Friday, August 7, 2015

Introducing Shinola Journals

Cue the Eminem. Porter Square Books is proud to start carrying Shinola’s line of handmade journals. Shinola is a manufacturing company founded on a commitment to high quality American manufacturing and based in Detroit. (Hence the Eminem cuing from one sentence ago. OK, that was probably a bit much but it worked for Chrysler.) Shinola makes everything from bicycles, to watches, to handbags, to artisan footballs and have been extremely successful in the first few years since their founding, not just because they make high quality goods, but because they tell a compelling story about American identity and the importance of local manufacturing in general, and Detroit manufacturing in particular. We, of course, can get behind the value of local manufacturing.

I guess you could say that the Shinola journals are just an American made version of Moleskine and you’d be right. But, local (even if the closest local available “in this country”) has its own value, so saying a product is “an American made version of Moleskine,” is actually saying quite a lot. See everything Shinola has to offer here and check out this piece about the company’s success in the Washington Post here. Stop by the store to see our full Shinola line-up.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Weekends are Difficult: Elephant & Piggie Edition

...& it represents postmodern death-denial
Over-thinking, over-analyzing, taking the fun out of reading. There are a lot of negative associations with intellectual, academic interpretation and deconstruction, with having to crank out a five-page paper about a book you love or feeling pressured to throw jargony words around in class, and I do agree, there is a lot of joy and value in just giving yourself over to a book, turning off the part of your brain that asks questions and submitting yourself to the events, images, and emotions of a book. That said, and maybe I'm just kind of a weirdo, but I think deconstructing and over-analyzing something can be, well, fun. To me, it's an exciting and challenging exercise to see just how far I can stretch the meaning of someone else's words. And, to be honest, I think there's a point where super literary critical language starts getting, well, funny. It can land in this very strange, and, to me at least, entertaining zone that is equal parts eye-rolling sarcasm and wide-eyed sincerity. You're able, simultaneously, to poke fun at and celebrate the almost limitless potential for meaning contained in even the simplest collections of words.

So last Saturday, a customer came in and said, "I don't know anything about the book I need, just the names 'Gerald' and 'Piggie.'" Of course, that was more than enough information for me to lead him to the section with Mo Willems' absolutely brilliant, staff favorite, Elephant and Piggie series. But the phrasing of the customer's question snagged in my brain, just enough to lead me to wonder on Twitter:

The real question is, Why is Gerald nominally self-actualized while Piggy is indelibly tethered to species-level identification?

Or to put it in a less Josh-sometimes-likes-to-write-about-silly-things-in-the-voice-of-an-over-the-top-literary-critic, why does the "Elephant" in "Elephant & Piggie" have a name, but the "Piggie" doesn’t? The exploration continues:

Paradoxically, identity-stability undergirds identity-fluidity
Or, is Piggy asserting a politics of identity fundamentalism that Gerald eschews, or objects to, through nomenclature?
Apparently, I wasn't the only one asking the question.:

Kazia Berkley-Cramer ‏@cateyekazia I have actually thought about that a LOT and still have no answer.
Nor was I the only one offering potential answers.

Alexander Danner ‏@alexanderdanner Piggy's rich internal life obviates such limitations (e.g. I Am a Frog). Gerald's human nomenclature masks deep insecurity.

Which lead me to speculate:

@alexanderdanner Gerald does experience anxiety in a way Piggie doesn't. Maybe he retreats to "Elephant" when "Gerald" becomes stressful.
Or perhaps it goes in the opposite direction: "Gerald" represents a permanent retreat from a traumatic event suffered as "Elephant."
Which raises the possibility of a pre-narrated "Elephant & Piggie," a "Gerald origin story," if you will, not shared, by Piggie or with us.
But I was far from finished mining this vein of consideration:

One could argue this has more to do with plot than anything, raising the possibility that there could be an "Elephant" that is not Gerald.
Although, as our friends at Politics & Prose point out, the opposite is, in fact, true.

P&P Kids and Teens ‏@KidsandProse This becomes even stranger when you consider we've met other pigs, but not a single other elephant.
P&P Kids and Teens ‏@KidsandProse  The pigs even have their own DAY, while Gerald has no elephant community at all.
The key to friendship is changing "on you" to "ennui."
P&P Kids and Teens ‏@KidsandProse Piggie claims a pig identity because she knows what it means, whereas Gerald has no frame of reference for elephant identity
And this all before leveraging any of the canonical interpretive structures and expanding the consideration to other works in the Willems canon, as Lynne Doncaster points out:
LynneDoncaster ‏@LynneDoncaster Are we going to explore a Freudian analysis of Pigeon's hot dog obsession?
Fear not! The Lacan reference did follow the Freudian question. (Who says I don't know how to have a good time!)
Actually, the hot dog functions as a Lacanian transcendental signifier, or as Freud said, Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.
Of course, as I described above, the point of this kind of intellectual exercise isn't necessarily to determine definitive answers to our questions but to explore possibilities. This is an act of free play in the void bounded by an agreed upon foundational text. That said, I think we made progress towards a more stable understanding--with its own interpretative potential--by borrowing terms from another critical lexicon.
One could easily also apply the Unified Theory of Muppets to Gerald & Piggie. Gerald=Order Muppet Piggie=Chaos Muppet.
Narrative requires conflict, conflict is a function of chaos, thus, Piggie almost always asserts agency as the subject in the titular phrase
The conflict is resolved through the interactions btw chaos & order, as Piggie interacts with Gerald. It is important to note…
...that this is an "interaction" not a "competition" so conflict is not resolved by the supplication of chaos to order but through…
...order & chaos finding accord in a dynamic yet stable relationship.
Duh Perhaps it's "Gerald the Elephant" & "Piggie" as in "Kermit the Frog" & "Miss Piggy." "Piggie" is just the child version of "Miss Piggy"

Yes, "Duh," is a high specialized, highly technical critical term derived from Deleuze & Guattari's Thousand Plateaus. (The fun! It just, it just won't stop!)

And, of course, the result is not some kind of finality, but rather, an impetus for further intellectual exploration, which means there was only one way to close out our discussion.

NO! Tear not the the veil from my blissful ignorance
Well, now it has become clear that someone needs to write the bildungsroman of Piggie becoming Miss Piggy. "Gerald, I want to be a star!

Sure, it's little ridiculous to use this kind of language in relation to a book designed to help teach literacy to young children, but I think that ridiculousness is exactly what makes this kind of thinking so much fun. And besides, exploring the identity politics of "Piggie" and "Gerald" as proper character names in the context of the series title "Elephant & Piggie" is way easier to teasing out the interpretive threads of author/reader relationships in the context of meta-fictive exercises in which the very concept of "talking back to the text" is inverted, present in We Are in a Book.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Interview with Matthew Quick

Matthew Quick (aka Q) is the New York Times-bestselling author of several novels, including THE SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK, which was made into an Oscar-winning film, and THE GOOD LUCK OF RIGHT NOW. His work has been translated into more than twenty languages and has received a PEN/Hemingway Award Honorable Mention, among other accolades. Q lives with his wife, novelist-pianist Alicia Bessette, in North Carolina. He’ll be reading from his latest book LOVE MAY FAIL on July 14th, at 7PM. David asked him a few questions.

Your other books involve characters with somewhat “obvious” mental disabilities. Here it’s more subtle – Portia’s mother and her hoarding, for example – but the subject of mental illness is not front and center. Thoughts about that?

MQ: Many people who struggle with mental-health-related issues function just fine and without detection, but that doesn’t diminish their struggle. When I began speaking openly about my own battles with depression and anxiety, many of my former students were surprised. I tried not to show that side of myself in the classroom. It took a lot of energy to hide my depression and anxiety, but I was a pro. There were hints, of course, and if you knew what to look for you would have seen that I was struggling. Portia struggles with depression in LOVE MAY FAIL. So does Nate Vernon, and in a pretty intense way. You don’t have to spend time locked up to be a part of the mental health community. You don’t have to be on a certain type of meds. And you don’t have to be a label either. I am not a depressed anxious person. I am a person who sometimes struggles with depression and anxiety. At almost every event I do, mental health comes up in the Q&A. There are readers who admit their struggles in front of the crowd and then there are those who simply give me a look that lets me know. The important thing is to be open to talking about our problems with someone. And, while it’s not my primary goal—I try to tell a good story, first and foremost—whenever my work helps start conversations about mental health, I’m very grateful.

A follow-up to that last question – in both this novel and the last one, THE GOOD LUCK OF RIGHT NOW, you’re able to use the behavioral peculiarities of characters as a significant source of the humor in the book. To do that you have to walk a thin line between empathy and ridicule (which by the way I think you manage very skillfully) – how do you navigate that?

MQ: I try to mine the absurdity of life, not humiliate anyone. Pretty much everyone can tell the difference. There’s nothing funny about my own special brand of depression and anxiety, but both give me a unique view of the world that can often lead to surprising and sometimes hilarious revelations. I’ve heard that we laugh at what surprises us. When a movie character trips and doesn’t get hurt we laugh because the fall is unexpected. When we metaphorically trip and don’t get hurt too badly, it helps to laugh too. My wife is always telling me to laugh more. She and I laugh a lot, but it’s still good advice.

You’re writing here about the experience of publishing a novel. I think it’s always challenging for a writer to write fiction about writing. Was that always meant to be a central focus of the book? Does it pose special challenges?

MQ: I’d say it’s more about the disillusionment that occurs when my character makes the transition from "person who dreams of publishing one day" to "published author." It’s quite a step. And it’s not always a safe one. Most writers I know, whether they admit this publicly or not, struggle with the publishing part of the writing life. Everyone is grateful, everyone is hopeful. But it’s not always all fun and games. Fiction writing is—for me and many others—a private act. Publishing is anything but. You don’t really grasp the full implications of that contrast until you publish. I’m not sure writing about writing or publishing about publishing poses special challenges. Maybe there are taboos? Maybe someone somewhere says, "Thou shall not do this?" I don’t know. I write about what interests me. I create characters and try to make them authentic. Portia had an unrealized dream. I took the story where it needed to go. "Serve the story," they told me in the MFA. I always do my best.

How did your experiences as a high school teacher inform the character of Mr. Vernon, and the way he relates to his students?

MQ: Mr. Vernon’s character is 10% informed by my former teachers and 90% informed by my own experiences as a high school English teacher battling it out in the trenches of public education. Most teachers start out with grand notions about making a difference in the world and inspiring the next generation. That’s how they get young people to teach. They appeal to our youthful hearts. We’re not lured in by the money, believe me. I never worked harder for less money and I used to roof for $8.50 an hour. I had a good teaching friend who used to say, “If you’re doing it for the kids, then you’re doing the right thing.” I really believed that. Unfortunately, the people who do it for political gain or their own advancement usually end up controlling public schools. That was a spirit-crushing lesson to learn in my twenties. When I left teaching it was partly out of protest. I fought a few political battles and lost. I began to realize that the values I held up in my literature classroom were never as highly regarded as winning sporting events or SAT scores. Too many people simply want teachers to shut up and, by any means necessary, get their kids into top colleges. I felt badly beaten up by the system when I left. It grinds you down. You have to be a saint to survive it long-term. (There are saints teaching in every high school. Please thank them if they have taught you or are currently teaching your children.)

You have the good fortune, well-deserved, to have had a blockbuster movie made of your first novel (your first novel for adults, that is). Has that affected your writing since then? – in other words, do you write with a thought of how the book might translate to film?

MQ: I’m influenced by film because I watch so much of it. That was true when I was writing SILVER LININGS in obscurity, years before my trip to The Oscars. When I write a book, I try to tell the best story in novel form that I possibly can. I’m working on a screenplay for The Weinstein Company now. When I write a screenplay I try to write the best film I possibly can. Whenever people want to make films of my books, I’m grateful. But the first thing they do is write a screenplay, which is always different than the book. Just the way it is. Different forms.

Ken Humes, whom we meet in the first pages of the book, is an absolutely unsavory character who is not only personally but also socially odious. Anything in particular behind the decision to have a pornographer as a character? Did you create him solely from your imagination or did you spend time talking to people in that industry to flesh out (bad pun intended) what it’s really like?

MQ: Ha! No research was necessary. The book isn’t about pornography or Ken. Spoiler alert. Spoiler alert. Once more, spoiler alert. The idea of Ken—a pornographer—cheating on his wife with a woman half his age and then becoming more religious as a result was funny to me. I had that twist in my mind all along and the scene where Portia cries for her failed marriage on the hotel balcony overlooking the Gulf of Mexico is one of my favorites. When Portia leaves Ken, it sparks a series of events. There is a line in the book that goes something like this: When you do nothing, nothing happens. Action creates action. I don’t admire or particularly like Ken, but I primarily see him as a mismatch for Portia. He is definitely holding her back. But could she be holding him back too? That question was/is interesting to me.

The book presents a first-person female narrator. How difficult was it for you to assume that voice, and what did you feel you needed to do to make it read as authentic?

MQ: I’m not one of those people who think that men are from one planet and women are from another. Everyone—regardless of gender—has unique quirks, thoughts, and personality traits. My job as a writer is this: climb into a skull for a while, figure out the character, and then present her/him as authentically as possible. I know many women from South Jersey. So it would be much harder for me to write about a man from, say, the Czech Republic than a woman from South Jersey. That said—several women, including my wife, edited the manuscript.

Last question - any sharks?

MQ: I haven’t seen any in Kill Devil Hills. I’m seeing a bunch on TV. It is Shark Week after all. (Did I just plug TV via a bookstore? What?)

Hear more from Matthew on July 14th, at 7PM.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Guest Post: Phillip Hoose on Young Heroes

We're excited to be hosting National Book Award winner Phillip Hoose on July 28. He'll be here to discuss his new book, The Boys Who Challenged Hitler. Since Phillip has been writing about young people taking a stand for more than a decade now, we asked him to tell us what makes young activists so fascinating.
Knud Pedersen and the other Churchill Club boys took on the German army with paint, gasoline and nerve. They struck on bicycles, usually in broad daylight since they all had curfews. They had no military training whatsoever. Had they enlisted in an armed forces unit, they would have been desensitized through boot-camp like experiences and rebuilt as warriors. But the boys had no army to train with; they had to make it up themselves. They soon discovered that there’s no sticking your toe into a war. You are drawn in quickly. They loudly debated the ethics of killing, even as they practiced shooting their stolen machine gun in a monastery loft during their father Rev. Edvard Pedersen's Sunday church services. They trusted no one. They were bright, sensitive, deeply patriotic ninth-graders who were ashamed that their government had given in to German forces without a fight.

What resonated for me is that the boys made up their own minds about resisting the German occupation of Denmark. The adults in their lives cautioned them not to mouth off, not to rouse the sleeping Nazi giant who had settled so comfortably among them. The boys thought it over, read and talked and listened to BBC radio broadcasts—and then followed their hearts. Knud Pedersen later said he could imagine himself as a peace activist at another time, but when he reached his personal crossroads, he had to fight.

Stories of teens making a difference have been a hallmark of my work for decades. Teens are passionate, judgmental, caring, idealistic, self-righteous, courageous, and energetic. Young people often see life dramatically, and many are inclined to take action. Some grow up in times of convulsive social change, as did the tens of thousands of students caught up in Brown v. the Topeka Board of Education. During such times, even a single act can spark monumental change. At such a moment, Claudette Colvin entered history's spotlight while simply riding the bus home from school. Her historic decision to keep her seat was, she later said, impulsive, but based on a lifetime of anger and frustration: "I felt Harriet Tubman pressing me down on one shoulder and Sojourner Truth pressing down on the other," she later said. "History kept me in my seat." Fourteen-year-old Knud Pedersen and his friends likewise made a decision at a tinderbox moment that set major events in motion.
Teenagers' stories go untold. Until the Internet—adults wrote nearly all the stories. One thing I learned during my research on We Were There, Too!: Young People in U.S. History (Farrar, 2001) is that adults and young people can experience the same phenomena very differently and write from greatly different perspectives.

I hope my work will encourage more young people to tell their own stories.
And we hope you'll join Phillip Hoose here on July 28!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Market Basket fan? Tell us about it.

Who has a Market Basket story?
Later this summer we're hosting Grant Welker and Daniel Korschun, authors of the new book We Are Market Basket: The Story of the Unlikely Grassroots Movement That Saved a Beloved Business
The book draws on the stories that both employees and customers love to tell about the store -- and we'd love to hear yours.
Share a story in the comments, or email

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Weekends Are Difficult: Pre-Bloomsday Edition

Ulysses is commonly considered one of the most difficult books in the English language and, though I think some of that reputation is unwarranted, it’s certainly up there. And I do think there is value in having these avatars of certain concepts, like The Great Gatsby as “The Great American Novel,” or Shakespeare as “The Greatest Writer Who Ever Lived,” because they give us a starting point for conversations that get beyond the facades of archetypes. (Though we do have to get beyond the archetypes for the conversation to have value.) How we read Hamlet or The Great Gatsby informs how we read everything else and teaches us how to talk about everything else. And so how we read Ulysses, when we think of it as “The Most Difficult Book,” teaches how to read everything else we consider difficult.

So with that in mind, here is one simple tip (Clickbate FTW!) for how to read Ulysses that I think will help you climb any literary Everest you might attempt.

Relax. I know, I know. Yeah, there can be more to it, like reading it with a friend, brushing up on your classics, having a historic map of Dublin handy, remembering that it is supposed to be funny and dirty, getting used to the absence of quotation marks, developing your ability to parse internal monologue from external speech or third person narration, accepting that Ulysses is one of those books that doesn’t always fit into your reading life no matter how noble your intentions are, some people even recommend skipping the first three chapters of Stephen Daedelus being super-Stephen Daedelus and starting with Leopold Bloom making breakfast in chapter four (I don’t like that idea, but well, it’s an idea), and all of those do or could help and not only make for a successful first read, but allow for deeper more satisfying reads.

But really, it’s just relax. Yes, there will be parts of Ulysses that don’t understand. I’ve read it six times or so and there are parts of it I still don’t understand (Oxen in the Sun, I’m looking at you). Ulysses and difficult books in general are written so there is always something just out of reach so that you can return to them over and over, so there is always something to learn or discover, so they can speak to imaginations born decades or centuries after they were composed. Unless you actually have a test on Ulysses the next day, you don’t have a test on Ulysses the next day. You don’t need all the answers. And you don’t need to feel, inadequate or frustrated if you get to the end of a sentence or paragraph or chapter (or the book) and feel like you didn’t understand a thing you read. Get what you can get out of the first read (you’ll probably surprise yourself with just how much that is) and just know that you’ll get even more the next time.

OK. There is one more thing. (It never really is “One Simple Trick.”) Joyce did not pour his life into Ulysses so people wouldn’t understand it. He didn’t endure poverty, censorship, and struggle just to prove how smart he was. I think a lot of the problem readers have with difficult books is they start reading with the assumption of difficulty and so build a barrier between themselves and the book. So, before opening the book, assume you will understand it, assume you will enjoy it, assume it is a work of profound humanism written to speak to everyone.

You still might not get through and you still might not enjoy Ulysses, and that’s fine. Ulysses isn’t for everybody. But even if this difficult book isn’t for you, others will be and this one (OK, two) simple tricks will help you read them.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Scandalous Romances Selected by Caroline Linden

One of the advantages of digital reading is the ability to dive deeply into a topic or genre you’re excited about. Perhaps it is Civil War novels, histories of orange farming in California, or travel guides to places you never plan to visit? In a few minutes you can fill your phone or ereader with as many books as you like on your latest obsession, the topic you want to research, the genre in which you want to become an expert. So we’re asking authors to curate lists of books in particular genres, exemplifying particular traits or exploring particular topics to help you take a deep dive in your reading.

Caroline Linden, critically acclaimed romance author who will be reading from her latest, Love in the Time of Scandal, on Thursday June 18th, created this list of scandalous romances. Historical romance, like The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, dark fantasy romance like Dark Lover, comedy, like Lady Be Good, and more, this list has something in it for everyone, including Caroline’s favorite romance of all time. Assuming everyone is looking for a little scandal in their reading--and I’m just going to go ahead and assume everyone is looking for a little scandal in their reading. See the whole list here or get more information and download the Kobo reading app here.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

How to Read Krasznahorkai

Laszlo Krasznahorkai is the most recent winner of the Man Booker International Prize, delighting a small, but passionate following of fans, and introducing him to a whole new audience of potential readers. But Krasznahorkai can be difficult and if his idiosyncratic, odd, and, to me at least, delightfully off-center, interview (quotes are near the end) is any indication, he’s not terribly interested in making himself accessible. But he’s nothing if he’s not intriguing and so here are some tips for how to read Krasznahorkai if you’re intrigued enough to give what might be the world’s greatest living writer a try. These thoughts will be applicable to at least Satantango and his latest Seiobo There Below, even though they are vastly different books.

A Different Kind of Beauty.
Krasznahorkai’s topics are often bleak, dark, and sometimes downright depressing, but in his hands, everything from a mud-drenched road in rural Hungary to a terrible day in Athens to a disintegrating alcoholic doctor to an ancient Japanese ritual, is rendered beautiful. His prose finds its way into the cracks of broken people and ideas to shine a light on what value remains, making everything he writes about, even the most awful things, glow. Look for the glow while you read.

Both Precise and Vague
Krasznahorkai is one of the most precise writers I’ve ever read, especially in Seiobo There Below where he writes specifically about precision and obsession. He can be precise to the point where your mind swims in the relentless but, in my opinion, perfect details. You will be rewarded if you take your time and read as precisely as he writes. That said, it is easy to be overwhelmed by his prose, especially during his many page-long sentences. When that happens rather than getting frustrated and giving up, just let yourself go and drift along the river of his prose. Even if you don’t get everything (you won’t) you’ll still get a lot from a vague reading of his precise prose.

A Different Project Than Most American Books
Through school, through what’s popular, through various literary awards, we develop over our reading lives a sense of what a book is “supposed” to do. We expect characters to do certain things or change in certain ways. We expect types of things to happen in the plot. We expect ideas and themes to correspond to other images and events. Krasznahorkai will not meet those expectations. But he’s not trying to. He has different projects, different goals, different priorities. But that’s one of the real joys of reading books in translation; they show you just how much potential there is, beyond anything you could imagine yourself, in books.

There’s been a lot of discussion in recent years about the roles and responsibilities of literary awards. In general, I think awards are free to reward whatever the organizers think is valuable. That said, I think awards are most important and have the biggest impact when they draw attention to great books and writers that are otherwise unknown. I doubt Krasznahorkai will ever really become popular, but I am very excited that this challenging and beautiful writer will be now be discovered by many more people who would have otherwise passed him over.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Books with Family Secrets from Celeste Ng

One of the advantages of digital reading is the ability to dive deeply into a topic or genre you’re excited about. Perhaps it is Civil War novels, histories of orange farming in California, or travel guides to places you never plan to visit? In a few minutes you can fill your phone or ereader with as many books as you like on your latest obsession, the topic you want to research, the genre in which you want to become an expert. So we’re asking authors to curate lists of books in particular genres, exemplifying particular traits or exploring particular topics to help you take a deep dive in your reading.

Celeste Ng, who will be reading from the paperback edition of her critically acclaimed debut novel, Everything I Never Told You, on Tuesday May 12th, put together a list, focused on books that contain family secrets, including Where’d You Go Bernadete, Tinkers, The Suicide Index, and more. If you're interested in families with something to hide, see the whole list here or get more information and download the Kobo reading app here.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Libromancers of Independent Bookstore Day

Have we told you about Independent Bookstore Day? We have? Like, a hundred times? Oh well, did we mention the amazing booksellers who will be working that day? OK, good.

Every now and again you’ll see a new website or app or update to an existing website or app that is supposed to, finally, make it easier for people to find a book they’ll enjoy. Whenever someone writes an article about this new miracle technology, I find a little mantra pops into my head. For every “problem” the article identifies, I think, “Well, then you just have to ask a bookseller.” (You know, “bookseller” doesn’t really seem to capture the nature of the job, so I’m going to go with “libromancer.”) It’s not the books on the shelves that make a bookstore, it’s the intelligent, passionate libromancers, committed to finding the perfect book for every reader who walks in. It might be a bit much to imagine the concept of “celebrity libromancers,” but a part of me believes the world would be a much better place if there were at least some paparazzi camped out desperate to get a picture of whatever Dale is reading. So here are the “celebrity profiles” of our libromancers of Independent Bookstore Day.

Nathan likes to read novels, memoirs, history, and biographies. He likes to alternate his reading, although, sometimes he goes through a phase and reads about a certain subject for months. For example, he’s been reading a lot about France and its history. That would include novels by Irene Nemorovsky, Paris: The Secret History by Andrew Hussey, How to Live or A Life of Montaigne by Sarah Bakewell, Seven Ages of Paris by Alistair Horne, Edmund White’s Le Flaneur and Monsieur Proust when he feels like a slow waltz. Since he wrote his master’s thesis on Edith Wharton, he likes to re-read her work occasionally. Her short story, "Roman Fever," rivals James Joyce’s "The Dead" as the most brilliant piece of short fiction ever, in his opinion. Before he worked as a bookseller he was in show business.

Tildy likes books. Seriously. She really likes books. When she was in grade school, she got in trouble in math class for reading under the desk. She doesn’t remember what she was reading but that one math class was not the only time covert reading occurred. Her favorite book is Ender’s Game. She’s into children’s literature ranging from picture books to realistic fiction for middle grade, young, and new adult. She likes taking pictures of people, and especially of people doing stuff they’re passionate about. She’s really good at starting crafty things (crochet, knitting, embroidery, etc.) and not finishing them

Jennifer is the gift and card buyer and visual merchandiser. She likes reading a little bit of everything but she especially loves artist bios, horror and Ann Patchett. When she’s not reading, she's stitching or watching TV series, like The Walking Dead. Her most interesting bookstore customer was Glenn Danzig.

Sarah organizes bookstore events when she's not behind the counter, assembling office furniture, or memorizing the inventory. In high school and college she was voted most likely to use the phrase “But the methodology of the study has been criticized,” in casual conversation.

Mackenzie is a west coast transplant to Boston, and loves books for tiny people--picture books, middle grade, and young adult--and anything set in the past. She is a writer, fangirl, fast walker, Diet Coke addict, Frankenstein fanatic, Star Wars quoter, former blacksmith, amateur ukelele-ist, book hoarder, sweater wearer, and author of the forthcoming YA steampunk novel, This Monstrous Thing.

Marika loves children's books and works with them in some capacity as a bookseller, writer, illustrator, and professor. She's always been drawn to postmodern children's books, stunning illustrations, fairytale retellings, and graphic novels. A few favorites include This One Summer, The Eyre Affair, and Maggot Moon. When she's not in danger of being buried by books, Marika can be found Telemark skiing, or twirling much too quickly on a dance floor. She's also slightly obsessed with NPR quiz shows.

Robin is the Children’s floor manager and sidelines buyer. She hails from New York (Go Sox!) and worked on Wall Street in her former life. When she's not reading all types of kid’s books and adult fiction, she likes to snow shoe and ride bikes with her dapper librarian husband.

Katie likes to read a little bit of everything, particularly fiction and YA, though recently she's been into memoirs and food writing. If she's not behind the counter she can usually be found unleashing her inner librarian by re-alphabetizing the messiest corners of the store or rounding up titles for new end cap displays. Other than reading, her hobbies include cooking and/or eating (vegetarian cookbooks are her weakness), making things, and travel. Next up is a trip to St. Petersburg and Stockholm this summer.

Dina is the store's general manager and, with her husband David, co-owner. Dina's passion is introducing young children to books. Before PSB Dina spent many years as an elementary and then pre-school teacher. Dina loves her whole staff at the bookstore, including Maxie, the store mascot and faithful family dog. When not at Porter Square Books, Dina loves being active on her bike, in her hiking boots, and in her kayak. Dina also enjoys the Boston theater scene, playing board games, and hanging out with her daughters when they're home from college.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Cokie Roberts on women's history, the Civil War, and "heavy old toads"

All of us who listen to NPR grow to be familiar with the voices of the anchors and journalists whom we hear regularly, but perhaps none is as well-known as that of Cokie Roberts. She is also no stranger to audiences of ABC News, where she has been broadcasting for more than 25 years. And, as though her career as a journalist weren't impressive enough, she is also an accomplished author, having written, among other things, two books of the history of women in the late 18th century, Founding Mothers and Ladies of Liberty. Now she's written a new work about the women of Washington D.C. during the years before and during the Civil War, called Capital Dames: The Civil War and the Women of Washington, 1848-1868. We're absolutely thrilled that she's coming to be coming to Porter Square Books next week, and will be doing two events with us – a tea at the Charles Hotel from 4 to 5:30, and then an evening at the Regent Theater in Arlington at 7. We hope you'll come to one or both. In preparation for the visit, PSB owner David Sandberg had a few minutes on the phone with Cokie last week, the day before publication day, to talk a little about the book.

DS: You work simultaneously as a journalist who is concerned with what's happening right now, and as a historian who's doing a very different type of research and a very different type of reporting. How do you navigate the back-and-forth?

CR: I actually don’t think it's that different. Even though I can't interview dead people, I can read their mail, which I can't do with living people. But it is the same kind of trying to know them and know what they were thinking. And for that, you read what they've written, both in letters and diaries -- and these women, a lot of them, published as well. And then the newspapers at the time -- and that is really the great serendipity of this book. I did not realize that I would have access to the same news they were reading. Now the entire New York Times archive is online, and there are a couple of excellent websites that give you newspapers from the early 19th century on. And the whole newspaper, where you see the ads and all of that, which are so interesting and so much fun. So I feel like in some ways it's not all that different. The one way that is different that is great is that they can't argue with you.

DS: In terms of the availability of sources: you moved 70 years further in the future with this book. Did you have a lot more available to you?

CR: Yes, absolutely yes. For two reasons: one, there just is more available from that period and as I say, also, these women did do some writing themselves. But the other reason is that because I wrote the earlier books, the university libraries and historical societies and historical homes now are acquainted with my work, and so they are very, very helpful. And digitization is the other huge thing. So it's both a difference in time that I'm researching, but also a difference in time in the time that I'm writing.

DS: So in terms of the former, do you think women made a lot of progress during those 70 years?

CR: Well, they certainly did during the war, which is the thesis of the book. But in the course of those 70 years it was kind of back and forth because the Revolutionary women were out there, and had to be, and then there was kind of this 19th century "be delicate and be at home." They were still politically interesting and interested, but the war certainly turned them into activists in a huge way.

DS: But history, though -- looking who's writing the books. I think most of the books you just mentioned, as well as yourself, Jill Lepore, Megan Marshall -- most of the people writing the history of women in this country are still women. Doris Goodwin writes about men, but most male historians don't write about women. Does that have to change also?

CR: Probably yes. Yes, I do think that has to change. There's an exception in Paul Nagel who wrote about the Adams women, but he didn't really like them.

DS: You must have contemporary historians whom you admire, or whose work you rely on. Who do you think are some of the people writing the best history today?

CR: Well, it depends on the subject, but I certainly relied on both Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals and James McPherson's Battle Cry of Freedom for this book. This book is set in Washington and there are also two very good books that are about Washington in the Civil War, one is Ernest Furgurson's Freedom Rising and the other was the classic, which is Margaret Leech's 1941 book Reveille in Washington. But she cites no sources, which makes me crazy. Because now I know so much about it, I can figure out where most of that sourcing is, but that doesn’t do it.

DS: Part of the point of all three of the books, the history books that you've written, is that these are people who are really important to our history and yet their stories don't get told.

DS: How are we doing? How many more books have to be written before you feel that the women's stories are viewed with the same status [as those of the men]?

CR: I actually do think we're doing better. When I wrote Founding Mothers, aside from a couple of good Abigail Adams biographies, there really weren't modern, good biographies of some of these women and since then there's a good Martha Washington, an excellent Dolley Madison, a few on Elizabeth Bonaparte -- there's a lot more happening. But is there forever to go? Sure. It's just unbelievable. We've essentially said that half of the human race doesn’t count in our history. Which means we've distorted our history.

DS: And what about fiction? When you're reading for entertainment and not work.

CR: You know, it's interesting because working on this book -- I'm always late. And I was doing so much research that I didn’t really allow myself to read fiction. The only fiction I read was that fiction -- you know, Capitola and The Hidden Hand. Written by E.D.E.N. Southworth -- her name was something like Emily Danielle whatever, and her byline was E.D.E.N., each with a period after it. Of course the huge, the enormous, enormous, enormous best-selling fiction at the time was Uncle Tom’s Cabin. But, you know, once I finished and I sat down and said Oh, wow, I can actually read some fiction, how much fun, I immediately went to Ellen Gilchrist, because she had some new short stories out and I love her work.

DS: So this book is about Washington, but the last two books dealt a lot more with Boston. What's your favorite Boston story from the colonial period that we might not be familiar with?

CR: Actually, let me tell you one from this period, because I have a lot of unpublished letters of Abigail Brooks Adams -- this is Charles Francis Adams’ wife, so she would be the granddaughter-in-law of Abigail, the daughter-in-law of Louisa. And she is in Washington and he is in Congress, in that very infamous Secession Congress, the 36th Congress, before he went off to London to be the Union ambassador to the Court of St. James. And she writes these hysterically frank letters from Washington home to Henry Adams. She calls Buchanan, the president, a "heavy old toad". And she's furious with Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner, who's her friend, but she gave him "a piece of my mind -- he expects us all to go out and show ourselves and entertain and work all the time for the cause and he did nothing, not a thing." This is my favorite: "I would advise any young woman who wishes to have an easy quiet life not to marry an Adams." And she also says "The Senate behave like children, and silly ones at that."

DS: Certainly you can tell whose grandchild-in-law she was.

CR: Yes, the strongest men in each generation did marry these very strong women.

DS: One last question -- what are you working on next?

CR: That's like asking someone who's just had triplets when she's going to have her next one. I'm not going to do more Civil War. I did not get this book in until February, so I am still suffering the after-effects of getting up at three o'clock in the morning and writing for fifteen hours straight, to make it into the stores by the end of the sesquicentennial of the war.

DS: OK, so then we'll let you go back to your day job.

CR: Thank you. There is a presidential election coming up. You might have noticed that.

DS: Good luck with the launch, and we can't wait to see you.

CR: I'm so looking forward to that.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

What is Accessibility in Literature?

On April 17th we'll be hosting a reading and discussion with contributors to the anthology The Force of What’s Possible: Writers on Accessibility & the Avant-Garde and I can't be more excited. For a bookstore, often the last link in the chain that connects a writer to a reader, we are professionally concerned specifically with the term "accessibility" in the title. As we try to match readers with books, we always have to have some idea of "accessibility" in the back of our minds. We have to surmise what a reader will actually enjoy. Many readers do enjoy being intellectually challenged by books often considered "inaccessible" and we do our best to match that. So ahead of the event, I asked the editors and the presenters: "What is accessibility in literature?" Here's the first response from anthology editors Lilly Hoang (LH) and Joshua Marie Wilkinson (JMW).

LH: So Josh Cook has asked us to examine the role of accessibility in literature. We began this project to question and interrogate exactly that. Nearly 100 essays and an anthology later, is there any take-away you can offer?

JMW: Well, for me it's about not ventriloquizing market capitalism in order to make sense of art. There's a book that was really important to me called Just Being Difficult? that was edited by Jonathan Culler. When I want to see what literature can do, I turn to Spivak's and Judith Butler's and Michael Warner's pieces in that collection. Warner is writing about 1984 in his essay called "Styles of Intellectual Publics" when he says,
For whom does one write or speak? Where is one's public? These questions can never be answered in advance since language addressed to a public must circulate among strangers; neither can they be dismissed, although the answers necessarily remain mostly implicit. One does not stand nakedly to address humanity.

I love Warner's response as well as his reading of Orwell. It's never the innocent question it’s cloaked as, asking somebody or something to become "accessible" so that a public can "get it." The question itself implies something dangerous about whatever the "public" or "common reader" is concocted to become. Poetry can disrupt normative reading practices and form new, strange, sometimes lovely, and maybe harrowing modes of feeling and thinking. That's what I want from art. What are you after now, Lily? What are you obsessing over?

LH: I was listening to Eugène Ysaÿe yesterday and my roommate came in and I said, Isn't it amazing that a person—a real person—is making all that music?, and then I explained that I was listening to the gala from the Henri Wisniaski Violin Competition and shit dude, they probably practice like more than eight hours a day, and he said, Can you believe people still play that stuff? It just seems so, you know, like old. Like who still plays stuff like that? By play he doesn't mean listen. He isn't that big of an asshole to insult me directly. But regardless, my roommate is a filmmaker and I am a writer and he is new and I am old. I am like the classical musician who insists on practicing and performing Eugène Ysaÿe and who the fuck cares anymore? Well, I do. I am still listening. And culture. Culture needs people for musicians to continue to play Eugène Ysaÿe. Or maybe I mean high art. I don’t know what I mean.

Eugène Ysaÿe is accessible to me. I used to be a violinist—please don’t call me a fiddler, it's insulting, not to fiddlers but to the instrument itself. Form. When I changed private teachers in high school, he wouldn't let me pick up my violin for three months because I didn't know how to properly hold my bow. I mean: I was hard core about it. So Eugène Ysaÿe is accessible to me, but to my roommate, "classical" music is a remnant of a time so long ago it may as well be age of Egyptians.

Furthermore, my roommate doesn't read.

I'm not picking on him. Rather, I'm using him as a case study. He is not your average American. He's into arts—if you choose to call making horror films art, which you may or may not, it really doesn't matter to me. My roommate writes scripts and directs films, he edits them. And he doesn't read. He doesn't listen to classical music. He isn't going to art openings. I'm sure he doesn’t give a flying fuck about architecture or what terms are the most politically correct. What's my point? Here we are, worrying and defining accessibility, which is so important to us in our world, but who outside of us cares? This makes me sad. I didn't answer your question at all, but I'm really talking about audience. More people care about Eugène Ysaÿe than all of my books and anthologies combined—and probably yours added to mine, too.

Yes, I care about audience. But I wouldn't sacrifice my devotion to the concept and the sentence to gain audience. Besides which: what kind of audience do I really think I'd gain if my writing were more accessible? I pose this question to you too.

JMW: I wonder about audience. I'm suspicious about a work that tries to imagine its audience too precisely in advance. Then again, maybe it's impossible not to think about audience in some way. But to try to imagine what an audience—a reader, a listener, a participant in meaning—is capable of thinking and of feeling seems to me like a failure. Perhaps I want to not know what's possible for a work to bring up in the audience—that the yet-to-come of whatever response (however intelligent or indifferent, capacious or unsettling) isn't for the writer to try to determine prior to making any work public. Yet, I hope for an audience more various and unlike me to encounter it. I hope for a smarter audience who will think thoughts beyond my ken and feel, beyond my influences and understanding, my emotional registers or political imagination. Love to hear you answer your same question, Lily…

LH: I know quite a few "experimental" fiction writers who have tried and tried to write their "sell-out" novel, the one that will launch them into more mainstream literary fiction, and they always fail. I think we can only write what we write. Like: my brain thinks in little pieces, so I write modular or flash. Whereas I am able to write a longer, more traditional novel, it’s exhausting—and probably unpublishable.

That being said, I also think that my own perception about how accessible my books are is skewed: I suffer from book dysmorphic disorder. We just got back from AWP, where this anthology got so much sugar, but also, a lot of random people—youngins too—gushed their adoration. (I know for a fact you had the same "problem.") This tells me that no matter what I think, my writing is accessible, and maybe the goal isn't to have a wider audience, maybe it’s just to have a better audience.

To participate in this discussion with Lily and the other presenters please join us on Friday April 17th at 7PM

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Ripe for Change: Books for a Sustainable Future

One of the advantages of digital reading is the ability to dive deeply into a topic or genre you’re excited about. Perhaps it is Civil War novels, histories of orange farming in California, or travel guides to places you never plan to visit? In a few minutes you can fill your phone or ereader with as many books on your latest obsession, the topic you want to research, the genre in which you want to become an expert. So we’re asking authors to curate lists of books in particular genres, exemplifying particular traits or exploring particular topics to help you take a deep dive in your reading.

Jane Hirschi, who will be reading from her book Ripe for Change on April 10th at 7pm, gave us this list of books, for both kids and adults, to help lead us into a sustainable future. Hirshi’s list touches on a range of topics from our relationship to nature, to the politics of the environment, to what and how we eat. See the full list here.

Announcing The Cleaver Quarterly

“In the heart and soul of every great cook, everywhere in the world, I think there’s a Chinese guy.” Anthony Bourdain

I am a huge fan of Lucky Peach, in particular, and food writing, in general, that uses food as a way to seek a greater understanding of the world and all the cultures and people who fill it. What we eat, how we eat it, and the architecture of cooking reveal much about ourselves, both as individuals and as members of a culture. You could have a pretty intense (and lengthy) debate about which culture had the biggest impact on world cuisine, but whatever conclusion you come to, you would have to include Chinese cooking in that debate.

So, I am very excited to announce that Porter Square Books is now carrying The Cleaver Quarterly, an English-language magazine of long form writing about the world of Chinese Cuisine, produced in China. Here’s a sample of what they offer from their manifesto:

At any given moment, more people on Earth are eating Chinese food than anything else. They’re enjoying flavor combinations that have been field-tested by hundreds of generations of peasants and palace chefs, innkeepers and nomads, fisherfolk and soldiers and daughters-in-law and ingenious beggars.

Chinese cuisine is an evolving kaleidoscope of cooking techniques and regional styles. It’s also an eager ambassador, a globalizing and globalized cuisine. As people realize how much more there is to Chinese food beyond the menu at their local takeaway, there’s a hunger to know more – and it’s that hunger that we aim to feed.

In each issue of The Cleaver, we’ll bring together enough voices to fill a banquet table. We can’t wait to get started. There’s so much to talk about, and all of it is fair game: from earthy staples to impossibly refined delicacies, from recipes that are older than the Great Wall to the sweet-and-sour concoctions that have served as so many people’s first exposure to Chinese culture. And we’ll serve it up in the form of long-simmered essays, pungent features, organically sourced reporting, crisp vignettes, and saucy interviews with people who produce, prepare and pine for Chinese food.

We intend to be as tirelessly curious, resourceful and versatile as the cuisine itself. In short, our aim at The Cleaver is to tell you everything you wanted to know but never knew to ask about Chinese food. We’ll leave no wok unturned in order to bring you an irreverent takeaway on the real China.

Order the latest issue of The Cleaver here. We also have copies of Issues 1 & 2 while supplies last. Let us know in the order comments if you'd like a back issue.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Indie Bookstore Day Exclusives for Blog

Saturday, May 2nd is Independent Bookstore Day! Based on Record Store Day and test driven in California last year, Indie Bookstore Day is a national celebration of all the joys of indie bookstores. We’ve got a lot of fun planned for the day (stay tuned for more info about that) AND we’ve got some very cool, bookish items that will be available exclusively in store on that day. Here’s what you’ll be able to get at PSB on May 2nd.

Roxane Gay Chapbook
Roxane Gay is a force of nature. We’ll have a mini-collection of essays on books, reading, and the world of contemporary literature by Roxane Gay available as a limited edition, signed chapbook.

The Finders Keepers Broadside

This color broadside from Stephen King’s forthcoming novel, Finders Keepers, is a love letter to passionate readers, written in King’s own hand. Suitable for framing.

Hyperbole & A Half Broadside
For days when it just doesn’t seem worth it to clean all the things. Bring a little Allie Brosh home with this signed four-color print from her remarkable debut, Hyperbole and a Half. This high quality print is suitable for framing. (Right after you get the dogs in. OK, you can frame it before you get the dogs in.)

I Love to Read “Bunsie.”
Made of 100% soft European quality cotton. This onesie has snaps at the bottom making it easy to change and dress little ones. Each onesie comes with a specially designed hang-tag reading “Made exclusively in support of indie bookstores for Independent Bookstore Day 2015” with IBD logo. Start ‘em early!

Huck Finn Literary Map

A lush, hand-drawn road map depicting Huck’s river journey. The map, which will appear in Plotted: A Literary Atlas, has been extended and expanded upon for IBD.

Bad Citizen Stencil

Illegitimi non carborundum! Suitable for use as a stencil or as a stand-alone art piece, this year’s Bad Citizen stencil quotes Margaret Atwood’s poem “Spelling”: “A word after a word after a word is power.”

A Literary Map of the Seas

A hand drawn fine art print of 24 great books set in the ocean. Includes classics from The Odyssey and Moby Dick to modern favorites like The Life of Pi, Plover, Pippi in the South Seas, and Swamplandia!. A full-color, gallery quality giclee print suitable for framing.

And now, some fine print in regular print. All the items will be available on a first come first served basis in the store only and only on May 2nd. Because we will have a finite number of these items, we will be limiting purchases to one each per customer.(So no snapping up all the Roxane Gay chapbooks to sell on Ebay.) See you on Independent Bookstore Day!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Ebooks Deep Dive: A Different Kind of Detective

One of the advantages of digital reading is the ability to dive deeply into a topic or genre you’re excited about. Into Civil War novels, histories of orange farming in California, or travel guides to places you never plan to visit? In a few minutes you can fill your phone or ereader with as many books on your latest obsession, the topic you want to research, the genre you want to become an expert in. So we’re asking authors to curate lists of books in particular genres, exemplifying particular traits or exploring particular topics to help you take a deep dive in your reading.

Our first list is from our very own bookseller and author Josh Cook, featuring a different kind of detective.

Since the invention of the character by Edgar Allen Poe in his short stories featuring C. Auguste Dupin, the detective has become a staple in western literature and entertainment. Whether featuring a cold, logical, detecting machine like Sherlock Holmes or a hard-boiled PI like Philip Marlowe, or someone kinder and gentler, there have been hundreds of different detectives solving thousands of different cases.

Here is a list of ebooks that feature a different kind of detective story, whether they incorporate science fiction (like The Shining Girls) or riff on the genre’s conventions (like Noir) or just kind of wander around an environment of mystery rather than seeming to solve anything (like Inherent Vice and The Search), these books play with and stretch the idea of the “detective” to new, interesting, and often entertaining heights.

Check out the full list here.

Tell us what books you’d add to this list in the comments.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

When the hot-shot debut author sits in the next chair

I've set up events for dozens of authors over the past year -- Rick Riordan, Amanda Palmer, Cary Elwes, George Clinton, Bobby Orr -- but next week will be a new one: we're launching An Exaggerated Murder by Josh Cook, a debut novelist who also happens to occupy the desk next to mine here in the PSB office. (There are a few minor differences. For instance, Bobby Orr was not looking over my shoulder when I pondered how many copies to order.)

Josh and I work well together, but we don't exactly have similar literary tastes. (You may have seen copies of The Martian around the store labeled "the only 2014 book Sarah and Josh both liked." It's not much of an exaggeration.) James Joyce, Laurie R. King. Oulipo, longform journalism. You get the idea.

Which is why I am so glad I can tell you that An Exaggerated Murder gets to claim that title for 2015. It's fantastic. You will love it. And if you start reading every clever bit out loud (trust me, it's tempting) you're going to get hoarse.

The literary world has been reaching the same conclusion: The first review, in Kirkus, was a starred one. It's on the March Indie Next List.

Book launches are always special events for the authors, but this time we're all excited. Josh has been part of Porter Square Books since the beginning, and we're looking forward to celebrating with him. Everyone's been taking part, designing posters, creating displays, making plans for Tuesday. (Though I did veto the suggestion of an all-you-can-drink vodka bar. Thematically appropriate, but no.)

I hope you'll join us for this one.

Author Breakfast Series at the Charles Hotel

What is more fun than spending a morning having breakfast at the Charles Hotel with a famous author and hobnobbing about books, writing, and life? Last year we started this breakfast series in partnership with the Charles (at Henrietta’s Table) and enjoyed the company of Ann Patchett, Jared Diamond, and Peter Yarrow and Noel (Paul) Stookey, of Peter, Paul & Mary. Ask anyone who got to attend those events: they were amazing -- a chance to converse in an intimate setting with brilliant, wonderful, insightful people who happen to have written books that we love. For 2015 we’re kicking off the series with two terrific authors from Maine, Tracy Kidder (March 13) and Lily King (April 8).

Tracy Kidder first shot to prominence more than 30 years ago with Soul of a New Machine, a penetrating portrayal of the race to develop a new generation of computer at Data General Corporation in the 1970s. The book won him a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award and put him on the map as one of our most accomplished and literate non-fiction authors. You may be familiar with House, his book about a couple having their house built; Old Friends, a portrayal of two older men in a nursing home; Mountains Beyond Mountains, a magnificent biography of physician/anthropologist Paul Farmer; or Strength in What Remains, about an ordinary man who arrives in the US and tries to make a life for himself after surviving the Rwandan genocide. A couple of years ago Tracy went in a new direction, writing a book about writing, Good Prose: The Art of Nonfiction. It proudly sits on our shelves in section 555 (“On Writing”) alongside such classics as Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird and Stephen King’s On Writing.

Tracy doesn’t have a new book out -- he’s just coming to schmooze. Come to talk with him about your favorite of his books, or pick up one you haven’t read yet and come with questions.

Lily King published three novels between 1999 and 2010, and they were lauded with accolades such as a New York Times Notable Book award, Publishers Weekly Top Ten Book of the Year, New York Times Editors Choice, Publishers Weekly Best Novel of the Year, the New England Book Award for Fiction and the Maine Fiction Award. Even with all that, she might still have been unknown to you until last year and the publication of Euphoria. This, her fourth novel, was the winner of the 2014 New England Book Award for Fiction and the 2014 Kirkus Prize for Fiction, one of the New York Times Book Review's 10 Best Books, TIME's Top 10 Fiction Books, Oprah’s 15 Must-Reads, NPR Best Books of 2014 and (cross your fingers -- winner to be announced next month) finalist for the National Book Critics Circle award. And that’s not even close to a complete list. Need we say more?

Back in April of last year, some of us were fortunate enough to be invited to a pre-publication dinner with Lily and read an advance copy of the book. She is a delight. We hatched a plot of getting Lily to Cambridge (where she lived before moving to Maine a bunch of years ago) and decided to do it in conjunction with the launch of the Euphoria paperback. So here’s your big chance. You will thank us.

Both of these events are limited in attendance, so sign up soon while there’s still space. (Tickets: Tracy Kidder and Lily King.) We have plenty of books in the bookstore, but we will also have both authors’ titles on sale at the breakfasts themselves. We hope we’ll see you there.


Thursday, January 22, 2015

Winter and Spring Events for Young Readers!

We’d like to say that PSB has a super sophisticated big-data driven method for scheduling author events, but really, we just respond to publishers and request the authors we like or think would do a great job. Sometimes patterns emerge in that somewhat chaotic process and this winter and early spring a pattern of fantastic events for young readers has emerged. So here’s what all you young readers and fans of writing for young readers can look forward to.

Friday, January 23, 7 pm YA: Kate Axelrod & Wendy Wunder, The Law of Loving Others and The Museum of Intangible Things

Two local novelists share their newest books about family, growing up, and making sense of the world.

The Law of Loving OthersKate Axelrod was born and raised in New York City. She has a B.A. in Creative Writing from Oberlin College and a Masters in Social Work from Columbia University. She has written for, Salon and various other publications. She lives in Brooklyn and works as an advocate in the criminal justice system. This is her first novel. Margo Rabb, author of Cures for Heartbreak, says “The Law of Loving Others is a poignant, powerful, and insightful novel about love, loss, and growing up. Kate Axelrod has written a wise and wonderful debut.”

Wendy Wunder is the author of The Probability of Miracles, which was called "beautiful" in a starred review from Kirkus and a "graceful balance of comedy and tragedy" by Publishers Weekly. When she's not writing or spending time with her family, she teaches yoga in Boston. Alexandra Coutts, author of Tumble and Fall says this “The Museum of Intangible Things is the best kind of joyride: exhilarating and hilarious and full of heart. A must-read for anyone who has ever had - or longed for - a true best friend.”

Perfect for: Fans of Sarah Dessen, Deb Caletti, Stephanie Perkins, and contemporary YA.

Thursday, January 29, 7 pm PICTURE BOOK: Mary Lundquist, Cat & Bunny 

Two costumed children star in this debut picture book from a local artist.

From the heartwarming text to the adorable illustrations of little kids dressed as animals, there's so much to love about Mary Lundquist's debut picture book, Cat & Bunny. Cat and Bunny. Bunny and Cat. It's always been just the two of them -- daydreaming, having adventures, playing their special game. Until the day someone else asks, "Can I play?" Mary Lundquist captures all the charm and magic of first friendship in her winning debut picture book.

Mary Lundquist grew up in Massachusetts and is the youngest of seven children. She graduated with a BFA from Mass College of Art and Design in Boston in 2008 and moved with her husband to England for three years. They now live with their son Calvin in Los Angeles where they enjoy the endless sunshine and visit the beach almost every week.

Perfect for: Preschool and early elementary readers—and anyone who likes dressing up.

Monday, February 9, 7 pm MG: N. Griffin, Smashie McPerter and the Mystery of Room 11

When the classroom hamster disappears, Smashie is on the case! (Even though she’s not a fan of hamster feet.)

N. Griffin is the author of The Whole Stupid Way We Are, for which she was named one of Publishers Weekly’s Flying Start Authors of 2013. She received her MFA from the Vermont College of Fine Arts and lives outside Boston. Publisher’s Weekly says this, “Griffin uses humor to tackle issues most children grapple with at some point, and Hindley’s loose b&w sketches play up the madcap energy at Rebecca Lee Crumpler Elementary School. Smashie’s ... positive energy and determination are impressive. Readers will be learning and laughing heartily as Smashie dons her "Investigator Suit" and uses "thinking power" to try to prove herself.”

Perfect for: Elementary school readers who enjoy The World According to Humphrey and Sideways Stories from Wayside School.

Friday, February 13, 7 pm YA: Gareth Hinds, Macbeth

Our favorite graphic novel creator is back with his take on the Scottish play.

Shakespeare's classic story of dark ambitions, madness, and murder springs to life in a masterful new graphic novel by Gareth Hinds.

Set against the moody backdrop of eleventh-century Scotland, Gareth Hinds’s captivating, richly illustrated interpretation takes readers into the claustrophobic mind of a man driven mad by ambition. An evil seed takes root in the mind of Macbeth, a general in the king’s army, when three witches tell him he will one day be king. At the urging of his wife, he resolves to take the throne by the most direct path: a dagger in the heart of King Duncan. But "blood will have blood," and when others grow suspicious of his sudden rise to power, is Macbeth prepared to commit more murders to keep the crown?

Gareth Hinds is the acclaimed creator of the graphic novels The Odyssey, Beowulf, Romeo and Juliet, The Merchant of Venice, and King Lear. He lives near Washington, D.C.

Perfect for: Shakespeareans, comics fans, anyone who has to read the play for high school English.

Tuesday, February 17, 7 pm YA: MarcyKate Connolly, Monstrous

A YA novel from a local author who turns fairy tales into something more.

The city of Bryre suffers under the magic of an evil wizard. Because of his curse, girls sicken and disappear without a trace, and Bryre's inhabitants live in fear. No one is allowed outside after dark. Yet night is the only time that Kymera can enter this dangerous city, for she must not be seen by humans. Her father says they would not understand her wings, the bolts in her neck, or her spiky tail—they would kill her. They would not understand that she was created for a purpose: to rescue the girls of Bryre. Despite her caution, a boy named Ren sees Kym and begins to leave a perfect red rose for her every evening. As they become friends, Kym learns that Ren knows about the missing girls, the wizard, and the evil magic that haunts Bryre. And what he knows will change Kym's life. Reminiscent of Frankenstein and the tales of the Brothers Grimm, this debut novel by MarcyKate Connolly stands out as a compelling, original story that has the feel of a classic.

MarcyKate Connolly is an author and arts administrator living in New England with her husband and pugs.

Perfect for: Upper-elementary and middle school readers, fans of Shannon Hale’s Princess Academy series, and monster aficionados.

Friday, February 27, 7pm PICTURE BOOK: Matt Tavares, Growing Up Pedro

A new picture book biography just in time to celebrate Pedro Martinez’s election to the Hall of Fame!

Before Pedro Martínez pitched the Red Sox to a World Series championship, before he was named to the All-Star team eight times, before he won the Cy Young three times, he was a kid from a place called Manoguayabo in the Dominican Republic. Pedro loved baseball more than anything, and his older brother Ramon was the best pitcher he’d ever seen. He’d dream of the day he and his brother could play together in the major leagues—and here, Matt Tavares tells the story of how that dream came true. In a fitting homage to a modern day baseball star, the acclaimed author-illustrator examines both Pedro Martínez’s improbable rise to the top of his game and the power that comes from the deep bond between brothers.

Matt Tavares is the author-illustrator of Henry Aaron's Dream, There Goes Ted Williams, and Becoming Babe Ruth as well as Zachary's Ball, Oliver’s Game, and Mudball. He is also the illustrator of Doreen Rappaport's Lady Liberty and Alicia Potter’s Jubilee!, among others. Matt Tavares lives in Ogunquit, Maine.

Perfect for: Baseball fans of all ages who enjoy great illustrations.

Saturday, March 14, 7 pm YA/BEST OF BOTH WORLDS: Camille DeAngelis, Bones & All 

A girl with a tendency to devour people goes looking for the father she never knew.

Maren Yearly is a young woman who wants the same things we all do. She wants to be someone people admire and respect. She wants to be loved. But her secret, shameful needs have forced her into exile. She hates herself for the bad thing she does, for what it’s done to her family and her sense of identity; for how it dictates her place in the world and how people see her--how they judge her. She didn’t choose to be this way.

Because Maren Yearly doesn’t just break hearts, she devours them. Ever since her mother found Penny Wilson’s eardrum in her mouth when Maren was just two years old, she knew life would never be normal for either of them. Love may come in many shapes and sizes, but for Maren, it always ends the same—with her hiding the evidence and her mother packing up the car.

Camille DeAngelis is the author of the novels Mary Modern and Petty Magic and a first-edition guidebook, Moon Ireland. A graduate of NYU and the National University of Ireland, Galway, Camille currently lives in Boston.

Perfect for: YA paranormal fans who like Laini Taylor, Lauren Oliver, and Alaya Dawn Johnson.

Friday, March 27, 7 pm MG: Jeanne Birdsall, The Penderwicks in Spring

The Penderwick sisters return for the fourth book in the series with Batty, now in fifth grade, keeping the family in line. (Really, we can’t say enough about this staff favorite!)

Filled with all the heart, hilarity, and charm that has come to define this beloved clan, The Penderwicks in Spring is about fun and family and friends (and dogs), and what happens when you bring what's hidden into the bright light of the spring sun.

When Jeanne Birdsall was young, she promised herself she’d be a writer someday—so that she could write books for children to discover and enjoy, just as she did at her local library. She is the author of The Penderwicks, which won the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, The Penderwicks on Gardam Street, and The Penderwicks at Point Mouette.

Perfect for: Elementary and middle school readers who enjoy the classics, from All-of-a-Kind Family to The Moffats.

Sunday March 29, 5 pm PICTURE BOOK: Mariam Gates, Good Night Yoga

Try out some bedtime yoga exercises and learn how to make the end of your day relaxing.

For kids in early to middle childhood -- and the lucky people who have to get them to bed -- Good Night Yoga is both a bedtime story and a series of simple poses for following the natural world as it comes to rest at day's end.

Join us for combination reading and demonstration of yoga at its most soothing.

Mariam Gates is the founder of the Kid Power Yoga Program. Although she has left us for the West Coast, she spent many years teaching in Boston, and served as the director of Citizen Schools.

Perfect for: Preschool and elementary children (and their parents), from yoga novices to the pros.

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