Wednesday, December 30, 2009

5 of my favorite reads of 2009

I've read a little more than 60 books this year, and there wasn't a truly bad one in the bunch.  (My adoration for Mary Tyler Moore prevents me from talking too negatively about her most recent autobiographical adventure, a book I really wanted to love.)

Despite having liked the vast majority of books I read in 2009, there are a handful that definitely stand out.  Below, in no particular order, are some favorite 2009 reads.  (Note:  just because I read them in '09 doesn't necessarily mean they were published in '09.)  Click on any title for a full synopsis of the book, courtesy of

Mudbound by Hillary Jordan

I found this book profoundly moving and very well-written.  Jordan does an excellent job of showing us how circumstances shape us (and how sometimes we turn into versions of ourselves we'd never, ever suspect). I highly recommend this to anyone 16+.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

At this year's Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance trade show, I went to a panel called "Got Us Shaking in Our Boots" to hear a handful of authors speak about their haunting fictional creations.  As someone who reads very little mystery and horror, I thought it important to attend this session--I wanted to become more educated for my own benefit but also to better work with Avid customers who like this genre.  To my pleasant surprise, I was blown away by Carrie Ryan's work.  I recommend it for people 13+ who have enjoyed Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, Cormac McCarthy's The Road, and (dare I say it?) Stephanie Meyer's Twilight series.

Oh!: A Mystery of "Mono No Aware" by Todd Shimoda

While at the Chin Music Press booth at Book Expo America this year, my partner in crime and I had the opportunity to meet the intelligent and amiable Todd Shimoda.  Jim and he got along swimmingly, and before I knew it we both had autographed copies of Shimoda's book in our hands.  And what a beautiful book it is! The people of Chin Music Press pride themselves on high-quality, appealing design.  (Check out their site for more examples of their work.)  The content is as compelling as the book's look.  Shimoda's story is sparse in some places, rich with detail and emotion in others.  I could say I recommend it to those interested in Japanese culture and those moved by the beauty of sadness.  But if I were to say that, I'd sound more than a bit silly and maybe even pretty snobby--but I'd be telling the truth.  This is a book I might never have read had I encountered it in any other way--but I'm so glad I met the author and decided to give it a chance.  I just loved it.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
I picked this up for a friend while shopping at Bound to Be Read Books and ended up reading it myself first.  (That's excusable, right?  I mean, I don't dog-ear pages or crack the spines open more than two inches!)  Months later, I had the pleasure of sitting in at Bound to Be Read's monthly book club meeting and had a fun time discussing this novel with other readers.  It's very funny in parts, but there exists also a nearly overwhelming sadness to the plotline.  There are hand-drawnsketches throughout the book, and these bring levity to some of the seriousness of the story.  I recommend it for mature kids and adults (14+).

The Great Neighborhood Book by Jay Walliasper

I picked this up while browsing the shelves at Urban Think! Bookstore in Orlando, Florida earlier this month.  As someone really interested in my own neighborhood's well-being (and as the secretary of Athens's new-ish Buy Local initiative), I thought that this book would make a useful purchase.  To my surprise, I gobbled it up within a day, scribbling feverishly in the margins and underlining ideas that would work well in Athens.  If you're wanting to learn ways to make your neighborhood feel more homey, to make your neighborhood safe, to make your neighborhood more of the place you dream of, this is the book for you.  I've already recommended it to several like-minded friends in town--won't you give it a shot as well?

Many of you already shared your favorite 2009 reads on our Facebook page, but I know there are more of you out there!  Feel free to use the comments section below to tell us what you loved best this year.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Lots of great gift ideas!

If you live in Athens, I can deliver books to you up until mid-afternoon on Christmas Eve (this coming Thursday). Free home delivery just in time for Christmas?  Yep.  It's true.

Here are a few last-minute gift ideas.  There's only one copy of each of the following books, so hurry and reserve your copy first!

A Season of Gifts by Richard Peck (NEW & AUTOGRAPHED!)

 Book description: Dial Books for Young Readers, 2009. First edition. Hardcover. New/new. Review " of Peck's best novels yet - and that's saying something." --Kirkus, starred review
"Irascible, independent, and unorthodox as ever, Grandma Dowdel makes a welcome return...she's entered that rare pantheon of unforgettably great characters." --Horn Book
"Peck has once again created a whole world in one small Illinois town, a place where the folksy wisdom and generosity of one gruff old woman can change lives." --School Library Journal

Signed copy of this brand new book from this legendary writer. $2 off list price!

Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom
Book description: Broadway Books, 2002. Paperback. As New. 208 pp. Review "This is a sweet book of a man's love for his mentor. It has a stubborn honesty that nourishes the living." --Robert Bly, author of Iron John
"A deeply moving account of courage and wisdom, shared by an inveterate mentor looking into the multitextured face of his own death. There is much to be learned by sitting in on this final class." --Jon Kabat-Zinn, coauthor of Everyday Blessings and Wherever You Go, There You Are
"All of the saints and Buddhas have taught us that wisdom and compassion are one. Now along comes Morrie, who makes it perfectly plain. His living and dying show us the way." --Joanna Bull, Founder and Executive Director of Gilda's Club

Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

Book description: W W Norton & Co Inc, 2005. Paperback. As New. 218 pp. From Publishers Weekly:  Featuring soap made from human fat, waiters at high-class restaurants who do unmentionable things to soup and an underground organization dedicated to inflicting a violent anarchy upon the land, Palahniuk's apocalyptic first novel is clearly not for the faint of heart. The unnamed (and extremely unreliable) narrator, who makes his living investigating accidents for a car company in order to assess their liability, is combating insomnia and a general sense of anomie by attending a steady series of support-group meetings for the grievously ill, at one of which (testicular cancer) he meets a young woman named Marla. She and the narrator get into a love triangle of sorts with Tyler Durden, a mysterious and gleefully destructive young man with whom the narrator starts a fight club, a secret society that offers young professionals the chance to beat one another to a bloody pulp. Mayhem ensues, beginning with the narrator's condo exploding and culminating with a terrorist attack on the world's tallest building. Writing in an ironic deadpan and including something to offend everyone, Palahniuk is a risky writer who takes chances galore, especially with a particularly bizarre plot twist he throws in late in the book. Caustic, outrageous, bleakly funny, violent and always unsettling, Palahniuk's utterly original creation will make even the most jaded reader sit up and take notice. Movie rights to Fox 2000.    Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

This book is in never-read condition, featuring an arresting, attention-grabbing cover.

Rabbit is Rich by John Updike (one of my favorite books!)

Book description: Ballantine Books, 1996. Paperback. Near Fine. Winner of the 1982 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Ten years after Rabbit Redux, Harry Angstrom has come to enjoy prosperity as the Chief Sales Representative of Springer Motors. The rest of the world may be falling to pieces, but Harrry's doing all right. That is, until his son returns from the West, and the image of an old love pays a visit to his lot....

Monday, December 21, 2009

Our first public book sale!

This past Saturday, Jim helped me pack up much of my Avid inventory.  We got to the Flicker Theatre & Bar just in time to grab one of the last available selling spaces--the other merchants had definitely beat us there.  Turns out it took longer than I'd expected to stow 200+ books, tables, and a bookshelf in a '96 Maxima.  That being said, we got a prime spot alongside that trademark, two-toned wall and got to work.

Throughout the day, we met lots of new folks, encountered some people whose names we knew via the Internet but had never met in person, and of course chatted with many well-known friends and locals.  I'm happy to report that the sale was a smashing success:  even those who chose not to buy a book were thrilled to learn more about Athens's own community bookstore.  We passed out promotional postcards, got people to sign up for our newsletter, and sold a lot of books!

Here are a handful of photographs from the Flicker Holiday Market.  As usual, Blogger isn't cooperating with me as I try to add captions to the pictures, so I'll just tell you what's what here.  The first couple of shots are of our display. Then you'll find photos of me with Jim (my #1 Avid sidekick/helper/coworker/beau) and one of my talented friend Lauren Gallaspy with her husband Andy. I'll close out the collection with a snapshot of Baby Kringle & Ma and one of a half-hidden Kate Mikulka with Don Chambers in the foreground.  We were so busy talking to folks that we didn't get much of a chance to photograph the other vendors! From what I hear, everyone was pleased with his or her sales and we may have another market in the spring.  Special thanks to Kate Mikulka (of Mikulka Polish Foods) and the Flicker.

our setup

Saturday, December 12, 2009

without further ado...our official logo!

A very talented and generous friend of mine, Brandi Price, is one of many reputable graphic designers interested in helping with logo and sign designs for Avid Bookshop.  I cannot thank her enough for dedicating her time to the project and taking this on as a pro bono assignment.  (And another very special thanks to Kristyn Lilley, who was also up for the task.)

I showed Brandi a photo of my favorite typewriter (purchased at my friend Courtnie's moving sale last year) and told her I'd like the color and style of the typewriter to be reflected in the logo.  I explained my vision for the store's atmosphere:  I want an organized, clean look that also feels homey and comfortable for every customer.  A tall order for a store, let alone its accompanying logo.  But Brandi took my words and ran with them. 

During a video conference a couple of months back, she unveiled the two designs she'd created.  After evaluating the designs myself and asking for several trusted friends' and colleagues' feedback, I decided on Brandi's first design.  Brandi tweaked a couple of details and emailed me the final logo.

I LOVE IT.  I hope you do, too.  When you look at this logo, what sort of bookstore do you expect to encounter?  What other businesses' logos do you strongly respond to, and why?  I'd love to see what designs speak to you--and which ones do NOT.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Another book giveaway!

Between now and December 17th, anyone who buys a book from our online storefront will receive a FREE advanced reading copy (ARC) I have in stock (and I have lots!).  Once you make your online order, I'll email you and give you a list of free books to choose from. 

Free book with any purchase + free shipping 'til 2010 = how can you lose?

Thanks for supporting Avid Bookshop.

Books & crafts & food & friends!

On the Saturday before Christmas, don't join the crazy crowds at Walmart or at the mall.  Instead, drop by a locally-owned, independent business that is hosting one of Athens's many annual holiday markets.  The Flicker Holiday Market will be held December 19, 2009 from 11:00 AM - 5 PM.  Never been to the Flicker Theatre & Bar? It's a lovely spot at 263 W. Washington Street in downtown Athens.

The items offered this year are especially varied.  Jim Wilson & Don Chambers will have their famous pies for sale. Kate Mikulka will be offering up her well-reviewed Mikulka Polish Foods. There'll be bath and beauty products, Christmas ornaments, and more. For more details, please refer to the official event invitation.  We're pretty lucky to live in a town where local folks can share their passions with us--let's take advantage of this opportunity to support the arts (and our tummies).

I'll be at the market selling however many books I can fit into my allotted space. I'll have new and used books and will be able to point you in the right direction if you're looking for gifts for yourself or for friends. For a sneak preview of what I'll be selling (or to order online before someone can buy up your favorite picks!), take a look at the website:

Thanks, and happy holidays!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Bookstore visit: Bound to Be Read Books, East Atlanta Village

 Jef Blocker, manager of the store, poses in front of the  blackboard that hangs behind the register.

Jessica Handler & Jef Blocker pose at Bound to Be Read Books; 
Jessica is holding her book, Invisible Sisters.

Last week I spent a couple of days at Bound to Be Read Books in East Atlanta Village.  My buddies Jef and Jeff were kind enough to let me get a behind-the-scenes look at their bookstore lives, and I had a blast.

Several people have asked me if what I'd do if I did a mini-internship at a bookstore and hated it.  I was warned numerous times about everything possible.  Oh, those window displays can be a pain!  If you're busy, you'll be having conversations with people all day--ALL DAY!  There are lots of mundane details! You have to alphabetize the books frequently! You've got to stay organized!  

I find none of this daunting.  Probably the scariest part of the day-to-day bookstore operations is the finance aspect, but luckily I already have an awesome accountant, a wonderful SBDC counselor, and several others on board to help me as I better learn the retail ropes.  Here's a little secret about me, one my family and close friends already know:  I LOVE ORGANIZING, and when I was a kid my neighbor and I would play "office" for hours in lieu of playing house.  I love (and collect) office supplies, and I have been alphabetizing other people's (and other bookstores') bookshelves since early elementary school.  Making window displays sounds like a dream job, and chatting all day about books sounds like heaven.  So yeah:  I'm ready for this, and I can't wait. There's not one aspect of the business that makes me feel like running for the door and never looking back.

Bound to Be Read Books is a neighborhood bookstore on Flat Shoals Avenue in Atlanta, right across from the Earl (a music club and bar/restaurant many Athens musicians know well).  The founders opened the bookstore just over four years ago, aiming at first to sell only used books.  As time went on, they added lots of new books to the mix, responding appropriately and professionally to their customers' wants.  Now this store, complete with red accents, hand-painted library stools, and a newsletter-writing cat (who is also the Director of Public Relations), boasts an impressive collection of new, used, and collectible books. 

East Atlanta Village is a hip little city unto itself.  While having lunch at Holy Taco with two new author friends, Laurel Snyder and Marc Fitten, I ran into a UGA professor's daughter, a woman I met in Athens years ago who is now married to a guy I was in eighth grade band with.  A few hours later, I set up shop at Joe's Coffee and ran into a guy named Joel, who used to own a delicious BBQ joint in Athens (where White Tiger Gourmet now makes its home). After my coffee and deep-dish apple pie fix (yum), I headed across the street to the bookstore to spend another day with Jef and Jeff.  To my happiness, my Twitter friend (and acclaimed author) Jessica Handler was there to greet me.  Running into so many familiar faces and names made me feel as if I was having just another day in Athens.  It felt homey and comfortable.

It's hard to imagine my being even more excited about Avid than I was earlier this month, but it's true:  visiting other bookstores  invigorates me and calls me to action.  Speaking of, there's work to be done...

Monday, November 23, 2009

GREAT NEWS: I'm heading to Winter Institute!

Thanks to a generous scholarship, I'll be attending ABA's Winter Institute 5 in San Jose, California in early February 2010.  The ABA Emerging Leaders Program paired with Ingram Book Company to present eight scholarships to various "emerging leaders" in the bookselling world. 

Though there are lots of education opportunities for booksellers throughout the year (Book Expo America and regional trade shows, such as the one I attended in September, come to mind), Winter Institute is more focused on bookseller education and networking.  I'm eager to meet many of the folks I've communicated with online and to reunite with some friends I've met over the past many months.

Rest assured I'll report back to you about Wi5, my impressions of San Jose, and more.

Thanks to the friends who've already congratulated me on this scholarship--I'm humbled and quite elated.

Monday, November 16, 2009

You can start buying books from us NOW!

In an effort to raise some start-up capital and to make sure our future brick & mortar store customers can find some cool holiday gifts for friends and family, I decided to launch a account for Avid Bookshop.  Biblio is a company dedicated to helping ONLY independent bookstores, which is a mission I certainly admire.

As more and more people donate books to our project, the collection of for-sale books grows and changes.  Please check back weekly to find out what books we've added to our collection.

For a limited time, I am offering FREE SHIPPING TO ANYWHERE IN THE U.S.!  This saves you approximately $3.50 if you buy one book.  (If you live in Athens, you can also ask me for personal delivery, which some customers have found convenient and faster than USPS delivery.)

So, without further ado, I now reveal to you the way you can buy books and support Athens's independent bookstore, Avid Bookshop!

1. Visit Avid Bookshop HERE.  This will allow you to view our current books in stock, as arranged by author last name.  You can use the drop-down menu or the menu on the left-hand margin to rearrange or filter the list of books.

2. Shop 'til you drop and then check out!  The free shipping is on me.

1. Visit Avid Bookshop's online bookstore here.

2. The homepage will look like this (see below).  To see Avid Bookshop's collection (which is ever-changing!), click the "search" button (see red arrow in picture below) without entering any search terms.

3. You can organize the bookstore's selections by author name, date added to the bookstore listings, title, and price by choosing from the drop down menu (see red arrow in screenshot below).

You can also filter the books by using the links on the left-hand side of the page (see blue arrow in screenshot below).  This search function allows you to search for only new books, only first editions, books in a certain price range, etc.

After making your selections, check out by paying using's secure online payment system.  As soon as your order is processed, Biblio sends me an email and lets me know which books you've requested.  I'll pack them up and get them to you quickly, and soon you'll have more great books to read.

Thank you for your time, and I hope to see your name on my Biblio order email soon!

If you're interested in donating books, please contact me via email.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Happy 35th Anniversary, Charis Books!

On Friday, November 6,  drove to Atlanta for one of the many events organized to celebrate Charis Books' 35th anniversary.  Charis is an independent feminist bookstore that has an amazing reputation for building community, creating stimulating conversation, and stocking wonderful books.  For this landmark anniversary, many well-known people came together as special guests to help celebrate.

It would have been pretty great to have been able to attend every event, but Friday was the only evening I had available.  And what an evening it was!  Entitled "Artists & Revolutionaries," Friday night's gathering at the Hillside International Truth Center in southwest Atlanta was quite phenomenal.  The camaraderie, good will, and spirit was nearly tangible--it's quite empowering to be in a room of book-loving feminists, that I must say.

Though I would have been interested in the event without any musical guests, it sure did help that my longtime favorite duo Indigo Girls played a short set of songs in the middle of the program.  I also learned more about the inimitable Pearl Cleage (who had some of the best stage presence of any writer I've ever heard read) and got to hear Alice Walker (Alice Walker!!) read just 20 feet from me.

Here are some photos from the event.  I'm sorry they're not formatted with captions--Blogger and I aren't working together so well at the moment, so I'm not able to move the photos around or edit captions.  From top to bottom, here's what you're seeing:

1. The Rev. Dr. Barbara King of Hillside International Truth Center welcomes everyone to her place and makes everyone feel warm and fuzzy inside (truly).
2.  Owners of Charis Books, Sara & Angela, welcoming the enthusiastic crowd.
3. Founder Linda introduces Alice Walker.
4. Pearl Cleage entertains us and wakes us up a bit, throwing out a call to action.
5 & 6. Indigo Girls play a short set in this intimate environment (a true fan's dream come true!).
7. Alice Walker reads us many poems (and simply glows in person). 

Were you there?  What did you think of the evening?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Join the IndieBound movement & get a prize!

You've heard me talk about IndieBound before.  It's a way for independent businesses (notably bookstores) to network with one another.  It's a way for traveling customers to easily search for indie stores wherever they may roam.  But did you know it's also a great tool for communicating with other community members?  Learn about friends' recommendations, events at your local bookstore(s), what the bestselling titles are at independent bookstores, and more, more, more.

Here's a bonus for those of you reading the blog.  Join the IndieBound movement (it's cost- and spam-free!), befriend Avid Bookshop, and get a prize!  Three of you will be randomly chosen to receive a free ARC (advanced reading copy) of a book I have in stock, and every person that enters will get a wee treat.

After you befriend Avid Bookshop on IndieBound, leave a quick comment here to let me know you've done so--then you'll be entered in the contest.  And if you're on Facebook or Twitter and share this message, you get an extra entry!

So what are you waiting for?  Since this blog doesn't have a huge readership (yet!), you have a very good chance of winning a free book--as if the wee treat and an IndieBound profile weren't enough!

Here's just a handful of Athens businesses that are already on IndieBound & need more fans.
1000Faces Coffee
Jackson Street Books
Bizarro-Wuxtry record store
The National restaurant
Athens Cine bar, cafe, & arthouse theatre
Schoolkids Records
Harry's Pig Shop restaurant
Vision Video (Homewood Hills location)
Kingpins Bowl & Brew

Winners will be picked on Sunday, November 8, so please don't hesitate!

The randomly chosen winners are as follows:
Margo (randomwalk), Lindsay (lindzsmile), & Lauren (laurengallaspy).  A few of you participated without leaving a formal comment, but don't worry--I made sure to include everyone! Thanks so much.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

it's oh so quiet... (or, a behind-the-scenes glimpse)

Things have been quiet on the blog for the last week or so, I know--here's hoping you've not checked this page and worried about my slacking! Rest assured, my friends: I've been working like crazy on some cool developments.

Here are some things I've been up to:

1. I bought a CueCat. Now I'm able to scan the ISBNs off the used books I have for sale. As we speak, is deciding whether or not I'm worthy of an online "storefront." As soon as they give me the go ahead, I'll be able to send you a link to my 200 or so used books for sale. (I'm trying to generate some capital so I can get a website that will allow me to sell new books to you--books will go directly from the wholesaler's warehouse to your door!)

2. I've been meeting with folks who are interested in learning more about Avid Bookshop, including some who might eventually be formally involved with the store. Good news there!

3. My amazing designer friend Brandi created some logos for Avid! I've sent them out to a few folks and am getting wonderfully constructive feedback on them (and all the feedback is positive--Brandi's gifted, I tell you). Soon I'll get back to Brandi and she will create the final version of our sure-to-be-hip logo. (I promise you'll like it.)

4. Research, research, research.... I've been learning about other successful bookstores' inventive ideas; I've been working on version 542 of my business plan; I've been researching legal structures.

5. I've scheduled appointments to meet with business and accounting experts who will help me make some final decisions about Avid's business structure. I'll be filing for my formal business license with the Secretary of State as soon as next week! (Very exciting.)

6. Avid was mentioned in the Flagpole again (link forthcoming--as of this evening they haven't posted this week's news articles).

7. And of course there are tons of menial tasks I've been up to--adding to the soon-to-exist newsletter mailing list, trying to catch up on email, working with other booksellers, setting up an internship at another indie bookstore, and more, more, more.

8. Last but not least, I spent two days last weekend assuming different personalities.

So that's what's been going on behind the scenes here at Avid headquarters. Of course I've set aside time to read. Right now I'm reading the 1950s classic Betsy and the Great World & Betsy's Wedding by Maud Hart Lovelace--delightful! Before that I finished Michael Greenberg's Hurry Down Sunshine, a memoir about his teenaged daughter's mental breakdown.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

continuing the conversation about how we can make Athens better

Yesterday I learned about Elaine Ely, a woman who recently returned to Athens after living far away for awhile.  She and I exchanged a few emails about the downtown Athens scene as well as my take on what Avid Bookshop's role will be in town.  Today, her first installment in a series called "Athens Impressions" was in Flagpole magazine. 

Perhaps her most salient point, bookstore-wise, is that Athens lacks a cultural center.  Sure, we have an arthouse cinema, music venues, a gigantic university, a nationally-recognized literary magazine (Georgia Review), and tons of artists and writers, but where do all these factors combine? And why the heck don't we have a new bookstore to help bring these people and cultural elements together?  Ely gives a quick shout-out to Avid Bookshop (for which I'm grateful).  Please read the article and let me know what you think. Do you agree with Elaine's view of Athens? What do you think we can do to bring people together in more meaningful ways?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Cheap books could lead to fewer books - the book price war

If you keep up with big retail news stories (or even book industry news briefs), you probably have heard about the recent price-gauging fight among Wal-Mart, Amazon, Target, and now Sears.  The New York Times had a feature on this battle today.  In an attempt to control bestseller market share and bring more folks to their superstores (where, inevitably, more items will be purchased), these retailers are cutting down prices on books to the point where they're taking a hit.

Perhaps you read bestsellers exclusively and drool at the thought of a new hardback book that's less than half the cost it'd be if you bought it at a brick and mortar store (chain or indie)--but think again before you rush off to Wal-Mart with your $10 bill in hand.  There's something afoot here, and it has nothing to do with the love of books, the love of reading, or the love of you--the customer.

The folks at WORD Brooklyn sent out a link to this piece about this week's price war and what it could mean for readers.  This price-gauging should frighten you and make you think again about where you buy books and the effect of your shopping choices.  Here's a quote from the above-mentioned New York Times article:
It’s a contest “that has no end in sight,” said Michael Norris, a consultant with Simba Information, which provides research and advice to publishers. Mr. Norris said the price war could be particularly damaging to the publishing industry and booksellers because the retailers who were currently slashing prices “don’t need to sell books in order to stay in business” and therefore can sell the books at a loss.
Please do take the time to read up on the issue, and feel free to leave any feedback here on the blog.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

more behind the scenes info: getting finances organized with help from a new book

It goes without saying I don't have enough cash in my account to open and fund Avid--I'll be applying for several loans, grants, and investments to add on to the savings I've already accumulated.  But before I could even think about acquiring a loan, I needed to get a better handle on my personal budget.

That's where this book comes in:  I Will Teach You to Be Rich by Ramit Sethi. I don't know that I should be recommending the book just yet, as I'm only done with a couple of chapters and have many pages to go.  But hey--I can at least wholeheartedly recommend the first two chapters, right? 

Let's get this out on the table right away:  I am not someone who's fixated on money or even particularly amazing at managing finances.  Yes, I pay off my credit card every month.  Yes, I have a job with a salary.  Yes, I am good at math. But no, I don't ever look more deeply to find out what my exact credit situation is and how this could affect my personal and professional projects. 

Until today.

I read this book and immediately felt called to action.  This is pretty special for me, as most books I read that are billed as self-help don't make me get up and move.  (I especially like reading about yoga, exercise, and meditation while lying in bed doing none of those three things.)  Something about Sethi's tone (which can be obnoxious but is, in general, encouraging and genuine) drives me to work.  He said I'd feel empowered if I started working on my finances one little bit at a time instead of having the big bulk of them looming over my head forever in one scary thunderhead.  So today I found out my credit score (good), composed a letter to the credit reporting agency asking that some erroneous information be fixed (which will help improve my score), paid off this month's credit card bill, set up some autopay bills (which helps keep your accounts active, something that's very important), and applied for another part-time job.  KAPOW!

My true inspiration for all this movement is my goal of opening Avid Bookshop as soon as possible, first as an online store, then as a book fair operation, and finally as a brick and mortar storefront. 

What have you done in recent months to jump-start your professional or personal life?

(Thanks to someone at Workman Publishing who was kind enough to send me a complimentary copy of this book the moment I mentioned on Twitter that I wanted to read it! Now THAT's service.)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Book Recommendation & Giveaway! ELI THE GOOD by Silas House

What were you like as a child?  I'd like to think I'm now pretty similar to the person I used to be, but of course I can't be sure--memories are constantly being recreated and there's no telling how many Whiny Baby Janet memories I've blocked out in favor of the ones wherein I'm being smart and charming.

As a kid, I spent hours of every day outside.  My sister, neighbors, and I had every square foot of our wooded neighborhood memorized by heart.  We knew all the secret passages, all the best climbing trees, all the best places to play in the creek without chancing a spill into the creek--because of course a stumble into the water would mean wet pants, a dead giveaway to our mothers that we were, once again, playing in the forbidden stream.  (Sorry, Mom--but I'm sure you knew we played back there, right?)

It seems that many older (e.g., non-kids) folks have been complaining over the years about how The Kids These Days don't spend enough time outside.  They're overbooked with piano lessons, baseball practice, church groups, and video games.  Maybe that's true for lots of kids, but I happen to know several awesome children who still explore their yards and play pretend.

At the SIBA trade show a few weeks back, I attended an author luncheon.  While I ate a lunch of boiled vegetables smothered in 2" of cheese, I listened to some formidable authors speak about their work and read excerpts of their writing.  Though all four authors' books sounded intriguing, I could tell immediately that Silas House's Eli the Good would mean something special to me.  House spoke of the ways in which he revered the environment around him as a child, of the ways in which he felt he communicated with the trees and nature in a way that most children do not these days.  This was the kind of kid I was, scrambling up the magnolia tree in our front yard so I could stare at the patterns in the bark and maybe even read my latest Sweet Valley Twins installment.  I thought nothing of spending hours on end outside, peeing in the woods when I needed to rather than having to go back indoors.

In Eli the Good, we meet a quiet, introspective boy (Eli) who's slowly waking up to the idea that the romanticized view he had of his life might not be entirely accurate.  His best friend is the vivacious Edie, a girl who lives next door and who's tougher than any of the boys in the neighborhood (but who, of course, has some soft spots, too).  Eli's marked with a fierce love for his family, even when he can't firmly grasp why his dad gets so violent and why his mom always sticks up for him, what his beloved Aunt Nell and protective older sister Josie are whispering about in the dark.  As the story moves along, we watch Eli grow more mature, opening himself up to some of the profund sadness, beauty, and pleasure of the world.  Like many gifted children, Eli seems hypersensitive to sensory experiences and emotional interactions with people, even when he's not quite able to verbalize what he's feeling.  Silas House is adept at his characterizations, especially as he shows us Eli growing less sheltered but more mature by the day.

In the midst of Eli's love affair with trees and the outdoors, we have the oft violent presence of his Vietnam War veteran father, who is struggling with post traumatic stress disorder and can't quite figure out how to get help--or if he wants to get help at all.  I learned a lot about the effects of war on family life by reading Eli the Good; in fact, the war itself is an ominous, forever-lurking character in the book, always waiting around the corner to pounce on an otherwise peaceful moment.  Eli lives with the pressure of dealing with the war every day, never knowing when it will thunder down and disrupt the peace he's trying so hard to cultivate.  I imagine that veterans and their kids might do well to read this book.

All that being said, Eli the Good is neither a scary book about an abused family nor an idyllic description of growing up a weird, woodsy kid.  Eli's age and intelligence are clear to the reader; he's never imbued with an overly mature point of view (as many "kids" in young adult literature tend to be, thereby giving away the fact that the writer is, in fact, old and wise, looking back on his or her life).

 Silas House speaks at SIBA trade show

I really encourage you to buy a copy of Eli the Good to read it for yourself.  I also encourage you to try to win an advanced readers copy of the book that I have to give away, courtesy of Candlewick Press.  To enter this contest, please use the comments field below to share what book reminds you of your childhood.  Is it a book you read as a child?  One you read as an adult that reminded you of your childhood, as Eli the Good did with me?  If you feel uncomfortable leaving your full name in the comments field, please just make an anonymous comment and then email me to let me know which entry was yours. 

Congratulations to Barbara, who's won a copy of the book! Barbara, please email me at avid[dot]athens[at]gmail[dot]com with your mailing address so I can get the book out to you.  

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

more press for Avid + social media tools

A few days ago, industry publication Shelf Awareness included an article on the SIBA (Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance) show and featured yours truly!  My mom and I had attended a panel on social media and bookselling, and it turned out that this blog (yes, the one you're reading now) and accompanying Twitter account were shown as examples of how to get word out about your business.

Longtime bookseller and writer Robert Gray was kind enough to contact me after the panel to ask me more about how I use social media tools to communicate with friends, other booksellers, and prospective customers.  If you have a couple of minutes, go ahead and read his October first article.


That's right, folks.  The Classic Center was kind enough to give me some tickets to this coming Thursday's Junie B. Jones event, and I have two up for grabs. 

To win, follow me on Twitter and re-Tweet (RT) my message about the Junie B. Jones giveaway!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Junie B. Jones next week (great kids' event in Athens)

The ever-busy folks at the Classic Center scored a really great show for next week:  staggeringly popular kids' book character Junie B. Jones will be dropping by for two shows on October 8. Shows are at 9:30 AM and 11:30 AM. 

Interested in scoring 15 or more tickets, or know of a school group that wants to attend?  Check out the Classic Center's group discounts and perks page, or email group sales coordinator Megan Mauldin.

Have fun!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

brief book review & GIVEAWAY: Rhodi Hawk's A TWISTED LADDER

This past weekend at SIBA, I listened to author Rhodi Hawk discuss her debut novel, A Twisted Ladder. Of the 40+ books I acquired at SIBA, this is the first one I picked up to read once I got home, and that's mainly because it sounded like nothing I'd read before.  Hawk's 540-page book is by turns mesmerizing and eerie and thought-provoking.  I suspect its haunting, lyrical questions about relationships, identity, and the power of the mind will linger.

Here's the description from the back of the book:

Psychologist Madeleine LeBlanc has spent her whole career trying to determine the cause of her father's schizophrenia. She always felt that if she could unravel the disease's origins, she could cure the man who left her and her brother, Marc, to practically raise themselves on the Louisiana Bayou.  When Marc takes his own life, Madeleine embarks on a shocking journey into her family's history--fraught with dark secrets, conjured demons, and a powerful relative who puts Madeleine's own life and property in peril. The only way she can save herself is to face the ghosts of the past, the dangers of the present, and the twisted ladder that links them all together.
The imagery in A Twisted Ladder conjures realistic snapshopts of the bayou, both antebellum and prohibition-era Louisiana, and post-Katrina New Orleans.  I'm not an Anne Rice fan, but I hear she's an influence on Hawk's writing (and other reviewers claim that Rice fans will be Hawk fans).

I recommend this book to fans of psychological thrillers, well-written scifi, magic realism, and Southern gothicism.  People who are interested in the human brain and its mysterious functioning will also have a great adventure with A Twisted Ladder.

Want to win an autographed copy of A Twisted Ladder?  In the comments field below, tell us about one book you chose to read because it sounded quite different from what you usually read or because you wanted to explore outside your reading boundaries.  How did you experience reading outside your comfort zone? Winner will be randomly chosen and notified Wednesday, October 7.   

UPDATE:  Thanks to the four folks who gave interesting and intricate answers to my question!  I used a random number generator to determine the winner.  Congratulations to Katie B.!  Katie, I'll contact you personally to get your mailing address.  Hope you enjoy this autographed copy of A Twisted Ladder.

(Thanks to Rhodi Hawk and her publishers for giving me a free copy at SIBA two weeks ago.)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

New books & new friends at SIBA

This past weekend I ventured to Greenville, SC for the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA) trade show.  Originally I'd planned on driving up super-early one morning only to return the same day--this would save me from spending hotel money but would also mean having to just pick one of several fun days to attend.  Turns out my fairy godmother (read:  very real biological mother) decided to come with me AND throw in dough for the hotel.  Score!

My mom's love of reading is probably the most predominant factor contributing to my complete and utter bookwormdom.  She has been a voracious reader since she was a young girl, and she holds degrees in English and book club management.  (So I'm inventing a second degree here--but hey, she's deserving of the title if anyone is.)  As I've changed my job plans frequently since graduating from college in 2002, it stands to reason that my parents might not be entirely ready to jump in full-force behind these bookstore plans.  But now that I've been planning Avid for two years and show no signs of slowing, I think they're beginning to understand that this is it.  This is for real.  So having my mom at SIBA with me was pretty great--she got to meet some of my real-life and virtual-life friends and got to pick up lots of ARCs (advanced reading copies), which is a thrill for any reader.

Janet, Mary Carol, & Marsha Wood

Robb Soriano
Among the real-life friends I got to reunite with were Marsha Wood and Robb Soriano from Ingram Book Company; Jef Blocker and Jeff McCord from Bound to Be Read Books; Charley Greiner from Baker & Taylor; and Laura and Anne Devault (sisters from Charlottesville, VA whom I met at the Paz & Associates training). 

There were several people whom I've emailed or tweeted with whose faces I'd never really seen. I'm happy to report that all were just as nice in person as they seem to be online. These folks included writers Laurel Snyder and Donny Seagraves as well as SIBA gurus Nicki Leone, Elton Porter,  and Wanda Jewell.  Of course it was lovely to finally meet online book industry folks in person: Rich Rennicks and Caroline Green of Malaprop's, Michael Hill (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), Bob Gray (Shelf Awareness), and more. 

 Robert Jackson Bennett & Rhodi Hawk

 Mary Carol, Janet, & author Batt Humphreys

A few weeks before SIBA, I looked through the day-to-day schedule of the show and recognized very few author names.  Attending two Book Expo America shows taught me a valuable lesson, though:  not having heard of many names on the program is not a bad thing at all.  In fact, it's a thrill to walk into a trade show on a Thursday with a program chock full of strangers' names and leave on Saturday having met (and acquired signed books of) many of those authors.  Now I'm thrilled to have a staggering new collection of books I can't wait to read.  Some books I'm most excited about include those of authors that appeared at two panels I attended:  the "Got Us Shaking in our Boots Author Panel" and the "Writing the South" panel.  I'm not a big thriller/suspense reader, but when I met the gracious and funny Robert Jackson Bennett at a mixer hosted by Fiction Addiction, I decided to support him by attending the panel he'd be taking part in.  And am I glad I did--it turns out I am interested in suspenseful, scary books (at least the ones presented by this collection of authors). 

Jenny and her mom, author Donny Seagraves

chef/author Ted Lee and author Laurel Snyder

Mary Carol with Jeff & Jeff of Bound to Be Read Books

Now if only I could freeze time and spend the next couple of months reading the 40+ books I acquired in the last few weeks.  Sigh.

What new (or new to you) books are you excited about reading?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Avid Bookshop survey 2

Avid survey #2 is up! Please take 3-5 minutes to let us know what YOUR dream bookstore is like. We'll do our best to make sure Avid is a place you'll love. (And please share with Athens friends via email or FB if you're so inclined.)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

learning a lot & making connections at booksellers school!

Hello and greetings from Fernandina Beach, where it's overcast and breezy and I can *just* see the Atlantic beyond the condos across the street.  We're two days into the Paz & Associates workshop (Opening a Bookstore:  The Business Essentials) and I'm completely energized and excited by all the work we students have accomplished and all the great ideas I've had (or have stolen from other people in class).


One thing I keep hearing over and over is that it's a good thing that it's taken me a little longer than originally anticipated to open the store.  In the last two years, I've accomplished a lot in the name of Avid Bookshop and feel so much less daunted by the idea of opening the store.  Now I actually know what I'm getting into (which, in all honesty, I didn't quite get or want to get in the early days of planning when I was more dreamy and less realistic).  Much of the advice given revolves around booksellers' need to create and foster real relationships within the community, the need to get feedback from customers and find out how exactly the community will support an independent bookstore.  I feel spoiled and glowy when I think about how excited many Athenians are to have Avid coming to town next year.  There are many more marketing opportunities and connections to be made, but, all in all, we've got a head start on a lot of things.  I'm happy to report that in Athens fits the description as an ideal town to open a new bookstore in (more details on that later).

What do you want to get from Avid's presence in Athens?  What sort of environment do you seek, and what sort of books would you like to buy there? A more formal, specific survey will be coming soon, but for now please feel free to toss around some ideas and let me know what you hope to find at Avid Bookshop.

Friday, September 11, 2009

You can buy ebooks from your indie!

Over the past several months, I've had many (many!) talks about the book industry with novices and experts alike.  When I tell people I'm opening an independent bookstore, even the most excited approach the topic of ebooks with hesitation.  "What about ebooks?" is the vague question I'm often met with, and until recently, I've had to tell people that I'm hoping to sell ebooks but am not quite sure how it'll work.

Now the groundwork for my ebook selling has been laid.  According to yesterday's article in the American Booksellers Association (ABA) newsletter, Bookselling This Week, many ABA member stores are already able to sell more than 220,000 ebooks directly from their websites.  What thrilling news for independent bookstores and their customers! 

By the time Avid opens next year, there will undoubtedly be more changes in the ebook industry, but I suspect that the ABA will keep up with them and ensure that member booksellers (like me) will be able to offer customers the chance to buy ebooks directly from their local bookshop.

(image of Sony eReader from

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Extra, extra, read all about it!

Katherine Shell at Athens's own Flagpole magazine (our wonderful alt-weekly) has written a piece about Avid Bookshop!  She discusses my soon-to-be bookstore as well as Jackson Street Books, a used shop that's been going strong for 25 years.  Read the article here and let me know what you think!

Book Recommendation: NEVER LET ME GO by Kazuo Ishiguro

Never Let Me Go Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I'm stunned.  This book seemed to slowly envelop me like fog--I began it quickly, really enjoying the story and going through it fast, thinking I liked the concept but didn't really feel invested in the characters.  I soon realized that even my non-book time was dipped in this feeling of foreboding and wonder. Ishiguro was masterful at pulling me in:  by the time I was halfway through, I looked up to realize how emotionally involved I was with the story.  As I got closer to the end, the discomfiting sense of dread grew increasingly powerful, leaving me with a heavy feeling on my chest.  I closed the book just minutes ago and can't think of immediately opening another novel as I usually do.  I've too much thinking to do.

Never Let Me Go  will stay with me for a long time.  It's disturbing and beautiful and thought-provoking.  I highly recommend it.

(For a synopsis of the book and to find a nearby indie bookstore carrying it, go here.)

View all my reviews >>

Booksellers School next week!

Let's face it:  I'm one of those people who loves school.  I love teachers and projects and homework and scribbling in those little blue exam books.  Shopping for new office supplies is one of my favorite activities, and my desk drawers, all full of pencils, pens, cutesy erasers, markers, crayons, and notebooks, show it.

I'm not planning on returning to traditional school, but who knows--maybe in 20 years I'll change my mind.  At this point, I have enough Avid-related homework to last me the next couple of decades.  Every day there's something I could be doing--talking to other booksellers, working on the business plan, attending conferences, learning about software, meeting with my real estate agent, talking with potential partners, creating marketing plans, you name it.

The newest project I'm undertaking?  Paz & Associates Booksellers School in Fernandina Beach, FL.   I've been acquainted with Mark Kaufman at the company for over a year now and have been really impressed with how open, helpful, and resourceful he is.  At first I decided to skip the five-day workshop ("Opening a Bookstore:  The Business Essentials"), opting instead to purchase Paz & Associate's book instead.  And while I've learned a lot in my three or four readings of this huge volume, I'm frequently told by fellow booksellers that nothing beats the in-person workshop.  I kept trying to peek underneath the surface, trying to see if there was any subtext to people's compliments, trying to figure out what the catch was--were all these booksellers really as enamored of Paz & Associates as they'd seemed?

Yep.  As of a few months ago, I still hadn't heard a negative thing about the company's training sessions, so I bit the bullet and signed up for the workshop.  And my nerdy student self could not be more excited.  Yes, some of the information we encounter during the workshop will be familiar to me already, but this is a positive thing:  I want to get to where lots of this stuff is second nature, so it stands to reason that I need to know it really, really well.

This student is excited about getting school supplies ready and heading down to Florida for the workshop.  There I'll meet other prospective booksellers (it's true that I'm not the only crazy one--lots of indie bookstores have been popping up over the last few years and they keep on comin'!) and spend five days in my own little book world.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Declaration of Indiebound

Some of you have heard of IndieBound before, but still more of you have not. IndieBound is a program launched in 2008 to help bring together independent businesses and those who love them: bookstores, readers, independent business alliances, locally-owned shops, etc., etc. It has been met with great success, and Avid Bookshop will be proud to post the Declaration of IndieBound as well as the well-crafted IndieBound signs in the store.

This is of particular interest to me, as I'm the newly-appointed secretary of the yet-to-be-named Buy Local Athens program that is being launched. I'm really interested in sustainability and shopping local first, so IndieBound is right up my alley.

Take a look at the website to see if you can find any favorite IndieBound shops near you! Joining IndieBound as an individual is a fun way to explore independent shops you might never have heard of before.

In the meantime, watch the video below to watch some well-known (at least in our world!) indie booksellers reading the Declaration of IndieBound aloud.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

a great podcast for lovers of literature & storytelling...

I wrote this for my personal blog six months ago but thought it'd be of particular interest to readers of the Avid blog.

Are there any English majors out there? Anyone who wanted to take more English classes but decided to pursue some other interests instead? You might want to keep reading to find out what podcast I'm going to recommend and why. I promise it's good--you should stay tuned.

As someone with an undergraduate degree in English and American literature, I can recall many, many hours of discussion-based literature classes during which pompous classmates dismissed others' theories and claimed their interpretations were the "right" ones. Luckily, far more prevalent are the memories of having one "aha!" moment after another during class discussions, grateful for others' insights that led me to understanding the story, poem, or essay more deeply. Despite my initial discomfort with revealing to others what I saw in the patterns and prose of fiction, I eventually opened up with the knowledge that almost any self-proclaimed theory about literature can be argued as long as you have some evidence and well-picked quotes to support it. Work may be created by the author with one particular goal in mind, but his readers will walk away from the piece with a variety of insights the author may not have intended--and each reader may have a completely unique interpretation.

Other than a few informal meetings of our local fledgling book club, I haven't much talked about literature in a critical sense since I graduated from NYU in 2002. I read voraciously and definitely reflect on my reading, but I don't go out of my way to push myself to understand a novel more deeply or try to see someone else's point of view. I read and reflect alone, then put the book back on the shelf. I hadn't realized I missed the push and pull of roundtable literature discussions, hadn't known that I'd missed the part of myself that could pull all-nighters writing twenty-page papers about my particular take on a poem.

Until now. On a whim, I downloaded a few episodes of The New Yorker's Fiction Podcast. I bundled up for a walk a couple weeks back and pressed play on my iPod and was whisked into a wonderful, beautiful story. I can't remember what episode I listened to that day, but I can remember smiling as I walked down the streets of Athens. I remember thinking to myself, "Wow! I feel as if I'm in one of my English classes with a really good teacher and no obnoxious, holier-than-thou classmates!" You see, the show not only features the stories themselves--it comes complete with a brief discussion before and after the story is read. One famous author picks any story he wants that has been published in The New Yorker. The guest author reads this story he admires and then discusses the ins and outs of the work with the magazine's fiction editor, Deborah Treisman, who has a really pleasant voice (unlike the voices I've stumbled across on several less-established podcasts). I did a quick Google search for her so I could link to her name and came across a really great article from The New York Times--click on her name and read it, if you'd like. Sounds like a cool woman in the NYT article.

And she sounds like a cool woman in her recorded life on this podcast. She isn't abrasive, judgmental, or dismissive when it comes to guest authors' interpretations of the work they choose to read. She retains the wide-eyed wonder (overused phrase--sorry--but it seems to ring true here) of a girl who's still in love with reading, who's still amazed at all the tricks of language and tone. Deborah and the guest author talk about whatever has moved them in the story, about the author's language and motivation, about his/her diction and use of imagery. I've listened to about ten of the episodes so far, and no one has annoyed me. The stories are always great, and the intimate conversation that follows really does shine light on the story.

Have you never ventured into literary criticism but wanted to know what intellectual bibliophiles had to say about so-called "good" fiction? Did you take one (or twenty) literature classes in college and then go cold turkey, not having another literary discussion after age 22? Are you an avid reader who thinks she immediately knows all there is to know about a piece of writing? Are you curious to know why I love this show so much? If you answered yes to any of those questions, I have an answer: this is the podcast for you.

Let me know what you think of it.

Friday, August 21, 2009

What do YOU love most about bookstores?

What are some of your favorite things about bookstores? What do independents have that chains don't have? What do non-indie chains have that indies lack? (Don't be afraid to talk about the glorious wide aisles at Barnes & Noble--though I may not shop there nowadays, I certainly have spent my weight in gold there!)

Do you have a very favorite bookshop? Any treasured bookstore, past or present, that felt like home? Please share your stories here and let us over here at Avid find out what you value most in a bookstore shopping experience. We'll be using your feedback to help create our store--it is, after all, for the neighborhood and community, and finding out what you want will help us make Avid Bookshop a success.

exciting things afoot!

Well, kids, there's a lot going on but I'm not at liberty to tell you much about it at this point. I feel like a little kid who's just been told a bunch of amazing secrets but was sworn to secrecy. Granted, the updates we've had over here at Avid HQ aren't earth-shattering, but when your lifelong dream is progressing even more excitingly and smoothly than you'd dreamt, you certainly are apt to jump up and down and want to give the scoop to every passerby.

BUT. But. I shall remain mum until I know for sure what's what and what the next step in the plan is. Rest assured I'll keep you updated as soon as it's proper for me to do so.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Avid's first official news story!

A couple of weeks ago, Karen Schechner of the American Booksellers Association (ABA) asked if she could write an article about Avid Bookshop for the ABA's weekly newsletter, Bookselling This Week. This was particularly exciting: though BTW often features stories on new booksellers, the article on the as-yet unopened indie bookstore is rare. Check out the article here and let me know what you think!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Avid Bookshop survey 1

Hello there! We're glad you found us. We have been planning our bookstore for many months and know you're in for a treat. Avid Bookshop will be a general interest bookstore in Athens, Georgia. We'll sell new and used books as well as an eclectic variety of cards, crafts, artwork, and gifts. A dedicated percentage of non-book items will be made by local artisans.

Avid will also host lots of community events, including author readings, children's story times, debates, cook-offs, etc. We plan on being a community center focused on literacy, learning, and discussion.

Filling out this one-page initial survey will help us know who out there might be ready and willing to lend us a hand to make this dream a reality.

Soon we'll be contacting you to ask what you want from Avid Bookshop, YOUR neighborhood bookstore.

Thanks so much for your help!