Melissa’s Monday Morsels

Surprisingly enough, this week’s highlights are mostly focused on new nonfiction dealing with intriguing political and psychological issues.

Events: The Henry Miller Library will be showing the film “Chavez: The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”, presented by producer Rod Stoneman on Wednesday, September 30th, at 7:30. Before and after the screening, Stoneman will be available to discuss the issues of objectivity in the media presented in both the film and his book by the same name. Screening is free; donations are appreciated.

New Literature: Carl Jung’s The Red Book, a frightening exploration into the subconscious written 40 years ago, is only just now being published. A $195 visual masterpiece, this may be one of the most important books in the history of psychology, a “story about genius and madness…possession and obsession.” While fascinating to some and uselessly creepy to others, this book is bound to be interesting.  Read the ten-page New York Times article here (via Newtonvile Books Blog).

Timothy Egan’s The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt & the Fire That Saved America is one of the rare historical novels that is a true page-turner. Egan, the author of The Worst Hard Times, about the American dustbowl, is a specialist in American history and a winner of the National Book Award. This book about the raging forest fire that ravaged more than three million acres in only two days focuses on Teddy Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot, the first head of the National Forest Service. This is a powerful novel about conservationism, sustainability, and other important environmental issues that remain today (Broadway Bookbroads).

Other: Newtonville Books posted a very entertaining interview with Lev Grossman, author of the hit adult fantasy recently mentioned in the Monday Morsels, The Magicians.

You can now vote for the winner of the National Book Award and have the chance to win tickets to the National Book Award ceremony and a stay at the Marriott Hotel! Vote between The Stories of John Cheever, Invisible Man, The Collected Stories of William Faulkner, The Complete Stories by Flannery O’Connor, Gravity’s Rainbow, and The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty (Newtonvile Books Blog and Powell’s Book Blog).

Twitter got a 28-year-old man who still lived at home a book deal due to the popularity of his blog on his father’s amusing sayings (via Powell’s Book Blog). Apparently blogging really can pay off…who knew!

Published in: on September 29, 2009 at 9:01 pm  Comments (1)  

#61 Vroman’s Bookstore

Vroman's BookstoreVroman’s Bookstore
695 E. Colorado Blvd
Pasadena, CA 91101
Tel: 626-449-5320

This is the largest and oldest bookstore in Southern California, and by largest I mean nearly Powell’s large, and by oldest I mean it opened its doors in 1894.  The folks at Skylight Books in L.A.  turned me on to it.  In fact, they insisted I drive the thirty minutes to Pasadena.

Well, they did me a favor.  Vroman’s just about floored me when I drove past, parked, and walked in.  It sits smack dab in the middle of downtown Pasadena, with a cafe, and a newsstand, and an annex for nothing but sidelines, and two floors of books, and ceramic animals, and customers, and a dedicated event section, and a kids section, and did I mention customers?  30,000 square feet.  Three locations in Pasadena.

30% of sales come from their sideline business.  That’s not only Bananagrams.  They actually sell wedding invitations here and have been fulfilling orders for over 100 years! inside Vroman's

Vroman’s oldest customer is a woman who is ninety and who comes in every day.  She has been shopping here since she was five.  This store is what the strongest indies should strive for: it’s a constant in the life of the community.  In fact, Vroman’s gives back to that community with donations to organizations that their customers choose.

And with 124 employees over three stores, this is one of the biggest employers I’ve visited.  They host 350 events a year, including a summer series and a summer edge series that features Jazz on Sundays and has become a destination spot for the Pasadena residents.

Employees can take part in enrichment, and customers can take part in profit sharing.

You know, I think this is a store that illustrates what happens over time when a store’s identity is meshed into the life of the surrounding community.  These guys should be presenting panels at book seller’s conferences around the country.

vroman's sidelines

Published in: on September 29, 2009 at 8:54 pm  Comments (1)  

#60 Skylight Books

Skylight Books Skylight Books
1818 N Vermont Ave
Los Angeles, California 90027
(323) 660-1175

This is a great store in Los Feliz, an East L.A. neighborhood near Griffith Park.  It’s a hipster neighborhood with a lot of foot traffic, and it’s the kind of store that you can immediately tell is thriving.

Again, I feel like I really sold L.A. and Southern California short.  There are great bookstores here.

At Skylight, there’s the main store — which is a general trade book store, and there is also a newer annex where they keep their art and film books.   Sidelines are very fun, off-beat, and smartly selected.

They are in a perfect spot — next to a brasserie, a pizza place, a theater, and across the street from the post office.  Location, location, location!  It so obviously matters.  And the fact that they do a lot of cross promotion with their neighbors doesn’t hurt.skylight

Skylight hosts many events.  There are reading salons, midnight release parties, tweet-up readings.  It’s also a gorgeous looking store with nice lighting and a pleasant atmosphere.

I hate being effusive, but I’ m really enjoying myself!   I’ll have to spend a bit more time in L.A. The two stores I visited here are on the must visit list.

skylight books

Published in: on September 29, 2009 at 8:40 pm  Comments (1)  

#59 Book Soup

Book SoupBook Soup
8818 W Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90069-2125
(310) 659-3110

I have to admit that I didn’t expect much in the way of Los Angeles bookstores after the bonanza by the Bay, but it turns out that L.A. has some really great stores.  The first on my list is Book Soup.  This general trade store is just up the street from the Viper Room, Whisky A Go Go, and the Roxy Theatre.

I’m not sure what to make of its location — it’s all L.A. sprawl to me, but the store has great items.  The selection here is eclectic with plenty of Art books and fine postcards.   They also carry a great many periodicals outside on the sidewalk.   They seem to keep in mind that they are the Hollywood bookstore.  They carry a great stock of Hollywood-related materials — screenplays, biographies, and books about film.  Book Soup stacks

Events are also a large part of Book Soup’s identity.  Even with their eclectic selection and loyal customer base, the folks at Book Soup host many, many events.  The neighborhood changed a bit when The famed Tower Records across the street closed.  It cut down on foot traffic.  The store had to expand their events schedule.  Now they work a lot with community groups like the Beverly Hills Women’s Club.  They also host a movie night.

If you’re a tourist in West Hollywood, you’ll be on the Sunset Strip.  Parking sucks.  But Book Soup has free parking behind the store.  It’s a great store and well worth the visit.

Book Soup

Published in: on September 29, 2009 at 8:16 pm  Leave a Comment  

Melissa’s Monday Morsels

Once again, new books take the spotlight as we bask in the aftereffects of what NPR called the “blockbuster week” of the literary world. Borders and Barnes and Noble have already had a heyday with the release of the new Dan Brown book and the announcement of Oprah Winfrey’s latest Book Club pick, but as usual, our favorite indie bookstores have some more unique news.

Events: Chop Suey Books’ $2 Deal of the week is John Irving’s A Widow for One Year, the inspiration behind the film The Door in the Floor. Ruth Cole is the only remaining child after the death of her older brothers, an event which causes her father to turn to alcohol and her mother to fade away completely, leaving Ruth with a lonely and emotionally traumatizing childhood. The novel tells the tale of Ruth’s life in three sections in Irwing’s typical simultaneously sad and humorous style. The deal is available in both paperback and hardback and lasts until Thursday.

If you’re into wildlife, particularly birds, be sure not to miss Lynda Haupt’s visit to Square One Books this Thursday, where she’ll be discussing her newest book “Crow Planet”. Lynda has a vast experience with wildlife around the country, from rehabilitating raptors to researching seabirds, but in  the latest novel she focuses on what she learned about the behavior of crows in her neighborhood, with tidbits about the mysterious, almost otherworldly presence crows have had throughout history and mythology.

New Literature: If you’ve heard all you can take about Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol this week, never fear – So have we. As the name suggests, indie bookstores enjoy a walk on the less beaten path, and our blogroll has a few alternatives.

Green Apple Books has a few recommendations that promise to be just as thrilling as Dan Brown’s book. American Fantastic Tales is a collection of 86 classic American Gothic stories, with authors both old and new including Washington Irving, Edgar Allen Poe, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ray Bradbury, Joyce Carol Oates, and many more.  A new translation of Witold Gombrowicz’s Pornografia presents an amusing and exciting tale of “murder, sexual predation, intrigue, and lusty farmhands”. Lastly, Jerusalem by new Portuguese writer Gonçalo M. Tavares, due out October 20th, is an intriguing tale about the interconnected lives of strangers that explores the notions of fate.

If you’ve had enough of action and just want to read some good nonfiction, Newtonville Books recommends NurtureShock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman: an eye-opening look at the way today’s children are raised that reveals “why our culture of excessive praise meant to encourage a child, actually hurts the child…how classic ways of encouraging truthfulness in children, only show them how to be better liars….that at elite gifted programs and private schools, admissions officers choose the wrong kids 73% of the time” (via Newtonville Books Blog).

For short stories and more, Broadway Books just received the “Best American” series for 2009, which gives its readers the best of a variety of topics from essays, travel writing, sports writing, mystery stories, etc…There’s something here for everyone. They’re also edited by a variety of well-known authors. Read more at their Bookbroads.

Other: As you’ve probably heard by now, Oprah made her 63rd Book Club pick: Say You’re One of Them by Nigerian writer Uwem Akpan. “It is the first short story collection she’s chosen, and Akpan is the first living African writer featured in her club” (via Newtonville Books Blog).

Read about why NPR thinks that Dan Brown’s new book has saved the publishing industry here (via Powell’s Books Blog).

Published in: on September 23, 2009 at 9:22 am  Leave a Comment  

Melissa’s Monday Morsels

As usual around this time of year, countless new books are about to hit the shelves, and most of this week’s highlights deal with new literature.

Events: At RiverRun Bookstore, bestselling author Joe Hill (Heart-Shaped Box and 20th Century Ghosts) will be signing copies of his latest graphic novel, Locke & Key: Head Games sometime later this month. Call between now and September 24th to reserve your copy.

The $2 deal at Chop Suey Books this week features The Nanny Diaries, the New York Times Bestseller by Emma Mclaughlin and Nicola Kraus, two former nannies. This entertaining  novel follows the story of Nan and how she deals with the ridiculous demands of a Park Avenue mother.

Sherrie Flick and Ladette Randolph will be visiting Porter Square Books on September 24th to read from their new novels, Reconsidering Happiness and Sandhills Ballad. The store will also now be featuring a monthly new sci-fi/fantasy author. September’s author is Mark Del Franco, author of the Connor Gray trilogy and recently, Skin Deep. Read more about Mark Del Franco here.

New Literature: On October 13th, Anita Silvey’s heartwarming new book Everything I Need to Know I Learned in a Children’s Book is due out in bookstores. Silvey interviews 100 people, including actors, writers, musicians, and athletes, on their favorite children’s book and how it influenced their lives (via Newtonville Books).

Also on the subject of children’s literature, The Magician’s Elephant, the newest book by popular children’s author Kate DiCamillo (The Tale of Despereaux and Because of Winn-Dixie), will be adapted to film under 20th Century Fox (via Newtonville Books). This charming story of a ten-year-old orphan who learns from a fortune teller that an elephant will lead him to his long-lost sister was only just released this month. Screenwriter Martin Hynes describes the film as “a fable which could both be a classic but not take itself too seriously. The film we’ve referenced in terms of tone is ‘The Princess Bride’ — something that kids will enjoy, but adults will love on other levels.”

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope by William and Bryan Mealer will be released in hardback on September 29th. This is the true story of an intelligent and inspiring fourteen-year-old boy who strives to improve his community in Malawi, Africa by building a windmill out of the junk he is able to gather (via A Reading Odyssey)

Other: The Man Booker Prize shortlist has been revealed (via Broadway Bookbroads & Newtonville Books). The six remaining finalists include:
The Children’s Book by A.S. Byatt
Summertime by J.M. Coetzee
The Quickening Maze by Adam Foulds
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
The Glass Room by Simon Mawer
The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

Published in: on September 14, 2009 at 3:54 pm  Leave a Comment  

Melissa’s Monday Morsels

This week was particularly exciting in the literary world, with several events over the long weekend and a few more still coming up. A few new bookstore blogs (and even a library blog) have also been added to the Indie 100 blogroll, including Book Passage, Kepler’s Books, The Henry Miller Library, and Green Apple Books! Welcome!

Events: This weekend’s Decatur Book Festival was a huge success. Marc participated in two different panels, and A Cappella Books displayed some of their rarest books, hosted a few book signings, and had a huge sale for the weekend.

Bestselling author Michelle Moran’s newest book Cleopatra’s Daughter will be released on September 15th, coinciding with a literary treasure hunt at 60 different independent bookstores, including Book Passage.

“Beginning Sept. 15, Moran will post a clue, a famous line from literature, next to the listing for Book Passage at Readers must identify the title and author of the book, go to Book Passage, and find the copy of the book that has the winning red ribbon inside. The first person to take the ribbon to the register will win a box of prizes.” (Book Passage Blog)

Prizes include signed copies of the new books and Cleopatra-related goodies. Each bookstore will have its own clue, so keep checking Moran’s blog if you’re interested in participating.

Of course Chop Suey Books has another $2 of the week sale: The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, the first in the popular  Precious Romatswe series  by Alexander McCall Smith. This is a quick and fun read about a female detective in Botswana. The informative descriptions of life in Botswana and memorable characters are what make this book a truly intriguing read.

New Literature: Green Apple Books blogs about some great books for boys that will keep even the least literary of children entertained by stories about giant robots, loveable pups, and of course, magical adventures.

Ru Freedman’s A Disobedient Girl, a novel about an unhappy and rebellious Sri Lankan servant, is reviewed at, recommended by Newtonville Books Blog. Ru Freedmen will be visiting Newtonville Books at Sunday, September 13th.

Odyssey Books Blog discusses the wide variety of great young adult books that most adults are missing out on and recommends two: one, a futuristic sci-fi in which 24 teens are chosen to fight to the death for entertainment on reality tv, and another written from the point of view of a comatose seventeen-year-old girl who must choose to stay on earth alone or move on to be with her family. These two excellent books show how young adult can tackle serious themes, sometimes more successfully than novels for adults.

Other: Titcomb’s Bookshop was featured on C-SPAN2 on Book TV this Saturday.  Lawrence McDonald and Patrick Robinson discussed their book A Colossal Failure of Common Sense: The Inside Story of the Collapse of Lehman Brothers at the store. If you missed it, you can watch the clip online here.

Powell’s Books interviews Barbara Epler, publisher and editor-in-chief at New Directions Publishing, one of the most successful and long-lasting publishing companies, about the past, present, and future of the company.

Published in: on September 7, 2009 at 1:16 pm  Leave a Comment  


The Henry Miller LibraryThe Henry Miller Library

Big Sur, US 1

I’m a huge Henry Miller fan.  In fact, he’s partly the reason I ditched college when I was nineteen and took off to live and tramp around Europe.  The quality of his writing that I liked best was that he knew how to fashion language in a way that reached ecstasy.  He just let it rip, and as a reult his best work had a depth and pathos that made ART.  And I really appreciate him as the artist.  Getting to visit this spot has always been a dream of mine.  the book room

I figured I’d make it my West Coast pit stop.  When I visited and discovered that it’s also a curated book store, I figured I’d add it as #58.

Until recently, the archives of Henry Miller were actually in this building.  While I’m sure they were perfectly fine, I was glad to hear they had been moved recently to California State University of Monterey Bay where they are being digitized.

Besides the book store, this two-acre spread features film festivals, weekly open-mic nights, concerts, and can be rented out for weddings.

As a place, I imagine Big Sur ain’t what it used to be, and probably hasn’t been for a while.  Sure, it’s laid back and it’s pretty, but it’s also crowded — Central Park crowded — with people coming down from SF and up from LA.  Not a bad thing and worth seeing, of course, but the Oregon coast is just as lovely and seems like it could be a little less crowded.  Just FYI.  On the other hand, I did go on a 3-hour hike and only saw a couple of other people the entire time.

Henry Miller's Hat

Henry Miller's Hat

Published in: on September 6, 2009 at 11:02 pm  Comments (1)  

#57 Capitola Book Cafe

Capitola Book CafeCapitola Book Cafe
1475 41st AVE
Capitola, CA 95010

Do you know Capitola Book Cafe?  It’s a destination stop in greater San Jose.  Really.  I only had thirty minutes in the area making my way down the coast and this is the store I stopped in.  I know there are other great stores in the area and I would have loved to have seen them, but I was catching a ride with a touring writer, and she had to be further down the coast later that night, and Capitola was just so passionate, I had to see the store for myself.

Capitola Books is thirty years old.  They service a lot of students from UC Santa Cruz.  They have 5,000 square feet of curated books.  The Cafe portion of Capitola is rented out to an established, local coffee house chain.   Capitola Cafe

It’s in a strip mall, but the mall is packed and people seem to slip in and out of the store seamlessly.  The customers are loyal and the store is as much a venue as it is a bookstore.

I couldn’t tell you a thing about San Jose other than it’s about ninety minutes south of SF.  I hear the beach is close by.

Worth a visit!

Book display at Capitola

Published in: on September 6, 2009 at 10:30 pm  Comments (1)  

#56 Kepler’s Books

Kepler's BooksKepler’s Books & Magazines
1010 El Camino Real
Menlo Park, CA 94025

About an hour south of San Francisco near Palo Alto and Stanford University is the upscale town of Menlo Park.

Menlo Park is home to the much beloved Kepler’s Books.  How beloved?  Well, the owners once tried to close Kepler’s Books, only to find that local residents weren’t happy with that decision and worked together to get it to reopen.

P1010472So it did.  And at 10,000 square feet, Kepler’s is a very large book store.  They have 320 book clubs and coordinate a lot of author events throughout the year.  The store has been in existence for 54 years, and at least on the evening when I was there seemed to have a steady clip of customers.  Their location in a shopping center next to a couple of popular restaurants almost ensures that people will browse.

A great resource if you’re in Palo Alto or Menlo Park.


Published in: on September 6, 2009 at 10:10 pm  Leave a Comment