Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Books help keep me alive and for that I am forever happy

As a child, I had a difficult time learning how to read. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to read. In fact, I desperately wanted to be able to do what my mother and father did every day with me—make words on the page come out of their mouths in magical sounds. I would stare at those squiggly black lines on the page trying to make them into words, into something, anything I could make sense of. I wanted to make them mine.

And then suddenly, one day, BAM, I was reading! The black lines were words, glorious words. I ate every one of them right up and haven’t looked back since. I now work at a literacy non-profit spreading the love and pleasure of, you guessed it, reading. The most incredible moments in my work are when a young person finds a book that they can truly and deeply connect with. Many of my students consistently say “I don’t like reading”, or “Reading is boring”. So, when I see a young person re-reading a Mo Willems Pigeon book for the hundredth time and begging their staff to read it to them, I know I’ve succeeded, if just a little, in helping children see that reading can be joyous.

Although I’ve known that I love reading, lately I’ve been even more grateful of the space it occupies in my life. I’ve been going through a bit of a rough patch lately—I’ll spare you the particulars, but let’s just say I’ve been feeling like I’m in a boat floating about in a wild sea with no oar, no sails, and no map. And when in a boat like that, it’s challenging to keep sight of what’s positive and hopeful in life. Instead of seeing the blue sky and taking the time to breathe, I can only see the obnoxious fellow riders on the bus and T, the angry pedestrians, and experience a general feeling of malaise. The other day I was at the gym finishing the book Incredibly Close and Extremely Loud by Jonathan Safron Foer. For unknown reasons, I’ve resisted his books up to this point. I don’t know why, because now I’m a HUGE convert. So, I had loved the book up to this point, but the ending: wow. I had the weirdest experience—I’m on the elliptical, sweating my bum off, physically moving my body , and doing my damnedest not to break out in giant sobs as I try to finish the book. I looked out the window at the breathtakingly blue sky and just thought, Oh man, I am so full of feeling and life and look at that sky and I am alive. And I am alive. Books help keep me alive and for that I am forever happy. If I can continue to find bliss in books and to help other people find bliss, I’ll continue to find meaning in this crazy thing we call life.

Sarah Farbo

Want to see more posts like this? Click here. And we want to hear from you. Send your thoughts on the worth of books to Click here for more info.

Porter Square Books Featured in Demand

It’s always gratifying to hear from customers how glad they are that our store is in the neighborhood. We never tire of it! Even more thrilling to be recognized for what we do in print by a veteran management consultant and bestselling business author.

In his new book Demand: Creating What People Love Before They Know They Want It, Adrian Slywotsky includes Porter Square Books among the many companies he profiles recognizing us with those who achieve success by taking “the individual-customer based approach”. “Like Fresh Pond Market, their store has become a platform offering a wide array of products that can be organized and configured around customers’ varying, ever-changing needs.”

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Words are my food & I Hope Others Will Join the Feast

The people who ask me what they should read are often the most cat-killing curious of customers, the men and women (and sometimes children) that want, simply put, to be entertained by something new. To this question I respond: “Well, what do you like?” It’s true that everyone has their favorite authors, just as everyone has their literary enemies. Working in a new and used bookstore, where the smell of ancient bindings is always waiting for a covert sniff, I field a lot of ambiguous questions; and you know what? I love it. Words are my food, and I hope others will join in on the feast.

Books can be harsh and silly, they can heal you and hurt you and echo in your mind like cannon-fire. They are redemptive and fun, and can swim raucously around in your intestines like greasy food. Time-tested literature is worth, to me, more than I can express in such a short space. Reading has changed me in the most significant way, as it has given a gift: the realization that I want to be a writer. No longer do I feel the conflict of your average mid-twenties male, puppy-lost in his career search. Now I have a purpose.

I think everyone should read something for pleasure, and it saddens me that there are individuals who do not. How beautiful is this thing called language, the only connection between the author’s vision and the reader’s imagining? As a novelist friend once told me, stories save lives. Books are so much more than just what you hold in your hand. Books are what you hold inside.

Ian Ross

This is Ian's take on the worth of a books. We'd like to hear yours. Send your stories, thoughts, comments, etc, to or Click Here for more info.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Zone One, Colson Whitehead’s Bucket List, and PSB

Colson Whitehead’s new novel Zone One is out today. The book is one of the most anticipated novels of the fall and is already garnering plenty of praise. To share a couple of choice quotes, USA Today says: "Highbrow novelist Colson Whitehead plunges into the unstoppable zombie genre in this subtle meditation on loss and love in a post-apocalyptic Manhattan, which has become the city that never dies," and The Daily Beast says "A satirist so playful that you often don't even feel his scalpel, Whitehead toys with the shards of contemporary culture with an infectious glee. Here he upends the tropes of the zombie story in the canyons of lower Manhattan. Horror has rarely been so unsettling, and never so grimly funny." In Zone One, Whitehead turns his particular brilliance on the idea of zombies, zombie apocalypse and New York City. And he’ll be reading with us on Thursday November 3rd. And he had this to say about Porter Square Books:

“I went to college in Cambridge, so whenever I read at Porter Square Books, it’s always an occasion for quiet reflection as I’m reminded of how far I’ve come, and how far I still have to go. For example, after losing my virginity last week, I’m now halfway through my freshman year bucket list. Now to land that gig as a lead dancer in a Debbie Gibson video...”

Want a sneak peek of Zone One? Here is a link to the first 19 pages.


Here are the particulars about our upcoming Pitchapalooza event November 10 AT 7 PM.

WHAT: Pitchapalooza is American Idol for books (only without Simon). Twenty writers will be selected at random to pitch their book. Each writer gets one minute—and only one minute! In the last month, three writers have gotten publishing deals as a result of participating in Pitchapalooza.

WHO: Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry are co-founders of The Book Doctors, a company dedicated to helping authors get their books published. They are also co-authors of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published: How To Write It, Sell It, and Market It… Successfully (Workman, 2010). Arielle Eckstut has been a literary agent for 18 years at The Levine Greenberg Literary Agency. She is also the author of seven books and the co-founder of the iconic brand, LittleMissMatched. David Henry Sterry is the best-selling author of 12 books, on a wide variety of subject including memoir, sports, YA fiction and reference. They have taught their workshop on how to get published everywhere from Stanford University to Smith College. They have appeared everywhere from The New York Times to NPR’s Morning Edition to USA Today.

HOW: At Pitchapalooza, judges will help you improve your pitch, not tell you how bad it is. Judges critique everything from idea to style to potential in the marketplace and much, much more. Authors come away with concrete advice as well as a greater understanding of the ins and outs of the publishing industry. Whether potential authors pitch themselves, or simply listen to trained professionals critique each presentation, Pitchapalooza is educational and entertaining for one and all. From Miami to Portland, from LA to NYC, and many stops along the way, Pitchapaloozas have consistently drawn standing-room-only crowds, press and blog coverage, and the kind of bookstore buzz reserved for celebrity authors.

Most importantly...

PRIZE: At the end of Pitchapalooza, the judges will pick a winner. The winner receives an introduction to an agent or publisher appropriate for his/her book.

PRICE OF ADMISSION: To sign up to pitch, you must purchase a copy of The Essential Guide To Getting Your Book Published. Anyone who buys a copy of receives a FREE 20 minute consultation, a $100 value. If you don’t want to pitch, the event is FREE.

Here's some of the press on the event:

New York Times article:
Pitchapalooza mini movie:
Pitchapalooza on NBC:


Sunday, October 16, 2011

If you have to hide a book, it must be valuable

THE WHALES, a picture book by Cynthia Rylant full of beautiful illustrations of whales, naturally, was the first book I was driven to hide. Now, I’m as fond of whales as the next person, and I’m fond of picture books. Fondness can dim though, when a two-year-old asks for a whale book to be read not just once or twice a day, but once or twice an hour. We had stacks of picture books in the house. It didn’t matter. They seemed to be invisible, so I admit it, I hid the chosen book for a few hours each day. For a child of two, out of sight was out of mind, and it meant I got a welcome respite to all whales, all the time.

The day did come when my son didn’t want me to read the book more than a few times. Joy reigned. I read him at least ten other picture books I had waiting. Wonderful, colorful, fabulous stories. I was happy. But for those of you with book-obsessed toddlers, I’m sure you can guess what came next. A different book, this one called OUR NEW KITTEN by Harriet Hanes, became the new must-read all the time. We ended up with three copies of that book. After the first was in tatters, from the necessary practice of turning pages to him carrying it around like a talisman to me hiding it in the hamper and under sofa cushions, I bought two more. One, I cut up, putting each page in a protective sleeve, and then punching holes in the cover and rebinding it with string. The other I put away, because if a book is so well-loved, it must not be forgotten.

My son is long past that age, and now carries around books so that he can sneak in a few pages of reading when he has time. I still buy picture books, especially around the holidays. They are supposedly just a quirk of mine, but I find when I’m reading them, others in the family migrate to sit next to me just to keep me company. No whale books though. I might have to resort to hiding them.

Dee Garretson

Would you like to share a story or answer the question what is a book worth? Click here for more info.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Your Answers to the Question: What is a Book Worth?

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post looking at the value of books, mostly because I wanted to talk abut something other than how much books cost. In some ways, it was a very general look at what books do in our world, but in other ways it was a very personal statement, it was me telling you how valuable books are to me. From conversations in the store, to reading blogs, to following all the bookish goodness on Twitter, I know that I am far from alone. Books are valuable to many people for many different reasons. I’d like to share those reasons with the world.

So send me an answer to the question: What is a book worth? You can talk very generally about books and reading in your life. You can share a story about a particular book that was and is important in your life. You can tell a story about giving that perfect gift, getting that perfect gift, or the one book you always seem to lend out, but never seem to get back. There are many different readers, many different books, and many different ways a book can be valuable, and I’d like to hear about all of them.

So please send your response(s) to You can write something of blog length (1-3 paragraphs), you can include pictures, if you want to make a video you can upload it to youtube and send me the link. What am I going to do with them? I’ll post everything I get on our blog and spread those answers around on Twitter and Facebook. If there’s a quote we think is particularly pithy or powerful we’ll display it somewhere in the store. And then we’ll see what happens. If there’s a big response, we might try to do something else. If not, then we’ll still have a collection of thoughts, reflections, ideas, and stories about books. That alone, seems worthwhile.

Blog Archive