Friday, July 8, 2016

It's All About The Books........................The Books (with apologies to Meghan Trainor and Cameron Zane Freebury)

 In spite of my crazy schedule I am able to finish 4-5 books a week.  Some are a delight, others I feel obligated to read and every once in awhile I am reminded of something my Mom said years ago.  It was during the heyday of "The Bridges of Madison County".  My little bookstore had sold over 100 hardcover copies of that book. (Harry Potter books outsold Bridges by a large margin) I had not read the little novel by Robert James Waller and finally sat down one evening and polished it off.  It took all of 2 hours and I was underwhelmed and thought to myself well......maybe Mom would have a different take on this since she was from a foreign land (Scotland) and found herself married, the mother of 4,  living on a ranch in Montana.  I shipped it off to her a with note saying I would love to get her opinion.  She called before reading it and said "Thanks, I have heard a lot about this book."  We spoke the next morning she didn't even say hello before stating "Why did you have me waste 3 hours of my life on this tripe?"  "I am here to tell you the last thing a wife and mother is going to do when her husband and kids head off to the county fair is hop into the bathtub with a traveling salesman."  (she didn't care that he was actually a photographer) she continued by telling me,  "You dream of being able to take a bath with the door open, a drink in one hand and a book in the other, all the while being uninterrupted."  So every now and then I do come across a book that my Mom would consider tripe.
          I have spent many wonderful hours disappearing into a world separate from my own, into the pages of a book (many books) discovering pieces of me as I respond to the words.   I love recommendations from my fellow readers.  "All Things Cease to Appear" by Elizabeth Brundage, was a novel shared with me by a favorite customer and is a story with twists and turns that left me stunned.  After reading that book I binged on a couple of her other titles:  "The Doctor's Wife" and "Somebody Else's Daughter" with "A Stranger Like You" waiting in a stack of books on my nightstand. 

I am savoring "First Women" by Kate Anderson Brower, a look at First Ladies from Jackie Kennedy to Michelle Obama.  I devoured Fifty-Six Counties by my friend Russell Rowland.  I have been in trouble the past 2 days because I am reading at my desk -- I should have warning lights on my shoulders to alert customers to approach with caution.  (I try to avoid eye contact and sigh heavily if it turns out I must set the book down and take their money..............not a good plan if I want to be in business another 24 years.)  "A Shooting in Bannack" by R.J. Harrison (also a friend) is beckoning me from beneath a pile of papers.  I am reading a cookbook manuscript penned by local women and will get my hands on the real book soon. 
      I still have warm feelings when I think about any book by Sarah Addison Allen.  The book "The Girl Who Chased the Moon" made me wish I could glow in the dark..................I suggested to Bill that we should paint our house in luminous paint (he ignored my request probably to the relief of our neighbors) I have many books waiting to be read:  (these are just a few of the titles in one of the many piles in our home)
Waltz Against the Sky - Glen Larum
Book That Matters Most - Ann Hood
Barkskins - Annie Proulx
Nest - Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney
For a Little While - Rick Bass
Genius of Birds - Jennifer Ackerman
and I can not wait to get my hands on the New Harry Potter book.

and sooooo many more.  It really is All about the Books!

Monday, July 4, 2016

      Here I am................................... It has been awhile since I have visited my blog.  The last entry dealt with the death of my Mom and my  friend, Pansy.  Time has passed and as my Dad said "I don't know if gets any easier but it does get different." 
     When Bill and I had been married a few years his Mom was helping us move from an apartment to the home we still occupy. (this was at least 30 years ago)   I was in a different room filling boxes when I overheard this conversation. "Mom we will pack all of them."  "Mom, seriously we have to box them up exactly as she instructed."  by now Bill's voice was starting to sound a little bit panicked.  Then his final argument was "Mom if we don't pack her books and move them you may as well put my stuff in your car and move me back in with you!"  I have a feeling she decided it would be easier to move my books than live with her 30 something year old son.

Recently a couple of friends have pointed out that I love what I do.   One observed that I never seem to burn out and another very matter of factly stated that the difference between so many others and me is the  that I really love my job.  Bill recently retired after 25 years of working for the City of Dillon.  A job that provided well for us, a job that allowed me the freedom to be self-employed without the worry of bringing home much of a salary.  (But we are rich in books)  He now has the freedom to explore other things.  He wasn't retired very long when he went to work for Roxi's Greenhouse and Nursery.  He was in heaven.  People were happy to be there.  He was fueling his inner gardener and our yard looks amazing.  (we are now almost as rich in flowers and trees as we are in books)  As things began to slow down there he was able to begin a new journey as a shuttle driver for Frontier Anglers.  He is referring to the summer of 2016 as his endless summer.  Life is good as we adjust to a different schedule and we are ready for this new adventure. 

     My friend, Tim, loaned me a book that made my soul open up and sing with joy.  It was a memoir by
Wendy Welch.  This book, about a couple daring to open a bookstore in a town that had never boasted a bookstore mirrored my experiences,  it may be a different town but the people, the relationships the joys and the sorrows remain the same.  "The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap" was a wonderful read.  The author was on my shoulder observing the past 24 years of my life as a bookseller.  She beautifully put into words what I get to feel everyday.  It was a simple reminder that as a small independent business owner I don't just occupy a place on the street but I am part of a community.
    


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Life

It has been a long time since I have visited my blog and even longer since there has been a new update.  But something happened last week that moved my fingers out of my pockets and onto the keyboard.  A friend died.  When I was asked to write the obituary in my head I screamed "NOOO."  I thought "I can't"  the caller sensed my hesitation but didn't ask for an explanation instead she pushed forward suggesting people that could help.  We share a deep unsettling grief at the loss of this friend.  Instead of saying no I weakly told her that I knew the essence of our friend but I did not know the history complete with dates and a chronological timeline.  Her reply was simple "it is the essence that matters."  I was terrified and for the next several hours I was numb unable to even come up with one word that could open the floodgate to a completed tribute of this man, my friend.


 I haven't been able to write, really write since June 29th, 2013.  On that day everything changed in a heart beat or in this case when a heart stopped beating.  This was the day my Mom died.  It is still strange to say those words.  She died, that was 16 months ago.  She was an amazing woman.  Crazy, fun, filled with life and light.  She was my Mom and my best friend.  We, her family and friends, orbited around her, she being the bright star. In the days leading up to my Mom's funeral I wrote my part of the eulogy and assisted with her obituary.  Tasks that were shared with my Dad and my sisters.  I was not alone and I am not alone.


I have gotten up every day.  I have moved through life doing the things I need to do.  I have gone to work, read books, attended meetings, chaired committees, sent out obligatory notes, made phone calls, returned phone calls, laughed, cried, received hugs, given  hugs, traveled often between my two loves, Dillon, Montana and Augusta, Montana.  I have rejoiced at the births of new babies and cried at funerals.  I have written face book updates and I have jotted one liners in a gratitude journal on a semi-regular basis.  I have written letters of recommendation for people that I truly believed deserved the recognition.


But I have not written from the heart.  I have not written a single poem or story.  I have not worked on that elusive novel that lives somewhere inside of me.  I have not written.  I have kept journals since I was old enough to put two words together in order to form a sentence.  I have notebooks filled with poetry (good and bad)  I have short stories and outlines and ideas on paper that fill the shelves in my art studio.  But nothing has been added since that day over a year ago. And now I feared I would never add anything more to those archives.  You see this friend was my writing mentor, we shared our love of words, we shared each others rough drafts, acting as editors and sounding boards.  He was the only one that knew I had not written anything of personal importance in a very long time.


I hear of and have read many tributes that people write during a period of mourning.  I couldn't and I didn't. My husband's favorite Uncle passed away a few months ago.  Bill and his many cousins lost their bright star.  They lost the one man that was there for them when others were not.  His cousin, a gifted artist, recently shared that she was having a hard time painting since the death of her father.  She shared a painting that she is working on and stated the one way to honor her father is to continue to create art.  Her talent is a gift that she and her Dad shared, the artist gene had been passed from father to daughter.  To let that light dim is a disservice not only to his memory but also to her.


Things changed.  On October 23, 2014 I lost another someone that meant so much to me and I was being given the honor of writing a tribute to him.  I was afraid I would fail, afraid to let my grief guide me, afraid I would disappoint his family and friends.  I was afraid.  I don't believe in Hell but I do believe in an afterlife.  I do believe that those that leave the earth remain with us.  I let go.  I let my grief envelop me.  I cried and screamed and swore.  I sat down and what I thought was a rough draft was a love letter.  I had help.  We put words on paper and it felt good.


There will be more blogs about books but for today it is about life.  Life is a story, there is a beginning, there is a middle and there is an end.  And somewhere amidst all of that we live, we laugh and when we are very lucky we love.  We experience it all the joy and the tears.  That is what makes us human. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

books to read books to share books nothing but books

     I love books.  I love how they feel, I love how they smell.  I love the  illustrations, I love the wonder I feel from looking at the words. I love the art of choosing a book (or having it choose me) I love the ritual of opening the cover and running my hand over the first few pages without reading the words but rather absorbing them onto my fingers.  Those first few moments with a new book (or an old favorite)  I forget to breathe, I get goosebumps in anticipation of the words that are ahead of me.  I love that everyday I get to share this passion with others that are equally passionate about books.  I have come to realize over the years that in the world of book lovers we are diverse in our views but we are united in our desire for stories (real and not so real) and our need for words (no matter the subject) written on paper.
    I have amazing conversations with people, covering every topic imaginable and oftentimes I probably know more about a person than anyone else.  (including their therapist)  There is  a recurring theme among my customers that share their lives with children.  Children of their own, their grandchildren, a niece or nephew or the kids next door.  They are asking me to recommend good books to read aloud and share with these moppets.  I am happy to oblige: (in no particular order)
Homer Price - Robert McCloskey -- is a fun collection of short stories
Goodnight Moon - Margaret Wise Brown -- a classic for the very young
Charlotte's Web, Stuart Little, The Trumpet of the Swan - E. B. White
Little House on the Prairie series - Laura Ingalls Wilder (9 titles in the original set)
Secret Garden, Little Princess, Little Lord Fauntleroy - Frances Burnett Hodgson
Harry Potter - JK Rowling (7 titles in the series)
Peter Pan - James Matthew Barrie
Hatchet - Gary Paulsen (there are 3 companion books to Hatchet)
Tucket's Travles - Gary Paulsen (first 5 of the Francis Tucket books)
Tale of Despereaux - Kate DiCamillo
James and the Giant Peach, Matilda, Danny and the Chocolate Factory -Roald Dahl
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz - L. Frank Baum (there 14 Oz titles written by Baum)
Rootabaga Stories - Carl Sandburg
Winnie the Pooh, House at Pooh Corner - A. A. Milne (the orginal books)
Treasure Island, Kidnapped, Black Arrow - Robert Louis Stevenson
Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
A Long Way from Chicago - Richard Peck
The Borrowers - Mary Norton (there are 5 books in this series)
Chronicles of Narnia - C.S. Lewis (seven book set)
Heidi - Johanna Spyri
Strawberry Girl - Lois Lenski
Ramona - Beverly Cleary (actually all of her books)
My Side of the Mountain, Julie of the Wolves - Jean Craighead Jones
From the Mixed up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler - E.L. Konigsburg
Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle - Betty Macdonald (several titles in this series)
Magic Treehouse series - Mary Pope Osborne
and many, many more.  I could include Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, Junie B. Jones, How to Train your Dragon, Inkheart and the Rangers Apprentice series.  There are so many picture books that make wonderful bedtime stories.  The 20th Century Children's Book Treasury is an incredible collection of stories and I personally feel that book is a must for every home library.  It has complete stories with the original illustrations included.
     As a child I remember a book that had a story for everyday of the year.  January first had a story about baby New Year and the illustration showed the familiar baby in a diaper.  I recall Valentines Day and cupid.  I think the book was simply called 365 bedtime stories.  But I have never been able to find a copy.  (there are many books with that title but they don't have the stories that remember) By the time my younger sisters were being read to from the book it was tattered.  I hope to find the book someday. 
     I love storytime at The Bookstore and have enjoyed reading to many children over the years (especially my nieces, nephews and God children)  Read to a child today and create memories for you and for them.

  

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Thursday, It's all about the Books


      Today is Thursday.  It is book day.  I love Thursday's at The Bookstore.  It is the day of the week that the special orders arrive.  The books that customers can't wait to get and the books that we can't wait to put on our shelves.  Every Thursday is like Christmas.  Boxes waiting to be opened, books waiting to be held, the breathless anticipation of the possible back ordered book arriving today among the books that are expected. 
     Thursday is a good day.  I often find myself with boxes half opened, books strewn across counters and my desk.  Me with my elbows perched precariously on the edge of my desk with a book cradled in my hands.  Reading.  When I should be taking care of my customers needs.  I honestly shouldn't read when I am at work.  I tend to become engrossed in the words and ignore everything else.  Including the customers, I have even let the answering machine pick up phone calls because I was being held captive by the images the words have evoked.  
     But more scandalous than any of that is the fact that I have talked customers out of buying a book because I decide it is the book I have to have that day......... I am honest (to a point) when asked about the book.  I tell them I haven't read it, that I haven't heard much about it and that I am hesitant to recommend it when I myself am unsure of its contents. All of which is true I just don't admit to them that I am planning on reading that book the minute they leave the store.  I then work hard (very hard) to find them a book that I know they will love (if only to appease my conscience).
     Today will be no different.  The boxes will arrive.  I will start to open them.  I will promise myself that all customers orders will be dealt with prior to me opening the covers on the books specifically ordered for me. 

 They arrived.  The first item to land in my hands:  The Deck of 1000 spreads:  Your Tarot Toolkit, followed by The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult, Life Code by Dr. Phil McGraw, One Shot at Forever by Chris Ballard, Healthier Without Wheat, Treat your Own Back and the 13 Clocks.  All of which are special orders for customers.  In spite of the misbehavior I admitted to previously in this blog I won't take home a book meant for a customer.   They will be called and notified that their book has arrived.  In the meantime there are more boxes to open and more books to be seen so there is still the possibility that I will be caught hidden behind the stacks of books reading, ignoring the phone and not making eye contact with people.............I am hopelessly addicted to books and I hope never to be cured.
    


Monday, February 4, 2013

Superbowl, Awards Shows and and catching up on my reading

     It is that time of year.  Awards.  For movies, music,  television, football and books.  The red carpet, parties,  clothes, food, friends, fashion police, tailgating, and chicken wing scandals.   The MVP's for music, movies,  television, literature and football.  Half-time shows, pregame shows, brothers, fans, friendly bets and serious gamblers.  The agony and the ecstasy.  The National Anthem and America the Beautiful.  Boom -- the lights went out, the game went on and the commercials are what we are all talking about today. 
     I love, love, love football, (the Minnesota Vikings break my heart every year but I always come back hopeful and cheering loudly for them the next season) I watch very few movies and I have a couple of favorite TV shows but I  almost never miss the award shows.  (I love the clothes and glimpses of the stars and secretly can't wait to hear what the fashion police have to say about the outfits that make me scratch my head in awe or in wonder) 
 In January I   wait with breathless anticiaption to see if I have predicted the winners of this years children's literature awards.   I always have one or two of the lesser known titles on my shelf and only once in 22 years as a bookseller have I predicted the Caldecott Winner.  That was in 2010 and the winner was "The Lion and The Mouse" by Jerry Pinkney.  This year I just knew the Caldecott would go to "The Fantasic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore."  The winner was "This is Not my Hat" by Jon Klassen. (a really fun book)
It is always enjoyable to see which authors are being honored.  The announcements are much quieter than those given to athletes, movies and music but the minute we know who the winners are we scramble to get copies for ourselves and our cutomers.  Wondering how we missed predicting which books would end up with the foil medallions gracing their covers.   For a complete list of the winners check out this link: http://www.ala.org/alsc/awardsgrants/bookmedia



I spent January rereading one of my favorite authors, Raymond Chandler.  I had forgotten how perfectly he tells a story.  If you are going to read just one of his books I highly recommend "The Big Sleep."  I picked up "Perks of Being a Wallflower"  wanting to read it again just in case I do see the movie.  It was just as good the second time as the first.  "Th1rteen R3asons Why" came into our used book section recently and the cover intrigued me, I took it home.  I didn't sleep that night.  The book was disturbing, captivating and the characters were at times awkward and infuriating.  The book is heartbreaking and made me stop in my tracks and think about how a remark that is casual to one of us can be devastating to someone else.  The books I am reading right now (just to name a few) include:  "Where'd you Go Bernadette", "A Dog Called Homeless", "My Beloved World" by Sonia Sotomayor, and Meacham's book on Thomas Jefferson.  I really want to read "Suspect" by Robert Crais and of course 100's of others if only I didn't have to work and sleep!!!!!

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Times They Are a Changing.................

I am a jumble of mixed emotions as I set fingers to keyboard.  My good friend and fellow business owner, Rob of Bert's CDs is closing his doors.   He has taken a job on campus, a job where he will do well, a job where the students will be lucky to know him, a job that will provide benefits for his family. 

This wasn't a decision that he made lightly.  Because, like me, Rob loves what he does.  Loves his customers, loves the music industry and despite the competition that he faces daily from the internet and downloadable product his niche store provided him a good life.  A life where his work was his passion, a life where he got to be happy every day.   Both he and his wife are self employed and the cost of medical insurance had become a burden.  He was looking for a job that he hoped would not only provide his family the much needed benefit of health insurance but one that would also provide him a sense of satisfaction, a job that he could do well and make a difference.  He found that.  The loss to downtown Dillon is huge but the gain for the University of Montana Western and the students he will work with is also huge.  I hope they all realize how lucky they are to have Rob Micken as part of their team. 

As for The Bookstore and me.......................well the Times They are a Changing.  We have added the greeting card lines and magnets that were availabe at Berts CDs.  The lines he carried compliment our existing greeting card selection.  Last week all those cards and magnets moved down Idaho Street to The Bookstore.  So those very funny, sometimes off color, unique products can now be found on our shelves. 

We have always been able to order music CD's but chose not to because on the corner was the expert.  We will now offer that service.  But be patient with us -- we know books.  We are excited that we will be able to order music for you but I am being really honest with you when I say the guy down the street was the expert.  I always knew that if I gave a partial title or very poorly sang him a couple of bars he would know what I wanted.  We will work very hard to provide you good service when it comes to ordering your music.

For several weeks I have been exploring an offer from the American Booksellers Association for independent bookstores like ours.  An offer that allows us to enter the ereader arena.  I am both excited and frightened.  Frightened to the point that I made the decision to accept this offer and sell the KOBO ereader at the very last minute.  I will soon be taking a crash course on these contraptions.  But for the first time we will be able to offer an ereader to our customers, an ereader that can be purchased locally.  When the KOBO is purchased from us and is registered on the KOBO website (http://www.kobo.com/) we will also be credited for the books you purchase.   In the next couple of weeks we will have demo KOBO's to show you. 

Good luck Rob we will miss having you on the corner,  Thanks for everything you do and good luck on your new journey. 

The times may be changing but as always I will be reading books my way,  held in my hand where I feel the pages, smell the ink and cherish those words from cover to cover.