Shelf Awareness for Friday, May 5, 2023


Algonquin Young Readers: the Beautiful Game by Yamile Saied Méndez

Berkley Books: Books that will sweep you off your feet! Enter Giveaway!

Feiwel & Friends: The Flicker by HE Edgmon

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: The Pumpkin Princess and the Forever Night by Steven Banbury

St. Martin's Griffin: Murdle: The School of Mystery: 50 Seriously Sinister Logic Puzzles by GT Karber

News

New Owner for Chapter 2 Books, Hudson, Wis.

Gillette Kempf is the new owner of Chapter 2 Books, Hudson, Wis., the Star-Observer reported. She purchased the business from Brian and Sue Roegge, who opened the store in 2011 and retired this year. In a Facebook post after the sale closed, Roegge noted: "Brian and I are riding off into the sunset. Thank you so much to all my friends who supported us over the years. You will always have a special place in my heart. God I'm tempted to name some names but better not!"

Kempf ran a bricks-and-mortar bookstore in a small Minnesota town before selling it to establish her life in Wisconsin. The Star-Observer noted that she and Shelly Weinstein, who will be the store's manager, "became best friends in college. They've traveled together, studied together, lived together, lived across the country from each other and their friendship has thrived through it all." When Kempf, her sons and husband moved to the River Falls area about five years ago, Weinstein relocated to the area as well. 

Upon learning that Chapter 2 Books was for sale, Kempf said the "universe aligned." The bookstore is her "light at the end of the tunnel," she added.

Books are lifeblood for Kempf and Weinstein, the Star-Observer wrote, noting that the store "will reflect readers of all ages and interests. Kempf and Weinstein are organizing books not so much on genre, but theme. Think sports, nature, adventure, friendship and not so much fiction, nonfiction or biography. A large children's section has already begun to form, as well as young reader sections."

"Books are really the only way to walk a mile in someone else's shoes," Weinstein said. 


Blackstone Publishing: Rogue Community College: A Liberty House Novel by David R Slayton


Parnassus Books Acquires Hooks Book Events

Parnassus Books, Nashville, Tenn., has acquired Hooks Book Events, a provider of nonfiction book and author programs for businesses and organizational teams. Hooks Book Events will operate as a division of Parnassus. 

The acquisition unites Parnassus owner and author Ann Patchett with Perry Pidgeon Hooks. Both are longtime members of the bookselling/publishing community. Hooks was working at Davis-Kidd booksellers in 1994 when she had the idea to bring together authors with business organizations for professional development, training, and team-building programs. After moving to Washington D.C., she founded Hooks Book Events in 2007, partnering with independent bookstores to fulfill bulk orders. Parnassus Books has been a retail partner of Hooks Book Events since 2012. 

"I've worked with Perry and Hooks Book Events for years, both as an author and as a bookseller, and I've seen this company fill an important role in the business community," said Patchett. "The acquisition of Hooks Book Events expands our ability to get books and authors in front of more people in more settings, and it gives me a chance to work with one of the most innovative and dynamic people I know." 

Hooks Book Events began by offering in-person author programs primarily to organizations in the capital, but in the spring of 2020 the company pivoted to delivering online programs, helping to bring remote teams together during the Covid-19 pandemic. Hooks Book Events now serves clients across the country, including Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, and nonprofits. 

"It is great to be back home again," said Hooks. "Ann and Parnassus have been supporters of ours for so long and have shared our passion for connecting people through books. I am thrilled to be able to continue our work as a part of Parnassus, and to serve the Nashville and Tennessee communities."


Dotters Books, Eau Claire, Wis., Reopens in New Location

Dotters Books in Eau Claire, Wis., had its grand opening Saturday in its new location at 307 S. Barstow St., WQOW reported.

Store owner Margaret Leonard opened the bookstore in 2018 in a space in Eau Claire's East Hill. Earlier this year she announced that she'd be moving the bookstore to a space downtown.

Leonard told WQOW that the reopening went great, and there was a line out the door for most of the day. There was a mix of returning customers and new faces, and Leonard hopes that the new space downtown brings in more foot traffic.

"I prioritize stocking books by voices that have traditionally been marginalized. So women, authors of color, LGBTQ folks, that's where I start," Leonard said. "I want to make sure that those are the voices on our shelves and that anybody who comes in can find themselves in here on the shelf."

The bookstore is now open six days per week and will host storytime sessions on Saturday mornings.


International Update: Indie Bookstores 'Springing Up' in Kyiv; 24-Hour Bookshops a Popular Option

Book Lion in Kyiv

In defiance of Russia's ongoing aggression in Ukraine, "a crop of new independent bookshops... are springing up all around Kyiv, the Guardian reported, noting that in the central Pechersk district, Misto opened in December. "At the time, Russian missile attacks were regularly casting Kyiv into darkness. Everyone told Diana Slonchenko, its owner, that she was mad. But war, she says, 'changed my mindset.' Her desire to open a bookshop had switched from 'something I'll do one day, to something I need to do now.' "

Her bookshop is airy, with pale wood fittings, large windows, and a selection of vinyl neatly displayed above a record player. "I wanted it to be light and warm--like a library from the past, maybe a school library but in a good way. No Soviet stuff. I want people to come in here and feel safe," she said, adding that the most common question customers ask her is: "Can you recommend a book that is not about Ukrainian suffering?" 

In the city's Podil district, the Book Lion bookshop opened last August. "It's really hard to plan during a war, and we were thinking: how can we do this when we just don't know what's going to happen? But step by step we did it," said co-founder Oleksandr Riabchuk.

An even newer bookshop, Skovoroda, named for the 18th-century Ukrainian philosopher Hryhorii Skovoroda, opened April 8. "We want to fill the market up with original Ukrainian titles and books in translation," said bookseller Victoria Berkut. "There used to be a powerful stereotype that good translations of foreign literature could only be found in Russian--and we want to show that there are good translators into Ukrainian."

The bookshops "are as much community spaces as places for solitary browsing," the Guardian wrote. "The Book Lion bookshop, which had electricity through the winter blackouts, proved a haven for people living locally such as the writer Oleksandr Mykhed. During air-raid alerts a group of women employed locally still come and knit in the corners. Sens, a bookshop that opened shortly before the invasion, in January 2022, is practically a co-working space, with laptop-wielding hipsters getting on with their jobs over coffee."

The bookshops are a sign of hope. "When writers see the bookstores they are happy," said Riabchuk. "They have faith that the books they are going to write will find readers."

--- 

Eslite Songyan (via)

Shopping at 24-hour bookstores continues to be a popular option in some parts of the world. Eslite's Songyan store in southern Taipei will take over as the bookstore chain's next 24-hour branch after its Xinyi store closes at the end of the year. Taiwan News reported that it will be "the third time Eslite has operated a bookstore around the clock, with the volume of its publications to be tripled.... Taiwan became the first in the world to run a 24-hour bookshop, Eslite Dunnan, in 1999, followed by Eslite Xinyi in 2020."

Eslite chairwoman Mercy Wu also unveiled an initiative, to kick off in June, that will see the company's bookstores in Asia take turns providing nonstop service. A total of 24 outlets, including those in Taiwan and in Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur, will participate in the event. The company had also announced in March it would open 10 more stores in Taiwan this year. 

In Japan, Yamashita Shoten bookstore, located in a residential corner of Tokyo's Setgaya Ward, "has launched unmanned overnight operations for a trial period, as part of efforts to boost sales," the Japan News reported. Customers have to scan a QR code with their smartphones to enter the store. They pay for items on a self-checkout machine exclusively for cashless payments. Cameras and other security devices are used to deter shoplifters. The trial runs through July.

Major book distributor Tohan Corp., which launched the trial in late March amid sluggish sales of printed books and a fall in the number of bookstores, noted that "a higher-than-expected number of customers have been visiting the shop early in the morning, presumably before going to work," the Japan News noted. 

"Sales are rising. If overall results are good, we'd like to expand the system to other shops," a Tohan official said.

--- 

BookNet Canada has released The Canadian Book Consumer Study 2022, featuring data about the book-related behaviors of adult Canadians. In 2022, surveys were conducted during the months of March, June, September, and December among 10,840 adult, English-speaking Canadians, 18% of whom were book buyers.

The Canadian Book Consumer Study 2022 includes:

  • data on book buying, including insights into spending habits, reasons to buy at specific places, and changes in spending over time
  • data on borrowing, including motivations behind borrowing vs. buying, discoverability, and browsing activity
  • an analysis of the change in the buying and borrowing of print books, e-books, and audiobooks through recent years
  • information related to the interest of book buyers in books by Canadian contributors, Canadian regions, Indigenous peoples, and more.

--Robert Gray


Obituary Note: Wolfgang Schivelbusch

Wolfgang Schivelbusch, a polymathic cultural historian who "explored mass transportation, spices and stimulants, commercial lighting and the legacy of defeat on society in about a dozen groundbreaking books," died March 26, the New York Times reported. He was 81. Schivelbusch wrote "in his native German (most were eventually translated into English) from his Manhattan apartment, where he spent winters, and his home in Berlin," though his death was not widely reported outside Europe.

"He was an extraordinary public intellectual, an independent largely unaffiliated wildly poly-curious and extravagantly gifted seeker after the patterns and idiosyncrasies of history," author Lawrence Wechsler wrote to members of the New York Institute for the Humanities, where Wechsler was a director and Schivelbusch was a fellow.

Die Zeit, the German national weekly, called Schivelbusch a "master of cultural-historical research."

His books include The Railway Journey: The Industrialization of Time and Space in the Nineteenth Century (1977); Tastes of Paradise: A Social History of Spices, Stimulants, and Intoxicants (1980); Disenchanted Night: The Industrialization of Light in the Nineteenth Century (1983); The Culture of Defeat: On National Trauma, Mourning, and Recovery (2001); Three New Deals: Reflections on Roosevelt's America, Mussolini's Italy, and Hitler's Germany, 1933-1939 (2005); and The Other Side: Living and Researching Between New York and Berlin (2021).

Schivelbusch's "pithy and provocative books won praise from academics for microscopically connecting history with quotidian life. But, unusual for a public (if unpretentious) intellectual, he also attracted a wider audience that, captivated by his quirky curiosity, joined him on his exploits--even if, unlike Indiana Jones's, those exploits were largely confined to libraries," the Times wrote.

The Railway Journey won the German Nonfiction Prize in 1978. In 2003, the Academy of Arts in Berlin awarded him the Heinrich Mann Prize, and in 2013 he won the Lessing Prize of the City of Hamburg for achievements in German culture.

Schivelbusch's objective was "not to repeat what was already known, but to make the little-known or unknown better known," German scholar Eva Geulen wrote recently on the Leibniz Center's blog, adding: "His feeling for the neglected detail was due to an individual sensitivity for the concrete, from which no rules were to be followed. His subjects found him, not the other way around."


G.L.O.W. - Galley Love of the Week
Be the first to have an advance copy!
A Forty Year Kiss
by Nickolas Butler
GLOW: A Forty Year Kiss by Nickolas Butler

A Forty Year Kiss by Nickolas Butler is a passionate, emotionally complex love story that probes tender places within the heart and soul. When 60-somethings Charlie and Vivian--married then divorced in their 20s--reunite after four decades, they are swept up by the very best of what their romantic relationship once offered. "Anyone who has ever thought about what might have been will find this book fascinating," says Shana Drehs, senior editorial director at Sourcebooks Landmark. "The story is a brilliant exploration of a second chance at love, always realistic but never saccharine." As Charlie and Vivian build a bridge from past to present, their enduring love paving over potholes, Butler (Shotgun Lovesongs) raises questions about how life changes people--or does it?--and delivers another heartening, unforgettable novel. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

(Sourcebooks Landmark, $27.99 Hardcover, 9781464221248, 
February 4, 2025)

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#ShelfGLOW
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Notes

Happy 30th Birthday, Main Street Books!

Congratulations to Main Street Books in St. Charles, Mo., which is turning 30 years old this month and celebrating with an all-day party tomorrow. 

The festivities will begin at 11 a.m. with a special storytime and craft session with a local firefighter, followed by a meet and greet with the children's book character Dog Man. In the afternoon, store dog Winston will have his own celebration, and customers will be encouraged to bring their dogs. At 3:30, there will be a ceremonial cake cutting and toast to the anniversary. Throughout the day, there will also be visits from local authors, special discounts, and a store trivia contest.

Main Street owners (l.-r.) Mary Fran Rash (1993-2006), Emily Schroen (2014-present), Vicki Erwin (2006-2014).

"We are incredibly grateful for the support this community has shown Main Street Books over the past 30 years," said store owner Emily Hall Schroen. "This party is our way of saying thank you to all of our customers who have made Main Street Books a beloved part of St. Charles."

Main Street Books was founded in 1993 by Mary Fran Rash. In 2006 Rash sold the store to Vicki Erwin, and in 2014 Schroen purchased the store from Erwin.


Cool Idea of the Day: Booksmith's Kegger

Booksmith in San Francisco, Calif., is throwing its "first-ever in-store keg party" on Saturday, May 27. The event, scheduled to run from 3 to 8 p.m., will celebrate "life, books, the advent of summer, the shop, and you." There will be live music, tarot readings, a zine table, and more. Fort Point Beer Company and Quiet Lightning are sponsoring the event, and $12 will get attendees a wristband and pint of Fort Point beer.


Chalkboard: Tattered Cover Book Store

"Our AMAZING bookseller artist Alex (they/them) worked all day and has done some beautiful art on our Cafe chalk board!" Tattered Cover Book Store, Denver, Colo., posted on Facebook. "Featuring Viv from @travis_baldree's Legends and Lattes and Persephone from @usedbandaid 's Lore Olympus!! Both come with their own specialty drinks you can get here at Colfax. You can check out their art profile here: @capitalismisacurse."


Personnel Changes at Holiday House, Peachtree, and Pixel+Ink

Elyse Vincenty has been promoted to marketing manager, trade, at Holiday House, Peachtree, and Pixel+Ink. She was formerly associate marketing manager, trade.


Media and Movies

TV: Harriet the Spy Season 2

The second season of Harriet the Spy, based on the classic children's novel by Louise Fitzhugh, premieres tonight on Apple TV+. Produced by the Jim Henson Company, the animated series features a voice cast that includes Beanie Feldstein (as Harriet), Jane Lynch, Kimberly Brooks, Charlie Schlatter, Lacey Chabert, Crispin Freeman, Grey Griffin, and Bumper Robinson. Guest stars this season include Jaeden Martell, Brad Garrett, Michelle Trachtenberg, and more.

The Apple Original series is written and executive produced by Will McRobb, with Sidney Clifton as producer. Lisa Henson and Halle Stanford executive produce on behalf of the Jim Henson Company with John W. Hyde, Nancy Steingard and Wendy Moss-Klein also serving as exec producers, and Terissa Kelton as co-executive producer. Chris Prynoski, Shannon Prynoski, and Ben Kalina executive produce for Titmouse Animation Studios.


Movies: Umberto Eco: A Library of the World

Cinema Guild, which has acquired U.S. rights to Umberto Eco: A Library of the World, a documentary about the Italian author, has released a trailer that "takes viewers inside Eco's extraordinary personal library," Deadline reported. Directed by Davide Ferrario, the doc will be released beginning June 30 at Film Forum in New York City, followed by an expansion across the country. 

"A documentary immersion into all things Eco, Davide Ferrario's film takes us on a tour of Umberto Eco's private library, guided by the author himself," according to a description of the film. "Combining new footage with material he shot with Eco in 2015 for a video installation for the Venice Biennale, Ferrario documents this incredible collection and the man who amassed it. As Eco leads us among the more than 50,000 volumes, we also gain insight into the library of the mind of this vastly prolific and original thinker."

In the trailer, Eco observes: "A library is both symbol and reality of universal memory. Libraries are the common memory of humanity."



Books & Authors

Awards: Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel Longlist

A 20-title longlist has been released for this year's Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award, which celebrates "crime writing at its best" by U.K. and Irish authors. The prize is run by Harrogate International Festivals and sponsored by T&R Theakston Ltd, in partnership with WH Smith and the Express. Check out the complete longlist here

The shortlist will be announced June 15 and a winner named July 20 at the opening night of the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival. The winner receives £3,000 (about $3,770), and a handmade, engraved beer cask provided by Theakston Old Peculier.


Reading with... Katie Wicks

Katie Wicks was born and raised in Montreal, Canada, where she now lives and writes full time. An amateur tennis and guitar player, Wicks has been obsessed with reality TV singing competitions since American Idol made its debut 20 years ago but has never worked up the courage to audition herself. Hazel Fine Sings Along is her first novel, just published by W by Wattpad Books.

Handsell readers your book in 25 words or less:

A singer enters a reality singing competition for her last chance at stardom, but she's got a secret that could finish her career forever.

Ooh, that was 24 words! Got it on the first try, too.

On your nightstand now:

Just the Nicest Couple by Mary Kubica. I had to force myself to stop reading and put it down last night so I could fall asleep. Pulls you in from the first page and establishes a creepy vibe in the best way.

Favorite book when you were a child:

A tie between Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder, and that whole series of books, and Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery and that whole series, too.

Both of them are great, but also contemporary histories of a certain time, which I found appealing as a child--and now, too.

Your top five authors:

Jane Austen, John Green, Nick Hornby, Ruth Ware, Emily Henry.

I read eclectically and in multiple genres, but I've read everything they've written, so that speaks for itself.

Book you've faked reading:

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. Just not for me! But I'm clearly in the wrong here, given the millions and millions of copies sold.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Also a tie, between The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton and The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. The imagination in both of these books is incredible and made me want to do better as an author. It's interesting to me also that, in general, I wouldn't say that I'm a fan of fantastical elements in fiction, and yet these are two of my favorite books of the last 20 years. So maybe I am!

Book you've bought for the cover:

Every Summer After by Carley Fortune. It's a beautiful painting that evokes the book perfectly, but the inside is great, too.

Book you hid from your parents:

Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews. Where did I even get this book? I also remember reading Forever by Judy Blume, which was being passed around in class with a brown paper cover over it. My mother recently claimed that she read everything we read first, but I don't think so! Because, Mom, if you read Flowers in the Attic before I did, then I have some questions for you.

Book that changed your life:

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I came to Austen a bit later in life and bought a book secondhand that has all six of her novels in it--the type is very small! I love all of the novels, but this one always sticks out to me. The wit, the pacing, the dialogue, the characters. She was a master, and there's a reason we're still reading her, generations later.

Favorite line from a book:

"As he read, I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once." --John Green, The Fault in Our Stars

Five books you'll never part with:

All from my childhood:

Ballet Shoes, Noel Streatfeild; A Little Princess, Frances Hodgson Burnett (The Secret Garden is great, too--I have them in a dual volume); the Anne of Green Gables series by L.M. Montgomery (did you know there's more than one book?); the Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I have two copies of every one of my own books, and altogether that counts as number five.

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

The Stand by Stephen King. I was obsessed with it when I was a teenager, and I've read multiple versions of it because he's put out more than one--each one longer than the last, and I'm okay with that.

Your favorite book-to-movie adaptation:

A tie between the 1995 BBC Pride and Prejudice (sorry, it's just the best one--that's a fact) and High Fidelity by Nick Hornby. They changed the continent, and it's still amazing. In both cases, there are scenes that don't appear in the book but easily could.


Book Review

Review: At the Edge of the Woods

At the Edge of the Woods by Kathryn Bromwich (Two Dollar Radio, $26 hardcover, 220p., 9781953387318, June 6, 2023)

Kathryn Bromwich's first novel, At the Edge of the Woods, both chills and charms with its fable-like story of a woman beginning a new life alone in a cabin outside a small Italian village.

"In the mornings, when my thoughts have not yet arranged themselves into their familiar malevolent shapes and the day is still unformed, I wake up before dawn... and walk deep into the woods while my eyes adjust to the velvety darkness." First-person narrator Laura Mantovani is determined to simplify and forget: she revels in her close attention to her daily walks, her observations of nature, her humble fare, and austere human contacts. She supports her modest lifestyle with translations of medical texts for the village apothecary and tutoring a few well-off children; in the evenings, she reads widely. She briefly takes a lover, before retreating into still deeper solitude and communion with the natural world. Readers wonder what she has escaped from--until a contact from her past life turns up on the doorstep. Glimpses of another life are revealed in flashbacks, before Laura's narrative returns to the deceptive quiet of the Italian mountaintop woods.

Bromwich's prose is sedately paced, erudite, and textured in its observations of nature. Laura has a sly sense of humor and a deep distrust of humankind. As her story advances, her relationship to reality shifts and slides. She has visions. "The woods seem to have taken on unusual colors--not just deeper but slightly off. Certain tree trunks appear a lurid purple; tangerine and teal leaves wave in the breeze." She sinks into the nonhuman world in ways that strengthen her and give her confidence: "I seem to have passed over into--somewhere I am no longer beholden to the chains and responsibilities of man, but to the perfect harmony of the natural world, where everything has its place, and no rock or broken twig is without purpose." The village down the mountain from her, where she treks for supplies--with decreasing frequency, as the forest provides all she needs--shifts as well, from a point of support to something rather more sinister. The villagers call her strega (witch), because an independent woman alone is otherwise too much to grasp. Laura has created a new life for herself, a world in which her needs make sense in new ways, but human society still looms. "If you are there, in front of their eyes--fading, yes, but not invisible, not quite yet--it is more difficult for them to turn you into a monster with their words after you are gone." In the end, she may find herself in as much danger as ever.

At the Edge of the Woods is wise, ethereal, haunting, filled with both beauty and horror. Brief but thoughtful, lush in its descriptions, this is a novel of introspection. --Julia Kastner, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Shelf Talker: A woman reinvents herself in solitude but finds the tension with humanity remains in this finely textured novel set in the Italian Alps.


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: How Booksellers Are Made (Hint: It's Not Just the Cats)

Owning a bookstore is a lifelong dream for many folks. In fact, "lifelong dream" is often the first thing mentioned in any local media coverage of someone opening a bookshop. I get it. But bookselling is complex as well as rewarding, and that's hard to anticipate unless you've put in some quality time first as a frontline bookseller and/or taken advantage of programs like the Bookstore Training Group

Bookseller cat hard at work at Split Rock Books.

I loved being a frontline bookseller and buyer for 15 years, but I could never have been an owner. It just wasn't in my DNA. I'm glad, in retrospect, that I recognized my limitations. Maybe that's why I get a little annoyed when I see a junk headline like this MSN one: "10 Ideal Careers People Confessed to Waiting if Money Were No Issue." 

Now I assume by "waiting" they mean "wanting," but let's move on, since the #2 response was "Hang Out With Your Cat All Day." The clickbait item goes on: "Several commenters expressed the desire to run a bookshop. Who knew that so many readers wanted to go into this business? Some had other motives for this career. One commenter stated, 'Own a bookshop, or how can I try to make hanging out with my cat a job?' While funny, many bookstores have official book cats that stay in the building, so it is not the first time someone has thought of this idea."

This drivel shouldn't irritate me, but it always does. Fortunately, Independent Bookstore Day happened soon after I read it, so my soul was quickly cleansed by a flood of stories and images depicting booksellers--owners and floor staff--doing the work and having fun. There may even have been some bookshop cats involved.

One of these magic IBD moments arrived courtesy of Bleak House Books, which will soon be opening a beautiful new bookstore in Honeoye Falls, N.Y. In 2017, Albert Wan and Jenny Smith founded the original Bleak House Books as an independent English-language bookstore in Hong Kong, but had to close it and return to the U.S. in 2021. 

The new Bleak House Books in progress.

"It's Independent Bookstore Day today, and Jenny and I had big plans to have the bookshop open to everyone by now. But we're not quite there yet," Wan wrote in a six-part post updating the new bookstore-in-progress, adding: "All that said, we still have something to offer everyone on this Independent Bookstore Day, even if our bookshop isn't open yet. As with many things BHB-related, there's a story behind it. And to tell that story the way I think it should be told, it may take a few posts. So here goes...."

Wan noted that they "wanted to bring elements of our old bookshop and our old home in Hong Kong into our new bookshop.... In the end, and to put it bluntly, the architects suggested that we just 'drop the old bookshop into our new bookshop.' It was an idea that sounded wonderful and outlandish at the same time. So of course, Jenny and I agreed to it right away."

Bleak House Books in Hong Kong

It was complicated. When the architects asked for a sketch of the Hong Kong bookshop, Wan "was resistant to this idea at first. One, because I can't draw for my life. And two, because I wasn't sure I was emotionally and mentally ready to make a sketch like that, with the heartbreak and wounds of closing the bookshop in San Po Kong and leaving Hong Kong and our good friends there still very fresh in my mind and my heart at that time.

"Whenever I hit a mental roadblock like that though I think about the reason why I decided to re-open Bleak House Books so soon after we closed the old one. And it really boils down to this: 'it's the symbolism stupid'. Of course starting a new bookstore, or any small business for that matter, would be an act of faith. But it would be one of love and resistance as well: a statement to those in power that they will not have the last word on Hong Kong. Not as long as our bookshop is around." 

A couple days after reading the Bleak House IBD posts, I received an e-newsletter from Weller Book Works, Salt Lake City, Utah. Co-owner Tony Weller's opening column, headlined "Bookpersons," offered another inspirational perspective on the work of bookselling. 

"Persons who choose to work in bookstores are good readers," he observed. "But independent reading makes one unusual as exposure to diverse ideas compels refinement of one's own. By selecting books, readers curate their own minds and spirits. A reader's experiences are barely affected by time and space. Culture may blame readers for their independence. This idealist believes the world would be a better place if every belief were so privately achieved.

The author's companions.

"Since the 1970s, I have worked with hundreds of booksellers. They are my tribe and I love many of them. Now, I am a senior member of our bookselling staff. I really miss my parents and my seniors and mentors but I get new joy and value from younger booksellers. Their reading, taste, and ideas inspire me. I am fortunate to work with smart and curious young persons. Meeting them is my daily pleasure. I am still receiving influence."

A career in bookselling offers layer upon layer of challenge, complexity, enlightenment and, yes, even fun. Every bookseller's origin story is different.

Hey, I love bookish cats, too; there are a couple wandering around my office right now. But the "lifelong dream" job of being a bookperson isn't just about hanging out with your cats all day. (Editor's note: They disagree.) 

--Robert Gray, contributing editor

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