Category Archives: Book Column

Bookmarks Magazine

It’s a special day when my issue of Bookmarks magazine arrives in the mailbox every couple of months. It’s one of the few magazine subscriptions that I have held onto over the years and I can say with certainty that I will keep it as long as they stay in print.

I’m always surprised how many bookish friends are unfamiliar with the magazine. Have you heard of it?

It only comes out 6 times a year, but every issue is dripping with bookish info. At their core, they are a book review aggregator. For every book listed in each issue, they offer a brief synopsis, their collection of snippets from well known newspapers and online book sections, and a brief synopsis rolling up all of those  reviews they read and collected.

I have to say it’s been fun reading the reviews over the years and having a sense of how The NY Times and Washington Post and Huffington Post may differ on genre’s or authors or writing techniques. You really start to get a feel for the people behind the reviews, simply by paying attention to the trends over time.

Every issue always features a Book Club. This is always the first thing I turn to in each issue. It’s fun to read how all of the book clubs got started and how long they’ve been together. It’s also neat to read which books worked and did not work for their group discussions.

Bookmarks magazine also runs features each month. These spend a few pages talking about an author and their work as a whole, going title by title. Or (November/December 2017 issue) they’re focusing on “Books for Library Lovers”, which is a topic I will show up for!

If you keep up with the ‘book space’ then you’ll probably recognize 40% of the names, books, stories, etc. in each issue. I mean, all those books and authors are popular for a reason. But the rest of it is made up of reader-submitted lists, collections, recommendations and of course, the aggregated book review list.

It’s so fun. I’m always looking for other Bookmarks readers to converse with.

Do you read Bookmarks magazine?

Book Review: Want Not

Jonathan Miles’ novel Want Not came out 4 years ago, and it seems  even more relevant in 2017. It is my book club’s pick this November and I’m anxiously waiting our next meeting. If everyone read it, I expect there to be no lull in the conversation. It’s really good. And it’s good in that non-thriller sort of way. Which makes it really, really good.

It’s a patient book, drawing out three story lines that all circle this notion of over consumption and waste in America. Watching how the waste and excess of things our culture creates affects families, lovers, businesses, and society as whole, is truly thought provoking.

The story bounces back and forth between homeless folks intentionally “living off the land” of New York City, picking through the trash bins, a professor of linguistics having to get rid of all the things left behind from his divorce while dealing with his ailing father and the owner of a credit card debt collection agency, living in a McMansion neighborhood of a few houses, because the rest haven’t been developed.

One of the more interesting parts linguistic professor’s story is his project of having to write the warning signs for a nuclear dump. It’s to be an underground dump full of excess and spent nuclear materials that remain lethal for 10,000 years. So it’s trash that can kill.

But what language do you write the warning in? Very few languages last more than a few thousand years, what will they be speaking in 10,000 years? He and his cohorts debate symbols, colors, art, language and hieroglyphics. With that comes the realization that most of what archeologists dig up is just trash from thousands of years ago.

Jonathon Miles is probably best known for Dear American Airlines. That book was good and made me chuckle. But Want Not was better in a couple of ways. Want Not made me laugh out loud as well as really think about what society is doing to this planet and each other as we over produce a bunch of junk. It’s rare to find a book that makes you laugh while thinking big thoughts.

I give this book 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it to folks who want to meet some really quirky characters dealing with some thought provoking issues. I’m betting it’s going to be a great book club pick for us.

Have you read Want Not?

Thanksgiving Eve = Busiest Reading Day

The day before Thanksgiving has been declared the busiest reading day by Barnes & Noble. They’re basing this fact on research done during a survey project they had done.

Busiest Reading DayTheir numbers show that more than 75% of Americans will read a book, newspaper or magazine during Thanksgiving travel this year and that more than 70% of them say reading makes their travels more enjoyable and relaxing.

I always travel with a book and magazines. I often leave my magazines at the airports, on planes and such. I guess I hope the next passenger will appreciate the magazine as much as I did, but maybe they just think “how rude!” of me for leaving my used magazines laying around.

I’ve even stumbled on BookCrossing books in the past. Even though I was not interested in reading either, I thought it was awesome that someone would pay money for a book and then leave it out so that serendipity can play a hand in landing it in the lap of another reader.

I’ve yet to leave a BookCrossing book out and about, but I probably should.

Anyway. . . one of the quirkiest numbers to come out of the Barnes & Noble study is that:

25% of Americans think bringing a great book for Thanksgiving could get them out of an awkward family conversation.

I’d have to think about that one. I’m picturing sauntering into dinner with some kind of book holster (is there such a thing?) clipped to my belt, ready to draw my paperback at the first sound of an uncomfortable topic of conversation.

Today, I picked up Matthew Weiner’s (the writer/creator behind the TV show Mad Men) first fiction book Heather, the Totality and it’s only 138 pages. I’m not sure that’s long enough to keep anyone out of many conversations.

Hope you’re planning on reading something good next week.

Week 3: Be the Expert In Bookshops #nonficnov

Welcome to Week 3 of Nonfiction November 2017. Kim over at Sophisticated Dorkiness is hosting this time and has posted the prompt for this week, which is:

You can either share three or more books on a single topic that you have read and can recommend (be the expert), you can put the call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that you have been dying to read (ask the expert), or you can create your own list of books on a topic that you’d like to read (become the expert).

I have chosen to go the Be The Expert route and recommend some books I’ve read that will help you be an expert on: bookshops. I love book stores. Indie shops, chain stores, weird half-shelf spaces hidden in Publix crammed with paperbacks, garage sales, local authors selling from the back of their cars. I love shopping for books. And I am thankful for all those folks who realize how thin the margins are, how long the hours are, and how important local bookstores are to our communities.

So if you’ve ever wondered about how all the dots connect in running a bookstore, or if you’re like me and just love reading about bookshops, I’d recommend checking out these books.

Books on Bookshops

The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop: A Memoir, A History by Lewis Buzbee is a wonderful quick read. It is one of my favorite bookstore books to recommend to folks. Buzbee started out as a clerk in an indie bookstore and never left. He shares stories and insights into all aspects of the bookshop, from customer service, to the stock room, the history of book selling and debates whether or not books are getting too expensive.

Reluctant Capitalists by Laura Miller could almost be called a text book. It’s a pretty academic and data driven look at the last 100 years of book selling. This book is unique in its discussion of local bookshops being seen as noble or moral pursuits. It’s pretty dense on the page, but a solid read if you’ve ever found yourself wishing things “were like they were 50 years ago”. It’s a pretty detailed and hardcore book industry-geek book, but very well done.

My Bookstore by Ronald Rice falls squarely in the inspirational read for me. Many of the writings deserve underlining and being trumpeted. The book is simply a collection of essays from a bunch of authors talking about the “why” of bookstores and why they matter. It’ll have you raising a glass saying Cheers!, after many of the pieces.

 

One More Bonus Bookshops Book

Footnotes from the Greatest Bookstores by Bob Eckstein is a bonus book here. It’s just a wonderful little book that any bookshop lover will appreciate. Eckstein’s book is a collection of large postcard shaped paintings accompanied by blurbs. The short text shares interesting trivia or lore about the bookshop pictured in each painting and they even spill the beans on any famous celebrity types that might hang out there. It’s a really fun design opening on the short end of the book and is fun to flip through. It makes a good gift for bookish friends.

That’s it! Have you read any of these books? Any other good bookshop books I should check out? The Be The Expert is always my favorite week of Nonfiction November and the last time it I participated in Nonfiction November I shared books on book covers design, and it was pretty fun. If you like books, you should check out those titles too.