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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Year's Reading Resolutions

Forget other ways of improving our lives, we're booksellers so our resolutions are focused on reading.  This year we've got some pretty grand plans.  Ami is endeavoring to get up earlier everyday, perhaps so she can read more.  And Mark B. is determined to read more of the books he already owns. He says he wants to read further into his collection of books he has owned for years.  Though he did tell me this as he was buying a brand new book.

Katherine wants to focus less on how many books she reads over the year and more on the quality of the books (for the record, I already think she does a pretty good job of this since she can easily give up on a book she isn't enjoying; something I am terrible at).  But she says her main reading (related) resolution is to write more.  Stories, observations, poems, folk songs, letters; 2014 is the year of putting pen to paper for Katherine.  As a way of achieving this goal, she plans to fill six whole Moleskine journals.  But don't be too intimidated, it's the little 3 x 5, 64 pagers.

Alex says if his 2014 resolution was the same as his 2013 resolution, to read more women authors, then his next book would be The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (another shameless Goldfinch plug! man, I love that book).  But his actual resolution is to read more Northwest history.  He's
gonna start with Betty MacDonald's classic The Egg and I, and then move on to The Curve of Time by M. Wylie Blanchet.  This one's about a widow who packs up her five kids in a boat and explores the coastline of the Northwest. Fascinating!

As for me (Erin B), I have a lot of reading plans. This year I resolve to read more nonfiction and more of the books that I've missed.  Unbelievably, I've never read The Bell Jar, so that's on the list.  But my primary resolution I came upon while putting together my 2013 top ten list of books.  Looking at the authors on that list, I realized that all of them are white.  No people color.  So that's my goal.  To add some diversity and perspective to my reading and read more authors of color. My first book of the new year is Kindred by Octavia Butler (who I just learned lived in Lake Forest Park!)

What's your reading resolution this year?  Don't have one?  Well come on out tomorrow, for our New Year's Day Sale, and we'll help you find one! Nothing says "Happy New Year" like 20% off everything at your favorite independent bookstore!  Both locations!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Read This Book

Every month at Ravenna we each pick a book and those Staff Picks are 20% off for the entire month (at the Ravenna location only...sorry LFP).  Well, In December, Ami chose the book I Love Dick by Chris Kraus.  But customers didn't really seem that interested in it.  Maybe it's because everyone was shopping for gifts and not themselves, or perhaps it's the title...

At any rate, Ami is bound and determined to get you to read it.  So, it's going to be her Staff Pick for January too.  And she threatens that it will remain her Staff Pick until someone buys it.  She has some amazing things to say about it.  I was talking with her about it and the words she uses to describe the book are pretty remarkable.  Here's the list:
  • intense
  • emotional
  • academic
  • provocative
  • unique
  • abrasive
  • self aware
  • uncensored
  • prickly
  • authentic
I don't think I've ever heard anyone describe a book as prickly, how can you NOT want to read it now?  Well, if you're still unsure here is Ami's full review:
Revolutionary, momentous, phenomenal. This true novel (or novelistic memoir?) chronicles Chris Kraus' infatuation with the eponymous Dick in a story of obsession, intellect and art that, despite its expansiveness, is tightly woven with confidence and purpose. Kraus is a bold, honest, vulnerable and highly intelligent voice, a radiant beacon through the haze of an aloof, indifferent world. A forceful accomplishment, equally detested and revered--if you can handle it, this book will change your life.
And here's a bit more on what I Love Dick is all about...

In I Love Dick, published in 1997, Chris Kraus, author of Aliens and Anorexia, Torpor, and Video Green, boldly tore away the veil that separates fiction from reality and privacy from self-expression. It's no wonder that I Love Dick instantly elicited violent controversies and attracted a host of passionate admirers.

The story is gripping enough: in 1994 a married, failed independent filmmaker, turning forty, falls in love with a well-known theorist and endeavors to seduce him with the help of her husband. But when the theorist refuses to answer her letters, the husband and wife continue the correspondence for each other instead, imagining the fling the wife wishes to have with Dick.

What follows is a breathless pursuit that takes the woman across America and away from her husband; and far beyond her original infatuation into a discovery of the transformative power of first person narrative. I Love Dick is a manifesto for a new kind of feminist who isn't afraid to burn through her own narcissism in order to assume responsibility for herself and for all the injustice in world; and it's a book you won't put down until the author's final, heroic acts of self-revelation and transformation.

I don't know about you, but it sounds like the next book I'm gonna read.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Our Favorite Book Gifts

A few of us booksellers got to talking the other day.  We realized, that as booksellers, we don't often get books as presents.  It makes sense, people just assume that we know what we want to read, or we've already read it, or various other things that keep us from recieving books.  But that isn't always the case, so here are a few of our favorite books we have recieved as gifts:

When I was pregnant my husband Rich gave me a copy of The Glass Blower's Children by Maria Gripes. He remembered that it was one of my favorite books when I was kid. It helped make me a lifelong reader and has always stuck with me. I was sad to find out it had gone out of print. Rich tracked down a used copy and surprised me with it! I had so much fun rereading it and imagining reading it to my son someday. Now I've recently discovered that's it being reprinted and due out this spring. I can't wait to introduce it to a whole new generation of new readers.

The year was 1999. I spent all day Christmas Eve reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. That evening my present from my grandma was the recently released box set of the first three books. I spent the rest of vacation reading on the couch.

Erin B.:
When I was a teenager, I was really into space.  I really, really, really wanted to be an astronaut.  I even went to Space Camp (nerd alert!).  One year my parents got me a copy of Moonshot by astronauts Alan Shepard and Deke Slayton.  And it was signed by Alan Shepard.  I still have it.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Which Austen Man is the Man for You?

 It was Jane Austen's birthday last Monday.  To celebrate, Huffington Post shared a piece arguing that Mr. Knightly is the better man than Mr. Darcy.  Here's the article.

It's got some pretty good points, but I contend that the best Austen hero completely depends on who you are and where you are on your own romantic trajectory.

When I was reading Jane Eyre for the first time (yes, I know it's not by Jane Austen), I couldn't get over how much I loved Mr. Rochester.  He's so dark and mysterious and brooding.  But then, rereading it years later, I realized that Rochester is a secretive, explosive, manipulative coward.  Not quite as appealing to my more worldly self.  Maybe Rochester was "perfect" for me then, but certainly not now.  And just like Rochester, there is no perfect Austen hero.  There's only the perfect Austen hero for you, at this moment.

If, as the article poses, Darcy is the bad boy then maybe he's what you're looking for (a point I totally disagree with; Darcy is way too stiff to be any good at being bad).  Perhaps "rebel" Darcy is what you need on the rebound after a bad break up, or in your early twenties (thirties, forties, fifties, whenevers) and sewing your wild oats.  But honestly, if you're looking for a legitimate Austen bad boy, it's obviously, Sense and Sensibility's Willoughby or Mansfield Park's Henry Crawford.

Maybe we look to the more mature Knightley after our hearts have been smashed by all those Darcys and Willoughbys.  Though Knightley comes off being a bit too chastening and judgy for my taste.  I want a hero, not a schoolmarm.  Northanger's Henry Tilney could be another option here.
Then again there's always the steadfast, tortured, and unbelievably romantic Colonel Brandon.  He's one of my favorites (but maybe only because of Alan Rickman's version).  Not so overbearing as Knightley, but still a bit too much of a kicked puppy for my taste.

For me, the sweet spot is Captain Wentworth.  He's the once spurned (often overlooked) but reluctantly faithful hero of Persuasion.  He's
been heartbroken and he's a little vengeful, but in the end he just can't help loving who he loves.  And he seems like the most real and honest of the Austen men.  At least to me, at this moment.  But who knows, ask me again in a year and I may be convinced that Mr. Bingley is the perfect man (doubtful).

Who's your favorite Austen man?  If it's anyone other than Captain Wentworth (more like Captain Perfect!), it's probably because you haven't read Persuasion.  Just kidding!  I'm sure your favorite Austen man is perfect for you.

Seriously though, read Persuasion.  It's Captain Wentworth.  Hands down.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Family Christmas Reads

The temperature has dropped, the lights are up, paper snowflakes hang in the window.  The store is bustling and busy with people searching for the perfect gift.  But in the midst of all that gift searching, don't forget to get a little something to share with the whole family.  Maybe start a new tradition of reading a book out loud while waiting to hear the sound of reindeer hooves and jingling bells.  Our front table -- here in Ravenna -- is overflowing with Christmas and winter books of all kinds

If you don't know where to start, Emily M. offers these suggestions:

An Otis Christmas by Loren Long
Otis, the underdog of all tractors, saves the day again. When the birth of a new horse goes all wrong, Otis risks his life to get the doctor. How will he make it in time? (Ages 3-8)

Family Christmas Treasury
I know of some families who love to read from anthologies and collections. New to the Christmas table this year is a collection of eight classic stories -- like Tacky, Curious George, and Strega Nona -- to read again and again. And, tucked between each story is a holiday carol to read or sing. (Ages 3-8)

The Christmas Cat by Maryann MacDonald
Some legends tell of a cat who comforted the baby Jesus. And, cats were no strangers to places like barns and mangers; so, maybe? This book was inspired through Da Vinci's La Madonna del Gatto. (Ages 3-8)

The Christmas Tale of Peter Rabbit by Emma Thompson
Vegetarians and non-turkey eaters, this book is for you! Cousins Benjamin Bunny and Peter Rabbit -- whose father was once baked in a pie, if you recall -- will not let McGregor catch William, the large turkey, for Christmas dinner. (Ages 3-8)

Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
The Herdmans are the bullies of all bullies! So, what are they doing at the first Christmas pageant practice at the local church? And, what will they do first? Beat everyone up before the performance, burn the church down, or steal from the offering plate again?  This one's a classic and a must-read for everyone! (Ages 6+)

Gift of the Magi by O. Henry (illustr. by P.J. Lynch)
For those of you who aren't familiar with this classic, it is a wonderful short story about a poor husband and wife who truly give from the heart. Selling your most treasured possession can bring the most humbling gifts. P.J. Lynch's breathtaking watercolor illustrations reflect the joy and sadness with each page turn. This is no doubt the beautiful-est illustrated edition out there. (Ages 10+)

*We also have a small assortment of Christmas books on sale, so don't forget to swing by our bargain table (just restocked with great money-saver books).* Thank you for shopping with us and supporting small businesses. Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Books into Movies

It's that time of year again!  Books are being turned into movies all over the place.  And it's not just Catching Fire and The Hobbit.  Though those two are pretty hot right now.  Here are a few other movies based on books coming out soon.  And as always, read the book first...it's always better anyway.

Philomena by Martin Sixsmith

When she became pregnant as a teenager in Ireland in 1952, Philomena Lee was sent to a convent to be looked after as a “fallen woman.” Then the nuns took her baby from her and sold him, like thousands of others, to America for adoption. Fifty years later, Philomena decided to find him. 

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, Philomena’s son was trying to find her. Renamed Michael Hess, he had become a leading lawyer in the first Bush administration, and he struggled to hide secrets that would jeopardize his career in the Republican Party and endanger his quest to find his mother.

 A gripping exposé told with novelistic intrigue, Philomena pulls back the curtain on the role of the Catholic Church in forced adoptions and on the love between a mother and son who endured a lifelong separation.

The Wolf of Wall Street by Jordan Belfort

By day he made thousands of dollars a minute. By night he spent it as fast as he could. From the binge that sank a 170-foot motor yacht and ran up a $700,000 hotel tab, to the wife and kids waiting at home and the fast-talking, hard-partying young stockbrokers who called him king, here, in Jordan Belfort’s own words, is the story of the ill-fated genius they called the Wolf of Wall Street.

In the 1990s, Belfort became one of the most infamous kingpins in American finance: a brilliant, conniving stock-chopper who led his merry mob on a wild ride out of Wall Street and into a massive office on Long Island. It’s an extraordinary story of greed, power, and excess that no one could invent: the tale of an ordinary guy who went from hustling Italian ices to making hundreds of millions—until it all came crashing down.

The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History by
Robert M. Edsel and Bret Witter

At the same time Adolf Hitler was attempting to take over the western world, his armies were methodically seeking and hoarding the finest art treasures in Europe. The Fuehrer had begun cataloguing the art he planned to collect as well as the art he would destroy: "degenerate" works he despised.

In a race against time, behind enemy lines, often unarmed, a special force of American and British museum directors, curators, art historians, and others, called the Monuments Men, risked their lives scouring Europe to prevent the destruction of thousands of years of culture. 

Focusing on the eleven-month period between D-Day and V-E Day, this fascinating account follows six Monuments Men and their impossible mission to save the world's great art from the Nazis.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

One More Reason to Read It

We've been raving about Stoner by John Williams for a year now.  Ami loved it.  Robert chose it as one of his top ten books for 2012.  I read it at the beginning of the year and it will definitely be making an appearance on my top ten list for 2013.  Here's what we had to say about it back in February.

Now, British book retail giant Waterstone's has chosen the novel as their book of the year.  It's currently their number two fiction bestseller.

Stoner went out of print just one year after its original 1965 publication, and wasn't brought back until New York Review of Books dusted it off and re-released it.  Even that NYRB edition came out in 2006, seven years ago.  So why now?  Why the sudden groundswell for this long-forgotten book?  Maybe some of it has to do with passionate booksellers.  Perhaps it just takes seven years for word of mouth to work its magic.  Or maybe such a lovely, near-perfect novel, was always going to make its mark...it was just a matter of when.

Here's a great article on the Stoner phenomenon from the Globe and Mail.  And after you're done reading that, read Stoner.  Really, you won't regret it.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Holiday Gifts!

Stupendous stocking stuffers!  Delightful decorations! And perfect presents!  Our little elves have been hard at work out at Lake Forest Park. We've got our brand new sidelines for the holiday season out and ready for you to peruse.  So when you stop in to pick out that perfect book to give this season (hint: it's The Goldfinch...just kidding!...not really) don't forget to check out all the festive gifts and holiday decor!

Like these charming and colorful reindeer and tree decorations.

Lots of great games for tons of family fun.

Hedgehogs!!!!  That's all you need to know.

Cool kitchen tools.

Other cool kitchen tools, but this time, with PUNS!


Snowy snowglobes!


And delicious Theo Chocolate...coconut mint is unbelievable!
And oh so much more!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Read This Book

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.

I know, I know, you really don't need yet another person telling you to read this book.  It's had such good press, and so many glowing reviews, that my opinion is pretty insignificant at this point.  But I'm going to tell you to read it anyway, and here's why.  I've seen you walk in the store, and pick it up.  And then I've seen you put it back down again.  Because it is a BIG book.  There seems to be a rather large contingent of people who are interested, but freaked out by its size.  I'm here to tell you, don't be.

Before The Goldfinch, I was going through a phase where I couldn't finish anything.  I was only reading short stories, because that's all that could keep my attention.  This was going on for about three months.  And now you're wondering why on earth I would start an 800 page novel.  In short, I happened to be flying somewhere and I thought confinement on a plane, coupled with one ginormous book, would cure me of my reading slump.  Great plan, right?  Well, I'm pretty sure my "genius" plan would only have worked with this particular book.  After I opened it for the first time, I was hooked...no, I was enchanted.  I felt physical pain whenever I had to close it.  Getting off the plane, sleeping, going to work; I hated every minute of not reading that book.  After three months of struggling to finish 15 to 20 page stories in less than two weeks, I steamrolled through The Goldfinch, all 800 glorious pages of it, in about a week.

You've already read the amazing reviews.  It's all true.  If you were hesitating at all, hear me now and hesitate no longer.  This book is suspenseful and sad, beautiful and often hilarious.  I haven't loved characters this way in a long, long time.  In fact, I say with absolute certainty that The Goldfinch contains my favorite character.  Of all time.  From any book.  Ever.  Tartt's writing is so breathtaking it's sometimes unbelievable.  I could read 800 more pages of this.  Seriously, it's in my top five favorites.  Spectacular.

And in even better news, it did cure my reading slump....well, it cured it after I was finally able to bring myself to read something other than The Goldfinch.  That's another odyssey entirely.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Mystery of Magic: Or, the Not So Common Reality

Every year it seems there are different themes in each crop of new books, and for 2013 middle grade (ages 8-12) there have been a lot of fantastical, whimsical, magical realism stories. But, what's the big deal with magical realism anyway?

Magical realism addresses everyday life in a unique way that makes the plot of a story much more unpredictable. Sometimes it takes this kind of new viewpoint to see the importance of things we take for granted or miss. Magical realism isn't simply an escape of reality, rather, as defined by bookseller Alex, "it is near enough to reality that we can accept it as truth, but far enough away that we get to experiment." Imagination feeds the mindset of overcoming the impossible!

Real life has many curveballs, but nothing like the curveballs of magical realism where you'll find time continuums, strange messages that take some out-of-the-box thinking to solve, puzzles, mysteries, and random strangers with important bonds unknowingly made.  Here are a few great titles to introduce you and your young reader to the joys and excitement of magical realism.

North of Nowhere by Liz Kessler (author of Emily Windsnap)

This is one of the most riveting tales I've read all year. Mia is up against multiple mysteries during her spring break -- her missing grandfather, a missing friend, a new friend, a strange time continuum, and events that are unreal. Though a time is lost and another found, in a away that no real person could experience, North pulses down on the realism of unanswered questions and agonizing secrets.

A Tangle of Knots by Lisa Graff

A great whimsical tale of talents, peanut butter, and cake portrays that "It's the way we deal with what Fate hands us that defines who we are." (And if you enjoyed Savvy, this book is for you!) Of course you can't physically steal talents with an icy hand and empty jar, but it is hope that keeps us moving, opposed to selfish ambition and self pity that blind you to answers.

The Last Present by Wendy Mass

The Willow Falls series is my highest recommendation for girls ages 9 to 13. The final book in this series is essential and NOT a let down. It answers a lot of questions posed in the first three books. Magical realism in this book is opportunity lost and opportunity found, but just how far can you place your burdens on others? (You can read Last Present as a standalone, but it won't be as good without 11 Birthdays, Finally, and 13 Gifts.)

Posted by Emily M.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Happy University Press Week!

Yup, that's right, it's University Press Week.  I know, you're asking yourself, "What's the big deal about university presses?"  Well, here are some super smart people telling you just what the big deal is...

"...Wayne State University Press is essential to the literature of our beautiful and socially rich state ...The press has satisfied a need not filled by any other publisher." —Bonnie Jo Campbell, author of American Salvage, and Once Upon a River

"Driven by the mission of promoting and preserving scholarship, university presses play a key role in disseminating a full range of research, intellectual endeavor, and artistic creativity that's undertaken in educational and cultural organizations around the world." —Kelly Gallagher, Vice President of Content Acquisition, Ingram Content Group

"What words to describe the university press? Patient, ambitious, demanding, sustaining, generous, utterly essential. Serious thinking is unimaginable without it." —William Germano, Dean of Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at the Cooper Union

"University presses are among the unacknowledged teachers of mankind, their books not simply preserving thought but awakening readers, harrowing minds, and sowing beginnings." —Sam Pickering, literary scholar and essayist
 Come to Ravenna and check out our table featuring some amazing university press titles!
And check out this website for all the cool University Press Week goings on!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Best of America

The Best American Series is out.  Every year the series highlights some of the best of the best in American writing.  You've probably seen and maybe read some of the Best American Short Stories books.  This year the collection is guest edited by
Elizabeth Strout.  It features some really great authors like, George Saunders, Jennifer Egan, and Chimamanda Adichie.

The Series also includes Best American Comics, Sports Writing, Travel Writing, and the popular Non-Required Reading collection.

I'm really excited about this year's new edition, The Best American Infographics.  You know infographics, those currently popular, graphics that give you a bunch of information...they are well-named.  Here are a few examples of what you'll find in this great compilation...

Friday, November 1, 2013

Read This Book

The Devil in Silver by Victor LaValle

New Hyde Hospital’s psychiatric ward has a new resident. It also has a very, very old one.

Pepper is a rambunctious big man, minor-league troublemaker, working-class hero (in his own mind), and, suddenly, the surprised inmate of a budget-strapped mental institution in Queens, New York. He’s not mentally ill, but that doesn’t seem to matter. He is accused of a crime he can’t quite square with his memory. In the darkness of his room on his first night, he’s visited by a terrifying creature with the body of an old man and the head of a bison who nearly kills him before being hustled away by the hospital staff. It’s no delusion: The other patients confirm that a hungry devil roams the hallways when the sun goes down. Pepper rallies three other inmates in a plot to fight back: Dorry, an octogenarian schizophrenic who’s been on the ward for decades and knows all its secrets; Coffee, an African immigrant with severe OCD, who tries desperately to send alarms to the outside world; and Loochie, a bipolar teenage girl who acts as the group’s enforcer. Battling the pill-pushing staff, one another, and their own minds, they try to kill the monster that’s stalking them. But can the Devil die?

The Devil in Silver brilliantly brings together the compelling themes that spark all of Victor LaValle’s radiant fiction: faith, race, class, madness, and our relationship with the unseen and the uncanny. More than that, it’s a thrillingly suspenseful work of literary horror about friendship, love, and the courage to slay our own demons.

Here is what Mark B. had to say about it:

Pepper is brought to the New Hyde mental institution, because he got into a fight with the police. He believes that the police have dropped him there, rather than do all the paperwork it would take to arrest him. He's sure that he'll be out after the weekend, but many weeks later he finds himself just another drugged out patient in the ward. They are all frightened of the wards' oldest resident, who sometimes slips into their rooms in the middle of the night, but why? Pepper chooses to stay behind and help his fellow inmates, and by the end of the novel, he has grown and benefited from what originally seemed a mistake. This novel is filled with great lines that I wanted to highlight. It is also chock-full of humor and pathos and a cast of unforgettable characters.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

It's Here!

Steve Winter is really excited about the paperback release of 
A Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Martin!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

New Release Tuesday er...Wednesday!

Sorry for the delay! Here is a list of great books that came out yesterday.

Allegiant by Veronica Roth
What needs to be said about this besides...


Do you really want to be the only one who hasn't read this?

Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
The long awaited and much lauded return from Donna Tartt. Seriously, people are raving about this.

A young boy in New York City, Theo Decker, miraculously survives an accident that takes the life of his mother. Alone and abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by a friend's family and struggles to make sense of his new life. In the years that follow, he becomes entranced by one of the few things that reminds him of his mother: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the art underworld. Composed with the skills of a master, The Goldfinch is a haunted odyssey through present-day America, and a drama of almost unbearable acuity and power. It is a story of loss and obsession, survival and self-invention, and the enormous power of art.

The Book of Jezzebel: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Lady Things by Anna Holmes

This one is my personal favorite for the week. It's hilarious, insightful, and infuriating. Just like the website. There's a reason these ladies rule the internet. Check out this excellent write up from The Huffington Post. And don't miss Anna Holmes and Lindy West at Town Hall on November 7th!

And some other old favorites!

We Are Water by Wally Lamb

Sycamore Row by John Grisham

Monday, October 14, 2013


We love your used books! Especially when you forget to take your bookmarks out before you sell them to us. The number of bookmarks we have rescued is astounding. And probably much, much less than the number of bookmarks we have passed on to the new purchaser of your old used book. We've seen it all. Here's a quick list of some of the more popular bookmarks.

  • money (usually foreign currency)
  • postcards
  • actually fancy bookmarks
  • receipts
  • old photos (photo booth photos are my favorite!)
  • plane tickets
  • playing cards
  • origami
  • bookmarks from other bookstores (those are especially fun...just to see how far the book has traveled)
At Ravenna, we've started a collection of these old and forgotten page-keepers. You'll find them in a basket on the used book counter. And you're more than welcome to take one home. Help these bookmarks fulfill their bookmark destiny.

And don't forget our used book sale coming up. 40% off all used books. November 9th and 10th. Both locations