Welcome to the official blog of Third Place Books.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

You Read to Me, I'll Read to You

I love reading aloud, and not just children's illustrated books, novels too. It's unclear where this love came from, because reading out loud in grade school would send me into a panic-freeze-doom-spiral. But by undergrad, my friends and I were always reading out loud. Mostly Harry Potter, and romance novels. We'd spend countless hours procrastinating on our homework, reading out loud, and giggling at the racy bits (of the romance novels, not HP).

But reading out loud is only fun when you have an audience. And when there's no one in your life with the time or interest to listen to you read, there's really no reason to do it anymore. And so for a long time, I didn't.

And then, last year on a particularly slow day at work, one of my then co-workers (and current read-aloud friend) found ourselves with only one advanced reader's copy of Miranda July's novel, The First Bad Man. We started reading small parts out loud, and because it was such a slow day, those small parts became longer and longer, until we had read an entire chapter out loud. We enjoyed ourselves so much we didn't stop and spent a lovely evening on her porch, drinking cool beverages, and reading to each other.

Both of us were struck by how much we missed reading aloud, and being read to. And that's how Grown-Up Storytime was born. We call it LoLS, The League of Literary Snobbery: Storytime for Grownups. Yes, it's a regrettable name born of an astounding lack of imagination, and that calling something "Adult Storytime" would generate an entirely different audience.

Every third Monday of the month at the Ravenna location, at 7PM, we gather in the Pub, get our drinks and adjourn to the Reading Room. And we read out loud. Mostly it's me reading, but others join in from time to time (we gladly welcome new readers). Sometimes there's a theme, and sometimes not. It might be an article, a short story, an essay, or a piece from a novel. Sometimes the occasional poem gets thrown around. We play it pretty fast and loose.

And, according to this completely unresearched (by me) link on the internet, reading aloud is good for you! It:
  • Sharpens Your Focus 
  • Increases Your Vocabulary 
  • Results in Greater Comprehension 
  • Gives you an Opportunity to Play 
  • Exercises Your Body 
  • Challenges Your Use of Intonation 
  • Improves Listening and Reading Skills
You should join us. Tommorrow, Monday July 20th at 7PM. Meet in the Pub at Ravenna Third Place. I'll read to you, and you'll drink drinks, and there will even be popcorn...and air conditioning. Hope to see you there.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Fresh from the Vault

Go Set a Watchman. It's the only thing anyone is talking about. Except Stephen. Our newest bookseller at Lake Forest Park has imagined what other famous first drafts publishers could release. I really think someone should write number four. I would read it. Check it out.


Following the rampaging success of Go Set a Watchman, the recently rediscovered early version of Harper Lee's beloved classic To Kill a Mockingbird, what other lost works are being unearthed?

1. The Brilliant Bartlett - F. Scott Fitzgerald's Obvious rip-off of the PG Wodehouse's Jeeves novels featuring the hilarious misadventures of Jay Gatsby and his ingenious butler.

2. The Young Man and the Beach - Ernest Hemingway A small boy spends all day trying to catch a
lizard. When he finally gets hold of it, its tail comes off.

3. A la recherche de Caen perdu - Marcel Proust In six epic volumes, a sensitive young boy struggles to find accurate directions to a French seaside town.

4. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen Lizzie Pride is a maverick detective who doesn't play by the book. Sparks fly when she's forced to partner with straight-laced police constable Darcy Prejudice.

5. Harry Potter and the Lonely Cupboard - JK Rowling A dark and tedious story about an unloved orphan trapped under the stairs by his evil guardians.


Saturday, July 11, 2015

Old News

I'm always so behind the times, but did you watch Death Comes to Pemberly? BBC made the P.D. James' novel of the same name into a miniseries back in 2013, though it didn't air in the US until last year. You should really watch it if you missed it too. The acting is wonderful, the story engaging, and it's gorgeous. The costumes, the castles, the scenery.


And how could you ever get enough of Elizabeth and Darcy? You can't.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Bookseller Spotlight!

Wesley at Lake Forest Park

Wesley has been with Third Place for a year, but he's been a bookseller for nearly 17 years. Lots of knowledge here folks. So much knowledge that he's one of our main used books buyers. He also dabbles in computer orders, social media, and shelves Sociology, Ethnic/Gender Studies. and True Crime.

Wesley's favorite food is pho, and he's pretty passionate about it. He's had a pen pal since junior high with whom he has an agreement to never meet or communicate via anything other than pen and paper and maybe a phone call every few years. Although he has no pets of his own, he claims vicarious ownership of old and cranky Jack Rusell Terriers he encounters on the street. He names them either Gary or Howard, depending on the day.

I usually summarize and edit the answers to this inane questionnaire. But Wesley's answers are so fantastic, I simply cannot deny you the pleasure of his own words.

Favorite book in your section?  Right now, my favorite is Dale Peck's Visions and Revisions. A hybrid of memoir and cultural history, it is a refreshingly direct and opinionated examination of AIDs literature and growing up in the thick of the crisis. No punches pulled, no political correctness or apologies employed.

What's your favorite section in the store?  To browse, fiction. For a chuckle, new age kookery.

What book do you recommend most? Julie Orringer's The Invisible Bridge and Vendela Vida's Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name are my back pocket crowd-pleasers. Whether you read for character, atmosphere, plot, meaning, or emotion, they fit the bill.

Favorite bookstore besides Third Place?  Even split between Grey Matter Bookstore and Troubadour Books in Hadley, Massachusetts and Mast Books in New York. Grey Matter and Troubadour are two separate used shops that share a sprawling basement space in western Massachusetts and provide, to my mind, the most enjoyable rainy afternoon browsing experience known to man. Mast is a small space in the East Village, a used shop curated within an inch of its life and a better store for it. The literature section doesn't represent a single dog and the selection of art books is staggeringly on point. Blindfolded, I could empty my bank account in there without the slightest regret.

What are you reading now?  Mary Karr's The Art of Memoir (September 15th). I have no desire, discipline, or talent (nor do I possess interesting enough battle scars) to write an autobiography BUT IT'S MARY KARR. That voice, even instructionally, is an inimitable pleasure.

Can you read more than one book at a time?  Usually. I keep nonfiction and fiction that requires deeper investment by the bed or reading chair and keep something lighter that's easy to digest in fits and starts with me on the bus and at work.

Do you have to finish a book once you've started?  Ennui is the only thing with which I like to wrestle. My ex did a fantastic imitation of me that's very easy to emulate. At the first point of irritation/boredom: make a short, sharp frustrated noise, toss the book out the window and mutter "who cares?" Repeat with every third or so book. I currently live on the ground floor but the pedestrians in my neighborhood still see a lot of free reading material.

A book you regret not reading sooner or a book you regret never having read?  I wish I had started reading Fran Lebowitz at three instead of thirty. Could've saved myself a lot of hassle and unnecessary apologies.

Favorite author, or three, or five? Mary Robison (not to be confused with Marilynne Robinson, please), Julie Hecht, Lydia Millet, Mary Gaitskill and Ann Beattie. Heidi Julavits. Valerie Martin. Claire Messud. Vendela Vida. Joy Williams. An old co-worker used to tease that "if you show Wesley a book by a thin-lipped lady he won't sleep until he's sold ten."

Least favorite author?  Bret Easton Ellis. I would never refuse to sell a book but American Psycho gives me serious pause. Argue with me all you like but Alberto Manguel said it best: "The only book I ever banished from my library was Bret Easton Ellis's American Psycho, which I felt infected the shelves with its prurient descriptions of deliberately inflicted pain." Truer words. 

Do you have an all-time favorite book?  To name one favorite is a suffocating task that brings me close to tears. Safekeeping by Abigail Thomas, Edward Hirsch's Wild Gratitude and Mary Gaitskill's Veronica are three works I make a point to reread annually and feel more like security blankets than books at this point. Hypocritically, there's a line from a John Berryman that I think may be the single most beautiful thing in the English language.

Guilty reading pleasure? Hippie communes. Religious cults. Don't get me started.

Do you keep books? Borrow them? Lend them?  I keep only the books that are emotionally irreplaceable or financially idiotic to part with. When I was moving back to Seattle and fretting and wringing my hands over what I would keep and what to sell, a friend gave me the greatest piece of advice I've ever gotten where my library is concerned. He handed me a small sheet of paper and a pencil and told me to list every book I owned off the top of my head. After a shockingly short list emerged, he tucked the list in my pocket, told me to go home and sell whatever I hadn't written down. Twenty odd boxes were sold, four were kept and I have absolutely no regrets.

How are your bookshelves arranged at home?  Alphabetical by author (though art, poetry, and vintage paperbacks are segregated and a bit more of a fly-by-night operation).

Do you judge books by their covers?  Unquestionably. Dismissing things out of hand based on aesthetic is one of the greatest pleasures of living in a democratic society.

A book you loved that you wouldn't have read if someone hadn't recommend it?  Julie Hecht's Do the Windows Open? was recommended (nee forced upon me) by the ex with excellent mimicry skills. The soft, borderline Thomas Kinkade cover, the New Yorker sensibilities. Both enormously off-putting, but I'll be damned if it didn't feel tailor-made for me with the neurotic, befuddled protagonist who just can't get on board with these modern times.

Favorite movie version of a book?  They Shoot Horses, Don't They? elevates its source material to phenomenal effect and Play It As It Lays is a wonderfully executed but woefully forgotten adaptation.

Favorite book as a kid? The Digging-est Dog by Al Perkins, a VERY minor title in the Seuss
Library. I still have my copy from childhood and flip through it every so often, mystified I developed a love of reading through something so flat.

Have you read Ulysses? Nope.

Moby Dick? Nah.

What is a book you've recently read and are raving about?
Blackout by Sarah Hepola has really reawakened my love of confessional nonfiction and reminded me of the importance of the addiction memoir. To my mind, there really hasn't been a work about alcohol abuse since Caroline Knapp's Drinking that has felt this humble and forthright. As she's the personal essay editor for Salon, it really shouldn't be too surprising that it's so compulsively readable and relatable but her ability to steer clear of navel-gazing and address past transgressions and personal reckoning so frankly and without sensationalizing her drunkalogue is inspiring.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Read This Book

You MUST read this book. Rude Cakes by Rowboat Watkins.

It's pretty much impossible to walk by this book and not pick it up. Just look at that cake! Adorable! In fact, so adorable, that we've made it Picture Book of the Week. The inaugural winner. Also, it's by someone named Rowboat Watkins. How is that not a selling point?

It's the story of an angry cake, and the lessons a case of mistaken identity can provide. All kidding aside, this is a delightful little book. Funny and sweet, but none of that cloying kind of sweetness that can plague other, more earnest picture books. Charming illustrations, and a great message. Plus, it's about cake.

Check out Rude Cakes, and then eat some cake. Both of our stores boast delicious bakeries. The Honey Bear in Lake Forest Park, and Vios Cafe at Ravenna.


Thursday, May 28, 2015

On Hating Books Part II

You are reading Part II of this post. The body of the post is hidden to prevent spoilers.

On Hating Books

I've been giving some thought to why we read. What is it we're looking to find in those pages? The answer is different for each of us. I read to learn, and to feel. I love a book because its characters charm me, or the story stirs me. But what does it mean when we don't like what we find between the covers? Recently, I had the opportunity to really ruminate on what happens when I hate a book.

For days, I'd been wrapped up in a certain novel--loving it. I was enmeshed in the world and emotionally invested in the story. In short, captivated. A friend of mine was reading it at the same time and we would text back and forth about the characters as if gossiping about friends.

And then the author did something so unthinkably cruel and awful, I felt like I'd actually been punched in the stomach. This book had me crying a few times, but at that moment all I felt was white-hot, visceral rage and I threw the book across the room. I'm serious. I've never done that before. It was automatic, an unconscious impulse. One moment I was reading, and the next, the book was hurling through the air. I went from loving it to hating it in one sentence.

I left the book lying where it landed for at least a day. But I did eventually finish it, fuming the entire time. I felt so manipulated, and so stupid for believing all the things the author had me believing.

And I could not let it go. It was all I thought about, all I talked about.

Around this time I came across a blog called I Hate Cheryl Strayed. Fans of Cheryl Strayed may want to steer clear, this woman's anger is for real. I read a few posts of her 39-part review of Wild. 39 parts!!!!! After that, she goes on to review the movie version, and then Cheryl's other book Tiny Beautiful Things. The blog is entertaining but I didn't really understand; if she hated the book so much, why waste so much time on it?

And I thought about the book I threw across the room. I wasn't writing a blog about it (though now I am), but I certainly spent a lot of time thinking and talking about it. And, after all, I did finish it. The writing is beautiful and the characters really did feel like friends. I wanted to feel something, and I certainly did. So, did I really hate it that much? Or perhaps the better question; did I really care that I hated it that much?

Whatever else this book was to me, it was an experience, and I'm glad I read it. And with a little time and perspective of what real book-hatred looks like, I can even say I liked it. I'm not saying there aren't books out there that I legitimately hate, I am not one to find value in a book simply because it's a book. And I'm not saying that the blogger above doesn't legitimately hate Wild. I'm only saying that I liked this particular book so much that it didn't matter that I hated it.

So the book I swore I would never recommend--I'm recommending it. I hesitate to reveal what book I'm talking about, worried that there may be inadvertent spoilers in this post. So, I'll leave it up to you. Click on through if you want to know.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Book News and Other Miscellany

Volume 2, Issue 1
Bringing this back. Various links to cool videos, websites, articles, and blogs about books. Enjoy!
You may recall the "squee heard round the world". Here's the trailer that accompanies said squee.

Do. Not. Tell. Me. Anything. The first episode was last night and I haven't seen it yet.  
I was trying to find a literary holiday for you to celebrate this week, but I found something better instead. Melville House's commentary on literary holidays, Major Literary Holidays Other than Read an e Book Day. International Lie About Having Read Proust Day is my new favorite holiday. It's "actually everyday, though it's officially recognized on August 13." I'll be exchanging gifts if anyone wants to join me. It was a serious toss-up between that and January 13th, Give Up Trying to Read 2666 Day.

The Man Booker International Prize was announced last week. If you think that's the ordinary Man Booker Prize, you're wrong. Don't worry, we didn't know what it was either. Everyday's a school day! The Man Booker International Prize is awarded to ...
one writer for his or her achievement in fiction. Worth £60,000, the prize is awarded every two years to a living author who has published fiction either originally in English or whose work is generally available in translation in the English language. The winner is chosen solely at the discretion of the judging panel and there are no submissions from publishers.
Where the regular old Booker Prize is given to one book, yearly, the Man Booker International Prize is awarded for a body of work every two years. Kind of like the Olympics. Actually, not at all like the Olympics.

Your new Man Booker International Prize winner...

László Krasznahorkai!!!!

Some of his more recently translated work includes Santantango and Seiobo There Below.

And now, a brand new section of Book News:
Cool books I really want to read, but haven't had a chance to yet.
Admittedly, not really news, just my sneaky way of pointing out cool and worthwhile books you might be interestded in.

The Ice Palace by Tarjei Vesaas
A new edition of what is commonly seen as the legendary Norwegian writer's masterpiece, this story tells the tale of Siss and Unn, two friends who have only spent one evening in each other's company. But so profound is this evening between them that when Unn inexplicably disappears, Siss's world is shattered. Siss's struggle with her fidelity to the memory of her friend and Unn's fatal exploration of the strange, terrifyingly beautiful frozen waterfall that is the Ice Palace are described in prose of a lyrical economy that ranks among the most memorable achievements of modern literature.

And a book and a cat.