Category Archives: Book Reviews

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.

The Almost Sisters – Book Review

No one does Southern family dysfunction quite like Joshilyn Jackson. Her newest book The Almost Sisters is no exception. She has introduced us to a new family of Southerners with layers of good intentions, questionable judgement, and conflicting emotions. Graphic novelist, Leia Birch Briggs finds herself pregnant as a result of a one-night stand (with a masked man, at that!) Before she can even get a handle on how her life is about to change, she must rush to Alabama, with her precocious tween niece in tow (due to her stepsister’s impending marriage explosion) to care for her grandmother, who, by all local accounts, is out of her ever-loving mind.)

The characters are interesting and believable and the plot is compelling and if that was all there was to this book, I’d still recommend it to all my friends. But what still has me chewing on this novel is the theme of “Two Souths,” an idea that due to our races, experiences, ages, and/or geographical locations, we don’t really live in or experience the same South. That’s a clunky way of wording it, but you get the gist. Maybe the current climate of the country is peppering my view, but I don’t think she’s ever taken racism on as directly as she has in The Almost Sisters. It was an uncomfortable read, at times, for this white Southerner. I came out on the other end of the story, though, with a new understanding of how little I understand of modern-day racial injustices.

This is a book review, not a social or political commentary and I don’t want to tell anyone what to learn from a story, so, I’ll leave it at this: come for the intriguing, flawed, characters (that will probably remind you of someone you know or are kin to), and a “oh no, she did not!” story, but be prepared to leave with a little extra empathy and social awareness.

Don’t be scared. It’s a good thing.

Jackson’s The Almost Sisters is available today!

(This book review is a guest post by B and it’s really appreciated as she did a great job with a book that I just would not have done justice with. Please note we receive an advanced reader’s copy, from the publisher, for review.)

“Just Mercy” – Book Review

Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy is one of those books that every functioning adult should read. To say this book had an impact on me is selling it short. Without a doubt, it is the book I recommend the most to people. Here’s the author’s site about the book.

Stevenson has a no-nonsense way of presenting the facts, the story and his point of view on all of it. Maybe it’s his training as a lawyer. Maybe it’s his up bringing. Maybe he’s just thought about race, relations, the law, the South, poor people, or history more than anyone else and has been mired in the good and the bad since he first went to work.

Just Mercy shines the light on the injustice (true injustice) that goes on these days. I won’t take the time to spout trends and numbers at you, but the real world (and recent!) story Stevenson shares about wrongly imprisoned people will wake you up. These things are not from the 1950’s, they are current issues.

I have to admit that when I first heard of Stevenson’s and the Equal Justice Initiative’s plans for a memorial on lynching – I didn’t get it. I honestly didn’t. But now that I’ve read his book, I totally get it.

Regardless of your experience with the law and race issues, regardless of your stance and opinions, regardless of what you think of poor people – this country must talk about it. We must listen to each other and decide what’s best for everyone.

Just Mercy is the best place I know of to get started. I hope you will take the time to give this book a read.

Five out of five stars and I’m recommending this book to anyone with a heartbeat.

(Please note that I did receive a free copy of this book to consider for review.)

“In Such Good Company” – Book Review

These days the celebrity memoir is usually soething to be avoided. However, Carol Burnett’s In Such Good Company is a breath of fresh air to the category and one not one for fans to miss.

I grew up watching the Carol Burnett Show with my family and there are a still a handful of lines that get mentioned and quoted at various family events. Some of the sketches from the show have achieved iconic status and it was fun to read the stories behind these moments.

The book reads almost as if Carol herself stopped by the house for a visit and is just swapping stories. Because, if you watched the show, you will remember every episode, every character and every actor she brings up.

I’m not sure what the difference is between this show and the funny shows I watch on tv these days. I mean I still laugh at what’s on, but while I was reading In Such Good Company I was smiling so big and laughing at just the memories of laughing. I have to admit, it was a little weird, but so good.

The book was really about the show and stories behind the episodes they did. So there’s no ‘tell all’ or drama or gossip, which is quite refreshing. It’s charming, classy and full of memories.

I don’t think they make television stars and personalities like Carol Burnett anymore, which is a shame. I’m glad there are re-runs and I’m glad to have read this book. I know a few folks in my family that will enjoy it too.

(Please note: this book was sent to me to review.)