Wednesday, February 11, 2009

This Just In...

My colleague tells me that another co-worker of ours essentially posted the exact same "shelving" blog a few nights ago and I had no idea. Here is the link.


Shelving Is an Intimate Thing...

On my dinner break this evening, I was catching up on reading the debut novel, The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet, and came across the following passage that really struck a cord with me. The author, Reif Larsen, writes "Shelving [books] is an intimate thing, like the fingerprint of a room."

This is yet more proof that I am not alone in my book "habits." In the past six years, I've moved three times and during each move, my favorite part of unpacking is getting the chance to shelve my books again. I don't let anyone else touch them. This is my one pleasure in the midst of moving chaos, and I won't let anyone take that away from me -- including my husband.

I have a very intricate system. First, I divide all the books into piles of those I have read and those I haven't. They go on different shelves, and once a book has been read, it is moved from one shelf to another.

Second, I start with my "read" pile and divide into two new piles by the author's last name. One pile is A-L, the next pile, M-Z. I then start separate by each individual letter and begin placing books on shelves.

Next, I'll move to my "to be read" pile and repeat the same steps as for the "read" pile. There are significantly more "to be read" books than "read" books, so I tend to divide the piles into A-F, G-P, Q-Z.

This process takes the better part of a day and when I'm finished, I'm torn between how beautiful everything looks on the shelves and being sad that my task is over, as I often find myself flipping through pages, discovering books bought long ago that I simply haven't gotten around to reading yet.

I know the majority of you out there will think I'm nuts, but I also know that there are a few of you out there who know exactly what I'm talking about, and no Kindle is going to make up for it.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Oh, author dinners, how I love thee...

Last night, my colleague and I had the opportunity to attend a dinner in Cambridge, MA for two upcoming debut novelists, Hyatt Bass and Christian Moerk, at a lovely little restaurant called Harvest.

I have to tell you, I love author dinners. Not only do I get to meet these wonderful new (and old) writers, and Hyatt and Christian were no exception, but I also get to talk with other booksellers in the area to get and incorporate new ideas into the Odyssey, as well as get an excellent meal for free.

Generally speaking, it's sometimes hard to get into a detailed conversation with the writers unless you're lucky enough to sit right next to them, but last night, both authors did a marvelous job engaging both ends of the table and I would bring either of them to my store in a heartbeat. Christian's new novel, Darling Jim, which I think I mentioned before, is coming out late this Spring, and is one of the most disturbing (but great) novels I've read in a while. It takes place in Ireland and opens with the discovery of three female bodies in the house of an older woman, who at one point, has taken her nieces hostage and clearly, um, done away with them. The rest of the novel details why. It's terrifying and gripping.

Hyatt's novel, The Embers, is equally as good, but a little easier on the stomach. It's a delightful, but slightly heart-wrenching family story about the mistakes we make and how those mistakes (accidents or not) affect us. It's poignant, reflective, lovely.

So, the authors were a delight, but I also got to know a few of my colleagues (if it's ok to call them that) at the Harvard Bookstore a little better. I've met them a few times at various conferences and dinners and have found them both to be unbelievably intelligent and extremely well-read. In other words, they kind of put me to shame, and I feel like a small child in awe of them, star-struck, as they are the up-and-coming bookseller goddesses, and I'm still a bit of a newbie.

But, putting silliness and self-deprecation aside, nothing feels better than getting together with book people outside of your store who can give you fresh ideas and sympathize with your plights, along with meeting new authors, and eating marvelous food.

And, I get paid for it.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Gloom and Doom

A co-worker of mine just returned from Winter Institute in Salt Lake City, a book-sellers' weekend of educational classes and sessions to help independent stores share ideas and come up with new ways to promote themselves.

The two of us haven't had a lot of time to talk about the weekend, but from what she's told me, I must admit, I'm nervous.

It took me years to make the leap, but I've wanted to work in a bookstore since I was about 15, and I'm one of those "old-fashioned" booksellers who wants to hand-sell books, have cozy nooks to get lost in, etc., so the idea of installing print-on-demand machines and selling e-books, admittedly, turns my stomach a little. 

I don't just like words and prose, I like BOOKS.  I like the physical book; I like the covers; I like the weight of it my hands, and no, I don't mind carrying six with me everyday to work.   I don't like the idea of "curl up with a good Kindle."  

So, as a person who is coming into book-selling so late in the game, I admit, I'm a little bummed.  Is my dream over?

And I know that the answer to that question is: no.  No, it's not.  I just have to adjust my dream a little bit and become more open to ideas that seem foreign to me.  In a million years, I never thought I'd start my own book blog (I'm a paper and pencil kind of girl), and I've joined Twitter (which I'm slowly starting to get), and I know in time I'll adjust to these changes, but right now, for tonight, I'm going to bask in the glow of my overflowing bookshelves, surround myself with the six galleys I need to finish by the end of the week and remind myself - it's not over yet.