And So We Give Thanks

Cynthia Compton -- November 22nd, 2017


….  for the bountiful blessings of spring advance copies, arriving daily by the boxful from our sales reps and publishers. Let their sturdy weight prop open our back doors so that the UPS and FedEx staff can wheel in the cartloads of holiday merchandise. We dream of someday reading these Spring and Summer offerings after the snow falls. Oh, wait, we have to shovel the sidewalk first, and add salt…

.to the turkeys. What were we thinking (???)  when we bought all that merchandise at summer gift shows, in tucked-away booths in the corners of the fall regionals, and from unsolicited emails from vaguely familiar gift rep groups, which we carefully unpacked and priced and displayed, just SURE that they would sell like last spring’s fad fidget…

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With Apologies to Edgar Allan Poe

Elizabeth Bluemle -- November 21st, 2017

Image courtesy of

The year’s cash flow for many bookstores dips just after summer and before the holidays. This is unfortunate timing. Fall is the biggest book-release season, so by the end of October and November, we have received hundreds of new books and thus owe a boatload of money to publishers in the two months *before* holiday shopping picks up. As I sat in my office paying bills the other day, a line from Poe’s famous poem, “The Bells,” began rolling through my brain, but instead of Poe’s “tintinnabulation of the bells, bells, bells,” I had a slightly different take. With apologies to our lyrical pal, Edgar A., here goes:

The Bills (dedicated to my colleagues in bookselling) Continue reading

A Literal Feast of Kid Lit

Leslie Hawkins -- November 20th, 2017

Does your love of kid lit permeate every aspect of your life? If you, like me, have been looking for a way to incorporate your love of children’s literature into this year’s Thanksgiving celebrations with family and friends, look no further than these cookbooks featuring a wide and somewhat quirky array of recipes drawn from the texts of classic children’s books. Continue reading

Giving Back for the Holidays

Meghan Dietsche Goel -- November 17th, 2017

Merrilee displays one of the hundreds of snowflakes she cuts every year.

Putting up our Giving Tree is a tradition that marks the beginning of our in-store holiday season. Inspired by the legendary Giving Tree program run by Carol Chittenden, former owner of Eight Cousins bookstore in Falmouth, Mass., our tree allows our customers to celebrate the holiday by giving books to those who need them the most. We fill the branches with hand-cut snowflakes tagged with kids’ names or book requests, depending on the featured organizations, and then our customers select and donate gifts to match. It’s an endeavor that I look forward to every year.

Our tree evolves based on our partners, so the format shifts from year to year. Sometimes organizations submit lists of specific kids whose first names and ages we print on snowflakes. Customers choose a name, select a gift, and leave it to be wrapped with the personalized snowflake as a one-of-a-kind gift tag. Sometimes, like this year, our snowflakes feature book requests from local high-impact nonprofits that we support. Continue reading

The Holiday 20 for 2017

Kenny Brechner -- November 16th, 2017

My great Norton rep Suzette Cianco was at the store today attempting to stop me from writing this post by showing up for an appointment in the afternoon before I could make time to write this, literally forcing me to do it in the late evening. Who knew she could be so evil?

Preparing for the Holiday Season, like getting ready for a long hike, has a pronounced way of sharpening our focus and attention. For me, nothing brings the year more sharply into view than preparing our holiday gift guide, which is composed of 20 books in 10 different categories. At this point you may be thinking, “aren’t you a bit of an ass, Kenny, to do all that work, selecting titles and writing blurbs? Why not just use a regional gift guide like a sensible bookseller?”

I actually don’t know the answer to that. You may be right, but I’ve done it this way for more years than there are books in the catalog. Here is my not entirely spurious reasoning. I provide the book section to two local newspaper gift guides, 10 for each paper, so it gets big circulation to the community at no cost to me. Most importantly, though, I consider it the core of our handselling strategy for the season, and the singular embodiment of both core missions of every bookseller. We are here to promote what we love, and also to provide what the community is interested in. Many times those are two separate categories. For the Holiday 20, though, I strive to pick books which we are completely behind and love, yet which will also make highly successful holiday gifts.

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A Bible of Bibliotherapy

Cynthia Compton -- November 15th, 2017

I found the most amazing book in the PGW display at my fall regional show (I’m a member of the House of Heartland; we wear TWO scarves, because it’s cold in the Midwest) and it’s been sitting behind our counter at the shop for the last few weeks, passed between staff members, consulted and wagered upon like a Magic 8 Ball of books. It’s called The Story Cure, An A-Z of Books to Keep Kids Happy, Healthy and Wise by Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin, published in 2016 in the U.K. by Canongate, and distributed by our PGW friends stateside last month. It’s the second book by these bibliotherapists-turned-authors, following their adult-themed The Novel Cure (Canongate, 2013) and it is a simply charming collection of bookish recommendations for all nature of childhood maladies, from “tummy aches to teenage mood swings”, for the times “when a book is the best medicine of all.”

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The Winner Is In for Desert Island Books

Elizabeth Bluemle -- November 14th, 2017

Last week, I challenged readers to narrow down their ‘desert island’ choices for picture book, middle grade, and young adult titles, just one book per category. In case you missed it, the guidelines for the contest—and more importantly, the responses—are here. All participants were entered into a drawing for a grand prize, where the winner receives autographed first editions of M.T. Anderson’s Landscape with Invisible Hand, Alison McGhee’s Pablo & Birdy, and Katherine Paterson’s My Brigadista Year. And the winner is:

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Nuts for Nonfiction

Meghan Dietsche Goel -- November 10th, 2017

A robust list of new and exciting nonfiction is crucial for the holidays. Fiction can be hard to choose for picky readers or kids that the gift buyer simply doesn’t know very well. But great nonfiction can win almost anyone over. Here are some of the books I’m excited to recommend this year. What about you?

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The 2017 Early Bird Report

Kenny Brechner -- November 9th, 2017

At this point I’ve  seen a lot of Holiday seasons come and go. Maybe not as many as a mature oak tree, but still, quite a few. There are many traditional retail elements to the season that become as helpful to a gnarled bookseller from a preparation point of view as a first frost is to our arboreal friends. One of my favorites is Downtown Farmington’s Early Bird Sale.

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Learning the Script

Cynthia Compton -- November 8th, 2017

It’s time for our store’s annual “IT’S 4TH QUARTER, LET’S PANIC!” staff meeting, a Sunday night pizza-and-pop extravaganza when we review all the events scheduled in the next two months (and I do some mea culpas for booking the dog rescue AND the ninja event on the same weekend WITH the offsite author festival AND the reindeer visit….), unveil all the new wrapping paper, and do some staff training for new and returning holiday help. We vote on our staff Top 10 book choices in the picture book, middle grade, and YA categories, debate the dress code for Plaid Friday, and engage in some wheeling-and-dealing over shift coverage to accommodate everyone’s holiday obligations. Somewhere between the breadsticks and the Cranberry Sprite, slip in some staff training on customer service. Specifically, I want to give our folks some helpful words and phrases to use in conversation with customers, and some “red hot lava” sentences to avoid. Just in case you’re in staff training mode, too, I’ll share my list of “please, never say this”:

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