Tag Archives: #books

SHINE SHINE SHINE and Self

St. Martin’s Press 2012

“Own it,” she said to herself. “Own the bald. Own the braided honey loaf. Own it. Your husband is Maxon Mann. Nobel Prize winner. Your mother is Emma Butcher. Fucking awesome lady. Own it.”

I have been reading glowing reviews on Shine Shine Shine from twitter for the past few months. Those lucky enough to get an ARC have been singing its praises. It sounded like a book I would really enjoy as well. It was. I fell in love with each of the characters with all their flaws and wished I could read more of them after I closed the book. That is the mark of a great book for me- characters must linger. I must be so engaged with the characters that the last page fills me with dread. I loved the turn around for Sunny Mann. I started off being upset with her but Netzer slowly unveils the depths of Sunny and you connect with her as a woman on so many levels. I understood her frustration and anger once I understood her whole story. I think that is a lesson that we could all remember sometimes: you don’t really know anyone’s motivations so stop judging them. I think I forget that occasionally. Here you are forced to face that fact when you realize what a struggle her whole life had been. Also, you forgive her when it becomes apparent that her anger comes from fear and ultimately from love. She does not mean to rage against Maxon but she is so afraid.

The love story between these two is wonderful as well. They are made for one another from the moment they meet. She has the patience to deal with his Asperger’s and he just loves her with the innocence of a child. After all, acceptance is really what Sunny needs. I fell in love with both of them. It was so nice to read a love story that made sense in the real world. I hate when a love story springs from nothing and is fueled by even less. This particular story did no such thing. You could easily see why they were so perfectly suited for each other right away.

In the end, I think this book dealt a lot with self realization. They all have struggles of where they fit in and who they fit with. Eventually they are lucky enough to figure it out before it is too late. What did you think the main point of the book was? Did you love the characters in the same way that I did? Or were you unable to forgive Sunny for being so angry?

If you would like to get into the mind of Maxon…

Mark Haddon

If the life of a person dealing with an Autistic related disease was intriguing try The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-TimeThe narrator is a young man dealing with Autism and he witnesses an “incident” that his brain doesn’t quite understand so he goes on a journey to discover what really happened. It so imaginative and you’ll just love Christopher as much as Maxon. He’s so innocent and kind but yet a genius who can name all the countries in the world along with their capitals. A really brilliant novel that helps to humanize people that deal with Autism.

See you later, see you soon.

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On Non-fiction books

My favorite book on the mind

I think my obsession with non fiction began with biographies and histories but has since grown since I have matured. When I was younger I would go to the library to find biographies on the people that I was learning about in school. I believe this little habit came from the fact that my parents always took us to historical sites as kids so I grew up always loving to learn about people and places in depth. I also always got a book when we’d visit places so a good amount of my biographies came from visiting important places. For example, when we visited Ford’s Theater when I was 12 I got a biography of Lincoln. Or upon visiting Civil War battle sites (something my father was particularly fond of doing) I’d get a book that traced the battle from its causes to its outcomes. I loved these books. I was a history nerd in school because of them. When I was a senior in high school I took the AP history class and was the only person to pass the AP exam. (In a side note, the kid that grew up to become a history teacher did not pass. We were not friendly and I took great delight in rubbing his nose in it. HA!) My love of biographies eventually led to other things as well.

When I was in high school I broke my collar bone and had to spend my gym period doing other things. Being the “library girl” had its advantages at this point because instead of writing essays on gym related topics (what in god’s name could THAT have entailed?) I was given permission to “help” the librarians. Instead, I was able to sit in the library and read as much as I liked. It was then that I stumbled upon my great love for science books. I was reading a biography on the greatest scientist to ever live- Einstein! At the end it had a listing of further reading books that included Einstein’s book on relativity. I gobbled it up. I was hooked for life. It was exactly what I was looking for at that time in my life. Real, concrete discussions on the way that the whole damn universe works. Not the bullshit explanations that my catholic upbringing had fed to me for so many years. From the universe I moved to my current obsession which is far more complicated than the universe- the mind. If you have a similar interest do find it in your power to pick up anything written by Steven Pinker. The book you see above The Stuff of Thought is the first I read and still my favorite. I stumbled upon it by accident while I was wasting time in my university bookstore in between classes. I have read most of his other works as well bu this one stays as one of my favorite books of all time.

How do you feel about non-fiction? Do you stick to fiction? Do you stick to one genre in particular? If you read non-fiction, what topic interests you the most? Why did you pick up non-fiction?

See you later, see you soon.

On Investment Books

Longfellow’s Divine Comedy Looking Lovely in the Sunshine

Two of my most prized possessions were purchased at the same place around the same time. It was a small antique store run by two sisters that was right down the street from me. It was called Things Remembered. It has since closed down but I insist that they had the best selection at the best price of any antique store I’ve ever been in, and I go to a lot of them. I had found plenty of treasures in the many rooms of that over sized building over the years but two were especially important to me. The first is an antique necklace made of several strands of white and purple beads that I wear nearly everyday. I love purple. Obsessed, really. Most of my closet is filled with a variety of shades and tones of purple so when I found this necklace it was love at first sight. Though, I can not remember how much I paid for it but I am sure I got my money’s worth by now, some 6 years later. The other is a set of The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri as translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. It was printed in 1876 bound in green leather with gold lettering. They are beautiful and I can still remember how they looked in the sunlight of the front room. It was priced out of my range but I had a good rapport with the owner by then so I approached her with a deal. The asking price was $50 but she agreed on $30. So, I walked out with the three huge volumes in my arms and a huge smile on my face.

I had a plan for those books. They would sit on my shelf for many years making me look like a genius and after a while I would sell them for thousands. I was around 20 at the time of the purchase and I was convinced that old books generated that kind of money just because they are old. Of course I am older and wiser so I know that is not necessarily true. In fact, I did my research and I believe my set is worth about $150. More than I paid but not quite the thousands that I had in mind. After doing research at Bogart’s for all the books that get donated I have a better idea of what types of books are of any worth or not. These are probably just mail ordered volumes that the wealthy would set on their shelves to show off their money and education. They’re nothing special. But a few features make them more desirable- namely the popularity of the title and the good condition of the books.

However, I no longer wish to sell them. They mean too much to me to let them go for any price. I realized how silly of an idea that it was to buy them as an investment but now I appreciate them for a different reason. They represent a moment in time in my life but they also symbolize every year that they were in existence. I can feel the weight of history trapped between the covers. I look at them as a moment in time when books were printed with the utmost care and the best materials. In an age of digital books and shoddily made paperbacks it feels nice to hold a book made with such love. These were made to last a long time and will do so in my company for many years. 

What are your investment books? Do you have a collection? What is the most amount of money you spent on a book? Feel free to send a picture of your favorite antique book.

See you later, see you soon.

THE SHADOW OF THE WIND and Sexuality

“Why are books burned? Through stupidity, ignorance, hatred… goodness only know.”

I had a tough time choosing what quote to start this post off with because I had underlined and dogeared so many. Though, towards the end, I was so caught up in the mystery that I stopped all together. Every word was poetry. I noted the comparison to Gabriel García Márquez, one of my all time favorite authors, on the back of my edition and I was skeptical, but Zafón delivered. It was as beautiful and sensual as anything that Márquez had written. The sexual tension throughout was taut and believable. No awkward fumbling. I actually believed that Zafón has had sex at some point. There are books (I won’t name names) that I could swear the author was a virgin. Not here. I felt myself blush but I was never offended. Romance writers should take a lesson from Zafón in the art of writing a sex scene that would send a whole nunnery into a titter. In a time when bawdy yet poorly written novels top the bestseller lists this novel stands apart with very graphic but beautifully handled sex scenes. Add in a truly romantic love story and you have the perfect novel to fill up those hot summer days.

Add in a fascinating mystery and you have a novel that you just can’t put down. I finished this book in only a few days. I read the entire final half while at the beach with my friends. I did not look up very many times. They finally gave up with trying to include me in the conversation. They will feel the same when I give them this book to read. Like I said, I was furiously underlining every sentence that caught my eye but as the mystery began to unravel my pen fell silent. While the solution was not anything groundbreaking, the way in which it unfolded was magical. Nothing was left unknown and all my questions were answered but not all at once. Just slowly the resolution leaked out as the novel concluded. I won’t spoil it here but we can talk more in the comments below.

There was not much I didn’t like about this book. In fact, I found some inspiration for my next tattoo within these pages. Among the many beautiful quotes rose this perfect description of books:  “Books are mirrors: you only see in them what you already have inside you,” answered Julián(pg.209). This rings so true for me. My favorite books are those that I can relate to in a very deep way. I had never thought to describe this sensation as looking into a mirror before but now I know. I use the word “sensation” here because when I really connect with a book I feel in a a very visceral way. My heart flutters and I feel my blood pumping through every inch of my  body. Reading a great book is a total body experience. This book did all that and more. I hope to have this tattoo over xmas so I’ll post a picture as soon as it is made permanent.

If you liked this then try…

Diane Setterfield

If you loved the mystery of this story then please pick up The Thirteenth Tale immediately. It is the only book by this author which is very depressing but it is fabulous. Once again the mystery unfolds slowly and the characters are unforgettable. I honestly read it in one sitting. I just could not put it down once I started. It deals with a bookstore owner and a beloved writer just like in The Shadow of the Wind so if you really liked the bookseller hero- this is great. This is another book that I have recommended time after time at Bogart’s and most people come back just gushing over it. Even a customer that I had my doubts about came back in love with the book.

See you later, see you soon.

On Bookshelves

One of my two living room bookshelves

A few months ago I tried to run a contest in which people would post pictures of their bookshelves and the most interesting layout would win a gift certificate. It did not go over well. The above picture is my admission and I only received one other set of pictures. I was keenly disappointed. Not only because my AWESOME,WONDERFUL, FABULOUS idea had been ignored, but also because I was curious as all hell to see other people’s bookshelves. I can’t claim credit for the idea completely as the inspiration came from seeing famous people’s libraries in a variety of places. First, I had seen a book called Unpacking My Library: Writers and Their Books while shopping in a little bookshop in Philly. Then, a few weeks later I saw a series of blogs dedicated to old and new photographs of people in their libraries. I just loved the idea. For as readers are we not defined by our bookshelves? I certainly feel that way. And I do not mean how much you spent on them or if they are perfectly alphabetized. But rather, where we decide to display them and what we consider worthy of space on our shelves. I especially loved that the book included some up close shots so that you could read the spines. I recognized some of my own favorites on those shelves. It was amazing that nearly all the homes had books in a plethora of rooms. Not just one dedicated library like there used to be. Now, books are decorations.

Up close of one of my bookshelves

A good friend of mine made that observation a few days ago and it got my mind turning again about that failed contest. Like I said, a lot of my motivation for the contest was shear curiosity. We sell dozens and dozens of books everyday and I wanted to know where they end up. I take books very personally and I was hoping to recognize some of my old friends on the shelves of our customers. Maybe wave hello through the computer screen and know that they are safe. Ok, maybe not actually wave, but metaphorically say, “I’m glad you found a home.” That is one of the things I love as a bookseller. I get to put books into people’s hands and homes. I always get to see the book in hand but very rarely in home and I thought this would be a great opportunity. Alas, no one else wanted to let me into their homes.

Maybe if I just leave it for fun I can get some more people to join me. So you’ve seen mine, show me yours! Add a photo or two of your most representative books up on their shelves. Indulge my curiosity!

THE TRIAL OF HENRY KISSINGER and Disillusionment

Verso 2001

“A good liar must have a good memory: Kissinger is a stupendous liar with a remarkable memory”(pg.89)

The American government is whack. Seriously. If you need any further proof of this fact please read The Trial of Henry KissingerIt is written by one of the most profound journalists of the last two centuries. His death last year was truly a loss for the intelligent liberal class of Americans. His voice was important in both the political as well as the religious realms. This book is from the political side of his brilliant mind. He uses a litany of interviews and recently declassified documents to accuse Kissinger of a plethora of war crimes. They are as offensive as anything perpetrated by the worst of the despots. The scary realization is that Kissinger does these things while maintaining a front of working within democratic rules. He does not.

Hitchens is a wonderful writer. He brings humor and brevity into a topic that could be a dragging, boring, billion paged book that would get left on a shelf for years. Instead, it is an easily accessible argument that I was able to read and comprehend in just a few short days. I think it will stick with me for a long time though. It is terrifying that even with this book in print with all of its lucid points made about the guilt of Henry Kissinger; he still lives free. And is still being awarded for his work in humanities. Another terrifying point is how many of his personal papers are still classified. They sit in The Library of Congress, mocking our justice system with an arbitrary marking of “classified” by the very person who wrote them. It hurts my brain to contemplate that idea.

If you have no prior knowledge of many of the conflicts that Hitchens discusses, fret not. He has provided enough detail to clarify his arguments without drowning them in too many. I am interested in history but there were still many facts that I was unaware of before reading this. Any interest in the Vietnam war and the years following will surely make this a must read for you. It elucidates the covert operations that took place to justify that useless war as well as the years of turmoil that followed.

If you need to be angered any further please read…

Howard Zinn

His People’s History of the United States: 1492 to Present relates the true history of our great country. It reveals that the creation of our country is not as pure of heart as our history books would have children believing. Forget all your classes and read this one. Then jump off a tall building because it depresses the hell out of you. If you are a graphic novel fan then try out A People’s History of American EmpireIt takes portions of the first book and under the guise of a lecture by Professor Zinn discusses the actions of America on a global scale. It includes chapters on Vietnam and the years following. Either is an excellent choice and I read both with equal interest. There is a whole list of political history books written by this author that I have not read so let me know if I should read anything immediately in the comments.

Let’s get angry together! 

See you later, see you soon.

On “Someday Books”

A Rage to Live looking gigantic among other books

What exactly is a “someday book”? For the purposes of this article, it means a book that is so overwhelming in size and content that it sits on a very high shelf and waits. It is the book that has to wait for your life to slow down. It is the book that you just do not have the time in your life to commit to reading it. Sometimes it is something that has been on your To Be Read list for a long time and you finally managed to find it in a bookstore. Or, it is a suggested read from a friend or another book. Now, it just sits in your To Be Read pile, patiently.

That book for me is A Rage to Live: A Biography of Richard and Isabel Burton by Mary S. Lovell. Even the title is a mouthful. It came on a recommended reading list at the end of The Bookman’s Promise by one of  my favorite mystery writers, John Dunning. I had only recently discovered Dunning at Bogart’s and was reading his books at a record pace. I read all 5 Cliff Janeway novels that are currently out in a mere handful of days. I was enthralled. In this particular adventure, he discusses at length some fictional lost diaries of Richard Burton that are so intriguing. By the end I was desperate to learn more about this fascinating historical figure. I am an avid biography reader so when I saw the title that also included his lovely wife that he was madly in love with, I knew I had to get it. Imagine my surprise when not 3 days later it was sitting on a pile of recently donated books when I opened the bookstore one morning. I nearly cried. It was fate! It was destiny! It was the biggest book I’ve ever seen that was not textbook related! So, I took my prize home and set it on the shelf. There it remains for some long distant time when I have the energy and time to devote to it.

There are many other “someday books” in my head but this one stares at me from its shelf, mocking my flighty attention. I will get to it eventually. I know I will. I have managed to get through some very dense biographies including Walter Isaacson’s Einstein: His Life and Universe and a cultural biography on Walt Whitman by David S. Reynolds called Walt Whitman’s America. Each was intense and very long but I enjoyed them immensely. I know I will feel the same about A Rage to Live in the end but the size has intimidated me into placing it in that unknown “someday” category. What books do you add to your “someday” book list? Are they thick like mine? Or are they just too philosophically hermetic? What makes us put these books on a far off timeline? Let’s discuss!

See you later, see you soon.