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Now More Than Ever

Elizabeth Bluemle -- December 20th, 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

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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 19th, 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 16th, 2016

dreamstime_xl_14826546We 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.

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Things I Won’t Miss When I Leave

Josie Leavitt -- December 15th, 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 13th, 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.
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Funny Kids Last Week

Josie Leavitt -- December 12th, 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 8th, 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.

As you can see our friends are not shedding their misfit nature easily. Time to call them down from the card rack again.

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.
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The True Heart, Soul, and Success of a Bookstore

Elizabeth Bluemle -- December 7th, 2016

We have had a beautiful couple of weeks at the Flying Pig. Our store’s 20th anniversary has brought in old customers and new, lots of cards and kudos, and much-appreciated press coverage. But something has nagged at me through this time, and I realized there has been a piece missing.

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Fun with Car Decorations

Josie Leavitt -- December 5th, 2016

Elizabeth always orders our sidelines, and this holiday season she’s outdone herself. I am slowly amassing a pile of things to give this season. But one thing reallyreindeer caught my eye: the reindeer car kit. I have always thought these things were cute, but had never gotten one. This past week, I paid off my car, so I treated myself, and my car, to this little kit. Sure, it doesn’t look like much, but when you put these three very simple things on your car, fun things start happening.  Continue reading

The 2016 Stocking Stuffer of the Year Award

Kenny Brechner -- December 1st, 2016

The eighth annual Stocking Stuffer of the Year Award is a very august undertaking here at DDG.  There is a lot at stake. Until last year the award process was much like the land of Lothlorien, in that it had upon it neither blemish nor stain. This year, however, due to the lamentable fact that last year the judge, The Whirl-0, awarded himself the highest honor, things were different. We had to grapple with the fact that our once pristine award was operating under something of a cloud.

The best way to address that, it seemed to me, was to bring in a judge of truly impeccable credentials, one whose very name meant impartiality and fairness. The Stocking Stuffer of the Year Award required a judge who would be totally immune from both the brazen importunities of competing toys and from its own self interest. I am very pleased to report that we found such a judge in Solar Dancing Totoro. Our store Totoro is of course an incarnation of the Japanese nature spirit immortalized in the beloved animated film My Neighbor Totoro by Hayao Miyazaki. As the very essence of fairness, decency, generosity of spirit, and personal disinterest, our new judge is innately detached from any self-serving thoughts and intrinsically unmoved by any unworthy adjurations of less high minded stocking stuffers.
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