Our summer plans… Mizzou, Stephens, and Columbia College have all had their graduation ceremonies and many students have moved away for the summer. We’ve already noticed the change: there’s more parking, you can get a table at Cafe Berlin for brunch … Continue reading
Despite what people may think, owning your own bookshop doesn’t mean that you get to read all day. In fact, Joe has probably read less in a year than he ever has… which is probably a good sign for the business (things are going really well and we’re really busy!) but it’s murder on his page count. What’s his page count you ask? Well… as truly obsessed readers can tell you, not only do you keep a count of how many individual books you’ve read, you also keep track of how many pages you’ve read. (Author’s note: I only keep track of how many books, NOT how many pages)
However, we were both still able to read enough to still call ourselves book lovers. So here are our favorite books we’ve read this year.
Joe’s Top 5 Favorite Books:
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, by Gabrielle Zevin
Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World, by Haruki Murakami
The Night Gardener, by Jonathan Auxier
Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline
The Man in the High Castle, by Philip K. Dick
BEST OF THE BEST:
A tie between…
Ready Player One, Ernest Cline
Set in the not too distant future, this novel tells the story of the Oasis, a virtual reality world that provides relief for the unpleasant reality of Wade, aka Par7ival. When the creator of the Oasis dies, his will reveals a contest: the individual who solves a series of puzzles within the virtual world will inherit the whole thing. Both an homage to 1980s nerd culture (Wargames, D&D, Monty Python, Joust) and a reasonable glimpse into a dismal future, Ready Player One will transport you and thrill you.
The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick
The Hugo Award winner from 1962, this novel feels as fresh as ever – like most of PKD’s work. The novel’s hook is its setting: an alternate history in which the United States lost World War II and was divided between Germany and Japan. The novel mostly takes place in Japanese-occupied San Francisco, but quickly demonstrates it is much more than an alternate history novel. Dick ruminates on the concepts of authenticity of artifacts, fate and the I Ching, and the nature of reality itself.
Kelsey’s Top 5 Favorite Books:
Hold Still: A Memoir with Photographs, Sally Mann
Dumplin’, Julie Murphy
We Were Liars, E. Lockhart
Improbable Theory of Ana & Zak, Brian Katcher
How I Live Now, Meg Rosoff
BEST OF THE BEST:
Hold Still: A Memoir with Photographs, Sally Mann
A beautifully written memoir about family, land, growing up in the south, art, poetry, photography, and controversy. I was fascinated by her upbringing, her relationship with artist Cy Twombly, and her photographic process. But where I connected the most with this book is when she talks about being both an artist and a mother, which historically, most male artists haven’t had to balance. Much like her honest, real, and meticulously rendered photographs, Mann’s memoir is a picture into how an artist is created.
People ask us all the time about which books sell the best in our shop and it’s hard coming up with a list immediately. Getting ready for Banned Books Week, we looked over the list of the past year’s most … Continue reading
We met working in an independent bookstore in California at Kepler’s Books & Magazines. The Bay Area is flush with independent bookstores like Books Inc., Green Apple Books, City Lights, Santa Cruz Bookshop, and so many more. What we … Continue reading
People ask us all the time where we get our books for the shop. The short answer is from all over.
We buy books for cash and / or trade at the shop. Joe, who manages the inventory, doesn’t take every title or genre. He won’t take books that are in bad condition or are underlined. In a college town we get a fair amount of people who are moving on and want to reduce the amount of boxes they have to move. And because many of them are students, we also see a fair amount of underlined or highlighted books.
Book sales are my personal favorite because Joe and I go together with a plan for book world domination. I’m always in charge of the Fiction area and usually also in charge of kids books. He’s in charge of everything else.
Not everyone has the time or energy for a giant book sale- they are not for the faint of heart. You have to get there early and sometimes wait in line in the rain before they open the doors. It gets hot really fast inside the community center, library, or church and you have to carry heavy boxes back to your car. At the last book sale we went to, an older woman pinched my arm to encourage me to get out of her way. It can be brutal in there. People are serious about their books (let’s not even get started with book scanners…).
After buying books at a large sale we usually try and grab a bite to eat – alone with no kids?! Hungry from all of that hard work?! We sit and eat and tell each other about all of the books we scored. It’s all very self-congratulatory and silly. And quite fun.
We appreciate our customers buying books in our shop and supporting a local business. So many of the books we’ve just picked up at a sale sell within a day or two as if customers can tell how excited we are to share these new-to-us titles with them.
We want to write more about our first year of owning a bookshop… so hopefully in the next couple of days we’ll manage to do it! But for now… here’s a glimpse into our Birthday Bash! We gave away pies made by Peggy Jean’s Pies (a local Columbia favorite); had live music by the coolest kid in town (he’s so cool he only goes by one name… Anders); face painting & kids crafts rounded out our party.
We have the best customers ever and as usual they came out to support us! This year has been a whirlwind and we couldn’t ask for a better community to be involved in… we love CoMo!
When readers have children they discover how much time those children suck up their reading time. We love our children. We really do… but we love our books too.
It’s not just the actual books that we miss, but the time hunting for books in the bookstore (without having to head to the kid’s section). It’s the dream of a stack of books on the bedside table that doesn’t include a Sandra Boynton board book (no matter how delightful they are). And it’s the feeling of being able to read uninterrupted with a bowl of ice cream in the living room (not at the kitchen table) without little tiny footsteps creeping down the stairs at night… catching you in the act (and requiring you to put the book down, return the spoon to your bowl, and explain that yes, parents sometimes eat dessert without their kids, and then starting the bedtime routine all over again). Because we miss our books (and the ability to consume junk food without the kiddos catching us in the act), we invented the Nap / Read.
Oh! And those of us who relied on a daily or at least weekendly nap… well, that goes right out the window when your kiddos stop napping. When you do finally get a chance to read you inevitably fall asleep because you’re sleep deprived from never getting to nap and catch up on your sleep.
The rules of Nap / Read are simple… You must bring more books than you can ever actually finish in a 24 hour period (because that’s about how long the average Nap / Read lasts for us). You must pack an excess of junk food (all of the stuff you tell your kids is really bad for them and that they should NEVER eat). You cannot watch TV (we advise NOT going on Nap / Read during March Madness if you’re basketball fans… you will be tempted to watch the madness the whole time you’re supposed to be READING). You cannot… uh, well… spend your time doing things other than reading, eating junk, and falling asleep randomly whenever you feel like it. In other words, save your “let’s reconnect time” for a different getaway (and maybe don’t bring as many books on that trip).
The short of it… we sit around and read and fall asleep and eat junk food in the same uninterrupted space. It’s absolute heaven.
Since taking over the bookshop in August, I’ve often been asked what my favorite book is. That’s a difficult question to answer – between the years of studying literature and the years of working in bookstores I’ve read a lot! And my favorite changes as time goes by; some books I loved in college, I’m cool on now. My favorite book of the last few years is The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern; it was beautifully written and utterly captivated me; it’s a world I want to live in. But the book I come back to most – my desert island look, the one I can read endlessly and never tire of – is J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. I generally have one or two volumes by my bed for easy reference. I used to read it straight through every year or two, and though I haven’t done that in a few years, I still read my favorite passages on a regular basis. I particularly enjoy the whole first half of The Fellowship of the Ring, the Battle of Helm’s Deep and the hobbits’ meeting with Faramir in The Two Towers, and the whole first half of The Return of the King (not to mention the appendices!).
The Hobbit is one of the first long books I remember reading (not the first – that was probably either The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe or The Haunted Fort, both my brother Jamie’s books). We had a storybook anthology that contained the first chapter of The Hobbit; I read it over and over again, but wanted more, and I eventually found it in my library. I finally got my hands on The Lord of the Rings itself in the summer of 1983, when I was ten; I still remember reading a real thunderstorm crashing outside the house as I read about the storm at Helm’s Deep. These were library books, the late 70s hardcovers with white jackets with the Ring and Sauron’s Eye. I tore through them, reading each one twice before I turned them back in. When I started a new school that fall, I was astounded that the library didn’t have them, and immediately told the librarian they needed a set.
The Lord of the Rings is also the first book I began to collect. There are a handful of other authors or books I collect – Herman Hesse, Lawrence Durrell, Ursula LeGuin, George R.R. Martin – but I’ll write about those in later posts. But my largest collection by far is Tolkien. My first copy came at Christmas 1983, the Ballantine boxed set of mass market paperbacks. I loved the covers, with art by Darrell K. Sweet, and I read them so vigorously that the covers started to fall apart. I quickly added The Silmarillion (that cover has been held on with Scotch tape since 1985!) and the few other Tolkien books then in print (The Tolkien Reader, Smith of Wootton Major/Farmer Giles of Ham). Since then I’ve added several more versions, mostly from used bookstores in Illinois and California. There are the lurid Ballantines from the 1960s (Tolkien hated those covers!), the beautiful 1970s versions with Tolkien’s own paintings as the cover art, hardcovers of the pre-1965 version (the books were revised in 1965 to foil Ace’s pirated paperbacks, which I do not own), the gorgeous single-volume hardcover illustrated by Alan Lee (a birthday present in 1992), the seven-volume boxed set from 1999 (a Christmas present), the recent trade paperback editions with Tolkien’s original concept art for the covers (a present from my brother Chad), and even the Harvard Lampoon’s Bored of the Rings, with its parody of the 1960s covers. Also I have the whole twelve-book series of The History of Middle-Earth, edited by Christopher Tolkien, detailing the vast and intricate writing and drafting of the entire legendarium, from its beginnings in a poem written in the trenches in the Great War to JRRT’s last musings on scraps of paper just weeks before his death. It’s a monument to one man’s incredible imagination and skill.
All told, I have twelve full copies of The Lord of the Rings (five single-volumes, seven sets) with four unmatched volumes, six copies of The Hobbit, five copies of The Silmarillion, two copies of Unfinished Tales, three copies of Smith/Farmer Giles (plus the annotated Farmer Giles), two copies of The Tolkien Reader, two copies of the Father Christmas Letters, and two collections of Tolkien’s artwork. Whew! And several of his scholarly works, including The Monsters and the Critics, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and the recently published (and magnificent!) Fall of Arthur. Besides this, numerous books about Tolkien and his works, of which the prize is a hardcover edition of Humphrey Carter’s biography of the Professor. Together they fill up an entire four-shelf bookcase.
I don’t have everything there is to have by any means. Some I don’t want, like the late 1980s mass markets. Some I doubt I’ll ever find for any reasonable price, like a 1930s Hobbit, or the Middle English text I found at Black Letter Books in Stillwater, Minnesota for only $300 – too much for me! But I still hope I’ll find some of the few I still really want. I know I could go online for some of them, but I would rather stumble across them in a little store, or a booksale, or when someone walks in with some books to sell. That experience of finding something long desired, right in front of you, is one of the things I love about owning a bookshop.
We have several Tolkien books in the store right now, and it’s a goal of mine always to have some on hand. We won’t often have a complete set, but we may very well have the one you’re missing, and I’m always looking for what I consider the good editions.
I recently finished reading The Hobbit to my daughter Sally, and I hope it was as magical an experience for her as it was for me. I carefully chose which edition I would read, and settled on the green slipcase hardcover, featuring both the original monochrome illustrations by the author as well as several color prints of his paintings. I’m excited about passing on our love for books, and my love for these particular books, to our children, and I look forward to one day discussing all the intricacies of the stories with both of them.