Category Archives: Books

Indie Bookstore Road Trip Reaches Loganberry Books

indie bookstore road trip Loganberry BooksOur cross country indie bookstore road trip brought us to the doorstep of the amazing Loganberry Books. What a surprise to step into this independently owned and operated shop to find its inviting spaces unfold like rooms in a dream. Just when you think this library-like bookstore of over 100,000 volumes could not be any larger, another archway appears, welcoming you a reading nook with a beckoning armchair.

indie bookstore road trip Loganberry BooksLocated in the historic Larchmere neighborhood of Cleveland, Loganberry Books has been offering new, used and rare books of all genres to readers and collectors for over 30 years. In addition, they offer a full schedule of events to the community including author signings, old time radio shows, discussion groups, open mics and book collecting forums facilitated by the bookstore’s founder, Harriet Logan.  Can’t remember the name of a book? Submit your mystery to the store’s “Stump the Bookseller” blog.

This year in honor of Women’s History Month, Loganberry made a powerful symbolic gesture by flipping every male-authored book in the fiction room so that its spine faced inward, leaving only the female authored titles visible. According to owner Harriet Logan, the result not only revealed the gender gap in publishing, but also brought more focus to works written by women.

My cohort Flannery James and I were gaga for Loganberry. You will be, too.

indie bookstore road trip Loganberry Books
Hushed classical music, sky-lit stacks and comfy chairs make this place hard to leave.

Continue reading Indie Bookstore Road Trip Reaches Loganberry Books

Mac’s Backs on Coventry Welcomes Indie Bookstore Adventure Seekers

Mac's BacksOur indie bookstore road trip brought us to Mac’s Backs Books on Coventry, a vibrant literary and community hub in the heart of Cleveland Heights. Co-owner Suzanne DeGaetano acquainted us with the shop, offered suggestions of books she loves, and asked us what we were currently reading. We felt instantly at home.

Mac’s Backs began in 1978 when Jim McSherry bought a used bookstore in Chagrin Falls. The store moved briefly to Kent, Ohio before returning to Chagrin Falls where it became a popular book exchange and soon needed to expand to a second location. The Cleveland Heights store managed by Suzanne DeGaetano was opened in 1982 and has since had 3 locations on Coventry Road.

Mac's Backs Elizabeth StroutMac’s began hosting poetry readings when poets Daniel Thompson and Dennis McDonnell needed a new venue for a reading series they sponsored.  The readings have taken place on the 2nd Wednesday each month since 1984. Recent poetry readings featured Chris Franke and Terry Provost.  The store offers a regular book club, (picks such as Elizabeth Strout and Audre Lorde), staff picks (such as Viet Thanh Nguyen, Jeanette Winterson and Mary Karr), and many signed books.

Mac's Backs Tommy's RestaurantFellow writers, you can count on Mac’s Backs to carry three excellent magazines, POETS & WRITERS, WRITER’S DIGEST and WORLD LITERATURE TODAY.

When you’ve had your fill of books, stroll to the adjacent Tommy’s Restaurant owned by Tommy Fello for excellent food and coffee. Continue reading Mac’s Backs on Coventry Welcomes Indie Bookstore Adventure Seekers

Bookstore Adventurers Discover Chicago’s Famous Indies

indie bookstores chicagoOur bookstore odyssey stopover in the Windy City brought us to Barbara’s Bookstore, a powerhouse indie with five locations in the Chicago area and one in Boston. Created over 50 years ago, Barbara’s offers a wide selection of fiction and nonfiction, including Chicago travel guides and history. Their excellent staff picks include SCIENCE IS CULTURE by Adam Bly, UNDER THE DOME by Stephen King, and GENTLEMEN OF THE ROAD by a favorite author of mine, Michael Chabon. We visited the East Huron Street location downtown, and in honor of President Obama’s city, picked up one of his recommendations, THE THREE-BODY PROBLEM by Cixin Liu, consumed within 48 hours by my cohort Flannery James, who wholeheartedly seconds President Obama’s endorsement.

Chicago Indie BookstoresThe first Barbara’s Bookstore opened on Wells Street in Chicago’s Old Town neighborhood in the early 1960’s. It was a large, shambling, literary bookstore with creaky wood floors and dust dating back to the early 1950’s. The closest thing they had to a computer was a plug-in cash register, pen and paper and a staff that knew every book in the store by heart.

Barbara's Bookstore Michael Chabon Cixin Liu President Obama

 

 

 

 

 

 

The retail book industry has changed dramatically in the five decades since Barbara’s beginnings. Along the way, Barbara’s discovered they could coexist with the huge national chains and thrive by finding unique locations and creating personal, full-service stores where you don’t expect to find them.

The chain encompasses two types of stores. There are large, neighborhood stores, called Barbara’s Bookstore and the smaller, ‘niche’ stores in high traffic locations like airports and hospitals called Barbara’s Bestsellers.

Barbara’s has earned a reputation in Chicago for high-quality inventory and informed service. They love books. Twice they have been named by the Chicago Tribune as one of the 100 best things about the city. The alternative newspaper, Newcity, has recognized Barbara’s author event schedule as the best in Chicago.

Chicago is home to many excellent longstanding indie bookstores, including Women & Children First specializing in feminist, lesbian, gay and children’s literature, the Seminary Co-op specializing in academic books of literary and scholarly interest, 57th Street Books which offers general interest fiction and nonfiction and children’s books, and Unabridged Bookstore, which features fiction, poetry, travel, LGBTQ and children’s literature. We wish we could visit them all, but alas the road calls. Cleveland, here we come!

Chicago indie bookstores

Chicago Indie Bookstores

Chicago Indie Bookstores

Chicago Indie Bookstores

Indie Bookstore Travelers Bask in Prairie Lights

Praire Lights Flannery JamesWhen our indie bookstore cross-country odyssey brought us to the long awaited Prairie Lights in Iowa City, I thought I might not be able to extract my cohort Flannery James from her reading chair. Having attended the Iowa Young Writers Studio, she has deep affection for Prairie Lights, and who wouldn’t? This iconic bookstore features an ever-growing reading series, hosted both within the store and at a nearby theater. They attract bestselling authors on their book tours as well as the prestigious faculty of the Iowa Writers Workshop.

The deeply knowledgeable staff offers suggestions of must-reads as well ask  kids picks .  Book buyer Paul Ingram offers reading and book club suggestions at Paul’s Corner.  We purchased THE PAPER  MENAGERIE by Ken Liu.

Prairie Lights sprang to life in May 1978 as a small, intimate bookstore offering titles by the newer voices of Raymond Carver and Alice Munro and by established authors like Eudora Welty and George Orwell. As the staff and customers tended the books with care much like a garden, the store grew and blossomed. By 1982 Prairie Lights transplanted itself from South Linn St. to South Dubuque and has gradually spread to three and a half floors, the half being an 1100 square foot coffee house located in the same space that the local literary society met throughout the 1930’s, hosting writers Carl Sandburg, Robert Frost, Sherwood Anderson, Langston Hughes, e e cummings and others. Today the Cafe features art installations, including works by Elizabeth Munger,   Matthew Foster, Kenneth Hall,  Thomas Agran, Sarah Bozaan and Heidi Zenisek. 

The bookstore’s strength of reputation lies in the reading series of local, national and international writers who have read their works which were broadcast live on stations WSUI and WOI and which was the only regular literary series of its kind. Upcoming events include visits from Paul Harding, Joe Brisben, Z.P. Dala, Benjamin Percy, Inara Verzemnieks  and Bernie Sanders.

Booklovers everywhere, consider Prairie Lights your mecca. For us, it was well worth the pilgrimage.

Prairie Lights

Indie Bookstore Sojourners Explore Bookworm of Omaha

Bookworm of Omaha
Photo by Ryan Soderlin. Reprinted with permission from the Omaha World-Herald.

Our cross-country indie bookstore odyssey brought us to the Bookworm of Omaha, Nebraska, my old stomping grounds. An independent family business owned and managed by Phillip and Beth Black, the Bookworm has served Omaha for more than 30 years, and recently moved to a new brightly lit spacious location on 90th and Center Street.

Nancy Rips Bookworm of OmahaA full service bookstore, the Bookworm highlights local authors such as Bookworm employee Nancy Rips, who wrote several children’s books on Hanukkah.  Their dedicated staff, some of whom are prior bookstore owners themselves, know books inside and out. A delightful children’s section offers a rocking chair and weekly “Wiggle Worm Story Time” for children 5 and under.

Chigozie Obioma Bookworm of OmahaBooks in the queue to be discussed by the store’s In-house and external book clubs include The Trial by Franz Kafka, Cinder, volume #1 of the Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer, Schopenhauer: A Very Short Introduction by Christopher Janaway, The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, Into Oblivion by Arnaldur Indridason, Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shatterly. We purchased a staff pick, THE FISHERMAN by Chigozie Obioma, a finalist for the Man Booker Prize.

We appreciate the Bookworm’s warm hospitality and wish them well in their sparkling new location. As a former Omaha resident, I’m delighted to see the Bookworm’s growth and success.

Bookworm of OmahaBookworm of OmahaBookworm of OmahaBookworm Omaha

Cross Country Indie Bookstore Road Trip Discovers Indigo Bridge Books

Indigo Bridge indie bookstore During our cross-country indie bookstore road trip, we happened upon Indigo Bridge Books located in the Creamery Building on P Street in Lincoln, Nebraska, a little bookstore with a mighty spirit. As the name suggests, the bookstore endeavors to help “bridge”  divisions of neighborhoods, social classes, political ambitions, religious beliefs, ethnicity, national borders, and even languages. In the Lincoln community, Indigo Bridge is a voice for tolerance, inclusion and positive regard for fellow human beings and the planet. Their dynamic book club offerings include themes such as human rights and graphic novels.

Indigo Bridge indie bookstore The staff at Indigo Bridge loves to put thoughtful books into your hands. Their recent picks include three of my favorites, AMERICANAH by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, WHAT IS NOT YOURS IS NOT YOURS by Helen Oyeyemi and THE GOLDFINCH by Donna Tartt. They also offer an eclectic assortment of zines and books by local authors. 

Indigo Bridge indie bookstoreA cozy reading area offers a living room like feeling with rustic wooden tables, a bookshelf and piano. A delightful children’s section is graced by a tree sculpture made of hand-dyed canvas and jute twine designed by artist Toby Thomas. More of Thomas’s work can be found at http://tobythomas.com/.

Having studied creative writing at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln years ago with the wonderful Marly Swick, I wish Indigo Bridge had been around back then. The warm, personable staff sent us on our way with delicious mocha lattes from the café (all coffee proceeds go to good local causes). Indigo Bridge, a haven for all those seeking wise words and open hearts, is a bookstore with a mission.

8 Days, 9 States, 12 Bookstores, 2,500 Miles: The Tattered Cover in Denver

indie bookstoreOur cross country bookstore odyssey landed us on the shores of the Tattered Cover Bookstore in Denver. After losing each other among the multi-tiered landscape of this indie bookstore, each turn revealing yet another hidden alcove adorned with a wingback chair, antique fainting couch or rustic church pew, my daughter and I stumbled upon each other and simultaneously mouthed the same words, “I could live here!”

Tattered Cover indie bookstore staff picksOne of four Tattered Cover sites in Denver, the Colfax store resides in the historic Bonfils/Lowenstein Theater and retains the venue’s original charm, including travertine tiles, polished wood paneling and unique glass windows with cartouche designs. But the inviting ambiance of this place comes not only from its vaulted ceiling and vintage chandeliers. A distinct glow of warmth comes from the book-loving experts who work here, many of whom have been part of the Tattered Cover family for upwards of twenty years. Apparently we aren’t the only ones who, upon entering these doors, felt compelled to stay. These literary Sherpas stand ready and able to guide customers to their next reading adventure. Their book club  and staff picks, sprinkled throughout the store as well as showcased in a special section, are backed up with personalized notes on why you might love a particular read. Along with new titles, staff favorites include books that were published years or decades ago, including two of my favorites, THE THINGS THEY CARRIED by Tim O’Brien and INTO THE WILD by Jon Krakauer. We purchased THE LUMINARIES by Eleanor Catton at an excellent discount price.

Tattered Cover indie bookstore chairWhile we did not have time to visit all four locations in Denver, each has a reputation for expert staff and distinct flavor. Together, the venues host more than 500 events each year, including storytimes for kids (the children’s section was teeming) and readings by literary titans such as Amy Tan and Oliver Sacks. As if all this weren’t enough, baristas at the Tattered Cover Café are ready to cap off your visit with a selection of pastries, coffee and tea. We would have liked to set up camp among the old theater seats and reading lamps of this famous bookstore, but alas, the road calls. Tattered Cover, we shall return one day!

8 Days, 9 States, 12 Bookstores, 2,500 Miles: Poor Richard’s in Colorado Springs

indie bookstoreOur cross country bookstore odyssey brought us to the indie bookstore gem Poor Richard’s Books & Gifts in Colorado Springs. The Bookstore specializes in good-condition, used books, including current books in 150 categories and classics in every field. They also stock a large variety of new books. For those looking for a particular title, Poor Richard’s places customer orders on a weekly basis. Book collectors will find a selection of rare, first-edition and collectible titles. They also carry Colorado trail guides, local and state maps, wildlife/flora books and artistic, funny and quirky postcards. Recent staff picks include THE HANDMAID’S TALE by Margaret Atwood and THE VEGETARIAN by Han Kang. While the adjacent Poor Richard’s cafe serves excellent food and coffee, the newly renovated rear section of the bookstore has library-like stacks and quiet chairs to curl up and read. We are grateful to the the friendly staff at Poor Richard’s for a lovely visit!

indie bookstore

8 Days, 9 States, 12 Bookstores, 2,500 Miles: Next Page in Frisco

Indie bookstoreOur cross country bookstore road trip brought us to Next Page Books & Nosh in Frisco, Colorado, where we enjoyed vibrant ambiance, terrific book selection and delicious panini from the cafe. Located on “the Main Street of the Rockies,” this indie bookstore has an appealing display of books on Colorado nature, wildlife and hiking as well as a solid collection of fiction and nonfiction.  We purchased a crossword puzzle book, fun socks and a Colorado mountain range deck of cards. The knowledgeable staff offers a thoughtful selection of book club picks.  Current staff favorites include THE FLOOD GIRLS by Richard Fifield and COMMONWEALTH by Ann Patchett. We thank the friendly Next Page staff for a wonderful visit.

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indie bookstore

Bookstore Road Trip: 8 Days, 9 States, 2,500 Miles: Next Stop: Bookworm of Edwards

indie bookstoreToday our cross country bookstore odyssey included the Bookworm of Edwards Colorado, part of the busy Riverwalk shopping center, which offers readers excellent book club and staff pick selections. Of these offerings, we purchased a First Edition signed copy of Roxane Gay’s compelling new memoir, HUNGER.

indie bookstoreThis little dynamo of an indie bookstore, founded in 1996, came from humble beginnings. It started in a retro-fitted van that traveled between coffee shops selling new books to “down-valley” readers. In 1997, a 700-square-foot store opened in Edwards Village Center.  In 2002, Nicole Magistro was hired as a part-time bookseller, and, in 2005, she bought out one of the original owners.  In 2007, the Bookworm moved to its current Riverwalk location (and opened the cafe), and it expanded again in 2010!  Read the full story (with more details on store founders Kathy Westover and Neda Jansen, and cafe founder Kristi Allio) here.

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Muse-Feed Road Trip: 8 Days, 9 States, 2,500 Miles: 1st Stop: King’s English in Salt Lake City

king's englishMuse-Feed is embarking on an 8-day cross country journey into the land of bookstores. Each day we will offer staff picks from some of the nation’s finest, most curated and eclectic booksellers. Our only frustration in planning this odyssey is that there are so many more wonderful bookstores we cannot reach in 8 short days. We may have to make it an annual event!

King's EnglishBetsy Burton and Anne Holman, booklovers always, have owned The King’s English in Salt Lake City since since 1977. Over the years, they’ve made it their mission to match books to readers and remember their reading preferences each time they visit the store. The bookstore offers book groups, events, staff picks, movies, music & gifts. In addition, they offer a newsletter called The Inkslinger filled with reviews of the staff’s favorite books and authors. There’s something for everyone—fiction, nonfiction and children’s books—plus a calendar of upcoming events, special features and author interviews. Of their excellent staff picks, we purchased a signed First Edition copy of THE MINISTRY OF UTMOST HAPPINESS by Arundhati Roy. Additional staff picks include books by Margot Singer, Laura McBride, Derek B. Miller, Nina George, Francis Spufford, Jamie Harrison and Alexandra Fuller. We thank The King’s English for making our first bookstore stop a delightful one.

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Muse-Feed Takes a Bookstore Road Trip

bookstores Jake Blucker
Photo by Jake Blucker

Muse-Feed is embarking on an 8-day cross country odyssey into the land of bookstores. Each day we will offer staff picks from some of the nation’s finest, most curated and eclectic booksellers. Our only frustration in planning this odyssey is that there are so many more wonderful bookstores we cannot reach in 8 short days. We may have to make it an annual event! Stay tuned.

Center for Fiction Essential Books for Writers

Center for Fiction Essential BooksThe Center for Fiction, founded in 1820 as the Mercantile Library, is the only organization in the United States devoted solely to the vital art of fiction. Their mission is to encourage people to read and value fiction and to support and celebrate its creation and enjoyment. Their resources include an exceptional book collection, a beautiful reading room, an expanding website, and a growing array of creative programs that serve both  readers and writers . They offer the following list of  “Essential Books for Writers” with the caveat that what works for one writer may not work for the next. Check back as they continue to add books to the list and explore additional tools for writers on their website.

On Writing by Stephen King

Stephen King Essential BooksLeave it to the literary rock star to compose a craft book that’s as entertaining as a good novel. “This is a short book because most books about writing are filled with bullshit,” Stephen King writes. What follows is a witty, practical, and sometimes poignant guide that is refreshingly devoid of the aforementioned BS. King relates his personal story of becoming a writer, then offers a “toolkit” of clear advice about everything from dialogue and descriptive passages to revisions and the head game. And there’s more: tips for beginning writers on submitting work for publication, a mark-up of one of King’s own manuscripts, and a reading list. You might not be awake at 3 a.m. turning these pages, but we promise On Writing will open your eyes to essential tricks of the trade. Continue reading Center for Fiction Essential Books for Writers

Powell’s Picks of the Month June 2017

Writer’s Bone June 2017 Book Recommendations

Writers Bone Matthew Desmond 20 Books That Should Be On Your Radar: June 2017

Every month, the Writer’s Bone crew reviews or previews books they’ve read or want to read. “This series may or may not also serve as a confessional for guilty pleasures and hipster novels only the brave would attempt.” Feel free to share your own suggestions in the Writer’s Bone comments section or tweet them @WritersBone. Auspiciously, two of of the following Writer’s Bone picks overlap with the Kenyon Review’s summer reading suggestions: Evicted by Matthew Desmond and The Story of My Teeth by Valeria Luiselli.  Julie Buntin, author of Marlena, also comes recommended by KR.

Evicted by Matthew Desmond

Matthew Desmond

Daniel Ford: I’ve had a little time to sit with Matthew Desmond’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Evicted, and I’m still speechless and awed by both his research and prose. Desmond follows eight families in Milwaukee as they struggle to keep what so many of us take for granted on a daily basis: a home. Desmond puts you inside eviction hearings, grimy, roach-infested apartments, deteriorating trailer parks, homeless shelters, and, at times, the bitter cold of Milwaukee’s streets. From emotionally and physically damaged mothers choosing between food and rent to those in the conflicted and ambitious landlord class, Evicted shines a light on people often forgotten or overlooked in urban areas.

The epilogue is a rousing and convincing call to arms, and Desmond’s breakdown of how he managed this project will leave you just as slack-jawed as all the award-winning prose that came before it. As Desmond points out, this issue isn’t about resources; it’s about political will and rejection of the status quo. I encourage you not only to read the book, but also get involved in the author’s Just Shelter initiative. The program seeks to raise “awareness of the human cost of the lack of affordable housing” and “to amplify the work of community organizations working to preserve affordable housing, prevent eviction, and reduce family homelessness.”

Go to the Writer’s Bone for their remaining June picks:

Mom & Me & Mom by Maya Angelou

Wedding Toasts I’ll Never Give by Ada Calhoun

The Immortal Irishman by Timothy Egan

Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann

Exit Strategy by Steve Hamilton

She Rides Shotgun by Jordan Harper

IQ by Joe Ide

Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong

Apollo 8 by Jeffrey Kluger

White Fur by Jardine Libaire

The Story of My Teeth by Valeria Luiselli

Girl at War by Sara Nović

There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé by Morgan Parker

American Bang By Doug Richardson

The Bright Hour by Nina Riggs

Trajectory by Richard Russo

The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo

The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker

The Force by Don Winslow

Kenyon Review’s Summer Reading List

What books are on your summer reading list? Each year, the Kenyon Review asks their staff, editors, and advisory board to share books they recommend or are looking forward to reading themselves. Here are some suggestions for your summer list from the Kenyon Review June 2017 Newsletter.

David Lynn, Editor

Moonglow summer readingTo my mind, Michael Chabon has for years purveyed tales full of wit and astonishment. Yet they have ultimately seemed gossamer, lacking a satisfying or illuminating substance. His latest, however, Moonglow, is a magnificent blend of memoir and fiction about his grandfather. I came away feeling nourished as well as deeply moved.

Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift. Swift made his international reputation early on with Waterland and followed that dazzling performance with other notable fictions, including Last Orders. And yet it seems he’s rarely mentioned in the same breath as other contemporary British or Irish writers of the first rank such as Ian McEwan or Zadie Smith or Colm Tóibín. That should change with Mothering Sunday, a brief, crystalline, potent tour de force. Here is a master of the form playing a contemporary riff on Mrs. Dalloway. I loved it.

KR Reviews!

If these book recommendations aren’t enough for you, be sure to check out the new KR Reviews page on the KR website. New book reviews are posted every Friday.

Continue reading Kenyon Review’s Summer Reading List