Indie Picks: July 2015

From the moment you enter Village Books in Bellingham, WA, you feel their love of books. They very carefully curate their selections, and understand the wants and needs of their community. They are such booklovers, that when co-owner Chuck Robinson recently set off on an epic cross-country bicycle journey, he specially rigged his helmet to listen to audiobooks. Unfortunately, his homemade system couldn’t beat out the roar of the wind whipping by, but he reports that he’s looking forward to listening to his selection of books from Libro.fm on his drive back. We’re excited to follow his journey, and even more excited that indie stores like Village Books are not just surviving, they are thriving.

So what better choice than Village Books to give us advice on what books to listen to this month? Here’s what booksellers Hayden, Hana, and Claire recommend.


village-books-cover
Village Books

Bellingham, WA

Warm-Bodies

Warm Bodies

By Isaac Marion

This is my favorite book! Marion has crafted a blatantly hopeful examination of what it is to be human and how we connect with one another using the most gruesome setting and narrator. Our undead hero R is dissatisfied with his existence as a zombie until he makes the unusual decision to save Julie and the two form an unlikely bond. Through this bond R explores love, family, friendship, the struggle to survive, and all the little things that makes life worth living. A funny, poetic, and powerful testament to storytelling.

Hayden


Bossypants

Bossypants

By Tina Fey

Tina Fey is just the sort of woman you want to run off into the sunset with (and by that I mean sit on the couch in sweatpants, eating cheese puffs, and watching Friends reruns with). Her hilarity coupled with her honestly about growing up, being successful, and trying to be an adult makes for a humorous page turner you’ll want to read again.

Hayden


An-Object-of-Beauty

An Object of Beauty

By Steve Martin

One of the things that I love about reading Steve Martin’s books is that in my head, as I’m reading, I hear his voice telling the story. The other, is how incredibly smart the writing is. This one tackles the world of high art, complete with color reproductions throughout. It’s a great story, very imaginative and smoothly written. How could it not be? It’s Steve Martin, after all.

Claire


Glory-OBriens-History-of-the-Future

Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future

By A. S. King

What if you could see snippets of the future? If you started piecing together horrific events that have yet to happen? Events like women’s rights being obliterated, or another civil war. All of this Glory sees when she makes eye contact with someone. She sees their descendents, and puts together a horrific history of the future. But is the future fixed? Or does she even have a place in it at all?

Hana


Bloomability

Bloomability

By Sharon Creech

Oh my goodness, I think every preteen should read at least one book by Sharon Creech. She has a wonderful way of portraying growing up and how hard it can be simply to figure out who you are, let alone how to be comfortable with that knowledge. Her book Bloomability is particularly close to my heart. It explores the importance of travel, of seeing and experiencing beyond your own borders, and taking advantage of all the “bloomabilities” (or possibilities, if you will) life offers you, no matter how disguised they may be. Another Creech favorite of mine is titled Ruby Holler.

Hana


Do you have a favorite local indie bookstore? Let us know in the comments.

To Kill a Mockingbird

The most anticipated book of the year—possibly of the decade—is Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman, a follow-up to To Kill a Mockingbird. This means that now is the perfect time to revisit Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning masterwork.

Whether you only vaguely recall the classic from ninth-grade English class, or you count Atticus Finch as one of the best fictional characters in literature, let’s revisit it. To Kill a Mockingbird follows our small heroine, Scout Finch, as she wakes up to the world around her in 1930s Alabama. Together with her brother, Jem, and friend, Dill, Scout investigates the mysterious recluse Boo Radley next door. Meanwhile, Scout’s father, Atticus, defends an innocent black man who is accused of rape. Lee expertly interweaves themes of prejudice and acceptance throughout the story, treating all of the characters as real people with their own sets of complicated motives and morals. It is for these reasons that To Kill a Mockingbird has become such a classic and people often laud Lee as one of the greatest writers of all time.

Listening to To Kill a Mockingbird on audio feels like you are right there with Scout as she recalls her childhood. Sissy Spacek narrates in an endearing Alabama accent, bringing life to Scout Finch’s precocious personality and Southern cadences. Just listen to the beginning as Scout talks about the background of her town and family.


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Indie Picks: May 2015

Independent booksellers are the best book curators out there, so each month we’re going to highlight what our friends at indie bookstores are reading (and listening to). Here’s what Andrea, Hannah, Kirstyn, Lily, and Matt from McLean & Eakin Booksellers are recommending.


mclean-eakin

McLean & Eakin Booksellers

Petoskey, Michigan

American-Gods

American Gods

By Neil Gaiman

Considered by many to be the ultimate masterpiece from a master of storytelling, and winner of the Hugo, Nebula, Locus and Bram Stoker Awards, American Gods is a powerful piece of fantasy that will appeal to lovers of the genre and skeptics alike. Shadow has been released from prison just after the death of his beloved wife. Out of the blue, he is approached by a stranger calling himself Mr. Wednesday, who offers him a job. With nothing to lose, Shadow takes it and finds himself thrown into the center of a conflict for the very soul of America. You see, the old gods are not dead, they have merely taken on new forms and identities as their former worshippers moved across the Atlantic. They live here, in America and they, the old gods of Egypt, Russia, Scandinavia, Africa, the British Isles and everywhere else that has yielded immigrants to the New World, are fighting for everything they have created against the new gods of technology and business that have arisen on the new soil. What could, in the hands of a less skilled writer, have become an overdramatic and overwritten fantasy, is, in Gaiman’s hands, a dark and gripping tale that cuts to the heart of what it is to be human.

Hannah


Freakonomics

Freakonomics

By Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner

Everyone lies. Realtors lie to sell property faster. Holding out to sell your home for an extra $10,000 only means $150 for the realtor, so waiting for a better price isn’t always the priority they tell you it is. Our law enforcement lie to create or hide “crises” when it serves them to do so. In the run up to the Atlanta Olympics, law enforcement grossly under reported violent crime to increase their chances of winning the Olympic bid. They continue to do so; the Atlanta police department “lost” more than 22,000 reports in 2002 alone! But guess what? There is one thing that doesn’t lie: it’s the numbers Steven D. Levitt, an economist with the University of Chicago, uses the numbers to give greater definition to what many of us see as a very grey world. He is not the kind of economist who is interested in the trade deficit or inflation rates. No, he wants to know if drug dealers make so much why do many still live at home or if naming your child “Loser” will ruin his/her life. Levitt asks these questions and many more in his book, Freakonomics and lets the numbers do the answering. This is the kind of book that will drive your friends and family crazy because you won’t be able to shut up about it.

Matt


Seriously-Im-Kidding

Seriously . . . I’m Kidding

By Ellen DeGeneres

Ellen is one of those people that just make me laugh, no matter what it is that she says. Reading her book was no different. I had to stop myself from laughing out loud in public places. This is just a cute, goofy book, that is a great way to pass time if you enjoy her humor. Ellen seems to be telling parts of her story, some of which I still do not know if they are true. The book is compiled from short journals, stories, and other forms of her writing, that don’t always make since, but still entertain. If you are looking for a quick, entertaining book, you need to pick this one up!

Andrea


My-Story

My Story

By Elizabeth Smart & Chris Stewart

I know what you’re thinking. How could I ever be so in love with a memoir written by a girl who was abducted from her bedroom at knife-point. I do not have an answer for you. However, I cannot remember a book that I got lost in as much as Elizabeth Smart’s My Story. Don’t get me wrong, there are certainly some points in the book that made me cringe and wonder how on earth Elizabeth was able to pen what many of us would think was unimaginable. I think that’s what made me fall so in love with this book. Elizabeth is smart and leaves no rock unturned as she recounts the events she was forced to experience and how she survived them. Elizabeth is truly one of my heroes after learning of her strength and courage to remain optimistic in the darkest of times. It may have taken her 10 years to write, but I am so glad that she didn’t allow anybody else to tell her story. Elizabeth is truly and inspiration and we could all use even a little bit of her strength and courage.

Kirstyn


Divergent

Divergent

By Veronica Roth

In a world where everyone must fit themselves into one of five factions, choices about how to live your life are extremely limited. Sixteen-year-old Beatrice Prior has more choices than most: when she takes the compulsory test that is supposed to reveal a sixteen-year-old’s suitability for a certain faction, her results are “inconclusive”. She shows equal ability for membership in Abnegation, the selfless faction of her birth; Dauntless, the courageous faction that has always fascinated her; and Erudite, the so-called “genius” faction that she despises. In a nutshell, she is Divergent. When Beatrice chooses a faction, Dauntless, the hard part is supposed to be over. But the truth is far from it. If Beatrice, now calling herself Tris, wants to be Dauntless, she must rank in the top ten of her group of initiates, some of whom have been preparing for this all of their lives. The rankings are decided by violent fights, random acts of daring and idiocy, excruciatingly painful tests that delve into the fabric of your fears, and frankly, whether or not those in charge despise you. In the weeks that follow her choice, Tris must remake herself in the image of the Dauntless, figure out a complicated relationship with an enigmatic instructor named Four, and most of all, watch her back: Divergence isn’t safe, and there are people who want her dead. Divergent is a fascinating read, and is entirely un-put-downable. The realistic and utterly human characters of Tris, Four, and their friends and family, as well as their intriguing world, draw in you into the story and keep you there. It is a fresh and show-stopping addition to the ranks of teen literature, and is sure to delight anyone who is tired of the same-old, same-old.

Lily


What are you reading and listening to right now? Let us know in the comment section. To get more recommendations and audiobook news delivered to your inbox, sign up for the Libro.fm newsletter.

Another Reason to Love James Patterson

Readers love James Patterson for his thrilling plotlines, clever characters, and seemingly never-ending drive that allows him to publish several best sellers each year. His latest in the vast Alex Cross series, Hope to Die, took fans on a riveting journey, as Cross battled criminal masterminds, undergoing a series of trials and tribulations, in order to save his family. In the YA Maximum Ride series, readers engrossed themselves in the avian-human hybrid world of the flock, which saved the world, among other things. Normal everyday issues of marriage, family, and friendship collide with gritty heroism and fast-paced mystery and in his Women’s Murder Club.

But I love him for what he’s done for independent bookstores.

Back in 2013, Patterson took out full-page ads in The New York Times Book Review, Publisher’s Weekly, and Kirkus, asking readers to consider why, given the bank and auto-industry bailouts, the government wouldn’t bail out the book industry.

Patterson-Ad

In 2014, Patterson put his money where his mouth is. Not waiting for a helping hand from the government, Patterson announced that over the course of the year, he would be giving $1 million of his own money to independent bookstores across the country. All stores had to do was apply and note what they would use the money for.

The bookstores must be viable bookstores with a children’s section (Patterson is also the man behind readkiddoread.com), so sorry, your garage sale doesn’t count. But other than that, stores could decide how to spend the money.

Before cofounding Libro.FM, I worked as an independent publisher for many years. Indie publishing is in my blood, and as a publisher, I have long relied on independent bookstores to place books like Brain Rules into eager hands. But I also understand the sacrifices that go into owning an independent bookstore. Without a big operating budget, upgrades, new programs, or even raises get put off year after year.

None of the grants that James Patterson gave out will fix the publishing industry or save a bookstore from shutting its doors permanently (as I said, the stores must be viable to begin with). But they will have an impact on each store, and that’s important.

Libro.fm supports indie stores around the world. Check out our indie bookseller recommendations, including staff picks from Third Place Books (Seattle), Green Apple Books (San Francisco), and Book Passage (San Francisco). As it happens, all three of those stores received money from Patterson. Book Passage was able to buy a bookmobile, that will enable them to travel to more book fairs. Green Apple renovated their floors.

Kevin Ryan and Pete Mulvihill show off the new floor at Green Apple Books, courtesy of a Patterson grant.
Kevin Ryan and Pete Mulvihill show off the new floor at Green Apple Books, courtesy of a Patterson grant.

This year, James Patterson intends to keep supporting independent bookstores. (To recommend a store, visit his page here).

My dream is that we will live in a culture where extra funds aren’t needed to help bookstores distribute great books, curate reading programs, or even keep their roofs up. But I am also a businessman and a pragmatist, so, at least for now, I applaud James Patterson, and keep encouraging my friends and family to shop at their local independent bookstores.

Watch James Patterson discuss his endeavors, along with his romance novel First Love, below.


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