Wednesday, June 24, 2009

July Events at Old Firehouse Books!!

Hello there, ever faithful followers! We have a stupendously exciting and jam packed month ahead of us! Throughout July we will be hosting a number of events, signings and activities.

To kick off the month, we'll be having a Grand Opening starting July 4th running through July 11th. That will take place at our store the whole week. 232 Walnut St.
The entire week will be packed with events to celebrate our Grand Opening! Listed Below are all the great things to see and do here this week! Thanks to all of you for your support of your downtown local bookstore!

Event: Mary Anne Winkowski signs When Ghosts Speak
Date: July 5
Time: 12 pm
Place: Old Firehouse Books
Meet Mary Ann Winkowski, paranormal investigator. Over the course of work a paranormal investigator, Mary Ann's reputation has spread. She is a consultant to the CBS hit television show Ghost Whisperer, has appeared on numerous TV and radio news programs, and spoken at countless lectures.

Event: Screening of Paperback Dreams
Date: July 6
Time: 6:00 pm
Place, Here!

PAPERBACK DREAMS is the story of two landmark independent bookstores and their struggle to survive. The film follows Andy Ross, owner of Cody's Books, and Clark Kepler, owner of Kepler's Books, over the course of two tumultuous years in the book business. Join us to see this wonderful film and have a chat about the importance of independent bookstores.

Event: Old Town Writers Group gets "HOT AND BOTHERED"!
Date: July 7
Time: 5:30 - 7 pm
Place: Here!

Watch Laura Resau and her writers group get "hot and bothered" with funny, racy readings! Just the thing to take your mind off the heat.

Event: Downtown Days Sidewalk Sale
Dates: July 9 - July 11
Place: Old Firehouse Books (a.k.a. Here!)

Some of our hottest books have been discounted for the sidewalk sale and our Grand Opening

Though the first half of July will definitely be busiest, we will also have a few things happening during the second half.

Event: Open Book Group
Date: July 16
Time: 6:30 pm
Place: Here!

This month, our book group will be choosing its next selections. Bring two or three ideas for a book you'd like to discuss, or just come to vote on the selections of our group members. New people are always welcome!

Event: Brown Bag Lunch signing with Laura Pritchett
Date: July 21
Time: 12 pm
Place: Here!

Bring your lunch and meet Laura Pritchett, a Fort Collins author. Laura will be signing and discussing Going Green: True Tales from Gleaners, Scavengers, and Dumpster Divers. In a time where recycling is becoming ever more important for both financial and environmental reasons, this book brims with practical and creative new ways to go green.

Monday, June 22, 2009


Photo Courtesy of Funnimetric

Underwater Hockey. Pop Rocks and Pepsi. Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney.

Each are examples of how two already entertaining or enjoyable things are made even more amusing by putting them together.

And now to be added to that list: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

"Co-authored" by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is the classic Regency Era tale of Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy, only now it occurs in an England plagued by the Undead and protected by citizens with sharpened martial arts skills.

As to be expected, hilarity ensues.

Grahame-Smith's additions fit surprisingly well with the original story though--Elizabeth and Darcy do still end up together albeit after some intense battles with the "sorry stricken"--and apart from some small overlooked grammatical errors, the novel is a funny, satisfying read.

Fans of World War Z and The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks and Breathers by S.G. Browne will especially appreciate it.

Really, anyone who has ever watched Dawn, Day or Shaun of the Dead will appreciate it.

So it the spirit moves you (pun intended?), pick up a copy in the store today!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

In Defense of Food

Our open book club just finished reading In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan. First a little bit about our book club, it's an open group that meets here in the store. Meaning that anyone can come and join the discussion anytime. Whether it's just once because you happen to love our book for that month or it becomes a regular thing because you love us- it doesn't matter to us!! We meet on the third Thursday of every month at 6:30. Sometimes there are even snacks! And all book selections for the current month are 20 % off!

And now to talk about the book we just finished. I loved it. I feel like buying a stack of the books so that I can just hand them out to strangers. That could be weird, and expensive, so don't worry, I won't do it! The quick sum up of the book is found right in the front of it, Eat Food, Not too Much, Mostly Plants. Michael Pollan does a great job researching food, it's origins and where we are today with ingredients, additives and all that. His basic approach is that nutritionalism (is that his word or a real one?) is kind of a crap shoot. Yes, we can identify things that are good for us or things that our bodies need but half the time we don't know why. Or those vitamins or minerals are important in the plant they originally came from and when seperated they don't work the same in our bodies. Very interesting. He really focuses on synergy and how important it really is.
One thing I really liked about this book and the thing that hit home is the time spent on our food. He writes about how in the cultures that we are constantly perplexed by their thinness and yet they eat food we avoid like the plague in all of our diets (France, Italy, Greece) they take time with their food. They spend time cooking it, eating it and even the clean up of it. It's less processed and more real ingrediants. His point with the idea of spending time with our food gives us an appreciation for where it comes from, how it was raised or grown, what it tastes like, and gives us time (hopefully) with the people in our lives. And that taking this time helps us eat less (it takes about 20 minutes for our brain to realize we are full) and eat healthier (it tastes lots better). One thing about junk food, processed food and all other oddities is that they really taste best when consumed quickly. Imagine lingering ( and I am talking taking those 20 minutes!) over a burger from McDonald's... Not a good idea. Anyways, this concept hit home for me because I eat so fast and usually alone. And I thought I ate healthily enough til this book. Eating "real" food (less than 5 ingredients, food your great grandparents would recognize, no processed) is kind of hard! I have to re-evaluate my grocery shopping!

Our book club's discussions for this book were quite lively and needed none of the sometimes needed prompts and discussion questions. Basically we just asked what eveyone thought and it took off from there! Please feel free to come to our next meeting where we are voting on our next installment of books to be read. If you feel so inclined bring 3 titles of books that you think would be great to read in a book club. If you don't feel so inclined... just bring yourself and come and get to know us! Third Thursday of the month!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Bikes, Books, and Musings

Meet my bike.

My husband gave me the best birthday gift last year: bike panniers. My best friend had helped me fix up my bike earlier in the summer but I wasn't riding much because of the sweaty backpack situation that made commuting to work...well...gross. With my bike panniers, I can easily commute to my summer teaching gig with my laptop, binders, and packed lunch; from the bookstore loaded with books; to the library with books to return (are you detecting a theme)? I have no interest in mountain biking (my brother was a nearly-pro-class racer) or in going on meandering bike rides for fun. For me, it's about having a destination and slowly shaving off the time it takes to get there while maintaining an only slightly-sweaty exterior. I consider myself strictly a bike commuter, albeit a dedicated one with a slight competitive edge. I estimated that since May, I have clocked almost 200 miles with my 2-wheeled friend and plan to rack up many more. (I only know my mileage because I bought myself a $15 odometer as a reward for so much biking.)

In the spirit of bike commuting, the City of Fort Collins is sponsoring Bike Week from June 22 - 28. If you need extra inspiration, local businesses are sponsoring FREE BREAKFAST! at 29 different locations throughout Fort Collins. There are 3 locations convenient to my biking route - and yes, I have considered stopping at all 3. Please check out the link below for specific locations:

If you're not sure how to get somewhere, please follow this link to a wonderful bike map of Fort Collins:

Now to the books! We have a couple of notable books in the store related to biking.

Boneshaker: A Bicycling Almanac is a small tome put out by Wolverine Farms Publishing ( and claims to be the Practical Bicyclist's Handbook. I found the "Basic Evasive Maneuvers" (sudden stop, rock dodge, and quick turn) chapter particularly helpful. It details some methods to practice for situations requiring quick thinking (car pulling out, squirrel, errant merger) to save being hit or thrown off the bike.

For those of you unlike myself who want to pursue mountain biking, we also have Mountain Bike America: Colorado (we even have a used copy!). It contains descriptions of short and long bike rides, directions to the trailhead, multi-day trips, and local restaurants and accomodations. If I were interested in such debauchery, this is the book I would get.

I will leave you with the eternal words of Queen: Get on your bike and ride!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

IndieBound Declaration

"When in the course of humanevents it becomes necessary for individuals to denounce the corporate bands which threaten to homogenize our cities and our souls, we must celebrate the powers that make us unique and declare the causes which compel us to remain independant.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all stores are not created equal, that some are endowed by their owners, their staff, and their communities with certain incomparable heights, that among these are Personality, Purpose and Passion. The history of the present indies is a history of experiences and excitement, which we will continue to establish as we set our sights on a more unconstrained state. To prove this, let's bring each other along and submit our own experiences to an unchained world.

We, therefore, the Kindred Spirits of IndieBound, in the name of our convictions, do publish and declare that these united minds are, and darn well ought ot be, Free Thinkers and Independant Souls. That we are linked by the passions that differentiate us. That we seek out soul mates to share our excitement. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the strength of our identities, we respectively and mutually pledge to lead the way as we declare that we are IndieBound!!"

This Declaration is part of what makes our bookstore so special. We here at Old Firehouse Books firmly believe this declaration is true. We want to stand tall and pledge our support of the local movement. The support of local businesses and companies helps us to not be part of the homogenization of American cities, it also keeps our local economy strong. Let's strive to be different in everything we do. Let us support the small business owners who go out of their way to provide customer support, who find unique and wonderful things to sell and do, who will take time to talk and give opinions on what they know and love. Let us help keep our town awesome and full of variety.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Thanks AP World History Readers!

I wanted to send a quick shout-out to the AP World History Readers at CSU this past week. First, thanks for spending hours and days in front of AP tests and for teaching the classes in the first place. Second, (and the real reason for the post) we have enjoyed fulfilling your book needs while you're in town. We sincerely appreciate your business and are thrilled that you chose to support our independent bookstore. Your badges, bleary eyes, friendly faces, and interesting book requests gave you away - you truly embody the Eat. Sleep. Read concept and for that we applaud you. :) Have a safe trip home!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Father's Day

Yes father’s day is still 12 days away, but when you live in another state, and your birthday gift to him was pitiful (i.e. non-existent) planning ahead is essential. A book is a good gift and easy to mail so I decided I would discover the perfect book to send him. I would not pigeon hole my father with a gift concerning golf, beer or yet another unused tie. I wanted to get a book that he would find interesting, worthy of reading yet but not be epic in length. He loved the last book I got him which was “Q & A” by Vikas Swarup. The book was the basis of the movie Slumdog Millionaire and consequently caused him to be the only person I know that did not like the movie. Optimistically I began to go through my endless mental list of possibilities.

The Soloist by Steve Lopez?
An unusual story that is both heartfelt and true. However another book made into a movie can only result in another rant from my dad about Hollywood ruining a perfectly good story.

Obama’s Blackberry by Kasper Hauser?
A book filled with such gems as…
Text Message from:
Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State

HBomb: r u still mad about the primary?

BarackO: no, why?

HBomb: why am i flying coach class to zimbabwe?

BarackO: have fun eating pretzels and watching “marley and me” J

As entertaining as this book is, it lacks complete sentences and often complete words so I don’t know if my dad would be able to read it.

Boomsday by Christopher Buckley?
A funny political satire by the author of, “Thank You for Smoking.” Then again, maybe I shouldn’t get a darkly humorous book about what to do with aging baby boomers to a man over 60.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith?
It may sound like a ridiculous suggestion for my father, but NPR interviewed the author and it has been getting good reviews. On the other hand the cover depicting Elizabeth Bennet’s blood red eyes and torn face is sure to make my dad never open the book.

This went on for awhile. For every good book I thought of I could also think of a flaw that would make the book a horrible gift for my father. I often make book suggestions to customers, many who I have only known for less than 5 minutes. Shouldn’t it be easier to pick out a book for a person I lived with for eighteen years? Apparently not. In the end I decided on “White Tiger” by Adiga Aravind. For all I thought through the flaws of the other books, I picked this book for three reasons;

1. It’s a bestseller with good reviews
2. It is the debut novel of an Indian author (like Q & A)
3. A vague feeling of it being the right book (through osmosis because I have not yet read the book)

I’ll have to wait and see if my dad likes it. As arbitrary as my reasons for picking this book were, I think keeping it simple is best. And my dad can’t say I didn’t put thought into his gift!

We might not be Walmart, but there are savings here!

So I promised last week that I'd post on the ways that we try to save our customers money at Old Firehouse Books. We've got a lot going on with that, actually.
1. You can trade books in! We've tried to simplify this system, but it still sometimes confuses people. If we can take your books, we give you half of what the book will sell for in the store. You can use your credit to take half off the price of used books and 10% off of new books. For more detail, you can visit our website. One project of mine is to refine and clarify our trade policy.
2. You can get 20% off of your book club books if you register your selections with us. We love to know what our book clubs are reading!
3. Every time you spend money with us (if you have an account), you earn money back. After you spend $100, you get $5 back to use on whatever you'd like in the store. You keep getting money back as long as you keep shopping here!
4. Students with ID get 10% off of new books too.
5. Go to our website and look up "Ways to Save." You can print off a coupon for 20% off a new book or $2 off a used book.
6. If you buy a Be Local coupon book, we've got coupons in there too.
7. Students who need IB books or AP books get 15% off of those books.

We are planning on starting teacher discounts, too. So we have a pretty good list of ways to save. We can't stack the discounts, because we've got to stay in business, but we really want to reward our customers for shopping here. We know that it's a choice you make, not to go cheapest of the cheap, so we like to make that choice a bit easier for you.

Precious information, faithful followers!

We have quite the eventful month, here in June! We still have four more author signings to host, and the birthday of our store's manager! Ending every sentence in an "!" is fun!

  • Jacqie's birthday will be June 17th, unfortunately we couldn't get a male performer in time. Haha!
  • Two days later-on June 19th-we will be hosting an author signing with Mario X. Martinez, who wrote the book Converso. It will be from 6pm-7:30pm
  • The next day-June 20th-James Stambaugh will be joining us for a signing from 7-8pm
  • Jump to the following Tuesday-June 23rd-the mysterious mystery author, Maggie Sefton, will be here to speak and sign books at 12pm (e.g. Noon...haha)
  • And, for the last in-store event of the month, we're excited to have Afton Rorvik here for a signing @ 2pm!
Thanks for watching us! This concludes our broadcast day.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

I read a large variety of books. I love getting lost in fiction and I love an interesting biography or memoir. But there's the occasional need for a book that will make me laugh out loud. You know those moments when your are in a reading funk or you have had a long day and don't want to immerse yourself in another story? I have found an author that no matter what my mood I can pick up her books and laugh my pants off. I have re-read one of her books probably 4 times. I even subject my friends and family to listening to me reading the books out loud (which takes a while since I am usually laughing hysterically). The author is Laurie Notaro. She is a humor writer for a paper in Phoenix. My favorite book is The Idiot Girl's Action Adventure Guide. But it's a close tie for all the other books, We Thought You'd Be Prettier, Autobiography of a Fat Bride and the most recently published The Idiot Girl and the Flaming Tantrum of Death. I think she has a couple more out there but I have yet to read them ( I am hunting them all down and ordering them I think though! ). Bottom line, you will laugh your socks off in any of her books. Please come in and check out at least one (on my pick shelf!) and keep it around for those moments that you need a little lift!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

How to Get a Teen to Love Reading

My mother has always made it one of her top priorities to raise her children into avid readers. Throughout my childhood, she used every trick she could come up with to get us to read, from presents to television limitations and even paying us on occasion. It worked throughout my childhood, but was cut short when I reached my angsty, awkward early teen years. In my own strange way of rebelling, I rejected reading for the most part, barely even getting through what was required of me in school. So what, you may ask, turned me back into the regular reader I am today? Well, I decided to compile a few pieces of advice for a parent looking to turn their child into a book-lover. Getting rid of the television is a direct route, but this may only get your kid to hate you, so I don't recommend it. Hope these tips help.

How to Get a Teen to Love Reading
Tip #1: Buy Them Books They Want to Read
Obviously, not all adults enjoy reading the same thing. Teens and children are the same way. Your kid may love mysteries, or science fiction, books about vampires, or juicy teen novels. It's important to realize that they may not enjoy the same types of books that you do, also. Part of why I rejected reading in junior high was that my mom always brought home historical fiction novels for me. I found these terribly boring, so I assumed I would feel the same way about all books. I know it can be hard for a parent to decide which books have appropriate content for their child's age, so please ask any book store employee which material is best suited for certain age groups. Also, don't be afraid to buy them books below their reading level. They'll get challenged in school, and eventually they will want to read more advanced books, but reading can be more fun if it's not always a struggle.

Tip #2: Talk With Them About School Reading
In class, discussions are usually limited to the mechanics of the novel. How one feels about the required reading is usually never brought up, which can be very frustrating. Start by asking them what they're reading and whether or not they like it and build from there. Ask what about the book they enjoyed and what bothers them about it. This is a great conversation starter and can get your child to start separating reading from school, which is not always a positive correlation. 

Tip #3: Don't Make Reading a Chore
If a child is forced to read every night, they may start resenting it. With some kids, this strategy may work, but most won't understand your motives. Instead, limit television watching until certain hours, especially during the summer. When I was in elementary school, my mother made my siblings and I read an hour for every hour of television we wanted to watch. This may not work for all kids, and at the time I hated it. Looking back, though, I'm glad she did.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Great Gardening Books

My greatest obsession (next to books, that is) is gardening. I have partially fed this obsession by ordering some great gardening books for the store (of which I buy half).
The book I love most is Great Garden Companions by Sally Jean Cunningham (ISBN 9780875968476). She details methods of organic companion planting to eliminate use of chemicals. Just pick the types of veggies you want to plant, split them into neighborhoods, add herbs and flowers, and voila, you have a beautiful successful garden. Ok, it took a lot of time initially to plant my garden this way but now that I've been doing it for a couple of years like this, I wouldn't think of doing it any other. It appeals to the planner in me but also to the me that doesn't want to bathe my garden in chemical pesticides. My husband built raised beds for me and it works perfectly with this system.

I use The Vegetable Gardener's Bible by Edward C. Smith (ISBN 9781580172127) in conjunction with Great Garden Companions. While Sally's system is mainly concerned with what vegetables to plant together for maximum benefit, I find Smith's book easier to use for individual vegetable information. He also provides a handy little box listing "good companions" and "bad companions" for each veggie type. I used Sally's book to plan on a large scale and Smith's book to fill in the gaps.

Finally, we just got in a copy of the book Grow Vegetables by Alan Buckingham (ISBN 9780756628901). I discovered it at the library and decided the store had to have a copy (of course one will be going home with me). This is a great reference if you are trying to decide what vegetables you'd like to grow. It is published by Dorling Kindersley (of Visual Dictionary fame) so the photographs are beautiful and the layout very simple to use. It does not contain companion plant information but it has a wealth of information about varieties of vegetables, whether they are early, mid-, or late season harvest, and...did I mention the photographs are beautiful? Certainly falls into the category of what I like to call "garden porn".

Many of us here at the book store are avid gardeners (or aspire to be) so please don't hesitate to ask us for more recommendations! There are also some great cookbooks to go along with the gardening books but that's a blog for another day.

Happy June!

How do Independent Bookstores Stay in Business?

The following is a lengthy quote from BookExpo America, which just finished up this past weekend in New York City. Several major authors discuss the pluses and pitfalls of independent bookstores.
  • 30% of all bookstore sales are through bookstore chains
  • 15% are sold online
  • 10% are sold in independents
  • 45% are sold in big box/specialty stores

Lisa Scottoline, author of more than 12 legal suspense novels (most recently Look Again, St. Martin's), said, "Everything is long tail now. For the 16 years I've been writing, I've watched it morph." Scottoline urged authors to do more, likening their role to that of "the guy who spun plates" on the Ed Sullivan Show. She recently showed her support of independent bookstores by committing to indies for 14 of her 24 bookstore appearances.

Sherman Alexie, winner of this year's inaugural Indies Choice Book Award for Most Engaging Author and National Book Award winner for The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (Little, Brown), said that his career was made by independents. In Costco, he said, "I feel like an eight-and-a-half pound jar of peanut butter." When he pays with a credit card in a chain bookstore, he said, maybe 10% of the employees notice his name, but in an independent bookstore, they see his card and begin whispering, "Is that him?" or "He's taller than I thought."

James Patterson said that the larger issue was that "people need to feel welcome," whether they wish to buy John Grisham or Gabriel García Márquez. At the organizational level, he believes that ABA needs to "draw more attention." He contrasted the lack of publicity outside of the trade for ABA with the national press attention paid to Comic-Con (which is open to the public). "We need to open the doors wider," he said. " 'The tie that binds' is that everyone in this room loves reading. We need to focus on what we have in common rather than what drives us apart."

With regard to James Patterson, I hope that we're a welcoming bookstore! We love to sell "Twilight" just as much as we love to sell "Wuthering Heights", and odds are good that if you talk to one of our booksellers, they will wax just as enthusiastically about one as the other.

Another quote, this time about Amazon:

The so-called brilliant economic model embraced by Amazon and other online retailers comes right out of your wallet. Their discounts are great because they have an extra 5% to play with that your local retailer does not."

In other words, Amazon does not have to pay the sales tax that your local retailer does. When the bookseller pays these taxes, the money goes straight back into the local economy, paying for schools, police and firefighters, and roads. Amazon has managed to circumvent taxes so far, but, thanks to the ABA (American Booksellers Association), Amazon does now have to pay taxes in New York State. They are, of course, fighting this outcome.

I don't want to just paint Amazon as the bad guy. It's a business, not the anti-Christ. However, we do have a lot of customers wonder why we charge more than Amazon does. Lots of reasons: first, Amazon is essentially a clearinghouse for a nation of used bookstores. This means they have access to lots of books. A large quantity of anything usually drops the price. Second, they pay no sales tax in almost every state. Third, Amazon does not have to maintain the rent on brick and mortar bookstores. They do have to maintain warehouses, but I think we can agree that the costs on that are less. And mostly, Amazon does not even need to do this, since (referring back to the first point) many smaller stores do the warehousing for them. Fourth, Amazon has the ability to negotiate deeper discounts with publishers because of the vast quantities of bestsellers that they purchase, much as Walmart has the ability to negotiate deeper discounts because of the scale of their purchases.

So it's not that local booksellers are gouging their customers. We have to pay rent, a wonderful sales staff, utilities, taxes, and of course, we have to pay for our books at a higher price than the big boys do. We hope that we can make up for this by stocking older books that you might not find at the big stores, who turn their inventory over once it's off the bestseller list. Looking for the complete works of Tony Hillerman or Jim Butcher? We've got 'em. We also have a great, knowledgeable sales staff who love to talk books and do informed recommendations. Believe me, they aren't paid nearly enough. Plus, we hope that we are answering the call of our local customers who want to see a local, independent bookstore downtown, so they can pass a rainy Sunday afternoon there, or maybe see a local author who is starting to break into the big time. We try our best to provide value. Sometimes, value comes in other ways than rock-bottom prices. I think I'm beginning to write a book, but I will post later on all the ways that you can also save your dollars by shopping at Old Firehouse Books. More to come....