible. So if your member discount drops the in-store price lower than the online price, you’ll still come out ahead.

This is exactly the kind of customer-focused thinking Barnes and Noble needs to be doing.

  1. I was able to research prices and availability online
  2. I could have even reserved a copy online
  3. I was able to go to a local store, pay local taxes, and get the lowest price Barnes and Noble was offering, online or off.
  4. I had my book immediately (which even beats free 2 day delivery)

Hopefully, more customers will use this price-matching program. It leverages the best pieces B&N has access to, and will keep them  relevant and front-of-mind for local readers. These kinds of services can help them win in a way that all their past experiments, with in-store restaurants and bars, just can’t do.

Happy Holidays & Happy New Year!

I love this time of year. Things seem to slow down just a tad, just before the new year, and allow some room for quiet and even spurts of uninterrupted reading. Joy!

I do hope that you have been able to carve out some moments of peace this holiday and that the stress of things piling up in the weeks ahead isn’t too daunting. It can be a scary feeling.

One of the books I managed to finish last week was Nicholas Basbanes’ Among the Gently Mad and it had a few bookish Christmas facts in there.

  1. The first time “Merry Christmas” appereared in print was in a travel book printed in 1617
  2. The first illustration of Saint Nick was in 1863
  3. The first commercially printed Christmas card was in 1843
  4. The earliest known printed illustration of Santa coming down a chimney is from 1841

I have to admit to being surprised at just how young Santa is.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the book, which offers tours and thoughts behind people who collect books and associated artifacts. Basbanes has been at the bookman game a long time. Though I was bummed that I was coming to this book late. It was published in 2002. So many of the radio shows, blogs, dealers, names, etc. aren’t relevant these days. I hate that I missed out on something called The Book Guys Radio Show, which seems to have had a long life, before being cancelled.

New Year’s Eve has always been one of my favorite holidays. It’s one of the few times there is some semblance of a global party and you get the sense that for a split second everyone is looking forward together. I hope you stay safe and have a fun time as we welcome 2018!

May you read lots of worthwhile words in the new year ahead.