Category Archives: Book Talk

Week 2: Book Pairing #nonficnov

This week’s host for Nonfiction November 2017 is Sarah over at Sarah’s Book Shelves. This week all of the participants are to “pair up a nonfiction book with a fiction title”. As best as I can tell this is not limited to just books we’ve read in 2017.

So. . . we’re going to dig deep into the blacklists, blow the dust off some covers and recommend two reads that I think most any bibliophile would enjoy reading.

First up is my fiction pick with John Dunning’s BookedTo Die. This book hit store shelves in 1992 (so you can find a cheap paperback these days) and is a mystery read through-and-through. But it’s all about books and first editions and libraries. It’s hard to beat a good bibliomystery and Dunning’s book is a good one. It’s the first in his Cliff Janeway series. Janeway is a Book Scout and spends his days going through book stalls, stores, thrift stores, yard sales, and trash bins trying to find books he buy for a quarter and sell for $200. His eyes are always peeled for that “lost” first edition treasure while he’s appraising people’s private book collections. Lots of fun and solid (real world) facts about book collecting. So if you like Raymond Chandler-ish reads with a twist, you might want to check this one out.

A nice follow up to a bibliomystery about rare first editions is Nabokov’s Butterfly by Rick Gekoski. Gekoski is a real life bookman and makes his living in the world of rare manuscripts and antiquarian books. At under 250 pages, his book is an easy read. It shares some amazing stories about rare editions, publishing lore and backstories on a few famous authors. Many book collector’s and sales folks have written of their journeys, but where Gekoski’s excels is that he focuses more on the books and less on his career. Which is nice. So where Janeway is trying to track down old books, Gekoski has probably bought them, held them and sold them again. It’s a fun peek into a world many of us book lovers don’t get to participate in.

So that’s my pairing, one fiction and nonfiction read for folks who love to read about books.

I’m anxious to click around the blogs and see what other pairings people are putting out there this week.

Book Review: A Great Bookstore in Action

A Great Bookstore in Action is a slim 32-page volume printed in 1939. It’s a record of a speech given by Adolph Kroch (here is a detail rich obituary), who was a very successful Chicago-based bookseller, active in the 20’s and 30’s.

In just these few pages, Kroch comes across as a like minded soul that I’d love to have had coffee with. The book starts up with his recounting how he got started in book selling and ends with his sharing ideas of how to fix all that was broken with the bookselling industry.

I have to admit that it was fun to read his thoughts, from my 2017 armchair, and have the luxury of looking back to see what all has changed and, sadly, what things have not.

Appreciating the value of a good book while realizing the amazing event that takes place when a thoughtful bookseller connects the right book with the right reader, informs every page. Even today, this idea of a local community bookstore being able to guide its surrounding neighbors to worthwhile books is a lofty service.

He was an advocate for professionally training booksellers and publishers in some way. Thankfully we have much of that covered these days between what’s offered at the Denver Institute and all the classes the ABA have.

Kroch rightly saw the implications of good books over the cheap fluff that some publishers and sellers were pushing. He was very concerned about successful authors that were able to write a book a year. He was not happy about the growing number of books publishers were cranking out each year either. But even that what not a new concern in 1939. Here’s a poem he shared from the 1600’s:

Can you imagine what he’d think of the industry today?

He also offered up a few sentences about the trend in the reading public to pull away from books and look to the growing movie scene and music for entertainment. Imagine how flustered he’d be today with every prospective reader having the entire internet in their pocket.

This book certainly isn’t a “must read” for folks, but it’s a wonderful peek at what the book industry was like in the 1930’s in the United States.

I’m giving the book 3 out of 5 stars and recommend it to anyone interested in the history of bookstores.

Three Upcoming Birmingham Book Events

The gift giving season is just about here and I’m ready for all of the book signings and author events to kick into high gear. If you’re in the Birmingham, AL vicinity here are three upcoming book related events that may interest you.

Tuesday, November 7th, starting at 6 pm

Authors Hank Early (Heaven’s Crooked Finger) & Carrie Smith (Unholy City) will be signing their books at the Little Professor Book Center in Homewood.

Saturday, November 11th, 11:00 am – 03:00 pm

Join authors and readers for day of programs, signings, books and lunch as Southern Magic, the Birmingham chapter of Romance Writers of America, hosts Lynn Raye Harris and special keynote speaker #1 New York Times bestseller Abbi Glines. Tickets are $40 and there are plenty of books, goodie bags and door prizes.

Thursday, November 16th, starting at 5:00 pm

The Alabama Booksmith is hosting author David DiBenedetto for a signing of his new book S Is for Southern: A Guide to the South, from Absinthe to Zydeco, which compiles a bunch of A-Z stories, anecdotes and definitions from the folks and Garden & Gun magazine.

Week 1: My Year in Nonfiction #nonficnov

This week kicks off Nonfiction November 2017 and I’m excited to participate. Thank you to all the kind souls who have taken the time to coordinate and pull all the prompts and dates together.

This week is being hosted over at JulzRead, who is a new blogger to me, but after reading how she likes “books about books” and is working on a book spine staircase, I know we’d have tons of books to share and recommend. Anyway, here we go. . .

What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year?

This year I finally found a copy of Anatole Broyard’s Intoxicated By My Illness and was not disappointed. His writing, sense of self and the decision to tackle death head on with his eyes (and humor) wide open all tied together wonderfully for this book. Death is a tough topic but Broyard pulled no punches when remembering his life, those around him and his work as a literary critic.

What nonfiction book have you recommended the most?

I really have not recommended many books this year, but the nonfiction book I’ve talked about the most Robert Moor’s On Trails: An Exploration. Moor does a good job showing the impact of trails, maps and paths in our world. Everything from the historical (thinking about how today’s interstates follow ancient Native American paths) to the philosophical (the mindset that’s needed to walk a looooooooong way) to the future (big international groups still get together to debate the start/stop of the Appalachian Trail as it gains new land each year). It was a very specific and peculiar book. Fortunately, it was done very well.

What is one topic or type of nonfiction you haven’t read enough of yet?

I can never, ever, get enough ‘books about books’. It’s a passion. It’s never ending and it’s always hard to find other people taking the deep dive into bibliophilia. One of my faves this year was the coffee table book The Library Book by Thomas Schiff. Schiff takes these amazing 360 degree photos of libraries from around the world to give the reader a new perspective on the places, shelves and books. It’s a slow book. One where you want to study pages where massive ceiling frescoes warp and bend down to touch the tops of floor to ceiling bookshelves. It was a lot of fun.

What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?

Hands down, I want to discover new great books to read. But getting to meet all of the other book loving folks participating is certainly the icing on the cake.

If you’re interested in participating this year’s Nonfiction November, just check out any of the hosts’ blogs or follow along on all the socials by checking out the hashtag #nonficnov