Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Perfect Gift 3

By this time in the holiday season, Christmas lists start looking less like catalogs of upcoming joy and more like stress filled timed tests. And just like the SATs you've left the hardest people on your list for list. Luckily Jane Jacobs, one of our buyers, has a few suggestions for those calculus problems left on your list.

For the would-be parent who can't chose a baby name book: The Baby Name Bible. It has over 50,000 plus names and makes for interesting reading on its own. Did you know that Orna is Irish for "little green one?"

For the disorganized person who can't seem to get anything done in his life and always ends up asking you how to accomplish what really should be simple tasks: Rules of Thumb: A Life Manual. This includes such things as how to tell whether you need a bra (something to do with Ann Landers and a pencil) and how much dynamite you need to blast a stump out of the ground (one stick of dynamite for every four inches of stump diameter).

For the person who needs help prioritizing the stuff in his life and/or the person who loves trivia: The Order of Things: Hierarchies, Structures and Pecking Orders. It will tell you the order of the Emperors of Byzantium, beer measures and the 12 Olympian gods. It's pocket-sized so you'll have it whether you need to settle a bet in a bar or decide which fire extinguisher to buy for your kitchen.

For the morbid member of the family always wondering how they'll be remembered: The Economist Book of Obituaries.

For the person on your list who shrugs and says "Eh," every time you try to wheedle some information about their interests out of them: The Bodleian Library's reprinting of historic documents including; Instructions for British Servicemen in Germany 1944, Instructions for American Servicemen in France During World War II, Instructions for American Servicemen in Australia 1942, and German Invasion Plans for the British Isles 1940. All the books are filled with life lessons like "Do go easy on Schnaps" and "Australians are natural group singers," and are fascinating cultural and historical documents. Also great stocking stuffers.

The Perfect Gift 2

There is a book out there for everyone on your list and Porter Square Books has gift ideas for every baffling family member and idiosyncratic friend.

For someone interested in a different perspective on London during WWII: The Night Watch(novel), by Sarah Waters

For the Foodie who doesn't really cook: A Day at elBulli by Ferran Adria is a cookbook of sorts that is more an exploration of a creative genius.

For the young intellectual: A Fraction of the Whole (novel) by Steve Toltz is the story told by twenty-year-old Jasper Dean about his infamous family and his own struggles with self-awareness.

For the Friend Who Spends All Day in a Cubicle: Then We Came to the End (novel) by Joshua Ferris is a funny (like The Office) intelligent novel about what it means to work all day without making anything real.

For the middle school (and up) aged boys who may not be that fond of reading: Tales of the Unexpected by Roald Dahl. These are short stories with Dahl's usual little twists of humor and darkness. One of the stories "Lamb to the Slaughter" was made into a short film by Alfred Hitchcock and is available on DVD.
Anne M.

For the history buff or general non-fiction reader: Brave Companions by David McCullough. This book contains essays on a wide range of people and is, as so many of McCullough's books are, as readable as a great fiction book. Not as daunting and more affordable than the two or three inch thick hardcover you were thinking of buying!
Anne M

For someone about to be stuck on a plane for eight hours: The Book of Joe, Everything Changes, and How to Talk to a Widower by Jonathan Tropper. All well written, fast paced, and funny. Tropper's writing is in the same vein as Tom Perrotta.
Anne M.

Monday, December 15, 2008

You may have heard Roy Blount on NPR's "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me" or read his latest book Alphabet Juice. He has a way with words and I can't think of a better use. Read on and then organize your own book-buying party.

From: "The Authors Guild" <>
Date: December 11, 2008 12:07:04 PM EST
Subject: Holiday Message from Roy Blount

I've been talking to booksellers lately who report that times are hard. And local booksellers aren't known for vast reserves of capital, so a serious dip in sales can be devastating. Booksellers don't lose enough money, however, to receive congressional attention. A government bailout isn't in the cards. We don't want bookstores to die. Authors need them, and so do neighborhoods. So let's mount a book-buying splurge. Get your friends together, go to your local bookstore and have a book-buying party. Buy the rest of your Christmas presents, but that's just for starters. Clear out the mysteries, wrap up the histories, beam up the science fiction! Round up the westerns, go crazy for self-help, say yes to the university press books! Get a load of those coffee-table books, fatten up on slim volumes of verse, and take a chance on romance! There will be birthdays in the next twelve months; books keep well; they're easy to wrap: buy those books now. Buy replacements for any books looking raggedy on your shelves. Stockpile children's books as gifts for friends who look like they may eventually give birth. Hold off on the flat-screen TV and the GPS (they'll be cheaper after Christmas) and buy many, many books. Then tell the grateful booksellers, who by this time will be hanging onto your legs begging you to stay and live with their cat in the stockroom: "Got to move on, folks. Got some books to write now. You see...we're the Authors Guild." Enjoy the holidays.

Roy Blount Jr.
PresidentAuthors Guild

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Congratulations are in order to local authors John Hanson Mitchell and Joan Wickersham. Recent books by each were chosen by Michael Kenney as one of the Boston Globe's 10 best non-fiction books of the year. Both authors read from these works at our store this year. John Hanson Mitchell's book is The Paradise of All These Parts: A Natural History of Boston while Joan Wickersham's is The Suicide Index: Putting My Father's Death in Order. Joan's book was also a finalist for the National Book Award.

The Perfect Gift Part 1

The challenge of gift giving with books is not finding a great book to give, the world is full of great books, but in finding the perfect great book for a particular person on your list. To help you out Porter Square Books will be posting the perfect books for particular people. If you're stuck about someone on your list read on.

Here are some gift ideas for the kids in your life from Carol our children's book:

For the one-year-old who loves dogs: 25th Anniversary edition of Where's Spot (with Spot Plush!!!!)

For the boy or girl middle grade reader who likes adventure, Alaska/boats: Williwaw by Tom Bodett

For the 12 and up girl who enjoys historical fiction and loves stories about slavery/American Revolution (but is too young for Octavian Nothing): Chains
by Laurie Halse Anderson

For a family gift for people still reeling from the excitement of the election: Our White House. (We have some copies signed by 3 of the author/illustrators who contributed to the book.)

Stay tuned for more perfect great books for your friends and family.

Thursday, December 4, 2008


Chapbooks have many virtues. Generally they are short and therefore usually inexpensive. The shorter form also allows the writer to focus on a particular theme that perhaps would not lend itself to a full length book.

However, these virtues often make it very difficult for bookstores to display them. If they are staple bound they won't carry a spine making it difficult for customers to see them on a shelf.

Local Somerville publisher Cervena Barva Press publishes a series of poetry chapbooks and have recently released a new one by the wonderful Cambridge poet Kathleen Aguero. The new chapbook is titled Investigations: The Mystery of the Girl Sleuth. It's a cycle of poems featuring Nancy Drew, the fictional detective of the well-known children's series. If at first you don't see it faced out in our poetry section, make the effort to find it arranged alphabetically by the author's last name. It doesn't have a spine so you won't see the title or the author's name immediately just by glancing at the shelf! In fact, it will not appear on our website using the search function because of its pedigree, but please persevere. Aguero's collection also received mention in Jan Gardner's Sunday column, Shelf Life, on December 7.

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