Shelf Awareness for Friday, December 21, 2018
Quotation of the Day
Indie Bookshops Are 'Inspiring Places to Be'
"I visit an awful lot of bookshops for work and I've done an awful lot of events at independent bookshops, and they're just inspiring places to be. With each one of them, there is always a story. I love to talk to independent bookstore owners about their shop and when and how they bought it; every single shop owner has a completely different, fascinating backstory. It's the amount of love that goes into creating a beautiful shop in the first place, making it look so nice, and then all the work that goes into hosting events and creating that community atmosphere that makes people want to come into the shop. I think independent bookstores are just little gems, each and every one of them--they're magical."
Madison Books Holiday Pop-Up Opens in Seattle
|James Crossley at work in the Madison Books pop-up.|
Madison Books, a new indie bookstore scheduled to launch early in 2019 at 4118 E. Madison Street in Seattle, Wash., has opened a "Holiday Pop-Up Shop," giving customers an early peek at the location. On Facebook, the store posted: "This will be a great opportunity to buy the best books of the season as presents for your loved ones--and let's admit it, for yourself. Gift wrapped and everything! It's also a chance to get a sneak preview of the fully outfitted bookstore that's yet to come." The pop-up will remain open until December 29.
Tom Nissley, who also owns Seattle's Phinney Books and first announced plans for the new bookshop earlier this year, told Madison Park Times: "We're looking forward to getting to know our new neighbors and having a good selection of books available for holiday shopping, with the possibility of ordering and picking up any books we don't have in stock." Madison Books will close again in January to complete renovation work.
In a recent interview with the Seattle Review of Books, Madison Books manager James Crossley discussed plans for the new venture, noting that the initial reception has been enthusiastic: "It's been great! We've had a really hospitable welcome--a lot of people coming in the store to buy books already, and even more who just want to stick their heads in the door and say 'welcome to the neighborhood.' "
Asked if the pop-up shop provides an opportunity "for people who come in to help shape the store a bit," Crossley replied: "Absolutely. One of the first things we did was hang some butcher paper on the wall and draw some virtual 'shelves' with an invitation for people to fill them in with what they want to see--first of all what they want to get under the tree this year, but more importantly what they want to see on our shelves going forward."
The first title Madison Books sold was The Overstory by Richard Powers, "which is one of my favorite books this year," Crossley noted. "And our first special order has already been placed and arrived, and it was for The Beastie Boys Book. Being able to get those in people's hands was a good feeling. A great feeling."
Holiday Hum: Shopping Season's End in Sight
With Christmas Eve just days away and one weekend left before the holidays, independent bookstores around the country are reporting busy stores and brisk sales.
At Oblong Books & Music in Rhinebeck and Millerton, N.Y., co-owner Suzanna Hermans reported that both stores have been "hopping," and despite the early Thanksgiving stretching out the shopping season, things have still been consistently busy. Hermans said that so far the stores are on track to at least meet, if not exceed, last year's holiday sales. Some major sellers this year have included Michelle Obama's Becoming, Tara Westover's Educated, Susan Orlean's The Library Book and The Friend by Sigrid Nunez. Hermans noted that while the stores are out of the Edward Gorey biography Born to Be Posthumous by Mark Dery, she has copies of Gorey's The Gashlycrumb Tinies at the front register that are "selling like crazy."
|Pudus slipper socks|
Hermans has had difficulty bringing several titles back in stock, including Ninth Street Women by Mary Gabriel, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat and Wendy MacNaughton and Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom by David W. Blight. A handful of titles have also sold a bit slower than Hermans had expected, among them Markus Zusak's Bridge of Clay, Jonathan Franzen's essays The End of the End of the Earth and Haruki Murakami's Killing Commendatore. On the subject of sidelines, Hermans said that the store's Blue Q socks, oven mitts and tea towels have "carried the day," while Pudus slipper socks and Loqi reusable bags have also done very well.
Bookshop Santa Cruz in Santa Cruz, Calif., has been "continuously busy" throughout this year's longer holiday season and is up about 5% over last year's holidays, said owner Casey Coonerty Protti. Thanksgiving weekend was especially packed, even on Black Friday, which Protti said is usually not a very big day for the store. She added that last weekend the store had six registers going and they've added a seventh this week. When asked about big sellers, Protti reported that her store is nearing 1,000 copies sold of Becoming, with almost 500 of those sales coming after Thanksgiving. Other popular titles include Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, How to Be a Good Creature by Sy Montgomery and Rebecca Green and A Call for Revolution by the Dalai Lama and Sofia Stril-Rever.
Protti said she's been surprised by how well a lot of "lengthy books" are selling. Examples include Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom, These Truths by Jill Lepore, Napoleon by Adam Zamoyski, The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai and Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. Several books have been difficult to get back in store, among them The Great Believers, Leadership: In Turbulent Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin and The Overstory by Richard Powers. Popular sideline items, meanwhile, include "anything with Ruth Bader Ginsburg," sequin pets from Faber Castell, Mister Rogers mugs from Unemployed Philosophers Guild, and Bookshop Santa Cruz's own Trump Countdown Clocks, featuring instructions on how to reset them in the event of impeachment.
In Athens, Ga., Avid Bookshop owner Janet Geddis said that "traffic is brisk," and customers, booksellers and "even overtaxed UPS drivers," seem to be in good spirits. Geddis noted that "like virtually all bookstores," Avid is selling a ton of copies of Becoming. Other holiday favorites have included You Are a Badass Every Day and You Are a Badass at Making Money, both by author and success coach Jen Sincero, who will be visiting Avid Bookshop for an event in January. Geddis also pointed to three "hyper-local" titles that have been steady sellers: Classic City Cooking by Juanina Kocher, A High Low Tide by André Gallant and The Athens Coloring Book.
|From Very Good Puzzle Co.|
Geddis reported that popular sidelines include puzzles from Very Good Puzzle Co., which is based in Athens and features the work of local artists. Spinning Santa tops and miniature colored pencils are doing well too; Geddis described the latter as popular year-round. She's also brought in "hilarious" horoscope pencils, which she said are "flying out the door." Geddis added that while the store usually doesn't do events between Thanksgiving and Christmas, she has done a few this year, particularly authorless events and celebrations. On November 25 Avid held its first annual Avid Bookshop Bash, and is hosting a special Solstice Sale today, with hundreds of gift items 50% off.
Sarah Bagby, owner of Watermark Books & Cafe in Wichita, Kan., said that her store is "so busy and the energy is electric." They are up substantially over last year's holiday season, with books like Becoming, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, On Desperate Ground by Hampton Sides, Good Morning, Gnight! by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jonny Sun, Virgil Wander by Leif Enger, Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah and "anything Ruth Bader Ginsburg" driving sales. Bagby also pointed to some "very strong" local-interest titles and noted that since George H.W. Bush's funeral, sales of Jon Meacham's The Soul of America have soared.
Bagby has also had trouble getting Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat back in stock, and said that the illustrated edition of Patti Smith's Just Kids has not sold as quickly as she would have thought, considering that the photos "add so much to the narrative." The Library Book, meanwhile, "bolted out of the gate" on release but has since really slowed down, and The Kingfisher Secret by Anonymous "lacked interest by anyone." When asked if there were any sidelines doing well, Bagby answered "all of them," and pointed specifically to store-branded merchandise, lip balm, mittens and the Archie McPhee Dissent Ornament. --Alex Mutter
Plans Set for Children's Book Week 100th Anniversary
With Children's Book Week turning 100 years old in 2019, Every Child a Reader and the Children's Book Council have announced plans for a yearlong campaign and celebration.
The theme of Children's Book Week 2019, which will run from April 29 until May 5, will be "Read Now. Read Forever," and children's author and illustrator Yuyi Morales is the official 2019 poster designer. Some 125,000 posters will be sent to the thousands of schools, libraries and bookstores hosting events during Children's Book Week, and official registration is still open.
There will also be a collaborative poster featuring the work of 12 artists, including Sophie Blackall, Eric Carle, Bryan Collier, Grace Lin, Juana Martinez-Neal, Barbara McClintock, Frank Morrison, LeUyen Pham, James E. Ransome, Erin Stead, Melissa Sweet and Raina Telgemeier, that will be unveiled at different points throughout the year.
Online materials for those participating in Children's Book Week, meanwhile, will include activity pages in more than 15 languages and bookmarks created by Selina Alko & Sean Qualls, Vera Brosgol, Jason Chin, Ekua Holmes, Juana Medina and Jessie Sima.
The Rabbit Hole in Kansas City, Mo., a nonprofit museum and "wonderland" devoted to children's books, will be creating a narrative exhibit about the history of Children's Book Week in collaboration with Every Child a Reader. The exhibit will open in fall 2019.
"Children's Book Week is a celebration that connects kids and teens with books and the people who create them," said Judith Haut, board chair of Every Child a Reader. "We are honored to share this program's legacy and its exciting future with children and adults across the country."
Shaina Birkhead, Every Child a Reader associate executive director, said: "We have been eagerly looking towards the 100th anniversary of Children's Book Week for years. The program continues to grow in exciting and unexpected ways and we cannot think of a better way to celebrate in 2019 than with more events, more artists, more resources, and a brand-new logo to lead us into the next 100 years."
Obituary Note: Fred Greenstein
Fred Greenstein, "a pre-eminent scholar of political psychology who devised a systematic approach to evaluating the leadership styles of American presidents and who helped breathe new life into the reputation of Dwight D. Eisenhower," died December 3, the New York Times reported. He was 88. Greenstein first made his mark with The Hidden-Hand Presidency: Eisenhower as Leader (1982), "a reconsideration of Eisenhower, who was long perceived as disengaged from the job."
Greenstein became "absorbed by a longer-term project that would enable him, over time, to evaluate 30 of the nation's presidents on the basis of their effectiveness as leaders, rather than by their policies or accomplishments.... Emotional intelligence, he maintained, was the most important," the Times wrote.
He was the author or a co-author of eight books, including The Presidential Difference: Leadership Style from FDR to Clinton (2000); Inventing the Job of President: Leadership Style from George Washington to Andrew Jackson (2009); and Presidents and the Dissolution of the Union: Leadership Style from Polk to Lincoln (with Dale Anderson, 2013).
At his death, he was finishing a book on presidents of the Progressive Era with Anderson, who said Greenstein remained publicly neutral on his personal views of the presidents, including Donald Trump: "He said Trump's presidency is fascinating to a scholar of leadership because it's so different from anything else. I said, 'You're like an epidemiologist who says this plague is fascinating.' All he said was, 'I hope I last long enough to write this one up.' "
Epic Little Free (Tree) Library in Idaho
Artist Sharalee Armitage Howard has created an epic Little Free Library inside a more than 100-year-old cottonwood tree stump outside her home in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. KREM reported that Howard was inspired when her family decided to remove most of the tree after branches began to fall. The core of the tree was starting to rot, and "she felt inspired to create one inside the stump that remained from the tree. The library features a swinging glass door, steps, and interior and exterior lights." A Facebook post earlier this month about the work-in-progress has generated more than 70,000 shares.
In an update this week, Howard wrote: "Thanks so much for all of the wonderful feedback about our little free library! It's awesome to know that there are so many people out there that appreciate how art (in any form) quite simply, makes the world a cooler place to live in. There has been a lot of requests for more pictures, so although this tree won't look amazing until Spring when I can plant groundcover and cheerful perennials around it, touch up the paint, and fine-tune the trimwork... I have a couple updates: 1.) I've officially become a Little Free Library charter member! It's my understanding, that within days... you'll see my tree on the National map. 2.) A fun detail that didn't show up in my first picture, is that the dental moulding above the door, is actually little, titled, wooden books!"
Bookshop Chalkboard of the Day: The BookMark
All the stockings were hung on the sidewalk chalkboard with care at the BookMark in Neptune Beach, Fla., which posted its Christmas week hours on Facebook: "We are here for you. Check out our extended holiday shopping hours! We also gift wrap for free... we have gift certificates... and we love finding the perfect book for that person on your list (or for you)."
El Paso's Literarity 'Nurtures Unique Space for Readers & Writers'
Since opening in 2017, Literarity bookstore in El Paso, Tex., "has become an important fixture in El Paso's literary community in promoting regional authors and poets for readings and book sales," Borderzine reported, adding that owners Bill and Mary Anna Clark "wanted to create a welcoming shop for book lovers to browse through and included events where they can mingle with writers."
Although indie bookstores face many challenges, the Clarks are dedicated to providing a more personal experience. "We didn't do this for the money, we did it because we believe that El Paso needs an independent bookstore," Bill Clark said. "We're doing this out of commitment for the community."
'Cozy Ohio Bookshops to Explore this Winter'
TourismOhio showcased "10 cozy Ohio bookshops to explore this winter," noting: "Baby, it's cold outside and we're plenty cool with staying in and cozying up to your favorite book, pastry and cup of joe. If your travel heart is yearning, don't worry--this list will take you from one warm, independent and locally owned bookstore to another."
Book Trailer of the Day: Black Enough
Black Enough: Stories of Being Young & Black in America edited by Ibi Zoboi (Balzer + Bray).
Media and Movies
Media Heat: Michelle Obama on Ellen
Friday, December 28:
Ellen repeat: Michelle Obama, author of Becoming (Crown, $32.50, 9781524763138).
TV: Virgin River; Mr. Nice Guy
Netflix has announced several casting choices for its contemporary romance drama series Virgin River, based on the bestselling novels by Robyn Carr, Deadline reported. The cast includes Alexandra Breckenridge (This Is Us, The Walking Dead), Martin Henderson (Grey's Anatomy, Miracles From Heaven), Tim Matheson (The Affair, The Good Fight) and Annette O'Toole (Smallville, Marvel's The Punisher). The Virgin River book series consists of 20 titles that have sold more than 13 million copies.
Produced by Reel World Management and Roma Roth, the series "centers around Melinda Monroe (Breckenridge), who answers an ad to work as a nurse practitioner in the remote California town of Virgin River. Desperate to move on from her painful past, she's left everything behind in Los Angeles thinking it will be the perfect place to start fresh and leave her painful memories behind. But she soon discovers that small-town living isn't quite as simple as she expected and that she must learn to heal herself before she can truly make Virgin River her home," Deadline wrote.
Sue Tenney (Good Witch) serves as showrunner and executive producer. Roth and Chris Perry executive produce. The cast also includes Jenny Cooper, David Cubitt, Lexa Doig, Daniel Gillies, Lauren Hammersley, Benjamin Hollingsworth, Colin Lawrence and Ian Tracey.
Laura McCreary, Fresh Off the Boat co-executive producer, will write the TV adaptation for a half-hour dramedy series based on the novel Mr. Nice Guy by Jennifer Miller and Jason Feifer. Deadline reported that Oscar-winning producer Cathy Schulman (Crash) and former NBC Universal TV Entertainment chairman Jeff Gaspin and his Gaspin Media acquired the rights to the book to develop for television. Schulman and Gaspin are preparing to take the project to potential buyers immediately.
"Real-life husband and wife authors Miller and Feifer served as inspiration for the dramedy," Deadline wrote, noting that the story "centers on Carmen and Lucas, a pair of magazine writers who unknowingly work for the same publication when they have a one-night stand. Their subsequent individual reviews of the encounter go viral, so they decide to continue the relationship and write weekly dueling columns reviewing each other's performance in bed."
Books & Authors
Awards: André Simon Food & Drink Book
The shortlist has been unveiled for this year's André Simon Food & Drink Book Awards. Winners in each category receive £2,000 (about $2,538), and each shortlisted author receives £200 (about $253). The awards will be presented February 5 in London.
Among the finalists is a cookbook launched by Meghan Markle. The Bookseller reported that Together: Our Community Cookbook "made headlines earlier this year after the Duchess of Sussex launched the 50-recipe book created in the wake of the Grenfell Fire." This year's shortlisted titles are:
Black Sea by Caroline Eden
First, Catch by Thom Eagle
How to Eat a Peach by Diana Henry
Lateral Cooking by Niki Segnit
MOB Kitchen by Ben Lebus
Pasta, Pane, Vino by Matt Goulding
Pie and Mash Down the Roman Road by Melanie McGrath
Shetland by James & Tom Morton
Together by the Hubb Community Kitchen
Amber Revolution Flawless by Simon J. Woolf
Flawless by Jamie Goode
Red & White by Oz Clarke
The Life of Tea by Michael Freeman and Timothy D'Offay
The Sommelier's Atlas of Taste by Rajat Parr and Jordan Mackay
Vineyards, Rocks and Soils by Alex Maltman
Reading with... John Michael Barich
John Michael Barich (aka Father John or Padre) began a life in books while doing homework after grade school in the law library of the firm his mother worked for in Wisconsin. From 1991 to 1993, he handled shipping and receiving for Milwaukee's Harry W. Schwarz Bookstore, until he returned to St. Louis to complete his M.Div. and work with Concordia Seminary's rare book collection. John was hired by Elliott Bay Book Company in 1998 and continues to assist with author events around Seattle. He holds their record for consecutive years of holiday gift wrapping (this year will make it 11). He's also redeveloping a school and church in Burien, Wash. Padre joined the Shelf Awareness office staff in 2015.
On my nightstand now:
Two graphic works--Fake Blood by Whitney Gardner and Is That All There Is? by Joost Swarte--and The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton 1965-2010, edited by Kevin Young and Michael S. Glaser with a foreword by Toni Morrison.
Favorite book as a child:
Peanut's Treasury (1968) by Charles M. Schulz. It seems like it was one of the few things my younger brother and I could share and giggle over together on the living room floor without fighting.
My top five authors:
bell hooks, Natsuo Kirino, William T. Vollmann, Haruki Murakami and Catherynne M. Valente.
Book I've faked reading:
Moby Dick by Herman Melville. A dear friend wrote about Moby Dick for his Master's Thesis. I read his paper with great interest and support, but afterwards I felt I had learned so much (or, let's say enough) about Moby Dick that I never picked it up.
Book I'm an evangelist for:
Lighthousekeeping by Jeanette Winterson, especially for younger women who are trying to find some mooring in life. From 2008 to 2012, I served as the campus pastor for the Lutheran chapel at the University of Washington. Almost on a weekly basis, undergrad students, mostly female, came to me seeking support and a listening ear, as they so badly wanted to integrate their new knowledge with their faith and personal relationships. Winterson's two main characters, Silver and Pew, reveal how we can accompany one another through the impossible stretches of life through loving and caring.
Book I've bought for the cover:
Delicious Foods by James Hannaham, cover by artist Kara Walker. And I'll go on buying any other book that is graced by her art because she's amazing.
Book I hid from my parents:
It wasn't so much that I was hiding it, but I bought the No. 101 edition of Aperture, "Winter 1985: The Human Street," for two articles. First, for "Robert Walker's Spliced New York" by William Burroughs, and second, for Allen Ginsberg's "Sacramental Snapshots." But when my mom later came across it, she threw it out because of Mapplethorpe's photos, "Human Geometry: A Whole Other Realm." I was 23.
Book that changed my life:
All About Love: New Visions by bell hooks. Following my divorce, I needed to resurrect my heart and reconstruct and reorganize my thinking about relationships and the person I wanted to be in the world. bell held my hand from one page to the next and rekindled in me the hope of loving and being loved again.
Favorite line from a book:
"We burst through, paneled, baize, flush, glazed, steel, reinforced, safe doors, secret doors, double doors, trap doors. The forbidden door that can only be opened with a small silver key. The door that is no door in Rapunzel's lonely tower." --from Lighthousekeeping by Jeanette Winterson.
Five books I'll never part with:
No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami, Beneath the Underdog by Charles Mingus, Lighthousekeeping by Jeanette Winterson and All About Love: New Visions by bell hooks.
Book I most want to read again for the first time:
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell. In 2011, I found myself on a flight from Copenhagen to Milan and was trying to make the book last as long as possible. However, when I came to the final page, I ended up crying like a baby--I thought it was so beautiful. I couldn't hold back the tears, I didn't want to hold them back. How did Mitchell do that? I think I reread the final chapter two or three more times to see where exactly he opened me up. Few books have moved me as this one.
Review: Notes on a Nervous Planet
Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig (Penguin Books, $16 paperback, 304p., 9780143133421, January 29, 2019)
Part memoir, part self-help book, Matt Haig's unassuming but wise Notes on a Nervous Planet is the perfect antidote for that stab of anxiety felt when the words "Breaking News" flash across the television screen. It's what you need when you can't kick the Pavlovian impulse to check compulsively the likes for your most recent Facebook post.
His memoir Reasons to Stay Alive described a struggle with depression in his 20s that pushed him to the brink of suicide. Now Haig offers a collection of mostly micro-essays, a buffet of ingenious responses to what he suggests is the overriding question of our time: "How can we live in a mad world without ourselves going mad?"
Haig singles out most of the usual culprits for collective angst, including the 24-hour news cycle, where "events are continuously breaking but rarely absorbed," and which feels like "watching a continuous metaphor for generalised anxiety disorder." Meanwhile, social media can "make you feel like you are inside a stock exchange where you--or your online personality--is the stock." But at the heart of his diagnosis is that, alongside this atmosphere of constant connection and distraction, the culture is designed to instill in its participants a feeling of perpetual dissatisfaction, of never having or being enough. "We are being sold unhappiness," he writes, "because unhappiness is where the money is."
There's no shortage of practical wisdom in this book. It features checklists entitled "How to own a smartphone and still be a functioning human being" and "Ten ways to work without breaking down." It also suggests adopting healthy practices like yoga (one of Haig's principal lifelines), spending time in nature and dealing with sleep deprivation. Of equal value, however, is Haig's candor in exposing his own struggles. These include his tendency to engage in online arguments ("not the most fulfilling way to spend our limited days on this earth") or to "answer emails while I should be listening to my mum talk about her trip to see a doctor." If you've ever spent a post-midnight hour wandering bleary-eyed from one website to another, you'll appreciate his essay "How to stay sane on the internet: a list of utopian commandments I rarely follow, because they are so damn difficult."
With generosity and wit, Haig gently reminds readers that life is hard enough without the damage people inflict on themselves every day, and that a bit of self-acceptance will serve to heal many modern maladies. When you've finished this warmhearted, life-affirming book, chances are you'll find that an appealing prescription for starting to meet the challenges of our hyperconnected world. --Harvey Freedenberg, freelance reviewer
Shelf Talker: Matt Haig offers a wide-ranging survey of the steps we can take to live a saner life in a world that seems, at times, insane.
Robert Gray: Too Many Books for the Holidays? Bah! Humbug!
They went, the Ghost and Scrooge, across the hall, to a door at the back of the house. It opened before them, and disclosed a long, bare, melancholy room, made barer still by lines of plain deal forms and desks. At one of these a lonely boy was reading near a feeble fire; and Scrooge sat down upon a form, and wept to see his poor forgotten self as he used to be.... The Spirit touched him on the arm, and pointed to his younger self, intent upon his reading.
While I'm not exactly Scrooge, I'll confess that on a scale of Scrooge-to-Hallmark Christmas movies, I'd scan more toward the former than latter. That said, each year I do find a way to re-engage with Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol, whether by watching one of the zillion film/TV adaptations, listening to an audio performance (Neil Gaiman and Patrick Stewart are personal favorites), or making a pilgrimage to the Morgan Library & Museum in Manhattan, where the original manuscript is displayed annually.
This year I've been reading a lovely new edition of A Christmas Carol: and Other Stories (Oxford University Press). In his introduction, editor Robert Douglas-Fairhurst notes that the classic tale, published in 1843, sold 6,000 copies by Christmas Eve and "kept on selling well into the New Year," though the high cost of production meant that Dickens "received less than a quarter of the profits he had been expecting." In the book trade, we care about the numbers. Think Scrooge, but in a nice way.
Any personal quest for the spirit of the holiday season is complicated by the fact that the reader in me tends to identify with the boy Scrooge reading by the feeble fire, while the business person in me, whose livelihood depends upon the success of the book trade, can't help but feel just a little sympathy for old Ebenezer, who "beguiled the rest of the evening with his banker's-book."
For booksellers, the holiday season can be an ongoing drama of comparing daily sales figures to last year's numbers. This is at once an exhilarating and intimidating time of the year. Some days "bah, humbug" doesn't seem like an overreaction to unpredictable weather, late deliveries or demanding customers. Wise ghosts of past, present and future seldom visit with neat, plot-twisting solutions to multilayered challenges.
So how do we remember in such times that this mad world we've chosen to live and work in is still primarily about something as simple and complex as putting the right words together so that someone will buy and read them?
When I was a kid, "holiday spirit" was beautifully gift-wrapped in stories I read and heard, including Dickens, of course. These tales reminded urchins like me that the holiday season was about much more than tinsel and toys.
As adults, we read to live. We read to find our way in the world. This time of year, we read, handsell and exchange books as gifts to encounter, if we can, a holiday spirit that is not always apparent around us.
I've been imagining an alternative Scrooge, who inherited Old Fezziwig's Bookshop and made a go of it. Each year at Christmas Eve, he would host a party for his beloved staff, always remembering his days as a young apprentice bookseller and honoring his kind mentor:
"A small matter," said the Ghost, "to make these silly folks so full of gratitude.”
"Small!" echoed Scrooge.
The Spirit signed to him to listen to the two apprentices, who were pouring out their hearts in praise of Fezziwig: and when he had done so, said, "Why! Is it not? He has spent but a few pounds of your mortal money: three or four perhaps. Is that so much that he deserves this praise?"
"It isn't that," said Scrooge, heated by the remark, and speaking unconsciously like his former, not his latter, self. "It isn't that, Spirit. He has the power to render us happy or unhappy; to make our service light or burdensome; a pleasure or a toil. Say that his power lies in words and looks; in things so slight and insignificant that it is impossible to add and count 'em up: what then? The happiness he gives, is quite as great as if it cost a fortune."
If only the Scrooge who, as a child, found refuge in The Arabian Nights and Robinson Crusoe had kept reading, had run a bookshop instead of a counting-house, had let Bob Cratchett eagerly handsell beautiful tomes in a fireplace-warmed, festively decorated storefront location downtown.
Bookseller Scrooge would have had a perfect response to the absurd notion that there could be an excess of books in anyone's life before, during or after the holiday season: Too many books? Bah! Humbug!
"And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!" The capital letters and the exclamation point belong to that old rascal Mr. Dickens. Feel free to copyedit and paraphrase to suit your own needs and beliefs. I wish you great reading for the new year.