The Book Rack will be changing its name and moving from its current location at 1801 S. College Ave to the 1881 firehouse at 232 Walnut St.
Old Firehouse Books, the business’s new name, will open April 10.
The new store will be 400 square feet larger than its current location, allowing for more books, book group meetings, author signings and community events.
The Book Rack has been in existence since 1980. The current owners, Susan Wilmer and Dick Sommerfeld, have been in the book business since 1983. Although it was initially a used-books-only store, in the past five years the store has sold new books as well. The store hosts a book club of its own and is active in the Be Local movement in Fort Collins.
Friday, March 27, 2009
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Here's an update on the new store: the heavy lifting is pretty much done. There was some carpet that some enterprising soul had glued, and glued, and glued, to the concrete. That is now gone. Walls are knocked out to make bigger entrances into each room. We are putting a short ramp between the second and third room, since each room is on a slightly different level- funny old building! I think we're mostly to the painting and finishing of walls and floor.
Friday, March 20, 2009
I am posting because today I had a chance to visit one of New York's many, many locally owned book stores: Saint Mark's Book Shop. I found it on accident online while searching a record store recommended to me by a friend, and thought it might be worth checking out based on the reviews alone. My parents, sister, and I made the long treak from the tip of Manhatten up through the city to find 3rd Street and St. Mark's with only our poor senses of direction and a small, inaccurate map to guide us. After a good two or three hour walk we were about ready to hail a cab and crash back at the hotel, but we pressed on an found it around the next corner. I was worried at first that the place would be a disappointment, and I had dragged my family along with me so I felt responsible for the turnout. We weren't disappointed, or at least my mother and I weren't. My father and sister spent most of the their time at Saint Mark's Book Shop in the art, humor, and fashion sections, but my mother and I got lost in the shelves immediately. The place reminded me a lot of our humble little Firehouse Book Store, but with a style only found in New York. For example, they included an entire section dedicated solely to Anarchist Literature and played a music best categorized as bizaare, to say the least. I limited myself to four books--
- Angels by Denis Johnson: His novel, Jesus' Son, is one of my favorites, and when the woman working there recommended him I knew it was time to pick up another of his books. As far as I can tell so far, it's about a woman traveling cross country on a bus with her baby daughter to escape a brutal relationship.
- Minor Characters by Joyce Johnson: I probably wouldn't have recognized her name had I not read the back of the book, but Johnson was with Jack Kerouac when his fame was just beginning to spark. This book is about the women of the beat generation who faded into the background of their male counterparts, yet lived just as interesting and progressive lives.
- Counter Culture Through the Ages by Ken Goffman: I'd heard of this book before and took the time to skim it in the store. It covers all of life's rebels "from Abraham to Acid House" covering everything from the Spain's conquests to Bill Gates.
- Child of God by McCarthy: This one was recommended to me by a close friend who loved The Road as much as I did. This one sticks with McCarthy's less-than-cheerful outlook and is about a man accused of rape and murder of young women. I'll try to take this one in small doses.
I know how absurd this is-- to be buying books in New York that I could have gotten an employee discount on if I ordered them at work, but I just couldn't resist. I was reminded by a customer who once told me that they are more a fan of buying books than reading them, and I fear that I'm headed on this same dark, dirt poor path. I've started all of them already, in addition to the two I brought along for the plane, and I'm not disappointed.
The woman working there seemed ecstatic that I would ask her opinion on what to read, and would pop up throughout my visit from behind shelves with some other "must-read" from her own collection. Her advice was worth having.
So now these four books are on their way home to sit on my shelf with the others that are half read and itching to be finished. I need more hours in the day. I'm sure you all can relate.
The book is the autobiography of John Elder Robinson, who growing up had difficulty interacting with others. He struggled because he was born with Asperger’s syndrome before it was even recognized as a mild form of autism. As a child he was called anything from psycho to sociopath, because of his inability to recognize social signals and therefore respond appropriately.
Beyond his struggles with Asperger’s, John has some amazing stories that include his frequent childhood pranks (some on his little brother Augusten Burroughs) to touring with the band KISS as a teenager.
I liked this book because of the illuminating picture John provides on how he understands life. This is a great book for fans of anything by Temple Grandin or anyone looking to gain a bit of insight into someone else’s world.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
2. The idea doesn't have to be big. It just has to be yours.
The sovereignty you have over your work will inspire far more people than the actual content ever will.
We all spend a lot of time being impressed by folk we've never met. Somebody featured in the media who's got a big company, a big product, a big movie, a big bestseller. Whatever.
And we spend even more time trying unsuccessfully to keep up with them. Trying to start up our own companies, our own products, our own film projects, books and whatnot.
I'm as guilty as anyone. I tried lots of different things over the years, trying desperately to pry my career out of the jaws of mediocrity. Some to do with business, some to do with art etc.
One evening, after one false start too many, I just gave up. Sitting at a bar, feeling a bit burned out by work and life in general, I just started drawing on the back of business cards for no reason. I didn't really need a reason. I just did it because it was there, because it amused me in a kind of random, arbitrary way.
Of course it was stupid. Of course it was uncommercial. Of course it wasn't going to go anywhere. Of course it was a complete and utter waste of time. But in retrospect, it was this built-in futility that gave it its edge. Because it was the exact opposite of all the "Big Plans" my peers and I were used to making. It was so liberating not to have to be thinking about all that, for a change.
It was so liberating to be doing something that didn't have to impress anybody, for a change.
It was so liberating to be doing something that didn't have to have some sort of commercial angle, for a change.
It was so liberating to have something that belonged just to me and no one else, for a change.
It was so liberating to feel complete sovereignty, for a change. To feel complete freedom, for a change.
And of course, it was then, and only then, that the outside world started paying attention.
The sovereignty you have over your work will inspire far more people than the actual content ever will. How your own sovereignty inspires other people to find their own sovereignty, their own sense of freedom and possibility, will give the work far more power than the work's objective merits ever will.
Your idea doesn't have to be big. It just has to be yours alone. The more the idea is yours alone, the more freedom you have to do something really amazing.
The more amazing, the more people will click with your idea. The more people click with your idea, the more this little thing of yours will snowball into a big thing.
That's what doodling on business cards taught me.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Sunday, March 8, 2009
Saturday, March 7, 2009
In July of 2006, I lost my only sibling to cancer. I felt like I was the only person on earth who had ever lost a brother - and I knew I was the only one on earth who had ever lost my brother. Over the next several months, I entered a mode of super-processing, where I turned inward and absorbed other people's experiences through books. Now, almost three years later, I am frustrated that I haven't been reading as much but have realized that it means I am much more present for the life outside my head, rather than the one inside.
As a society, we tend not to talk openly about the process of grieving, despite the fact that it is something everyone will experience eventually. In the spirit of bucking normal societal trends (hey, I work at an independent bookstore), I am dedicating this posting to books about death, dying, grief, and loss.
The only book I found addressing my specific loss was Surviving the Death of a Sibling: Living through Grief When an Adult Brother or Sister Dies by T.J. Wray (ISBN 9780609809808) . Using Kubler-Ross' model of the five stages of grief as a backbone, Wray shares her own grief experience and includes excerpts from others who lost a sibling to provide advice for moving through grief. I devoured the book in two days shortly after Kaleb's death but found that when I returned to it months later that it was more painful (but also more useful) because I had moved beyond "shock" and had started to experience the later stages of grief. There is a surprising lack of understanding for those of us who have experienced that loss and this book made me feel like someone (rather, lots of someones) understood the glacial tip of the iceberg of what it means to lose a sibling.
I also read Elisabeth Kubler-Ross' Tunnel and the Light: Essential Insights on Living and Dying (ISBN 9781569246900). Her many experiences in working with the dying provided me understanding of what my brother may have been going through in the couple of months preceding his death. Her writing style is engaging, her views on death and dying positive and inspiring, and I consider this a must-read for anyone who is alive and will eventually die.
Being a spiritual but non-religious person, I found Grieving Mindfully: A Compassionate and Spiritual Guide to Coping with Loss by Sameet Kumar (ISBN: 9781572244016) to be most helpful. The central theme in this book is that the grief journey is similar to a spiral staircase, moving upward from a central point rather than in a straight line. It does not negate the 5-stages of grief but rather can be used in tandem. It especially helped me make sense of the impact of anniversaries less obvious than just birth and death. It includes suggestions for meditation, writing prompts, and proposes that the best way to survive grief is to move gracefully through it rather than past it.
What are some books that helped you through a difficult time? Please feel free to post comments, offer suggestions, or simply share your stories. We're looking forward to hearing from you!
Friday, March 6, 2009
-Alexandra Smith, Book Rack/Old Firehouse Books customer since 2008