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Archive for July, 2011

Everyone lives by selling something.—Robert Louis Stevenson

Last Friday, Borders bookstores began a giant liquidation sale. Sounds tempting. But booklovers should skip this sale.  First off, it’s not that good of a deal. Despite “going out of business” hype, Time Magazine reports that the “clearance” prices at Borders are not that different than those at other bookstores—some of Border’s prices have even gone up! 

More important, the lengthy liquidation of Borders inventory is forecast to hurt independent stores and other book chains. Even though the discounts aren’t that great, the hype could divert traffic and dollars from nearby bookstores. Imagine if even your newest inventory were being advertised across town at bargain prices.  Oh, and you won’t be able to get your caffeine fix, as Seattle’s Best has closed all of its in-store cafes.

Elm  Street Books, New Canaan, CT

Finally, the proceeds from this liquidation will not help out Borders employees. The money will instead go to the very investors and creditors who at the eleventh hour bet against Borders’s future. These creditors rejected an offer to sell Borders as an ongoing business to the owners of the Book-Of-The-Month-Club. Instead, they opted to sell for a higher price to a liquidation firm. That’s right, they decided Borders and its people were less valuable to them than the stripped assets. They say you vote with your dollar, and I don’t really want to give them one dime—even if that dime bought me a hardcover book, which it probably wouldn’t.

So why not find a new bookstore to love? To find an independent bookstore near you—click here. If there’s no indie nearby, then try out another bookstore chain—at least you will be investing in your local reading community. If you are sad about losing Borders, the best thing you can do is walk into another bricks-and-mortar bookstore and buy a book. It’s great biblio grief therapy.

Read the Rebuttal: A Former Borders’ Employee Says Shop the Sales

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Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic.
–Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

Like most muggles, I raced to see Deathly Hallows Part 2. But for me, Harry Potter is really all about the books. I read the first two to humor my niece, but Prisoner of Azkaban hooked me. I joined the crowds for the midnight release of the next four books, and, wow, was it inspiring to see so many kids so jazzed about reading. I admit I had a Larry David moment at the final book party, when I seriously considered taking advantage of the fact that I was a foot taller than most of those elbowing me. But reason prevailed, and I let the kids push past. It was their moment.

Harry Potter Book SeriesIn my day, there was a dearth of books for tweens and early teens. Once you’d outgrown Beverly Cleary, Nancy Drew, and The Hardy Boys, there wasn’t much left. I read and reread Little Women and The Lord of the Rings. And though my sister had lent me Pride and Prejudice, I couldn’t yet appreciate it.

My parents had always encouraged reading, but we hit a few bumps during those years. I got about 30 pages into Jaws by Peter Benchley, before it was confiscated for violent and non-PG content. When my brother brought The Godfather on a car trip, Dad was skeptical. A scowl spread across his face as he flipped through the pages—again not appropriate for a 12-year-old. Without a word, he rolled down the passenger window (Mom was driving) and tossed the book out. Literally (and literary) defenestration. A belated thank you to the local Rotary Club, who had adopted that stretch of highway for cleanup.

After that, Dad got us reading biographies, but now, Harry Potter has spawned a boom in Young Adult literature. Before, when I gave a tween a book (instead of some digital distraction), said child often eyed me with suspicion. Since Harry Potter, my stock has gone up. Now it’s hard to find a book these kids haven’t read. The best gift, however, is the one JK Rowling gave to generations of children … the joy of reading.

Did you like the Harry Potter books better than the movies? Which was your favorite book?

Harry Potter Book Series

JK Rowling Official Site

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

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A bookstore is one of the only pieces of evidence
we have that people are still thinking.
–Jerry Seinfeld

Shocked! I guess I’m naïve, but I didn’t realize how bad things had gotten for Borders.  I just assumed someone would come forward to buy or restructure the chain. After all, it was Borders (and Barnes & Noble) who served as the inspiration for the indomitable Fox Books in You’ve Got Mail. Thanks to that movie, most book buyers have long been aware of the difficult rivalry between the big-box chains and the smaller independent stores, many of whom Borders (and Barnes & Noble) have put out of business. To be fair, Borders was also known for going into struggling neighborhoods as a pioneer anchor store, particularly in Chicago.

I do make an effort to shop at my local book store, since I’m lucky enough to have one. But when traveling, it seemed I came across Borders just about everywhere. I have logged a lot of happy hours—and bought a lot of books—in Borders.  The staff were friendly, enthusiastic and … eager to talk books.  Now all those people, some 19, 500 of them starting last February, have lost their jobs. These were booksellers and book lovers … my people.

In addition to 200 bookstores since February, now all 399 Borders across the country will close at the same time?! It’s like when the Death Star hit Alderaan in Star Wars.  I’m in disbelief, mournful, and bitterly sad.

On Twitter, a rush of messages continues to flow to #ThankUBorders from their patrons and the book-reading community. I retweeted one bighearted message from The Booksellers at Laurelwood—an independent bookstore I definitely plan to visit in Memphis:

From @Laurelwoodbooks  #ThankUBorders for helping to make book-buying cool and reaching so many in far-flung communities all over. We love all of our fellow booksellers and are sad to see the end of an era.

Photo Tribute: The Ghosts of Borders’ Past

Post to Twitter #ThankUBorders

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The Booksellers at Laurelwood Canyon Blog

Read A Former Borders Bookseller Says to Shop the Sale

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Last week, the editors of the New York Times Magazine conducted a poll via Twitter:  “What are your top 5 fiction books?”  My feed lit up with a stream of titles: The Great Gatsby, Infinite Jest, Crime and Punishment, Jane Eyre.  It was like a reader’s stock ticker with books instead of companies. Every morning, I logged on to see what would come next: Ulysses, The Awakening, The Godfather, Moby-Dick.  I was enthralled—so much so that I could not respond myself.

How could I pick? I was the keyboard equivalent of struck speechless, which seemed ironic as I am not known for being short on words.  Should I simply list all five Jane Austen novels? Ok, there are six but Mansfield Park, really?  Or, I could go with the first five Harry Potter novels, but that leaves “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named” still alive.  I would need to include Anna Karenina, but what about Vanity Fair? I didn’t want to keep to the classics, having just read Colum McCann’s Let the Great World Spin.  And, what about my less cerebral favorites?  I could not put down Michael Crichton’s Timeline, and who did not love Confessions of a Shopaholic?  I’ve read Aunts Aren’t Gentleman three times, but alas NYT Magazine specified one could not include “all Wodehouse” as an entry. Luckily, they also limited it to fiction, or I would not have been able to leave out Nien Cheng’s Life and Death in Shanghai or David Grann’s The Lost City of Z.

Finally, I closed my eyes and just typed: Cold Mountain, Suite Française, The English Patient, Wuthering Heights, Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban. Instant remorse set in. I was like Sir Galahad on Monty Python’s Bridge of Death. “Blue, no green … aaahhhhh!”

That’s why I’m so hooked on books.  On any given day, my list of favorites changes.  I have just read Tim Winton’s radiant story collection, The Turning, and I’m now deep into George RR Martin’s A Clash of Kings … so please no Dance with Dragons spoilers.

Can you pick 5 fiction favorites?  What are they?

NYT Magazine Editors Top Fiction Five

Twitter Picks Top Fiction Five

NYT Magazine Editors Top Five Non-fiction books

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