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Support Your Local Bookstore and Give Books! (Part 2)

Give Books

This is the second of a two-part series featuring a handful of our favorite independent bookstores across the country. In the spirit of giving books this season, we’re asking booksellers to share their recommendations for your best holiday bets. Yesterday we featured Powell’s and Parnassus Books (here). Today we hand over the floor to booksellers at Politics & Prose, Common Good Books, and BookPeople.

Politics & Prose

Photo credit: Melina Mara

Mary Alice Garber, Children and Teens Department buyer at Politics & Prose, Washington, DC

How long have you been working with books and what’s your role at Politics & Prose?
Books have been a part of my entire professional life, first as a teacher and for the past 15 years as a member of the Children and Teens Department. I am currently the buyer for the Children and Teens Department.

What do you think is the best thing about independent bookstores?
Independent bookstores know and support their community. They are responsive to the needs of the community and can individualize their inventory in ways that more corporate entities may not. At P & P, I know our department delights in finding mid-list books and debut authors that may not be featured in larger stores. Our department works closely with librarians and schools and has begun hosting symposia for parents and professionals on topics such as graphic novels and picture books.

Tell us a brief Politics & Prose Holiday Story…
One of the best things about our holiday season is our Book Angel program. In existence for nearly 15 years, the program encourages customers to buy books for a designated charity. As an incentive, we give a 20% discount for the donated books. This year, books will go to Hope House’s Parent to Child Reading Program. Hope House makes a recording of each prison inmate reading a book to his/her child. The recordings and the books are sent to each child.

What’s your favorite book published by Chronicle?
It is hard to pick just one, but I have to say Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner with art by Christopher Silas Neal. It was in our “Favorites” for 2011 and we were given permission to feature art from the book as the cover for that publication. It is a perfect marriage of information and art. We will include On a Beam of Light, The Bear’s Song, and Lifetime in our favorites for 2013.

Which five books are you recommending this season?
Moonday by Adam Rex (Hyperion) – This is playful as well as sneakily informative. The premise of the moon landing in a family’s backyard engages the imagination and prompts lots of laughter and discussion. I would recommend it for children ages 5 to 8.

The 75th Anniversary edition of The Reluctant Dragon by Kenneth Grahame (Holiday House) – This is a beautiful edition with a great introduction by Leonard Marcus. I love the language in this book about compromise and cooperation. The original illustrations by Ernest H. Shepard are perfect accents to the text. The book is a delight to read aloud as a family or for young readers ages 7 to 10.

The Tortoise and the Hare by Jerry Pinkney (Little Brown) is a companion to the Lion and the Mouse. Pinkney reminds us to be slow and steady—what could be a better message for the holidays and for our overly busy lives? As always, his illustrations are rich with detail and amazing perspectives. Ages 4 to 8.

For a much older teen audience including adults, Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick (Roaring Brook) is expertly crafted, dark and haunting. Seven interlocking stories follow two lovers back through time. It imagines something we all consider at some point in our lives, “What if I lived at a different time?”

Maurice Sendak: A Celebration of the Artist and His Work ed. by Leonard Marcus (Abrams) – This is the perfect gift for any fan of Sendak. In addition to “never before seen” art, authors and illustrators provide remembrances and insights about this gentleman who transformed children’s literature. Ages 15 to adult.

Common Good Books

Martin Schmutterer, store manager at Common Good Books, St. Paul, MN

How long have you been working with books, and what’s your role at Common Good Books?
I’ve been working in bookstores off and on since 1991. I jumped at the chance to work at Common Good Books in 2006 after a miserable copy-writing gig became too much and haven’t looked back. As store manager, I take on any role that needs to be filled: buyer, Twitter wag, cat herder, bookseller.

What do you think is the best thing about independent bookstores?
The people who work and shop at them. When you shop at an independent bookstore you are making a connection with the individuals at the store: their passions, decisions, and quirks. Booksellers know books, of course, but we know our customers and community as well.

Tell us a brief Common Good Holiday Story…
I hate to give into Minnesota stereotypes but I’m going to talk about the weather. The snowstorm of December 11, 2010 was memorable even by Minnesota standards. We’re used to getting significant amounts of snow in December, but nearly two feet in a single day is rare. The snow was so heavy and coming down so quickly that we closed shortly after noon. If we stayed open any longer, we would have been trapped in the store. As it is, I only got about three quarters of the way home before plowing my car into a snowbank and walking home.
The next day, the roof of the Metrodome collapsed under the weight of snow but we got back to work selling books.

What’s your favorite book published by Chronicle?
I adore Chronicle’s cookbooks, and it would be difficult to choose a favorite, but I will: Ruhlman’s Twenty. The bookseller in me also has a soft spot for I Could Pee on This.

Which five books are you recommending this season?
For the fan of Writer’s Almanac: Tom Nissley’s A Reader’s Book of Days. Also a great choice for anyone who is in a book club.

For anyone who is hungry: Amy Thielen’s The New Midwestern Table. Proving definitively that the food of the Northern Plains isn’t just hot dish and creamed corn.

For anyone who is spiritually hungry: Flannery O’Connor’s A Prayer Journal.

For the hipster in need of context: Glenn O’Brien’s The Cool School: Writing from America’s Hip Underground. Sometimes even square publishers (Library of America) get hip.

For those longing for Entlistungsfreude (“The sense of satisfaction afforded by crossing things off lists”): Ben Schott’s Schottenfreude: German Words for the Human Condition. Not every book on our counter can be a cat book.

Book People

Elizabeth Jordan, Adult Books Buyer and Inventory Operations Supervisor at BookPeople, Austin, TX

How long have you been working with books, and what’s your role at BookPeople?
I have been working at BookPeople since 2002. I started as a bookseller, worked as a floor manager for awhile, and am now the Adult Books Buyer and Inventory Operations Supervisor.

What do you think is the best thing about independent bookstores?
I think the best thing about independent bookstores is our ability to quickly respond to our community. Independent bookstores are community gathering places and I love being at the center of that.

Tell us a brief BookPeople Holiday Story…
It’s hard for me to think of one specific story but the holidays are my favorite time in the store. The aisles are packed with people who just want book recommendations. It’s the one time of the year I get to spend most of my time on the sales floor as opposed to in the office and I love it. The days fly by and the books fly off the shelves!

What’s your favorite book published by Chronicle?
My current favorite Chronicle book is A Compendium of Collective Nouns. I don’t know how many times my family (of word-loving nerds) has had a conversation along the lines of: “Is it a gaggle of moose? A herd?,” etc. So, to have all the answers in one (beautifully illustrated) place is awesome.

Which five books are you recommending this season?
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt – A Secret History is one of my go-to rereads and I love her new one. Perfect for anyone who loved Secret History or just loves great literary fiction.

Provence, 1970 by Luke Barr – It’s the story of the friendship between MFK Fisher, Julia Child, and James Beard in France, written by the grandnephew of MFK Fisher. It’s great for anyone who loved My Life in France or How to Cook a Wolf.

Jim Henson: The Biography by Brian Jay Jones – I’ve been looking for a Jim Henson biography for years and was so excited when this one was finally released. He’s such an interesting, creative guy and I’ve always wanted to know more about him. I’m sure anyone who grew up on his creations feels the same.

Humans of New York by Brandon Stanton – I’m obsessed with this blog. I don’t even want to think about how many hours I’ve spent looking at this website when I should be doing other things. Brandon’s photo portraits are so beautiful and I’m always moved by his ability to tell a person’s story in just a picture and a few short words. I’d give this book to anyone on my list.

Two Prospectors: The Letters of Sam Shepard and Johnny Dark – This collection of revealing and candid letters between these two friends is as close as we are going to get to a memoir from Sam Shepard and it’s amazing.

Give Books

Thanks to all of the kind booksellers who took the time to share their thoughts with us! Please support your local bookstore and take the pledge to Give Books this holiday!

Guinevere de la Mare
Senior Community Manager

Guinevere de la Mare

Guinevere de la Mare is a writer, book lover, and the founder of Silent Book Club. She lives in San Francisco. She also was the senior community manager at Chronicle Books from 2009-2014.

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