My Bookstore comes with a dash of the Berkshires

Have you heard of My Bookstore: Writers Celebrate Their Favorite Places to Browse, Read, and Shop? If you haven't, it's a charming homage to the importance of old-fashioned independent brick-and-mortar bookstores, by the authors who frequent them. Even better, The Bookloft has been included! Our friend and Berkshire neighbor - and New York Times bestselling author - Simon Winchester has written quite a few kind words about us. Here's a sample:

That they are all here conjoined - the writers and their bookstore, the book-loving customers and their formidably well-read army of booksellers - underlines the point that Eric Wilska likes to make: that this is a community bookstore, providing a much-needed service for a community that, as he believes and which all of us pray is true, simply could not and will not countenance the vanishing of one of the last truly great independent bookstores in the country.

And if this precious place happens to be lacking a mullioned bow front window or two, and has to exist sans cat napping on the Agatha Christie shelf, but is in fact down from the dollar store and a step away from the Vietnamese nail salon, who truly cares? Just as long as it is here, and stays here until we are gone, and long after. It is the kind of place that almost makes the notion of strip malls acceptable, provides the very idea with some kind of commercial blessing, and is a literary benison for us all.
Our thanks to Simon for that. If you would like to read more, the book is on our shelves now - chock full of other nice things about other stores as well!

Julia's 2 Cents on Audiobooks

I finished listening to the wonderful production ofThe Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck, read by Anthony Heald. I enjoyed the story a great deal, and his voice suited it well. Another classic I enjoyed listening to was Watership Down by Richard Adams, read by Ralph Cosham. It's an interesting story, and well worth a listen, even if you, like myself, are not one for talking animals.

Something to think about for people of all ages are well-read "chidren's" books. I read and listen to quite a bit of juvenile fiction, and I must say it can be absolutely fantastic. One such is The Scorpio Races by Maggie Steifvater, read by Steve West and Fiona Hardingham. Their joint narration enhanced the story with a magical wonder, despite there being no magic present in the book itself.

Two series that I have thoroughly enjoyed were Septimus Heap by Angie Sage, read by Gerald Doyle; and Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, read by Jim Dale. Whether dealing with the humorous or the serious, both narrators made me appreciate equally the jokes and adventure of these series.

- Julia

A Naked Singularity

I skidded off, not just once, but three times before I managed to break the surface of Casi's monologue and get back on his shoulder beneath his ringing, aching ear, to listen to his long diatribes on justice, legacy, Television (always with a capital T), etc.

There is a lot of legalese to plow through, since he is a public defender in New York City. There is astute commentary on our very modern - or are we talking post-modern - world? And, there is that all-absorbing quality that a dense saga offers. It is impossible to ignore. Give it a try - or two - or three.

- Lauren

Three New Staff Picks from Linda

This week I was surprised to look on the staff pick shelves to find not one, not two, but three new picks by Linda. Three! We're convinced she doesn't sleep. Check them out.

"Her personal history - growing up and living in New York City; her marriage and family; her plans and foresight in business; and her generosity - make this a timely historical read even if the years are different."
"Joe and crime go together, but how bad is he? Through Lehane's intense story of violence, family, lotalty, and love, Joe gets ahead in the Prohibition era. But at what price? "
"Action, chase scenes, and some computer mayhem abound. But along with this story, Joe is dealing with his loss, and Sammy and Willy have their new stress: Emma."

Fuzzy Nation

Based around the discovery of a possibly sentient, but more importantly endearing and adorable alien species, this book is a real feel-good read. Jack Holloway is morally ambiguous in a rapscallion-disbarred-from-being-a-lawyer kinda way; we are constantly reminded by his words that he isn't such a great person, but do his actions speak differently? The real stars are the Fuzzies, whose charm is just sweet and wild enough to be believable, and the dog, Carl, who enjoys blowing things up. Add to this some grandstand courtroom drama, and you've got a fun, easy read. Also check out Little Fuzzy, the 1963 Hugo-nominated book that Fuzzy Nation was inspired by.

- Alec

On Audiobooks

I recently finished listening to Rules of Civility by Amor Towles. I also read the book. That is to say that when I left the car, I didn’t want to leave the story so in addition to the audio I got a copy of the book. I opened it here and there and read portions that I had already heard and then continued reading. Weird, perhaps, but it filled my need to have the story available when I wanted it rather than only when I was driving.

Other books I have enjoyed listening to and recommend: Faithful Place by Tana French (and what a reader Tim Gerard Reynolds is! I kept looking over at the passenger seat expecting him to be there.); The Piano Teacher by Janice Y.K. Lee and The Postmistress by Sarah Blake, both excellently read by Orlagh Cassidy.

I’m afraid that I’m overly discriminating when it comes to how a book is read. There are readers who do it well, while others only succeed in making me flinch. If a book is read too slowly (argh, just that one-second-too-long break between sentences; Christina informed me that turning music on and off for a beat or two is used as a method of torture); or too melodramatically; or when some readers attempt to make each characters’ voice unique, I just can’t listen. I am silently screaming, "Read to me; just read to me."

Books read by their authors are a 50/50 deal: Hosseni reading The Kite Runner was exceptional; Sue Miller reading Lake Shore Limited was nice – not too this, not too that. Just right. Others are not so adept. A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson was great, but then with At Home, I liked the content, but not his voice. It’s a gamble.

Picky, picky, picky, that’s me. Still, I like listening. Here are a few more I’ve enjoyed listening to:

  • Any Jane Austin
  • Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
  • (Actually, most classics)
  • Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier
  • Divisadero by Michael Ondaatje
  • Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
  • Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski
  • Heat by Bill Buford
  • Anything by Alan Furst
  • Any Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspeare
  • Any Donna Leon (English with an Italian accent, but still okay).
  • The English American by Alison Larkin (Read very well by the author!)

Alec suggests listening to Acacia by David Anthony Durham. Whether he will staff pick it is yet to be determined, but here again, the narrator, he says, was fabulous.

Linda recommends David McCullough’s The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris. She says: “The voice is so special. Hearing him read it was exciting – and I learned French that way!”

Now I’m going to drive home listening to Rachel Maddow’s Drift. She is one energized woman and a good reader so I’m going to listen up. You, too, I hope.

- Ellyne

For Fans of Fuzzy Creatures

How many of us were around for the original publication of H. Beam Piper's Little Fuzzy in 1962? I admit that I hadn't heard of it until recently, even with it's Hugo Award in '63. I mention this because I picked up Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi a few days ago and it has been leaving me with a warm feeling the entire time.

The thing about Fuzzy Nation, though, is that it is not a sequel but a reboot of Little Fuzzy. Reboots, so typical of the film and television industry, are rare to find in the book world, the most contemporary of which seem to involve zombies. The question then becomes whether or not Scalzi managed to write a legitimate reboot instead of a blockbusting lampoon.

I am currently halfway through Fuzzy Nation, and Little Fuzzy is on its way to my mailbox. I will finish both and then have an opinion, but so far I would say the entire thing is too good a story - and too adorable - to write off.