Shelf Awareness for Friday, July 9, 2021


Tor Nightfire: Echo by Thomas Olde Heuvelt

Big Picture Press: Art of Protest: Creating, Discovering, and Activating Art for Your Revolution by De Nichols

Callaway Arts & Entertainment: The Beatles: Get Back by The Beatles, photographed by Linda McCartney

St. Martin's Press: The Christie Affair by Nina De Gramont

Soho Crime: My Annihilation by Fuminori Nakamura, translated by Sam Bett

Candlewick Press: Hello, Little Fish!: A Mirror Book by Lucy Cousins

Merriam-Webster Kids: Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day: 366 Elevating Utterances to Stretch Your Cranium and Tickle Your Humerus by Merriam-Webster

News

The Frugal Frigate, Redlands, Calif., Adds Adult Books

The Frugal Frigate, a children's bookstore in downtown Redlands, Calif., has added an adult book room following a renovation, Redlands Community News reported.

The adult section, called "A Room of One's Own," features bestsellers, classics and some lesser-known favorites. Erin Rivera, who purchased the bookstore in 2019, has also brought in a selection of sidelines that are made in the U.S., produced by women-owned companies and cannot be found on Amazon. She also plans to start hosting book clubs and events for adults.

Rivera explained that this is not the first time The Frugal Frigate has carried adult books. When the store opened in 1988, original owner Katherine Thompson had a shelf of adult books by the entrance. Eventually that became a separate room of adult books called "A Room of Her Own." In fact, the new adult room has a small section called Katherine's Corner that features titles selected by Thompson.

"Bringing it back I stuck with 'A Room of One's Own' to make sure we were being inclusive and just as an homage to the original," Rivera told RCN. "This was super important to me because I worked here from age 15 to 19. It was a space that I grew up in and kind of became a young adult in."

Between Thompson selling the store and Rivera's remodel, the space was used as a stock room, an employee room and an event space. The remodel involved moving a staircase, adding custom bookcases and putting in new flooring and lighting. The new section also contains a desk that belonged to Charlotte S. Huck, a children's literature expert who lived in Redlands.


Berkley Books: Sadie on a Plate by Amanda Elliot


International Update: BA Seeks Clarity on Covid Measures, Hungary Fines Bookshop Chain for LGBT-Themed Picture Book 

The Booksellers Association of the U.K. & Ireland warned that the easing of Covid-19 restrictions will have "complex repercussions" for booksellers and has joined other retail trade bodies seeking clarity from the government over its recent decision, the Bookseller reported. 

BA managing director Meryl Halls said: "Many booksellers have expressed a cautious welcome to the easing of restrictions, which will help with customer communications and in-person events, but the majority of booksellers are not planning on completely removing masks and in-store protections, and are consulting with their staff to get to a local solution. Their key priority is keeping staff safe and confident in the workplace.
 
"The most important thing is that booksellers have the ability to decide for their own context how to operate--many want to continue encouraging mask wearing and social distancing, at their discretion, and we want to avoid scenarios where booksellers are required to police public behavior. We're seeking clarity on behalf of our members on any legal issues arising from the removal of these regulations." 

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Hungarian bookshop chain Líra Könyv has been fined 250,000 forints (about $830) for selling a children's story depicting a day in the life of a child with same-sex parents. The fine was "imposed under a Hungarian law that bans unfair trade practice, but comes during a wider crackdown on LGBT rights in Hungary, under the government of prime minister Viktor Orbán," the Guardian reported.

The picture book, Micsoda család!, is a Hungarian translation combining two titles by U.S. author Lawrence Schimel and illustrator Elīna Brasliņa: Early One Morning and Bedtime, Not Playtime!.

Líra Könyv was sued by Pest county, the local authority for the area surrounding Budapest. County commissioner Richard Tarnai told Hír TV that the chain "had violated rules on unfair commercial practices by failing to clearly indicate that the book contained 'content which deviates from the norm,' " the Guardian wrote. Líra Könyv said it would put up a sign warning customers that it sold "books with different content than traditional ones."

The law has already been condemned as "unacceptable" by the Hungarian Publishers' and Booksellers' Association, which said it "creates conditions for restricting freedom of the arts and speech." 

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Attendees at the Frankfurt Book Fair October 20-24 must "show documentation confirming that they are fully vaccinated or that they have been tested for Covid-19 and are negative," the Fair stated this week.

"The generous layout of all levels in the exhibition halls and the limited total number of participants will help prevent crowding," the Fair added. "The distribution of visitors across the fairgrounds and the adherence to social-distancing requirements will be monitored through video feeds. Additional staff will be deployed in the halls to implement the health and safety plan and to ensure that all safety measures are being adhered to. Information on the plan will be continually updated on the Frankfurter Buchmesse website."

Award ceremonies, including the German Book Prize and the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade, will be held as usual. Programming includes digital and hybrid offerings. Canada is the Guest of Honor, and a hybrid program will feature many Canadian authors, illustrators and artists.

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In bookish sports news, Librairie Ernster in Luxembourg recently shared photos on Facebook of the shop's Tour de France window display, celebrating Luxembourgian pro cyclist Charly Gaul, who won the 1958 Tour.

And on Wednesday, in anticipation of the England vs. Denmark semifinal match at the UEFA European Championships, British bookseller Bookends Keswick posted a sign in the shop's window announcing tentative plans--depending on the soccer game's outcome--for the rest of the week: "For obvious reasons we've decided to close our shop at 6 p.m. tonight so we can all enjoy the match. We'll let you know about Sunday night.... Good luck England, the country is behind you!" England won, and now faces Italy in the final, so get your books early Saturday. --Robert Gray


Mountains & Plains Independent Booksellers Association: We're throwing a bookselling party and you're invited!


B&N in Fort Wayne, Ind., Moving Across Street

B&N in the Jefferson Pointe shopping center.

The Barnes & Noble in the Jefferson Pointe shopping center in Fort Wayne, Ind., is moving to a new location in the Orchard Crossing Shopping Center across the street, according to Fort Wayne NBC. B&N will close its current store on August 22 and move in September.

The new bookstore will have "a fresh design and layout with a focus on providing a warm and welcoming environment for browsing along with a locally-tailored selection curated by our expert booksellers," B&N said. Orchard Crossing Shopping Center features a Target.


Berkley Books: 30 Things I Love about Myself by Radhika Sanghani


HarperCollins Christian Publishing Centralizes Sales and Marketing

Doug Lockhart

HarperCollins Christian Publishing is centralizing its sales and marketing operations, which will be headed by Doug Lockhart, newly named senior v-p, sales and centralized marketing. He had been senior v-p of marketing and business partnerships, and has been with the company for 11 years. In his expanded role, Lockhart will integrate marketing expertise more into the company's retail partner strategy for both the Christian division--which includes Thomas Nelson, Zondervan and HarperChristian Resources--and HarperCollins Focus, which includes HarperCollins Leadership, Harper Horizon and Harper Muse.

"The dramatic increase in online purchases over the last year has spurred bricks-and-mortar and online retailers to invest heavily in digital marketing for their own tech platforms," HarperCollins Christian Publishing president and CEO Mark Schoenwald said. "This has strengthened people's dependency on online shopping resources which creates an opportunity for our company to increase cross-functional collaboration within the digital marketing and retail merchandising space."

"Selling books has always been dependent on great marketing," Lockhart said. "However, discovering new books and authors now almost always includes an overabundance of online resources. We are going to focus on sharing information between teams to improve the customer journey experience. We have developed an industry leading marketing operations team with expertise in analytics, metadata, SEO, social media, research, website development and e-mail marketing. These teams will work together to maximize our authors' exposure at retail."


Obituary Note: Mike Don

Mike Don, the radical bookseller and founder and editor of the underground magazine Mole Express, has died at the age of 77, the Guardian reported.

Don founded Mole Express, which "covered local politics, the counterculture, and music- and drug-related issues," in Manchester, England, in 1970. In 1974, he became part of a collective that took over the Grass Roots bookshop in Manchester.

Under the collective's stewardship, the bookstore became the largest radical bookshop in Britain outside of London. Grass Roots occasionally "attracted unwanted attention from the far-right," and in one such encounter Don was able to diffuse the situation by starting a conversation about rockabilly music.

Following Mole Express's closure in 1977, Don created the magazine the City Enquirer. For three years, it delved "into the inner workings of Manchester city council and Greater Manchester police." Though Don was reportedly a "fine investigative journalist," he "had no interest in a mainstream media career."

He was a part of Grass Roots until 1982, after which he started a mail-order book business called Dreamberry Wine that initially focused on science fiction. Don ran Dreamberry Wine, which eventually became an online business, from his home in Manchester until late 2020.


G.L.O.W. - Galley Love of the Week
Be the first to have an advance copy!
Four Treasures of the Sky
by Jenny Tinghui Zhang

GLOW: Flatiron Books: Four Treasures of the Sky by Jenny Tinghui ZhangDaiyu, named after a tragic heroine, is the young protagonist of Jenny Tinghui Zhang's stunning debut novel, Four Treasures of the Sky, a work of historical fiction set in the 1880s. Daiyu happily follows a stranger when he promises her a full belly, but instead of feeding her noodles, he smuggles her from China to California, where she begins a dizzying journey that fuses folklore and history with a masterful eloquence. "There's still a strong bias toward thinking of the lone cowboy as the quintessential symbol of the West," says Flatiron senior editor Caroline Bleeke, who quickly fought to preempt the book after reading an early manuscript. "But that elides the experiences of everyone else, particularly women and POC." A book to sit alongside Yaa Gyasi's Homecoming and Anna North's Outlawed, this is a powerful tale of reclamation, spun with soul by a remarkable new talent. --Lauren Puckett

(Flatiron Books, $27.99 hardcover, 9781250811783, April 5, 2022)

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Notes

Image of the Day: Shelf Awareness + Exile at Bookville

On the road again: while visiting Chicago, Shelf Awareness partnership marketing director Kristianne Huntsberger (r.) stopped by Exile in Bookville to say hello to co-owner Javier Ramirez.


In-Person Reopening of the Day: Print: A Bookstore  

"Goooooooood morning! Today's the day!" Print: A Bookstore, Portland, Maine, posted on Facebook Wednesday. "After 17 months of being closed to the public our doors are finally open for in-person shopping again. We're as excited to see you as we hope you are to see all of us, and we cannot thank you enough for your patience and continued support." (Pictured: co-owners Emily Russo Murtagh and Josh Christie.)


#PowellsArchiveProject: Powell's Books, Then & Now

Powell's Books, Portland, Ore., shared a pair of photos on Facebook, noting: "Powell's on Hawthorne then & Powell's on Hawthorne now. We first opened shop on Hawthorne in 1992 and then shifted storefronts on the street in 1995. This particular photo looks to be from the late '90s/early '00s. #TBT reading challenge: You're shopping at Powell's at the turn of the century. What book are you picking up?

"We are working on creating a lasting archive of #50YearsOfPowells, and in order to accomplish our goal we invite you to share your own Powell's history with us! Please share your memories, treasured book finds, merch, ephemera, and more with us via email at archive@powells.com or tag us in any social posts with the hashtag #PowellsArchiveProject."


Personnel Changes at Simon & Schuster

William (Will) Plunkett has been promoted to the newly created position of assistant manager, sales, at Simon & Schuster.


Costco Picks: The Exiles

Robert Poole, Costco's book buyer, has selected The Exiles by Christina Baker Kline (Custom House, $16.99, 9780062356338) as his pick for July. In Costco Connection, which goes to many of the warehouse club's members, he writes:

"Christina Baker Kline is an author with a conscience. Writing compelling stories with great characters is not enough for her; she also spotlights historic injustices. So it is with The Exiles, a tale set in the early 19th century that is initiated when a young governess in England is falsely accused of theft.

"With no due process, she is thrown in the infamous Newgate prison, where conditions were inhumanly harsh. But it's when she is sentenced to expulsion to the penal colony of Australia that her ordeal really begins."


Media and Movies

Movies: The Alchemist

Westbrook Studios, Netter Films and PalmStar Media have set a September start date in Morocco for The Alchemist, based on Paulo Coelho's novel, Deadline reported. PalmStar principal Kevin Frakes will direct while Sebastian de Souza, Tom Hollander and Shohreh Aghdashloo are starring in the movie, which will be ready for release in late 2022. 

The cast also includes Jordi Molla, Youssef Kerkour and Ashraf Barhom. The film is produced by Will Smith and Jon Mone for Westbrook Studios; Frakes and Raj Singh for PalmStar; and Gil Netter for Netter Films.

"Hundreds of millions of people over the past three decades have found inspiration in The Alchemist to pursue their dreams, listen to their hearts, and never to lose hope when faced with adversity," said Netter. "Paulo Coelho's words are profound, and now we will finally be able to bring those words to life."

Frakes added that Coelho "wrote it best. When you really want something to happen, the whole universe will conspire so that your wish comes true. It has long been my dream to bring this story to the world, and now we can do that in a way that speaks to Coelho's vision, with a cast and crew that represents the global well of support for The Alchemist."



Books & Authors

Awards: PEN Translates Winners

Books from 11 countries and 11 languages are among the 12 winners of English PEN's translation awards, including--for the first time--titles from Yemen, Ecuador and Ireland, as well as work translated from the Tibetan and Irish. Among winners are the first novels by Tibetan and Yemeni women ever to be published in the U.K. Books are selected for PEN Translates awards "on the basis of outstanding literary quality, the strength of the publishing project, and their contribution to U.K. bibliodiversity." See the complete list of winners here.

"These 12 books are significant works of literature," said Will Forrester, translation and international manager at English PEN. "They represent some of the most exciting literature in translation arriving into the U.K. market. Remarkable in variety of language, voice, form, subject and geography, they are united in being outstanding pieces of writing and translating. I would like to thank the Selection Panel for all their work in determining these awards. English PEN is thrilled to be helping these books get to readers, in a moment in which exceptional, internationalist and diverse literature is vital."

Ros Schwartz, co-chair of the English PEN translation advisory group, commented: "It is exciting to see the ever-increasing diversity of languages being translated. Despite the tough economic climate, publishers are boldly seeking out new writing from around the globe, often brought to their attention by translators. English PEN is proud to support their efforts. Ultimately, it is readers who benefit from a richly diverse landscape."


Reading with... Vanessa Riley

Vanessa Riley holds a doctorate in mechanical engineering and a master's in industrial engineering and engineering management from Stanford University. She writes historical fiction and romance set in Georgian and Regency times centered on women of color, particularly Black women. Riley's latest book is Island Queen (Morrow, July 6, 2021), based on Dorothy Kirwan Thomas, a free woman of color who rose from slavery to become a wealthy landowner in the colonial West Indies. Riley lives in Atlanta, Ga.

On your nightstand now:

I am in a bit of a mystery phase and I'm finishing up Walter Mosley's Black Betty. I love how Mosley makes me feel as if I'm doing life with Easy Rawlins. I love how social commentary adds to the beats, but not overshadowing the drama.

Favorite book when you were a child:

When I was a child, I loved Grimm's Fairy Tales. They aren't clean or sanitized or obviously beautiful. They are messy and memorable. I adore that.

Your top five authors:

It's hard to narrow my choices of favorites. So I won't. I adore Beverly Jenkins. She's one of the first authors I read who includes culture, African American history, in her romantic plot. I get goosebumps thinking of how she weaves a tale. Beatriz Williams had me with her first paragraph. I hear motion in her dialogue, and that draws me in. I don't want to miss a word. Talia Hibbert's ability to combine humor and romance with serious issues and serious conditions make me hunger for her prose. Sarah MacLean is a wizard, a good gentle wizard that puts magic on every page. Jane Austen is my heart and backbone. I don't think I would be writing if her voice hadn't stuck in my heart.

Book you've faked reading:

My mother was very much into the classics and wanted her children to read them. I was with her for Shakespeare and Wadsworth. Tolstoy's War and Peace was a bridge too far. Thank goodness for CliffsNotes.

Book you're an evangelist for:

I will proclaim from the rooftops that Kindred by Octavia Butler is the best book. Her ability to make both timelines very compelling while balancing the hope and hopelessness is breathtaking.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Glory by Kahran and Regis Bethencourt is the prettiest book I've seen. A beautiful girl in braids decked in African garb graces the cover. The picture book is filled with such gorgeously composed and coiffed images. It fills me with pride to stare at it.

Book you hid from your parents:

I hid Mom's copy of War and Peace so she wouldn't ask me questions. CliffsNotes can only take you so far.

Book that changed your life:

A Passion Most Pure by Julie Lessman was the first book I'd read that was overtly passionate, full of faith and uncompromising in showing both aspects.

Favorite line from a book:

"A woman who knows her mind is worth more than gold." --Something Like Love, Beverly Jenkins. It might have been the words of encouragement I needed when I read it, but it stuck.

Five books you'll never part with:

If I had to choose just five, the order and selection will change on a daily basis. The following are the ones I most have today.

Along the Infinite Sea by Beatriz Williams. Williams moved my emotions along every twist and turn of her plot.

For me, the message of everything having a cost is haunting and true. I will never give up my copy of Kindred by Octavia Butler.

The Perfect Mistress by Betina Krahn is sweeping tale of a fake relationship turned true, a hardened jaded hero changed by love all while making mischief in the sumptuous backdrop of historic London. Pure catnip.

Maya Angelou's words are lyrical, and the rhythm always carries me through each verse. I mean prose. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings will not leave my shelf. It needs one of those clear domes atop it to keep it safe.

The Black Jacobins by C.L.R. James is as impactful as it is clarifying. It gives voice to history most don't know or assume they know. It's honest and has been in my thoughts one way or the other since I read it.

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

Daring and the Duke by Sarah MacLean and Good Luck with That by Kristan Higgins are two books I'd love to pretend to read again for the first time. MacLean's creation takes a hated villain and makes me love him. Magic. Higgins takes a hated topic and makes me feel sadness and hope in ways that are surprising.

Books you can count on to lift your mood:

Last year, in the heart of the pandemic, I searched my shelves and pulled these old favorites.

How the Duke Was Won by Lenora Bell delivers humor and punch. It's a true pick-me-up.

The Duke and I by Julia Quinn had me rooting for the stuttering Simon even before he came to life in the delicious form of Regé-Jean Page.

Guilty of Love by Pat Simmons is an honest portrayal of getting in a jam and gaining the strength to thrive.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is my gateway drug to a time in place I love reading about.

Favorite books you read this year:

The Rose Code by Kate Quinn--I'm team Mav all the way.

Wild Women and the Blues by Denny S. Bryce showed me a side of Chicago I knew little about, and loved living every minute of it.

The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba by Chanel Cleeton was a sweeping braid of three vibrant strings. I can't separate which strand I liked more.

Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert had me in stitches. It's a fierce, passionate, humanizing experience. This was surely needed following 2020.


Book Review

Review: Paris Is a Party, Paris Is a Ghost

Paris Is a Party, Paris Is a Ghost by David Hoon Kim (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $26 hardcover, 256p., 9780374229726, August 3, 2021)

In 2007, the New Yorker published "Sweetheart Sorrow," which became the first chapter of David Hoon Kim's enigmatic debut, Paris Is a Party, Paris Is a Ghost. The duration of the novel's opening 30ish pages is the only time Fumiko--a Japanese student in Paris who was the protagonist's lover--is actually alive, and yet her presence looms throughout.

Henrik Blatand is a multiply-displaced, peripatetic polyglot: he's ethnically Japanese, adopted to Denmark (with a brief educational foray in Sweden), currently not working on a literary thesis in Paris. His fleeting affair with Fumiko ends with her suicide, an event from which Henrik can't seem to recover. She appears as a corpse for a dissection class in the second chapter--although Henrik will never know her afterlife fate, as one of the students assigned to parse Fumiko's inert form takes temporary narrative control. When Henry returns to continue his story, he's an untethered wanderer, often chasing Fumiko's elusive, impossible image. Isolated, usually broke, he eventually completes a translation course (inspired by a French-to-English job for a blind physicist he randomly picked up for quick cash) and reliably (enough) supports himself with his multilingual talents.

The years pass; Henrik remains essentially alone. Despite access to multiple opportunities for communication, Henrik might be incapable of sustaining lasting connections. His most significant relationship after Fumiko is with his goddaughter, Gém, the precocious child of a classmate. Henrik is probably the better parent, certainly more engaged and attentive than Gém's divorced father, René. Out in public, even with immediate physical disparities--Henrik's "unmistakably Asian" features next to "strikingly beautiful six-year-old" blonde-haired Gém--their obvious mutual attachment makes a father/daughter bond believable to strangers. Reminded of Fumiko's tragic demise, Henrik wants to protect Gém, even--especially--from René, who's determined to make her a horror film star with a has-been Italian director, complete with a murder of crows. Reality proves unreliable in Kim's fictional world.  

Trained at the Sorbonne and Iowa Writers Workshop, Kim, like Henrik, is a multilingual expat-in-motion. Kim was born in Korea, raised in the U.S. and educated in France, and he is fluent in Korean, English and French. His erudite prose is undeniably sublime and polished (his vocabulary remarkably extensive--anechoic, astrakhan, tatterdemalion) but perhaps too much of many good things doesn't coalesce successfully here, resulting in distracting missteps and disconnects. Kim's debut hasn't quite accomplished all that it could and should. The exquisite beauty of his composition--combining words, crafting sentences--however, bodes well for perfecting future narratives. --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon

Shelf Talker: David Hoon Kim's ambitious debut follows an ethnic Japanese expat in Paris as he loves and then mourns a young woman lost to suicide.


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: First Reads, Last Reads & the Magic Kingdom

Weller Book Works

Sometimes the book world leads you down unexpected paths. Earlier this week I read a column headlined "The Questions We Didn't Know to Ask," by Tony Weller, co-owner of Weller Book Works, Salt Lake City, Utah, in the store's Textblock newsletter.

"Are there old books, papers and photos in your family?" he wrote. "Ask your elders questions while there is still time. Label oblique things. Ask for stories. With your curiosity, build a bridge from their generation to yours."

When I was born in 1950, the first thing I read was the name tag of the attending physician. No, sorry, not true. I can, however, read his name on my birth certificate now, reminding me that 20 years after that doctor brought me into this world, he was still around to attend as my father left it. The document also tells me that I was born in a small town hospital just up the hill from the Vermont Marble Company's mills and stone-filled yards. My mother was 22 and had carried me for 36 weeks. I weighed seven pounds, 13 ounces.

My father was 29. His contribution to my birth documentation is a photo he cut out of the newspaper, showing Red Sox center fielder Dom DiMaggio smoking a cigar and celebrating the birth of his son on the same day (and, coincidentally, at the same weight).

My mother kept a Baby Book (compliments of Provident Mutual Life Insurance Company of Philadelphia), where I can read her cryptic portrait of a bookworm slowly wrenching himself free of the cocoon. Under the heading "My Favorite Stories," she wrote, "At four you like to be read to but don't seem to have any real favorites. Because we like to watch television at night, you have me read afternoons when you take your nap."

In his column, Weller observed: "I meet remarkable persons in our bookstore. Engagement with them, their minds and ideas, their books, their passion has broadened my culture, humbled me and made me comfortable with, even excited about diverse cultures. Some of these fascinating persons have become my friends. And I frequently am called to help families when the older ones pass away."

Sam and Lila Weller, c. 1995

He also noted that when handling "every book in a person's library, one sees the person from numerous angles. It is an intimate experience." This year, he is encountering this "in the most personal possible way" as he processes the second half of the library of his parents, Samuel and Lila N. Weller. 

"Some of you remember that Sam retired in 1997 when he became blind," Tony Weller wrote. "At that time, with his lively participation, we brought a few thousand books into the bookstore for resale, and many customers were excited by the books he owned. We stopped removing books from the crowded household about half way through, and Sam passed away in 2009. Now, with the passing of my mother Lila in April, the rest of this generation of Weller books must have new homes. Many are my father's books, but most of them are from my mother's library.... 

"As I go through the remaining Weller books, I discover questions I could not have known I would ever want to ask, questions that can't be fathomed until a book nudges curiosity. Mostly about books, but also about some personal matters. No less now with my parents' books am I thwarted by the absence of the persons with the answers. Who ever knows how much story is lost with each passing soul?"

Indeed. I didn't come from a bookish clan, so the experience of dealing with my parents' personal library, a challenge at once heartbreaking, illuminating and enviable, was not an issue. My own first personal library had been a treasured collection of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. TV series novelizations (The Doomsday Affair, The Copenhagen Affair, The Dagger Affair, etc.). The numbered paperbacks (1-23) were on top of my dresser, nested between marble bookends that were slightly damaged "seconds" my father had scavenged from his job at the marble mill. 

The columnist's library

In more ways than I can count, that first book collection was a bridge to the world I wanted to live in as an adult--a world of books, where readers could be anybody they chose to be, for a time. Half a century later, in our renovated basement guest room/library, three of the walls are lined with bookshelves constructed to fit an intriguing wedge of space. A personal library at last.

In his book The Eyes of the Heart: A Memoir of the Lost and Found, Frederick Buechner opens with an elegiac guided tour of his personal library, noting: "The Magic Kingdom is my haven and sanctuary, the place where I do my work, the place of my dreams and of my dreaming. I originally named it the Magic Kingdom as a kind of joke--part Disneyland, part the Land of Oz--but by now it has become simply its name."

Long ago, my mother gave me a leather-bound, four-volume set of Oscar Wilde's works that had belonged to her father, who also spent his life working in Vermont marble mills. I have no memory of my grandfather ever reading anything but a newspaper. Yet here, on my bookshelves, the unfathomable mystery of his diminutive personal library remains, along with questions I didn't know to ask.

--Robert Gray, editor

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