A couple of years ago, one of our customers brought us a homemade BINGO board. Instead of numbers, each square was filled with funny things she imagined we might encounter—with customers, co-workers, technology glitches, etc.—during the crazy holiday season. It was an inspired idea, and we did a little adding and tweaking to create the BINGO board we shared here in a 2016 PW ShelfTalker blog post.
Recently, bookseller Bob Lingle (recent new owner of Off the Beaten Path Bookstore in Lakewood, N.Y.) posed a kindred question in a private booksellers’ Facebook group. “I think it would be a fun activity to do a ‘Bookseller Bingo,’ he said, “for phrases you hear or questions you’re asked. Any thoughts on what the spaces could be?”
He named a few of his own, and thus began a conversation that drew in more than 50 booksellers with a couple hundred comments. It was gratifying and hilarious and relieving to know that other colleagues share our experiences of the many odd, funny, and sometimes annoying things people say to booksellers on a regular basis. I thought ShelfTalker readers might enjoy a peek into the back room, as it were, so I asked folks if I might share some of their responses. They said yes (hooray!). Readers, welcome to life behind our sometimes-cluttered counters. Continue reading
Earlier this summer, we lost a longtime bookseller, but in the best possible way: to another indie bookstore! Cindy Kittok had worked at BookPeople for over 11 years, starting as a holiday cashier, transitioning to a full-time bookseller, and eventually heading up our troupe of enthusiastic Puppet Show Players, writing scripts based on books like Martina the Beautiful Cockroach for eager storytime crowds. About 3-4 years ago, she took on her most memorable role of all, joining fellow bookseller (and seasoned local actor) Michael Stewart as half of a live-action Elephant and Piggie storytime duo! As their storytime crowds grew bigger and bigger, they even started taking the show on the road to our bookfairs at local schools.
You can imagine that when Cindy told us she and her family were moving to Minneapolis, we were very sad to see her go. But when I heard she had connected with our friends at Red Balloon Bookshop, I was thrilled that she would be staying in the indie bookstore family. And knowing a little bit about their store (although I’ve never been to Minnesota), I knew she would be joining a great team up there. I reached out recently to see how everything was going. Continue reading
With the Labyrinth of the Spirits, Carlos Ruiz Zafon has completed his four-book Cemetery of Forgotten Books series. The author, along with providing the fourth book, has also supplied a narrative edict. “Each individual installment in the Cemetery of Forgotten Books series can be read in any order, enabling the reader to explore the labyrinth of stories along different paths which, when woven together, lead into the heart of the narrative.”
From a bookseller’s point of view this is a sensational idea of course. Consider the following scenario taking place in the near future. A customer motions to a stack of The Labyrinth of Spirits.
Customer: So what can you tell me about this one?
Bookseller: It’s the sublime culmination to a truly outstanding series. Set in Barcelona from 1938 through the 1970s, these books deftly combine the world of bookselling, the long shadow of the Spanish Civil War, gothic literary interplay, wonderfully salty characters, sublime dialogue and verbal sparring, along with elaborate and satisfying exposition. Taken together or individually they represent a reading experience not to be missed.
Recently, a young woman in her mid-20s came into the store looking for a picture book to give her one-year-nephew, one that contained a same-sex couple, ideally aunts or uncles, but barring those, same-sex parents. “I’m getting married to my fiancée in two weeks,” she said, “and I’d really like to give my nephew a book he can understand, with a family like ours.” I scratched my head, trying to think of possibilities.
Guess what? It’s a publishing DESERT for young children of same-sex parents and kids with LGBT relatives.
A customer stopped by the store a month ago. As we chatted at the counter he shared with me that he was an author. His name was Ira Mark Egdall. I looked up Ira’s book on ipage, Einstein Relatively SImple: Our Universe Revealed in Everyday Language. Here is a screenshot of the search results.
At first glance this may seem like an ordinary interaction with an author passing through town, sharing news of a book with a dubious pun in the title. That was not the case, though. It was actually unusual for a number of reasons. First of all, sandwiched between the paperback and hardcover editions of Ira’s book is a book with the identical title, but a different author, Cecil Eckar. Ira informed me that it was a pirated version of his own book. Secondly, what you would not know unless you too had met Ira, was that the cover of Eckar’s pirated book literally featured an author photo of Ira, the actual author of the book. The photo appears to have been taken from Egdall’s own website.
By this time in August, our store’s walls, doors, and cabinet faces are covered with book reviews, pictures, and artwork produced by the participants in our summer reading program. We started on Memorial Day weekend, and will end officially on Labor Day, but as schools are back in session here this week and next, most of our summer reading friends will move their attention to classroom reading challenges and the intricacies of new locker combinations by this weekend. That’s probably a good thing, because we have covered every available square inch of the shop with their contributions, and we’re running out of both space and Scotch tape.
Our friend Pete makes dozens of appearances each year.
In a few weeks, inspired by an event at the end of Children’s Institute in New Orleans, Spellbound will be co-hosting its first Drag Queen Story Hour.
Harmonica Sunbeam warms up her audience at the Hudson Park branch of the New York Public Library. (Credit Amy Lombard for The New York Times)
Throwback to 2007 (I’m the one in the middle).
I first read Harry Potter as a senior in college, when a friend lent me the first three books out of the blue. I had no frame of reference for what the books were, but I was instantly hooked—just like everyone else. I came to BookPeople in fall of 2005, which meant I missed being a part of the release of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, but I was certainly there for the 5,000 person blow-out in our parking lot for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. It was the most extravagant event I have ever been a part of, with character red carpets, a Diagon Alley set, a fire dancer, and the Austin Symphony Orchestra.
Waldo partygoers begin to gather.
This July was our seventh year of hosting Find Waldo Local here in Farmington, Maine. Personally, I enjoy the interplay of constants and variables. I love taking the same local hikes in different seasons year after year. Was there something different about searching for Waldo in 2018, I wondered?
If anyone has ever been surrounded by others in profusion it is Waldo. He is always in company. Yet he has been keeping a different sort of company this year because people are searching for more things more earnestly than usual. With the very nature of reality and history under strain, perhaps searching for Waldo has a special role right now? After all, looking for something which you are certain is really there might be a source of satisfaction, a respite for those whose quests are undertaken against a backdrop of anxiety and uncertainty. Perhaps even Viktor Frankl, had he been alive and summering in Farmington, would have searched for Waldo here this summer, and concluded that this simple, attainable, community-oriented search helped him find meaning in the more opaque world we share.
My husband had knee replacement surgery last week, so I have been fulfilling the roles of Bookstore Manager/Nurse/OffsiteBuyer/Chauffeur/StaffScheduler/PersonalChef/IcePackNinja for the last 14 days. It’s been tough. Not as tough that winter as the mom of three children under age 4 when everyone got chicken pox the week after we brought home the new Labrador puppy, but a challenge of scheduling and juggling nonetheless. Our summer activity schedule at the shop is in full swing, last-minute vacation travel shopping has been strong, and our student staffers are starting to think a lot more about new dorm rooms than extra shifts. We all manage these brief “mostly out of the shop” periods, of course, but I am particularly cognizant of our business owner coping strategies this time — perhaps because my “down time” is not on a beach with a book and a beverage, but in a lot of waiting rooms during physical therapy and followup appointments, where I have time to worry and wonder about my little shop’s health while I’m gone.