Salty Bookstores-KY

Hemingway on the Beach in KY

Hemingway on the Beach in KY

The island of Grand Cayman has a population of approximately 53,000 people and almost as many tourists per day including cruise ships and hotels. Even so, that’s roughly 100,000 people on the island at any given time, which is only slightly larger than my home county in New Jersey. Nevertheless, there are two bookstores on this island and on my visit last week I could not pass on the opportunity to visit one of them.

In an outdoor mall full of restaurants and boutique swim shops, one would hardly expect the largest store to be an independent bookstore, but Books & Books in the Camana Bay shopping center was a neat and sleek spot. Shelves curved up the walls from floor to 30’ ceiling with books along every inch. Each genre has its own cove and the islands of books by local authors gave the modern and slightly commercial aesthetic an indie vibe.

The selection of literary gifts was impressive as was the collection of eclectic birthday cards, of which I wanted to stock up on many. However, I found myself in yet another bookshop that did not have Keroac’s On the Road. I have been to three bookstores in the Boston area including two secondhand shops and none of them has this book. By all means if anyone wants to send me a copy, please email me, I’d be delighted and surprised if you could find one.

Indie Bookstore Day is coming up on May 2, so I will be celebrating with the Harvard Bookstore. They have lots of cool events planned for the week leading up to the big celebration. This month also has lots of authors coming into town here. I am going to try to get in to hear Lydia Davis read and maybe a couple of others. It looks like April is going to be a busy month for books!

As you can tell, last week I was lucky enough to get away to a warmer climate with family, which was wonderful after the horrid winter we’ve had here in Boston, and that people have had all over the North East. I read Hemingway’s In Our Time on the beach and on the plane and it was wonderful. It has been fun recently to notice how authors have been influenced by each other and to recognize certain techniques used by many and to compare how each author uses those tools. I find myself writing “DFW” or “Salinger,” among others, in the margins every so often. I am now in the midst of A Farewell to Arms, so I’ll be writing on that next week.

In the meantime it looks like spring is really approaching. Read on and go to your local bookstore!


Featured image: Coffee at South West in George Town, KY


4,279 Pages (10.7lb) later

Kelsey here,

For the last three months I have read the work David Foster Wallace almost exclusively. It began with little (ha) essays. And then longer essays, short stories, longer stories. Infinite Jest. Brief Interviews. And now I am finishing up Pale King. When I was organizing my schedule for this semester I essentially rearranged many things so that I could take this course and I’m glad that I did. Despite the insane number of pages and the new muscle in my shoulder from carrying IJ around for a month this has been a really great experience. I have never committed to reading the entire works of a single author at one time before. I wasn’t really sure how it would go, if I would get tired of him, or bored of him. But I found myself becoming more interested and honestly more attached to his work.

In September I knew that DFW had written Infinite Jest and that he had died tragically in the not too distant past. I also knew that I had identified with his speech “This is Water” more than I think I even understood. When I read the Editors’ Note at the beginning of Pale King, the work he was writing at the time of his death, and read Michael Pietsch’s reflection on the construction of Pale King I was very moved. Suddenly, Wallace was no longer an author about whom I had come to learn a great deal, he was a real person. He wrote notes and had half of this book ready to go. I thought about all of the letters we had read in class that he wrote to his friends about writing and about how difficult it had become for him. I remembered all of those interviews we watched and how it was so much easier to read his work when I heard him reading it out loud or when I read it in his voice. Reading Pietsch’s near-ode to Wallace put him in the context of the real world. Like, he left people behind too and not just this giant, beautiful mess that became Pale King.

While we were reading Infinite Jest, my professor took us on an Infinite Jest walking tour where we stopped at various landmarks in Boston/Cambridge that were mentioned in IJ. We went to DFW’s apartment, followed Joelle’s walk through Boston Common, the Father and Son Market and finally the locations of both Enfield Tennis Academy and Ennet House. That made it very real, too.

I know more about DFW than I know about any other author and that is pretty fun. There is obviously a lot more to know than I do, but following the trajectory of his work has been an engaging way to try and figure him out. Style things that seemed really cool and unique to me in September have become normal and almost jaded. So I understand what he meant when he wrote in a letter, “I am tired of myself, it seems: tired of my thoughts, associations, syntax, various verbal habits that have gone from discovery to technique to tic.” I am not tired of Wallace, but I can see the repetition and it feels less intentional, it’s less exciting in his later work.

“Good Old Neon,” Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, and certain things from Girl With Curious Hair have been my favorite works. And whenever I push through the boredom in Pale King to get to a “golden nugget” of prose it is incredibly rewarding.

4,279 pages is a lot of pages. It’s been an adventure, and I don’t think its going to be over when I close Pale King. There are infinities in Wallace’s prose that could take a lifetime to understand.

Many thanks to Professor Warren, Will, and my fellow DFW ‘hideous people’ (just kidding you are all wonderful).

And now, another word:
Aha, I’m back! Just when you thought I had disappeared into the world that is college, I reappeared! If you are reading this, thank you, you are thee best. Stay tuned for more regular posts and potentially some videos. Yay :) “Pass it on.”


Read these: My favorite quotes from Wallace
“I’m trapped in the present. If I drank, for instance, some Tang, it wouldn’t remind me of anything—I’d just taste the Tang.” (PK 156)

“Every love story is a ghost story.” (PK 314)

“Little bits of Los Angeles wink on and off, as light gets in the way of other light.” (GWCH 4)

“In June, in a car without air-conditioning, I keep the windows rolled up for the sake of her photo. What more should anyone be required to say?” (GWCH 153).

“My chest bumps like a dryer with shoes in it.” (IJ 5)

“I do things like get in a taxi and say, “The library, and step on it.” (IJ 12)

“You seek to vanquish and transcend the limited self whose limits make the game possible in the first place. It is tragic and sad and chaotic and lovely. All life is the same, as citizens of the human State: the animating limits are within, to be killed and mourned over and over again.” (IJ 84)

I could go on.

On Fortuitous Location

The number of Wednesdays between this post and the last is far too great. I’ve been working on some other projects. However, on Monday I visited a bookstore in between sweating my way down 9th Ave and climbing the steep steps to the High Line in lower Manhattan.

Posman Books is located near the back of Chelsea Market. The neon ‘BOOKS’ sign appeared like an oasis. I had passed three ice cream shops without indulging because I couldn’t eat another thing after lunch. Books, however, I could do.

To be quite honest, I felt a different kind of character in Posman, one with which I’m not sure I clicked. Although there were some cool posters (of which I wished I could have purchased several) and lots of books, it felt very new. Everything was just beginning its journey. I could almost feel packing and production residue on some of the paperbacks.

What I loved were all of the unique books by unheard of imprints next to the stylized covers of classics like The Wind in the Willows and Frankenstein. It got me thinking about the fortune of a name. If an author has a creative title and a last name like Hemingburg, his or her book will probably get a few more looks than the boring title in the middle of the Ws. It turns out that being in the right place can be as helpful as automatic recognition… at least at the beginning. On Monday I perused a dozen books by authors I’d never heard of simply because I was looking for a copy of Hemingway’s “A Moveable Feast” (which I did find and purchase).

So like the fortuitous placement of Posman Books at the end of a long stretch of delicious looking food, uncommon authors can make readers stop with an interesting title and the fortune of an alphabetically strategic last name. Of course, this really only applies to readers who go to bookstores to look for their books… but that is an entirely different story.

So what do we do? As readers, how do we find the good stuff that maybe is not alphabetically charmed? Listen for buzz on the internet and spend a lot of time in bookshops.

Read on,

Currently reading: That Book About Harvard by Eric Kester, Show Your Work by Austin Kleon
Just Finished: The Hurricane Sisters by Dorothea Benton Frank

Blogs vs. Vlogs: Tension at Bloggercon

It wasn’t long ago that book blogs were rocking the publishing world and making authors re-market themselves and their books. In fact it was so recent that it’s still happening. However, a new medium has snuck into the mix: vlogging, more affectionately known in the book world as ‘book tubing.’

Perhaps it was the proximity of ‘b’ and ‘v’ on the keyboard, or the phonetic similarity of the words or the general misunderstanding of the differences between blogging and vlogging, but the powers that be at the BEA bloggers conference misadvertised one of the panels and nearly had an uprising on their hands. Yesterday, 100 or so attendees of “bloggercon” showed up to hear from industry professionals about how influential book blogging has been. Instead, they received an hour of enthusiasm on the wonders of book tubing. The panelists included Alexandra Bracken, author of The Darkest Minds series, and her editorial/marketing team in addition to Christine Riccio (aka PolandBananasBooks on YouTube).

I’ll first just say that the panelists and the moderator handled themselves very well and were super informative about the benefits of book tubing and the effect it has had on Ms. Bracken’s book. They were discussing what they knew, but the audience of mostly traditional bloggers found it hard to relate.

Book tubing is becoming increasingly popular (shameless plug: I just finished a video series about children’s books, click here to watch). People are reviewing, book talking and theorizing via videos on YouTube and they are reaching a huge audience. The big thing, and this is seriously important, is that the videos are reaching a broad audience of non-readers and they spread more virally than blog posts.

The question becomes: are vlogs more influential than traditional blogs? The sensitive answer might be that they are just different; blogs reach an audience of readers while videos target a larger, perhaps more diverse, audience. To the bloggers in the room yesterday, it seemed that vlogs were being given the more prestigious hierarchy, which created some tension. Regardless of yesterday’s events, it is an important question. Video blogging seems to be the next step, but blogging still isn’t fully developed. How do we deal with that? To me, the fact that book tubing reaches readers and non-readers alike is very appealing and might just be enough to inch it ahead. It also makes it easier for our community’s personality to come through. There are so (so) many interesting, kind and charismatic people in the book blogging world, but it is very difficult to express personality in a review.

Creating a brand takes lots of work, effort and time. This is especially true when someone has to read two or three posts and click around a website for a while before they get to know (and trust) the author. With book tube, it is far easier to pull someone in with a human being talking. It’s difficult to be comfortable enough on camera to really present your personality, but when it’s done right, videos are extremely engaging.

We seem to be in murky waters now. Both mediums serve different purposes and cater to different audiences. It seems that book tube is the next step, but it would be a shame for blogging to fade before it’s reached its potential. The problem with book tubing is that it is quite difficult to produce a video and it is far more time consuming than writing and editing a blog post.

I am not migrating to book tube, but I am certainly experimenting with it. The important question for me, and hopefully for most book bloggers, is: what will get people reading? After all, isn’t that the end goal of all of this?

If you have predictions or thoughts on this topic or were at the conference, please respond in comments or tweet @bookstomark!

Read on,


Children’s Books and New Projects

I will be graduating in a few weeks. However, before I can graduate I have to (and am excited to) complete a “May Term” project. I have decided to make a video series about children’s books. Throughout the month of May you can look forward to videos from yours truly comparing modern and ‘classic’ children’s books. My definition of each is very broad and the lines are a bit blurred, so I am looking for your input! Chapter books, picture books, kids ages 0-12. If you have any favorite children’s books or know what kids like to read, please leave suggestions in the comments, email or tweet @bookstomark!
A few examples:
Goodnight Moon
Junie B Jones
Polar Express
Walk Two Moons
The Giving Tree
Nancy Drew
A Wrinkle in Time

On another note, World Book Night is next week and I am so(oooo) excited. Tomorrow night I am going to a reception to pick up my books and then next Wednesday we will give them out and my library is having a small shindig to celebrate! I am giving away Hoot by Carl Hiaason.  More on that next week!


Read on,

What Are You Reading?: New Book Recs!

Quite a few people have asked me for book recommendations lately. So, for this week’s post I thought I would make a list of all of the books that have either been released recently or are coming-soon that I am looking forward to. Without further ado, here we go.

1. The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman My school librarian and another of my mentors, Ms. Maza, recommended this book to me and said it was for readers who liked The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. I loved The Night Circus. This looks magical, intriguing and fun.

2. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt There has been a lot of hype about The Goldfinch. Personally, I have heard mixed things. The description looks interesting, I always like a little mystery, a little intrigue and some missing artwork. It’s on my shelf, it’s coming soon.

3. Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline I was fortunate to meet Ms. Kline when she came to speak to a few of us at my school last year. We had a very nice conversation and I have been meaning to read Orphan Train for some time. I am always amazed by the amount of research writers do to make their work great and Ms. Kline discussed the work that she did to prepare to write this story.

4. The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton So, the description makes this seem like YA fantasy, but I have heard really great things about this.

5. The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling, coming June 2014). So, I haven’t actually read The Cuckoo’s Calling yet, but I am excited to do so. This is the sequel, which comes out in June, so I thought I would link to it here. It will be interesting to read Jo when she isn’t writing as Jo.

6. The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd I loved The Secret Life of Bees. Kidd’s new book (it came out in January) follows the journey of a young girl and the slave she is given for her tenth birthday. If anyone could do this type of story well I think it would be Sue Monk Kidd and I look forward to it.

7. Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira The premise of this book is intriguing. The main character learns about herself and the world around her by writing letters to dead people. Some of them are famous, some of them are not. I am interested to see how the writer treats the idea that I frequently play around with and the idea that I think is at the core of meaningful work; learning through writing.

8. The Storied Life of A.J. FIkry by Gabrielle Zevin It’s about a bookstore and bibliophiles. I don’t think I need to elaborate.

9. The Swan Gondola by Timorthy Schaffert I was attracted by the title and then by the words “reminiscent of The Night Circus.” A young romance in the midst of the Omaha World’s Fair? I will take it.

10. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman I have heard nothing but good things about this and Neil Gaiman is a genius, so there’s that. The Amazon description is very short, so basically I am intrigued.

So, there you have it. New/coming soon books that I am looking forward to. I realize that this is historical fiction/mystery heavy, so I learned something here. If you have thoughts on any of these please leave them in comments!

Read on,