Monday, November 29, 2010


Old Firehouse Books is hosting a story-telling competition for First Night!


(232 Walnut St.)

December 31st, starting at 7:30 and running 'til around 10:00.

An epic, no-holds-barred storytelling extravaganza!

Okay. So. Basically, here's how it breaks down:
We need TEN contestants to break it down, storyteller style. This means each contestant will participate in two rounds, each five minutes long. For the first round, the storyteller can read from a written story. For the second, however, the storyteller must recite the story completely from memory (Dun dun DUN!)
Each story will be judged by the audience and a guest judge to decide who moves on to the next round. In the event of a tie, there will be a tie-breaking story-telling fiesta (to be revealed upon ties.)

Doesn't it though?

You betcha.

I know, right?


And here it is.

Storytelling Competition!
7:30-10:00 December 31st! First Night!
We need TEN contestants! First come first serve!
Two Stories! One Written, One Memorized!


Friday, November 26, 2010

Little Nuggets of Book Gold

Have you ever read a passage from a book that was so perfect, so astute, so well written, so pertinent to your life that you just couldn't contain yourself?

Without any control on your part, you emitted some little squeak or squeal, your hands starting clapping or you shook your head in excitement?

I hope this has happened to you. Because it happens to me all the time, and if this isn't a common thing I very well might be losing my mind completely, or at least muscle control. I recently had such an experience (multiple times, actually) with Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives by David Eagleman. Sum consists of forty vignettes about fantasized versions of the afterlife. Once you get past the fact that these stories are about death, you realize how well they reflect the lives we lead and the choices we make. They reflect our lives so well, in fact, that I have found myself in this squealing, squeaking, clapping state of semi-insanity at the end of almost every story. At a slow point while opening the store one morning, I picked up a copy of the book to see if it was worth purchasing. I found myself in a mini-fit at the end of the first story, that's how excited I was to read the whole thing. I was shaking my head, pounding my fists on the counter, squeaking to myself, glad the story was empty. Of course, I had forgotten that the tea shop next door was open. One of the workers there rushed over after witnessing my display to make sure I was alright and not having some sort of epileptic fit brought on by literature. Well, that was embarrassing.

It was embarrassing, but I'm not ashamed. (I see those as two very different things.) While I wish he hadn't been witness to my little spasm of book love, I wouldn't ever deny myself the pleasure of reading a book, or sentence, or even a word that is so perfect I really cannot contain my excitement. Finding those little nuggets of book gold are always worth it, even when the guy next door happens to see it.

Congratulations, Fort Collins

This is a big thank you to all the people who came to hear Garth Stein at the Lory Student Center (about 800 people), who read Art of Racing in the Rain, who discussed the book at their book clubs, who checked it out from our great libraries, who purchased, lent and borrowed the book, and all of us who laughed and cried while reading this book. In our one, admittedly small store, you bought enough copes to have purchased 4% of all Art of Racing in the Rain sold in all independent bookstores in the country. Way to go! Special thanks go to the committee of dedicated volunteers who worked so hard to organize, raise money, and make sure all the events were great. Once again so many of us can thank the few who do so much to make our lives especially comfortable.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Time to Get Cookin'

So we are fast approaching one of the biggest food days of the year. I happen to be a cookbook afficianado (some would say "junkie") and so I thought I'd share with you some of the favorite cookbooks to enter my kitchen in the last year.
First, an old favorite made new again: The Essential New York Times Cookbook. This book compiles recipes from the era that the Times first started (late 19th century) and goes right up to the trendiest sort of new cuisine. I just bought this book for myself as an early Christmas present and have found several recipes to make in the next couple of weeks. The choices range from a Pork and Squash Stew in Coconut Milk to Chicken Paprikash to Eggs with a Chorizo/Date Paste. Plus, this book is a food nerd's dream, due to the timelines in each chapter that talk about food trends- how salads went from suspending everything in Jell-o to the minimalist microgreens of the nineties. Lots of cream, lots of butter, and lots of goodness.
Next, here's a great party cookbook: Fiesta at Rick's by that great interpreter of Mexican food, Rick Bayless. I've got a crush on him. This book has the best guacamole recipe I've ever tried (with sun-dried tomatoes), a killer chipotle-glazed baby back rib recipe, and will tell you how to dig a pit and roast an entire lamb in your back yard, if you like. Since this is a book geared toward parties, there are menus planned and large portion sizes planned for you. Plus a great section on drinks for margaritas and mojitos galore, plus a limey and spicy beer if you want something a little different.
If you're like me, you spend a lot of time thinking about dessert, so I've got two dessert cookbooks for you. First is Rustic Fruit Desserts. The book is organized by seasonal availability of fruit, so you can make a Rhubarb Fool in the spring, a Stone Fruit Tea Cake in the Summer (and you should definitely do that), a Maple Apple Dumpling in the fall, and and a Cranberry Upside-Down Almond Cake for the holidays (hmmm....). Chocolate is my go-to dessert, but I find myself going to this book again and again for desserts when I have guests. Much as I love chocolate, it's hard to beat an Apricot Raspberry Cobbler just out of the oven with vanilla ice cream on top.
Finally, I've got to talk about the new Gourmet Cookie Book. You may be aware that magazine was forced to close its doors last year. The silver lining of that dark cloud is that they are now working to release many of their recipes in book form. This particular little gem showcases one cookies recipe per year that Gourmet was publishing from 1941 to 2009. I'm cooking from this book for our Tea and Cookies event that will be happening next Wednesday at 6, in partnership with the awesome Happy Lucky's Teahouse, our lovely neighbor. I had to choose one, just one, recipe to make from this book for samples. Would it be Currant-Studded Madeleines from 1952, Mocha Toffee Bars from 1987, Strawberry Tart Cookies from 1993, or Ginger Shortbread with Ginger-Infused Frosting from 1999? Because of the tea factor, I've ended up going with the ginger shortbread, but you could buy the book and try all these recipes, plus more!
So these are a few of my favorite things. Come by and let me know what your favorite cookbooks are- my shelf can always hold one more!

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Spoiler Challenge (contains spoilers)

So, recently, I've tried to read Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go. It came highly recommended to me by my friend and coworker Kelsey. She'd seen the movie, and said that it was--to paraphrase--fantastic. Not wanting to spoil the premise for me, she said something like "READ IT, DUDE!" or "READ IT BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE!" or maybe "DUDE TOTALLY READ IT!" (this is how I hear Kelsey's voice in my head.)When Never Let Me Go showed up on our shelves, I decided to give it a try.
Now, when Kelsey said "READ THIS BOOK I AM TOTALLY SERIOUS," she very purposefully didn't tell me anything about the plot. This is a book that is better if you don't have any inkling of what the book is about, she told me (or rather, "THIS IS A BOOK THAT IS BETTER IF YOU DON'T HAVE ANY INKLING OF WHAT IT'S ABOUT") So I took her word for it. And I could not be happier that I did.
See, with the advent of modern media, it is almost impossible to remain unsullied with regards to the content of a book. Spoilers strike like lightening. I will never forget the day that I broke the news to my friend's eight-year-old-brother that Dumbledore dies at the end of Harry Potter #6 (I hope you already knew that.)And honestly, I think that this is one of the biggest tragedies of the modern story.
There is so much in a story that relies on the audience not knowing what's going to happen. Tension, drama, surprise-- everything that makes a book interesting relies on the reader's ignorance. If you know what's going to happen, you might as well not read the book.
I don't have to watch Soylient Green now because I know it's people. I knew that, by the end of 1984, someone would end up loving Big Brother. I grew up fully aware of the fact that Darth Vader was Luke's father. And the tragic part of all of this is that the premise depends on my ignorance. Without my ignorance, The Empire Strikes Back is kinda just a movie with a really slow lightsaber fight in it.
So for Never Let Me Go, I decided to change it up a little bit: as an experiment, I bought the book knowing only what the cover looked like. All I had to go on was Kelsey's recommendation and the title. I didn't even read the back cover, and I loved it.
Reading a book without knowing what was in store was like riding a roller-coaster you've never been on before-- every twist and turn was fresh, each plummet felt new, and it was great.
The most interesting part, I think, is that I honestly wouldn't have read Never Let Me Go if I'd read the back cover. It's not something I'm usually interested in (not one of my typical genres, if you will.) But because I didn't know what I was getting myself into, I found an excellent book that I was honestly surprised by.
So, my challenge is this:
Pick up a book that someone's told you to read without asking what it's about. Once you find it, don't read the back, don't read the inside cover, and don't read that little sample-page that they put in before the real book starts. Instead, read starting from the first word on the first page, as a whole and unspoiled book. I'm sure the author would appreciate it, and I know that you will, too.


PS- Kelsey does not actually talk like that.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

My Journey Into Insanity and Adolescent Literature

If you have been following my blog posts since August, you are well aware that I have been buried in adolescent literature since the summer. That meant 9 required texts and our choice of an additional 3,000 pages before December 2nd. Let me repeat that: 9 books, 3,000 pages. That's something around 5,000 to 6,000 pages of adolescent literature. Approximately 5,500 pages of young adults complaining about their teenage problems. That and textbooks. And nothing else. Since August.

Okay, it wasn't all that bad. And I am more than happy, overjoyed in fact, to announce here that I AM ALMOST DONE!!! I've read all 9 core books and I have something like 2,965 pages read, analyzed, and ready to go. I have to say I am a bit disappointed that the last book I read didn't quite make those final 35 pages, but I'll just flip through a Goosebumps or something over break.

One thing that has been made extraordinarily clear to me since I started this insane literary adventure is the amazing variety of adolescent literature available. I read books about magical lands where the only bad thing that happens is the disappearance of a couple princesses (The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster.) I read about a horrible dystopia where no one makes it past the age of 25 (Wither by Lauren DeStefano.) I read about rape (Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson,) about teenage alcoholism (The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp,) about growing up on a reservation (The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.) The variety was astounding, not to mention the huge range in age appeal. It seems like every age has a series of books that would appeal exactly to them, and then within that series a variety of topics, issues, and themes are covered. This is pretty amazing considering that adolescent literature as we know it today has only been around arguably since 1967 when The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton was published.

And despite all of the complaining I have loved doing over the past four months, I also learned that adolescent literature can be good reading for adults, as well. Some of the most intriguing plots I have heard of for a while are coming out of adolescent literature right now, and they usually read a lot faster than any adult novel. They are meant to entertain a generation that was brought up with YouTube, so you know they have to grab your attention as quickly as possible.

Continue reading the Old Firehouse Blog for the second installment of my journey into insanity through books. Next spring I am enrolled in Shakespeare II and Modern British and European Drama. I will read nothing buy plays from January until May. That's right. I did it to myself again.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Bookstore jet-setting

Going anywhere for the holidays? If so, Lonely Planet has found some of the best bookstores to visit in the world. Drop us a line from Beijing!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Movies and Books

I admit, I pretty much always think the book is better than the movie. It's hardly a fair comparison, really. A book gets 300 to 800 pages (more, if it's Gone with the Wind) to set your imagination on fire, describe characters, get inside their heads, and take you to strange and beautiful places. It's hardly fair to ask a 2 to 3 hour movie to accomplish the same thing (although there is some beautiful cinematography out there).
That said, recently I have seen a few movies that I think compare favorably to, or even beat, the books on which they were based. Take Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. The Swedish movie did a fantastic job of paring down a 600 page book, losing no important plot threads, and getting to the heart of the mystery faster than the book did. Frankly, part of what I tell customers with this book is that you need to get through about 100 pages of backstory before the book really takes off. Which it does! But the movie makes that 100 pages unnecessary.
So, I've got a link to a reader survey that comes up with seven movies that are better than the book. What do you think? Did they miss any? Was the book better than the movie after all?