Book Nook Schnooks Unite!

Yes, I’ll admit it. I’m a book nook schnook.  I can definitely relate with The Shop Around the Corner, Meg Ryan’s little bookstore in “You’ve Got Mail.” There’s a coziness, a warmth that the large chains can’t give you. Don’t get me wrong. Stores like Barnes & Noble are still very nice; especially if you like fresh muffins with chocolate icing and cappuccino with your browsing, which I get often when I’m perusing the six, eight, I mean one – yes of course, just the ONE book that I’ve finally decided on.

me in a bookstore

The advent of Kindle and Amazon sounded the death knell for hundreds of small bookstores, and many large, nationally known chains. B. Dalton, Borders, Brentano’s, and Crown Books have all gone the way of the brontosaurus.

Still, there’s a place for the little neighborhood bookstores that have been able to stay open in these trying literary times, thanks to legions of Book Nook Schnooks, just like me, across America. Although not nearly as prolific as they once were, many of these smaller shops are alive and well, and even the big publishers are now paying more attention to them, helping them with pricing and marketing. Why? Here are a few reasons:

  • It’s part of the local community. It’s a meeting place for friends and neighborhood book clubs. It’s like a “Cheers” bar for book lovers. There is a growing “buy locally” movement that benefits the independent bookseller. For every $100 spent in a national chain bookstore, only $43 of it stays in the local community. Small bookstores? More than $73 stays in the neighborhood. There is also a sensory aspect to the small bookstores. When I’m in a Barnes & Noble, while resplendent and heavenly, it nonetheless smells of credit cards, name tags, industrial cleaner, and the aforementioned cappuccino (which really, they’re worth the trip if you ask me). In a small, locally owned bookshop, I smell Emily Brönte, Shakespeare, L.Frank Baum, Jack London, and Mary Shelley mixed with essence of earnestness. And not in a bad way.
  • Who wouldn’t love the small bookshop experience? Visiting one is like putting on a warm sweater on a chilly day, a cup of tea, a shelter from the storm. One never knows what will be found when turning the corner in an aisle and browsing. That’s a key word: It’s a word that is overused, yet underrated. Visiting a small store can be like visiting a vintage clothing store. “Wow!  I didn’t know I needed that, but I want it.” A pleasant surprise — in book form — lurks around every corner, just waiting to be found. Children sit on the floor, poring through picture books. Kindly Ms. Kelly is reading stories to a group of seniors.
  • The staff knows what they’re doing. They are keenly familiar with the store’s offerings. They don’t need a computer to see what’s in stock. But they know how to use one to order any book they may not have but a customer wants, and are probably just as excited as you are when it’s finally located. They love books more than you do, if that’s even possible. “Hey, if you liked X, you’re going to love Y!” Conversely, they’ll let you know if something you’re looking for isn’t your cup of tea. “No, actually, ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ isn’t a graphic designer handbook.”  You can count on what a small bookshop employee tells you. It’s like the library except you get to keep your newfound treasure.
  • The “intangibles.” There is an “atmosphere” to a small store. You may find a comfortable amount of clutter, pictures drawn by local schoolchildren, and potted plants. Walking into a small bookshop, you will feel the tension in your neck and shoulders disappear, your attitude improves, and time slow down.

Yes, I am a proud Book Nook Schnook. Do yourself a favor and visit your locally owned bookseller. It’ll be good for you – and good for the neighborhood. There are more than 1600 of them still around. When you do, stop by and say “Hello!” for me. And hey, if you want to buy me a book…even better!

story-time is the best time

Books on Tape

Have you guys heard of audiobooks yet? What a genius idea! They’re books that are read out loud by a narrator and recorded, so you can listen to the story instead of read it. Who knew?! (This is where you say, “Wendy, literally everyone knows about audiobooks.”)

Don’t worry, all. I’m not so far out of the technology loop that I’m just now learning that audiobooks exist. But, I will say that it wasn’t until just recently that I started to give them a shot. And you know what…I kinda like ‘em!

It’s not that I dislike good ol’ fashioned reading. Sometimes there’s nothing better than curling up with an engaging page turner, which is why it took me so long to come around to audiobooks. I figured, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. And to me, books ain’t broke. I know, I know, perhaps I should listen to a grammar book (as my mother’s voice rings in my head…”ain’t isn’t a word, dear”).

But for some reason I decided to give audiobooks a chance. (The honest reason? They were free.) YouTube and a few other sites have books that you can download onto your phone and, boom, you listen through your headphones. Easy peasy.

The crazy thing I’ve learned since this new trend started is that I sort of like the feeling of someone reading to me. It’s relaxing in a very childlike sort of way. I can hunker down, close my eyes, and do literally zero work to have a story fed into my brain. I wouldn’t call it “laziness,” but rather an alternative relaxation technique I’m embracing. Hey, stop rolling your eyes at my rationalizations! I thought long and hard on that one!

I’m currently listening to Agatha Christie’s collection. Her books are great. Right now, I’m on “Cards on the Table.” The one downside with the audiobook is that it keeps my mind from conjuring up what each character sounds like. I hear the narrator and that’s the voice of the character. Not the worst thing in the world, but still, I miss that little sliver of freedom (such as imagining David Suchet – the quintessential Poirot) reading gives me.

Sometimes I start playing a book before bed to wind down, but I end up falling asleep and in the morning, I have to go back to the beginning again. But that’s not going to stop me. It might take me longer. But it won’t stop me.

Which is why I think it’s safe to say that I’m hooked! Is it sad that I’d rather have someone read to me instead of reading for myself? Or is this me being “hip to the times” and embracing what technology has to offer? You decide. I have a book to listen to.

Shakespearean Swearing

I’m no professor of linguistics, but I do understand that language evolves over time. Pick up a copy of Canterbury Tales or Satyricon and try to tell me you understand every phrase in there. What I didn’t think too much about until recently is that this constant updating, re-purposing, and hijacking of words and phrases applies to cursing, too.

An article I read recently went into great detail about the role that profanity played in the Elizabethan Era. How it was aligned closely with divinity (the word “God” being used in many of the harsher swears of the time) and of course social status.

It’s a very informative read and I got a lot out of it, but the part that really stuck out to me was the very first paragraph which reads:

“In Henry IV, Part One, Shakespeare’s Hotspur turns on his prissy wife: “Heart! You swear like a comfit-maker’s wife. ‘Not you in good sooth!’ and ‘as true as I live!’” Instead Hotspur demanded a good mouth-filling oath. Something like his own “By God’s heart” was more suited to a lady of rank.”

Shakespeare, you know how to write a good story, I’ll give you that. And you’re phenomenal at coming up with new words. But, you’re one sexist bastard. I am more than aware that misogyny isn’t a new trend that just recently popped up, yet that passage by Shakespeare had me shaking my damn head. Leave it to a medieval patriarch to think that his wife needs to improve the language she uses and then offer up suggestions. He’s literally trying to put words in her mouth!

And I’ll admit, I had to look up just what the hell a comfit-maker was because while it sounded familiar, I couldn’t put my finger on it. Turns out that’s just a fancy way of saying candy maker. Back in Shakespeare’s times comfit-makers were the people who made little confections out of dried fruits and nuts that would then be used in desserts… nonpareils, sugar plums, candied almonds, hundreds and thousands (aka sprinkles or jimmies) and the like.

To be honest, being a comfit-maker’s wife doesn’t sound like a bad gig. Sure, if I were living back in the 1600s and was hitched to one of them, I probably wouldn’t be too well off financially. Or socially for that matter. I mean, how much can a bag of candied almonds bring in really? But still, I’d have all the candy I could eat. More importantly, I’d be able to curse however I wanted. Except if it got me sent to the stockades. You gotta watch out for the stockades.

 

stockades