This is my last blog for ShelfTalker. I am retiring from the bookstore at the end of the week to work at the Pride Center of Vermont. I have had a wonderful time writing this blog with Elizabeth, and now Kenny, the last seven years, both of whom will be continuing to delight ShelfTalker readers. And how quickly these years have flown by. I have had the privilege of writing about just anything I wanted to, from my first blog about my UPS driver having knee surgery, to my rants about why Amazon sucks, to my favorite books (new and old), and having the fun of sharing stories about my customers and bookselling life. While I’m very excited to begin this next chapter of my life, I will miss so much about bookstore life, it’s hard to even know where to begin. I think the thing about owning an independent bookstore that is so difficult to grasp for non-book lovers is the enormous sense of community the bookstore brings to all, from staffers to customers to once-a-year visitors. So, in no special order, here are the things I will miss. Continue reading
Monthly Archives: December 2016
Josie Leavitt - December 23, 2016
As we head into the long holiday weekend, hopefully filled with family, friends and lots of time of reading, all of us at the Flying Pig wanted to wish you a very Merry Christmas and joyful Hanukkah. May there be books you’ve wanted, books you’ve never heard of, and things to make reading more fun waiting for you this weekend. From all of us to all our readers: HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!!
Staff Photo Contest
Kenny Brechner - December 22, 2016
Most bookstores have some sort of tradition in place regarding staff photos, and DDG is no different in that regard. Actually, hold on a moment. Knowledge is a funny thing. I don’t really know that, I’m just assuming that it must be true. William of Ockham is sitting up in his grave totally aghast, horrified that he ever loaned me his razor. All right then, we’ll return to that idea at the end of the post, looking for a proof of concept, but for now let’s start again at the top.
DDG staff photos have long been marked by traditions. For the last decade these traditions have related to my assistant managers. From 2007-2012 my pal and old assistant manager Karen West took the staff photo because she hated to be photographed. What Karen never realized was that someone always held a big mirror in the center of the photo so that you could see Karen taking the photo in the middle. Remarkably she never cottoned on to this ploy. The other two continuity points were the participation of the store giraffe, Clarence, and the holding of our favorite books of the year.
My current assistant manager, the fabulous Karin Schott, is very partial to sheep. She owns sheep, is a professional grade knitter, and has seen to it that the store sheep appear in every photo, as seen here in this 2014 deeply sheep imbued staff photo. Continue reading
Now More Than Ever
Elizabeth Bluemle - December 20, 2016
“Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.” —Martin Luther King, Jr.
“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.” — Maya Angelou
People have been streaming into the bookstore, all with a common desire: to share worthwhile books with the people they care about. This passion is stronger than ever this year. We can feel a shift in shoppers’ priorities; families seem increasingly impatient with the consumer madness that overshadows what can be a warm, sparkly time at home with loved ones.
They want quality, not quantity, and this year, they are choosing content over entertainment. I don’t mean that people aren’t buying funny books, but snarky humor—often so popular this time of year—isn’t on their lists. People are looking for hope and greater understanding through books, and they want depth with their laughter.
In addition to the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World flying out of the store, we’ve had a lot of demand for things like I Heard God Laughing: Poems of Love and Joy, a lovely volume of poetry by Hafiz, and Mary Oliver’s newest collection of essays, Upstream: Selected Essays (pronounced “killer good!” by one of our staffers).
Customers buying books for children are especially interested when we recommend books that include hope and show resiliency of spirit in main characters. Since great books for children tend to excel at exploring those exact two things, there is no shortage of them to handsell. For instance, for middle grade kids, this means books like Kelly Barnhill’s The Girl Who Drank the Moon, Jason Reynolds’ As Brave As You, Susan Beckhorn’s The Wolf’s Boy.
There’s also a different aspect to people’s thoughtfulness about books, more felt than articulated. It’s not as “light” a year in mood, not surprisingly, as it was last holiday season. We have felt the commitment to meaningful books from all quarters. This year, our Snowflake Giving Program, which helps provide new books to children and teens through three local food shelves and nonprofit agencies, had the most children in need ever: around 200. And while that was our largest-ever number of recipients, it was also the fastest completed drive we’ve ever had. Our generous customers (who receive a 20% discount off the books and the joy of sharing their own family favorites with their neighbors) seemed particularly moved to participate this year.
“Hope will never be silent,” said LGBT activist Harvey Milk, and I think we need to remember that Hope is always linked to action. Otherwise, it’s just a wish. Now, more than ever, we need hope, grit, and resiliency.
When the craziness of this season winds down a little, I’ll try to post a list of the books our customers have found most helpful, and most hopeful, in this season of change.
If you celebrate a holiday this season, what books are you giving for Chanukah or putting under your loved ones’ trees? Are the kinds of books you are choosing this year any different from prior years? And are you feeling especially connected to books right now?
Holiday Shopping Comments
Josie Leavitt - December 19, 2016
It’s that time of year again. That time when people are frazzled, harried, and dare I say, perhaps not enjoying holiday shopping as much as they could. It feels as if the season has somehow snuck up on people and they are stressed about the coming holiday. I’m not sure why every year this surprises me, but it does. Everyone waits till the very last minute to shop (I’m a little guilty of that as well), and this last-minute rush can have people saying things that are provocative, maddening, and downright hilarious. Continue reading
Keystone Cops Behind the Counter
Elizabeth Bluemle - December 16, 2016
We are well and truly in it, aren’t we? That last mad dash as we all realize how close the holidays are, and how much there is to do. Bricks-and-mortar retailers must set aside our own personal lists of gift-shopping; if we haven’t done it by now, it’s not happening.
If you want to know the most critical — or most crazy — time in a bookseller’s year,* it is the two hours before 11:45 am on the Thursday morning before the holiday season’s last gift-buying weekend. This precious morning is our last chance to ensure that the giant weekend, usually the peak of a bricks-and-mortar store’s year, so vital to its survival, won’t catch us with our pants down.
Things I Won’t Miss When I Leave
Josie Leavitt - December 15, 2016
As many of you know, at the end of the year I will be retiring from the bookstore to pursue the next phase of my professional life. That I will miss the bookstore, my customers and the family of my staff is beyond an understatement. I can barely think about my life post-Flying Pig without tearing up, or in some cases, just flat-out sobbing. There will be several more heartfelt posts between now and the end of year but today I thought I’d list some of the things about bookstore life that I won’t miss. Booksellers, please feel free to add to this list in the comments. Continue reading
Criticism vs. Suppression
Kenny Brechner - December 13, 2016
The differences between hateful speech and constitutionally restricted hate speech, between criticism and suppression, have become subsumed in the publishing world as there have been a spate of recent critical discussions regarding published books which swiftly devolved into social media choruses calling to have these books removed from publication, or to have their publication cancelled. In several recent examples this year those calls were successful and the books were either removed, cancelled, or indefinitely delayed.
At DDG Booksellers, for the last 25 years, I have had the same ordering policy as most other bookstores. I stock the books from publishers which I choose to stock as a professional buyer. Selections are filtered based on my experience and understanding of our local market and also according to my personal biases, both positive and negative. My freedom to choose from among published books flows directly from their publishers’ freedom to publish whatever titles they choose to publish. I will, however, order absolutely anything a customer asks me to as long as it is in print and available. The store’s policy embodies both my right as a buyer and proprietor to stock the books I want to carry and the right of my customers to read and purchase whatever books they want to own and read.
Funny Kids Last Week
Josie Leavitt - December 12, 2016
In this hectic retail season, there have been wonderful moments of adorable children. Let’s face it, kids being kids are the best part of bookstore life. They’re so themselves and earnest about things and this often translates to very funny encounters. Whether they’re shyly asking for a book, or paying for something the first time, or just smiling at silly adults, kids are very amusing in the retail world. Continue reading
The Island of Misfit Books
Kenny Brechner - December 8, 2016
As December progresses in its sleigh-like fashion, holiday traditions begin to unfurl. Yet not all elements of the season are remembered. Sometimes things fall from the sleigh and lie undiscovered by the wayside. If Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer re-enters your life you will recall the Island of Misfit Toys, with its ill-adapted occupants such as the train with square wheels and a boat that cannot float.
Perhaps you did not know that there is also an Island of Misfit Books? What makes a book a misfit? Its cover may commend it to the wrong audience, it may be marketed in the wrong genre, its illustrations and words may be mismatched. There are in fact numerous possibilities.
At DDG we make an annual trip to the Island of Misfit Books and bring back three of them to the store where they get special place during the holiday season. Here are this year’s guests.