Monthly Archives: November 2018

Looking Beyond Sherman Alexie

Meghan Dietsche Goel - November 9, 2018

As booksellers, our primary job is to curate book selections and displays that welcome readers from all backgrounds and create moments of recognition, discovery, and delight for anyone who enters. Fostering that environment is both a big responsibility and a big job. We wrestle with whose voices to include and lift up, and the truth is that the good isn’t as easy to separate from the bad as we would all like for it to be. Not for nothing, the blog post that my ShelfTalker colleague, Cynthia Compton, wrote during Banned Books Week was the most eloquent, authentic expression of that particular bookseller conundrum that I’ve seen. And ShelfTalker’s Kenny Brechner and a group of college students thoughtfully explored the question of how to handle books by authors facing real world accusations very recently as well.
But the more important challenge is less about dealing with the repercussions of bestselling authors’ behavior and more about making sure no community feels that all their stories have been entrusted or restricted to a few lone stewards. As much as the Kid Lit community has truly dug into overdue and heartfelt conversations about inclusion and representation over the last few years, we can all agree we’re still working to fully live up to our goals, especially, perhaps, when it comes to Indigenous and Native voices.
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Harbinger for the Holidays?

Kenny Brechner - November 8, 2018

I have seen a lot of holiday seasons come and go at this point. The total number, you will say, would not have impressed Hanako, a scarlet koi fish who lived to be 226 years old. I get that. Nonetheless Hanako, who was born in 1751, died in 1977 and is no longer here to be unimpressed. Be that as it may, many elements of the retail season up here in Maine have taken on the feel of longstanding traditions. One of my favorites is downtown Farmington’s Early Bird Sale.
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A Flurry of Self-Published Books

Cynthia Compton - November 7, 2018

Meteorologists are forecasting that the first flakes of snow will fall this week in Indiana. They won’t stick, and the roads will be fine, so this is a welcome weather phenomenon in specialty retail. There is nothing like the swirl of flurries on a gray November day to get customers excited about shopping for the holidays, and to add a little magic to the scene outside our cozy shop windows. Boxes of merchandise are stacking up in the stock room, the rolls of wrapping paper have been delivered (although there seems to be a national shortage of the perfect color of forest green curling ribbon, a modest cause for alarm at this stage of the season), and the annual rumors of shipping strikes, online price slashing, and pop-up retail inside every big box store have begun to sneak under the doors like drafts of cold air.
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An Impromptu Book Group

Elizabeth Bluemle - November 6, 2018

I’m distracting myself from the nail-biting anticipation of today, November 6’s, election results, with a post (almost) completely unrelated to politics. I hope it distracts you, too.
We have a 17-year-old customer—we’ll call him Nicholas—who is obsessed with orchids. Apparently, his mom recently found a family video from when Nick was three which showed him, arms spread wide, proclaiming, “I LOVE ORCHIDS!” Now, Nick has blossomed (pardon me) into quite an orchid expert. His parents, avid hikers, can only get Nick to join them if there’s a chance to spot orchids in the wild. This precocious autodidact receives several emails a day from people in the Northeast looking for his assistance identifying rare specimens.
Interestingly, Nick hasn’t read Susan Orlean’s The Orchid Thief, a book I listened to and loved several years ago. “The wrong orchid is on the cover,” he said, proving once again that many readers pay attention to accuracy gaps between interior content and cover design. “I’m also not interested in theft as subject matter,” he said. “Also, who needs another book about love and betrayal?” I sort of love that the Northeast’s top expert on orchids hasn’t read the ONLY BOOK ON ORCHIDS that the general public has ever heard of (which may be part of why he didn’t bother, but honestly, it’s a terrific book and a gripping audiobook, so I hope he does dip in at some point).
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A Perfect(ly) Unexpected Gift Book

Kenny Brechner - November 1, 2018

Preparing for the holidays at a bookstore is a bit like outfitting a ship for an extended voyage. Of all the many things needed, from crew to supplies, is the provision of a remarkable and unlooked-for discovery, a totally unexpected and wonderful gift book that will delight and engage customers in a memorable way. No ship in the age of sail would have left without a sextant and no bookstore should embark on the holiday season without a book which, upon being shown to a customer, will provoke the strong desire in them to share it with someone else in turn.
What book have I selected to fill this singular and exalted role during the holidays? It is Notes and Methods by Hilda Af Klint, published by Christine Burgin Studio/University of Chicago Press. What better choice for us to provide discovery to our customers than a book that is all about uncovering hidden worlds? What a remarkable intellectual and aesthetic feast it is! Multifaceted, rich in the history of both art and spirituality, the book presents the abstract work of Swedish artist Hilma af Klint.
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