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Saturday, July 16, 2016

Let's Talk About Shakespeare Related Things : Act II

Deceptively Delicious

Are you ready for my second attempt at convincing you that you should read every last word written by Shakespeare? Well, get ready.

Yup, I'm still obsessed with Shakespeare. Even if the other day my Herman Melville obsession flared up, my Shakespeare love remains strong. You might think I've got my literary ailments at cross purposes, but you'd be wrong. Turns out there's a whole lot of Shakespeare in Melville. There are those who argue that without Shakespeare, particularly   King Lear  and Macbeth, there would be no Moby Dick. When I say "those," I mean the people who write and edit Wikipedia articles.

In fact "those" same Wikipedia people claim that when Ahab finally shows up, his first long speech to the crew of the Pequod is virtually blank verse:
But look ye, Starbuck, what is said in heat,
That thing unsays itself. There are men
From whom warm words are small indignity.
I mean not to incense thee. Let it go.
Look! see yonder Turkish cheeks of spotted tawn--
Living, breathing pictures painted by the sun.
The pagan leopards--the unrecking and
Unworshipping things, that live; and seek and give
No reason for the torrid life they feel!
I know, I know, blank verse, Moby Dick, I'm not really selling it for you Shakespeare virgins. Well, what if I told you that Shakespeare influenced a whole heck of a lot more than just some dusty, old book about a whale? What if I told you, that without Shakespeare, there'd be no LION KING ???!!?!?!!

Oh, yeah, now you're interested. From West Side Story (Romeo and Juliet) to Ten Things I Hate About You (Taming of the Shrew); Sons of Anarchy (Hamlet) to Breaking Bad (Macbeth...allegedly) odds are you love something Shakespeare-based and don't even know it.

So, I've put together a list with some suggestions for other things Shakespeare-based-- you won't even be able to tell. It's like that cookbook that Jerry Seinfeld's wife put out to trick kids into eating vegetables. Yup, just like that.

by Ryan North
O. M. G. It's a choose your own adventure book for grown ups! This one is based on Othello...kidding. It's based on Titus Andronicus.

by Jane Smiley
True story, King Lear is my favorite Shakespeare. This novel is based on King Lear. I had no idea. That's how non-Shakespeare-y it is. It has nothing to do with how dumb I am.

by Cat Winters
Cat Winters is a PNW author and this YA novel takes place in Oregon, explores US history and racism, and is based on Hamlet. And it's a lady cast as our tortured, young Dane. 

by Leon Garfield, illustrated by Michael Foreman
This one is my favorite of the bunch. A beautifully written collection of Shakespeare plays retold for little ears. It's the perfect introduction to hook them early. And there are pictures!

These titles and several others are on display at out Lake Forest Park store. The display features many of Shakespeare's greatest hits. And there are literally countless other books out there that would not exist if not for the Bard. Come on over to Lake Forest Park and see if any of these titles strike your fancy. The Shakespeare display table will be up through the end of July. My love will live on forever.


Sunday, July 10, 2016

This is Switzerland

The Presidential election is 2016 is slowly but surely killing me. The will to engage in any discourse on the political spectrum has left. Last November I was full to the brim with righteous anger and ready to match, nay, overpower all the sexism and bigotry I witnessed with my feminism and tolerance. Now I'm just resigned to, "If you sexism me, I will feminist you."

Unfortunately, I shelve the Political Science section, and escape is not that easy. 

I watched Ben Carson's book America the Beautiful : Rediscovering What Made This Nation Great slowly rot on my shelves, itching for the moment I could tuck them away in the back where I could forget about their sad existence.

I watched a solid handful of books about why Hillary is a sign of the apocalypse/Satan's spawn, why she is a faux feminist, etc. My favorite is this one with a neon yellow and pink cover called Unlikable by Edward Klein. Mostly because all it does is make me think of the theme song for The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (just substitute Unbreakable for Unlikable and you're all set) which puts more spring in my step than anything in that section these days.

Someone should talk to Hillary's team about adapting that song as her campaign theme. 

We as a bookstore carry books that have all sorts of ideas, political leanings and mantras. We endorse no one. But we do believe in representation and edification. Therefore, when ALL the presidential candidates release books (all 666 of them), we carry them in our store. Each and every one. We had a multitude of copies of A Time for Truth by Ted Cruz for a long time. And I dutifully made room for it on my shelves.

We sold one.

And yet, for weeks on end, whenever I went to Political Science to put out new arrivals, someone had placed Ted Cruz's book on display. And every time, I put it back on the shelf where they belong, readjusting my poor abused David Axelrod political bio. The next week someone retaliated by displaying a copy of Hard Choices in front of my display of Charles Krauthammer's book.

FIRST of all, 65% of the time what is displayed depends on how many copies we receive. If we get ten copies of a Kissinger book, it goes on display, no matter what I feel about it. The other 35% is whatever underdog I'm trying to give a boost to, or what cover is cooler. Marketing, man.

SECOND of all, even if you put a copy of Hard Choices on display in the Political Science area hoping to inspire someone to purchase said book, while I respect your choice of candidate, Hard Choices lives in the biography section. When someone stashes it somewhere it doesn't belong, some poor soul who REALLY wants to read Hillary's bio won't be able to find it.

And when other people start deciding where things go, it makes it difficult, nigh impossible, to locate books. Think of my shelving decisions as a dictatorship.

For the political minded whose minds are being melted by the 2016 Election, or if you can't find the political book you want to read because someone moved it, I give you a recommended reading list:

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

Or: How Thomas Cromwell did a bang up job placating Henry Tudor and getting him a different wife and literally everything he wanted until he didn't want it anymore. It's still less confusing than this election.

Or, alternatively, if you've already jumped on the Wolf Hall bandwagon and/or are sick of the fascination with Tudor England, Mantel's book about the French Revolution, A Place of Greater Safety, is equally as good, while slightly more confusing. Though I maintain that the French Revolution is still not as terrible as this election.

The Femicide Machine by Sergio Gonzalez Rodriguez

Short. Brutal. Important. Tragic.
Feminism is important. Women and girls are still being slaughtered all over the world because they are not men. Sexism is not dead. Because it's still killing women.

Smoke by Dan Vyleta

It's Dickensian and Dystopian. And get this--it's not young adult! Vyleta does an admirable job of exploring the nuances of human morality and our "sinful" nature through the premise that the human body literally smokes when it sins.
Lusting after your neighbor's wife? Smoke erupts from your body (it's color coded, by the way).
Greedy for the coins in your friend's hand? Soot stains the armpits of your shirt.
In the theme of this miserable election, just envision Donald Trump smoking every time he lies.

Shrill by Lindy West

By turns enlightening, hilarious and deeply moving, Lindy West is an important voice in the media these days. She came to our store to promote her book, and her first question from the audience was: What do you think we can expect from the 2016 election?
Lindy: Literally, I have no idea, and I don't even want to think about it.
Me neither, Lindy. Me neither.

Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow

Yes, I'm obsessed with the musical. But that's completely beside the point. I was browsing my social media, and this beautiful tumbr post popped up: Alexander Hamilton would have torn Donald Trump to pieces by now and also publicly humiliated him on multiple occasions. Read the book to find out how. Or just listen to the Cabinet Battles tracks on the soundtrack. Either way, it's a nice fantasy to live in.


Sunday, June 19, 2016

Summer Reading on Display

Courtney fills you in on both of our theme tables dedicated to summer reading:

If you are prone to sun rashes like me, summer is the best time of the year to stay indoors. There's nothing I enjoy more than a beautiful sunny day spent avoiding the heat and the plethora of bugs, from the comfort of my cave troll like apartment. Better yet, there's nothing better than spending a whole summer reading. And...getting rewarded for it!

For grades k-12 you can pick up one of our Summer Passports to Reading at any Third Place Books location and receive a stamp in your passport for every book you read. And if the excitement and joy of reading isn't enough of a reward, every two stamps earns a new prize. One of which, is a delicious cookie or treat from our restaurant partners. Much like Scooby-Doo, Cookies are my biggest incentive to do anything so I totally understand if this is more rewarding than say...reading about extraordinary places you've never been to or fantastical worlds you can only imagine! No judgement guys.

Completed passports will be entered into a drawing for a $50 Third Place Books gift certificate. You can complete and enter as many passports as you like!

If you don't know where to get started, our amazing children's department booksellers have put together a wonderful arrangement of books. From Roald Dahl's terrifying book about the big friendly giant, to a class hamster who stars in a hamster race, they have you covered. Want a book about a friendship between a girl and her unicorn? Got it. What about a story about two seventh graders venturing into a dangerous and magical forest in the middle of Portland, Oregon? Done and Done. How about a young witch teaming up with a clan of six inch high blue men in order to rescue her baby brother?? Absolutely. Read away young ones.


And if you happen to be the type of person who does enjoy the outdoors well then gee whiz do I have some news for you!! This year marks the 100th birthday of the National Parks Service. A program older than Betty White by six years and ten years older than the Queen of England. If the National Park Service was a dog, it would be 413* human years old, that's 280 years older than Maggie, the World's oldest dog who died at 30 (133). 

You don't even have to go outside to celebrate the National Parks. Just check out our display table with all the rad books about National Parks instead! What a fabulous way to avoid sunburn. Read about the history of several pacific northwest parks, memoirs regarding experiences, a guide to backpacking the parks and make sure to check out The National Parks: An Illustrated History, and Terry Tempest Williams latest, The Hour of Land : A Personal Topography of America's National Parks, because they definitely count as visiting the parks.

Check out both of our theme tables at the Lake Forest Park Store for more Summer Reading!


Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Grieving Through Reading

Whether reeling from personal tragedy, or the public grief of senseless violence, these books examine the beauty of life and love, the profound sadness of loss, and the importance of elegy and remembrance. 

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

Meet Alison's father, a historic preservation expert and obsessive restorer of the family's Victorian home, a third-generation funeral home director, a high school English teacher, an icily distant parent, and a closeted homosexual. Through narrative that is alternately heartbreaking and fiercely funny, we are drawn into a daughter's complex yearning for her father. And yet, apart from assigned stints dusting caskets at the family-owned "fun home," as Alison and her brothers call it, the relationship achieves its most intimate expression through the shared code of books. When Alison comes out as homosexual herself in late adolescence, the denouement is swift, graphic -- and redemptive.

Gratitude by Oliver Sacks

My predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved. I have been given much and I have given something in return. Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure. 

-Oliver Sacks

The Guardians by Sarah Manguso

Harris was a man who "played music, wrote software, wrote music, learned to drive, went to college, went to bed with girls." In "The Guardians," Manguso grieves not for family or for a lover, but for a best friend. With startling humor and candor, she paints a portrait of a friendship between a man and a woman in all its unexpected detail and shows that love and grief do not always take the shapes we expect them to.

The Men We Reaped by Jessamyn Ward

"What I meant to say was this: You will always love him. He will always love you. Even though he is not here, he was here, and no one can change that. No one can take that away from you. If energy is neither created nor destroyed, and if your brother was here with his, his humor, his kindness, his hopes, doesn't this mean that what he was still exists somewhere, even if it's not here? Doesn't it? Because in order to get out of bed this morning, this is what I had to believe about my brother... But I didn't know how to say that." -Jesmyn Ward

The Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala

“A haunting chronicle of love and horrifying loss. . . . Memory, sorrow, and undying love.” -Abraham Verghese

“Stories of grief, like stories of love, are of permanent literary interest when done well. . . . Greatness reverberates from [Deraniyagala’s] simple and supple prose.” -The New York Times

“An amazing, beautiful book.” -Joan Didion

“Out of unimaginable loss comes an unimaginably powerful book. . . . I urge you to read Wave. You will not be the same person after you’ve finished.” -Will Schwalbe

“Beautiful and ravaging . . . faultless prose.”-Daily Herald

Part biography, part sociological expose on poverty, race, and education; all heart. Huge, huge heart. It's an honest portrayal of the life of an eager and vibrant young man. His family and friendships; trials, struggles, and successes; researched and uncovered by his college roommate and friend. And it clearly is the work of a friend, because the sense of loss and reverence in Hobbs' words is palpable.

Even knowing the inevitable end won't stop you from barreling through to the last page. A touching elegy and rumination on the senseless loss of our young men. It's a beautiful and essential book and it will break your heart. Read it. -Erin

Monday, May 30, 2016

Let's Talk About Shakespeare Related Things : Act I

I tried to write this as all one post, but it really got away from me. There is just WAY too much Shakespeare stuff I need to tell you about. So I'm breaking it down. Here it is, ACT I of me talking to you about Shakespeare related things.
I hesitate to say that all of our reading here at Third Place is influenced by Canadian Television; I don't want to over-generalize. But this is the second post in almost as many months to feature TV from north of the 49th Parallel.

Recently, I devoured all three seasons of Slings and Arrows. It's roughly 13.5 hours of near-perfection, all about a Canadian Shakespeare theater festival. Each season focuses on a separate play, really diving into it, and though the show is more focused on the relationships between the actors and employees, there are a lot of moments of beautifully acted Shakespeare. Plus it has loads of little inside jokes, and a ghost. It's smart, funny, and sweet and I really, really recommend it.

I will admit that I started watching this show, not because of my love for Shakespeare, but because of my love for the lead actor (he's soooooo cute). But there was a brief period in college when I would go to the drama department productions of overdone, usually modern-dress, very Rent-like Shakespeare plays. I loved being "into Shakespeare." I felt very artsy. But then I grew up and cared less about what people thought about the things I liked, and decided, my being "into" Shakespeare was really more for show. I didn't really get it. Shakespeare just seemed so obvious and the stories sort of unoriginal. Any comic relief in the plays was always juvenile and unfunny. And every other soliloquy riddled with cliches.

And then I started watching this ridiculous (awesome) Canadian television show. And sure, they cherry pick the most beautiful passages to present, but still it reignited my interest and though this makes me sound rather dense and obvious myself, I realized Shakespeare's stories and plots seem obvious because his writing has influenced so much of our culture. He's seeped into every last form of media. Of course he's going to seem unoriginal when we've spent all our lives consuming reincarnations and cheap knock-offs of his genius. Sometimes the comic relief feel so inane because the tragedy is so heartbreaking, that humor, any humor will inevitably fall flat. And all those cliches in every other soliloquy? Well, they weren't cliches when he wrote them. They became cliches because he wrote them. We've just been repeating them ever since.

You must watch this show. But be warned, you may find yourself reciting Shakespeare to your cats. Here's a little taste of those Canadian wizards at work:


Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Read This Book: Epic, All-Staff, Event Edition

I have often heard bookselling referred to as a labor of love, which as you know implies we don't get paid very much. But while we may not be rich in cash money, we are basically swimming in free books.

How jealous must you ordinary people be of booksellers and our advance reader's copies? I'm guessing not as jealous as I want you to be.  I am constantly disappointed by the response I get when it pops up in conversation that I'm reading a yet-to-be published book. I find myself saying this a lot, "Excuse, me, I just want to make sure you understand, this book isn't available to you normals yet." 

I'm very popular at parties.

So. WAAAAAAAAAY back in January, I got to read the advance copy of Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West. That's right while you all were still talking about Channing Tatum lip syncing Let it Go, and Patti LaBelle's new line of cakes, I was immersed in the genius, hilarious, fury-inducing musings of Seattle's very own, Lindy West.

After I read it, I passed it along to many of my coworkers and we've become kind of (very) fanatical in our adoration. You can ask Lindy's mom who totally shops here and doesn't seem the least bit uncomfortable that we all know her name. 

I feel like an unbearably hip person who loved that cool band first, before everyone else loved the cool band and then I no longer love the cool band because it's too mainstream. Except, I'm not that hip, and it's not a band, it's Lindy West, and I only want her to get more, and more popular. I want her book to be on every bestseller list, and every high school curriculum, and 30 copies of it in every library in the whole entire world. Everyone I know is getting a copy for their next birthday. Yes, even my nephews who are 3 and 5...especially my nephews. 

The essays in Shrill are funny, pointed, and razor-sharp and they'll make you feel strong and sad and angry and joyous all at once. Lindy will be reading, signing, and being generally awesome at our Lake Forest Park store tomorrow, Thursday, May 26th at 7PM! We can hardly contain ourselves.  -Erin

See below for some more of our fangirling:

I love this book, and I love Lindy West. She gave me feelings I didn't know I was capable of feeling. I felt validated and brave and often incedibly enraged on her behalf. She talks about issues like sexism, abortion and fat shaming, body issues and internet trolls with such a perfect blend  of humor empathy and wisdom. It's that combination of strength and wit that makes it such an unforgettable read. 
She is my hero, and I want her to be my best friend. I want to get matching BFF bracelets and take her to brunch so I can listen to her talk about whatever goes through her beautiful brain.  -Courtney
Shrill started a kind of internal revolution--in every one of us who read it here--that told me my humanity does not rest on my thinness, my gender, or any outside commentary on my physical existence. All I can say is since having read Shrill, I heave a sigh of relief anew each and every time I realize I don't have to hate my body because it is not "the perfect body", nor do I have to shrink into nothing every time I am too loud, too proud, too big, and too shrill. Thank you, Lindy.  -Lizzie
Lindy West makes feminism accessible without watering it down, which most of our media outlets flat out refuse to do. She makes the daily struggle to insist that others recognize our (women's) humanity HILARIOUS while not downplaying how effing atrocious the whole situation actually is.  -Anje

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Why Eh? : The Adventures of an Adult Reader

This is the first in a series featuring Courtney, a normally, Non-YA-Reading reader, reading YA. Got it?


I have always had a very intense (and completely rational) fear of borrowing books from friends. Not because my dog may likely chew on them like she once did to a very expensive textbook, or because I tend to walk like a baby deer and may trip at any given moment, and the loaned book may go flying into a conveniently placed sinkhole. No, the real source of my anxiety comes from the fear of hating the book they loved so much. I would never be able to look them in the eye. I would have to completely abandon my life and start anew in a different city with a fake ID and a new name. 

After enduring an incredibly passionate rant on Tamora Pierce’s books, from fellow bookseller, Lizzie, I was ordered to begin my education with The Song of the Lioness Series. She recomended these books with such a sense of awe and adoration, I began to sweat so much I became dehydrated. I have never found myself enjoying the fantasy genre so Lizzie's casual mention of sorcery and knighthood made me queasy, automatically assuming I would hate it.

But alas, like a majority of my fears it was for nothing. Thankfully I won’t have to retreat back to Alaska because I quickly fell in love with the character Alanna and the world Pierce created. Here is a book about a young girl who wants to be a knight, and instead of accepting the fact that its simply not allowed, she disguises herself as her brother in order to train. It’s a classic Shakespearean trope but unfortunately is still a relevant topic. Pierce ,though, never portrays her gender as a weakness or something incongruous with being a fighter and that is what makes all the difference. She trains among the boys, has all sorts of wild adventures, hangs out with princes and fights evil wizards and none of this is at odds with her perception of herself as a girl. Not only are these books overwhelmingly positive, but Alanna also has several romantic and sexual relationships, and the narrative contains no indication of slut- shaming or the hint that she should regret exploring her sexuality. Nor or any activities viewed as traditionally feminine are devalued either.

 It may also be important to note that this series came out in 1984 which is practically the stone age of YA. I could rant all day about the importance of characters like Alanna to young readers, and I wish this was a series I had been introduced to in the peak of my confusion and weirdness about being a girl. Especially when the only books at my library  had only male protagonists going on adventuress or were about traditionally feminine girls and their boy troubles. And for a young queer kid such as myself who has never been comfortable with the way femininity has often been shoved my way, it would have made a world of a difference if someone would have given me these books. Preferably a magical library troll or even a cool librarian who looks like Tina Fey and later becomes the Miss Honey to my Matilda. 

For now though, I have 24 more Tamora Pierce books to read and a Meg Cabot bookclub meeting to attend. So read these books, give them to everyone forever always as gifts, and bask in the amazingness that is Alanna.


(editor's note: I've used the old covers of these books because the current incarnation totally buys into gender norms and I think Alanna would disapprove.)