Friday, February 27, 2009

Peas, books, and blogs: How stalking your favorite authors just got easier!

It is important for you, dear reader, to know that I have never before been able to make a plant grow. I am the opposite of a green thumb, I am a brown thumb, nay, a dead thumb. That is how bad I am at growing things. Nevertheless, this morning I found myself spritzing my extremely robust looking sugar snap peas. "How did this happen?" you may very well ask. Well, I read a book, that's how! And not a gardening book, at least not in the traditional sense.

I read Made From Scratch by Jenna Woginrich, a book about a girl in her 20's starting a homestead in northern Idaho with not much more than a smile and a can-do attitude. It's hilarious and inspirational, and in fairly short order Jenna had become my personal hero. I now read her blog every day, and it is just as entertaining as her book. ( Now you're asking "What does this have to do with peas?" I'll tell you! She challenged all of her blog readers to take part in the great Snap Pea Challenge! We were all supposed to plant our seeds on the 15th of February so we could track our progress together. There are even t-shirts for this shindig! Now I, the Killer of Kale, the Brutalizer of Broccoli, have five, adorable, half-foot-high sugar snap pea sprouts.

How great is it that we live in a time when something like this can happen. It used to be that authors were distant entities that couldn't be reached by the masses. They weren't your friend much less your gardening companion. Now, you not only can find out what an author had for breakfast on their blog, some authors will become friends with you on Twitter or Facebook or! Ever wonder what Neil Gaiman was listening to when he wrote Coraline? What an amazing age to be a bibliophile!


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

What is a Classic?

Quite often people complain to me about classics. "Why do they call this a classic? I hated it. It was boring, depressing, and not particularly well written, as far as I can tell."

Are they right? Can something earn a place in the canon of English literature and still be boring and unimpressive? The answer: it all depends on your point of view. Let's take a few examples:

Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist: a book with a ponderous introduction, two-dimensional characters and fairly predictable plot points. Why does it get to be counted among the classics? Because it was new and innovative in its approach to realism and because it, along with the rest of his corpus, forms a significant building block in the social and ethical consciousness of the western world.

Beyond it's historical significance, Oliver Twist has a historical context that greatly affects its style. During the last sixty years or so, stylistic norms have migrated from a descriptive, narrative style to style which prefers dialogue and informs its readers through dense introductory sections. Due to our modern culture's obsession with easily digestable entertainment, current trends in style have declared narration boring and introductions a waste of the reader's time. Now readers expect action from page one, explanation as the story unfolds, and a rapid, if not frenetic, plot pace.

So, does it get to be a classic? Sure. It paid its dues and it is truly significant for the development of western realism and ethical judgement. Does that mean it's an easy read and that everyone should pick it up? No. People who want an easy read should try something a little lighter.

Don't worry, if you can't hack such serious material, but you still want to start building your classical literacy, start with something a little more accessable; I suggest Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. It isn't too heavy, but it does tell an interesting story, while unobtrusively approaching important issues like democracy and monarchy, the corrupting yet progressive force of technology, and the nobility and ignorance of the lower classes.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Righteous Meat Slurpee

I recently noticed the 7-Eleven at the intersection of Curtis and Overland was converted to a Jackson's/Shell gas station. I couldn't help but wonder if this was the extinction of the infamous Slurpee in the Boise area.

As soon as Whitney, my co-worker, got to work, I expressed my concern over the potential loss of the Slurpee. She was apparently concerned as well, for a couple days later she stopped by the gas station in question to see if the slushy drink was still available.

To her delight, the Shell/Jackson's gas station was still carrying the refreshing beverage. Having completed her investigation, Whitney treated herself to the nostaligic Slurpee, strawberry in flavor. To her horror, however, the drink tasted like MEAT - triple ICK!!!

Whitney promptly called to inform that Slurpees were still available, but to steer clear of the Strawberry-flavored option. Ironically enough, when Whitney phoned about the "Meat-flavored Slurpee" I was in the midst of reading Nicolette Niman's latest work, Righteous Porkchop.

I originally picked up this book solely because of its catchy title, and I am so glad I did! Miss Niman's chronicling of her investigative research into the factory farming of animals is both pallatable and enlightening. Reading very much like a memoir, what I enjoyed most was that I never felt preached at or scolded for still buying meat at the grocery store. Rather, Righteous Porkchop presents current information on the meat industry, all the while interjecting cander and humor along the way.

NOTE: After having completed this book, however, I felt compelled to buy my meat locally rather than support animal factory farming. Last Saturday I visited
Vogel Farms in Kuna and had a great time: these guys are super friendly and know meat like we at the bookshop know books! Comparative pricing and an abundance of locally-raised, organically-fed products have won my business and ensured my return. Also, choosing Buy Local from Vogel Farms is one more way support locally-owned, independent businesses, for if we all shifted just 10% of our business to local independents, 1200 jobs and nearly a $160,000,000 in economic stimulus would be created for the Treasure Valley! Amazing.

~ Ross Wulf, Bookseller

Monday, February 23, 2009

Everyone loves a good pop-up book!

I will admit it, I am an adult pop-up book fanatic. To me, the fantastic element of a three-dimensional art piece combined with a story line beats out all other forms of entertainment. Here are a few of my personal favorites!

Matthew Reinhart is by far my favorite paper engineer (the politically correct term for a pop-up book artist.) Every book that he puts out amazes me to a point that is mostly unriveled by other books in the genre. My two favorites, The Jungle Book: A Pop-Up Adventure and the latest installment of the Encyclopedia Mythologica, Fairies and Magical Creatures both perfectly showcase the talent of Reinhart and his partner Robert Sabuda: each page leaves you with your jaw on the floor, saying to yourself, "I didn't know that you could even do that with paper!"

For information on what happens in their studio, check out their blog at

Trail:Paper Poetry by David Pelham is a children's pop-up book for adults. It is an all-white and silver book that is not only stunning visually, the rotating poetry wheels, that perfectly accent the theme of continuation and rebirth, are profound.

If you're interested in intricate and informational pop-up books, you should also check out David Pelham's Dimensional Man: A Life-Size Three Dimensional Study of the Human Body!

Definitely not a pop-up book for kids, The Pop-up Book of Phobias by Gary Greenberg and Balvis Rubess details ten common phobias with illustrations that are as ironic as they are lurid. With a bit of a weird sense of humor, I find that this one makes a really excellent coffee table book for your guests to peruse.

Also, if you enjoy odd and creepy things, the author and illustrator of The Pop-up Book of Phobias teamed up with Matthew Reinhart to produce The Pop-up Book of Nightmares to read as you fall asleep!


Friday, February 20, 2009

Lunch for Literacy

Yesterday Laura and I had a whirlwind morning. We headed down to The Boise Center on the Grove to support our friends at the Learning Lab during their Lunch for Literacy event. The speaker was Nancy E. Turner, the author of four books. We actually got to spend some time chatting with her, and she was extremely personable and gracious. We will have some signed copies of her books in the shop while they last.

Three of her books are in a trilogy starting with These Is My Words about a family's life in the Arizona territory. The stories are formed like the diary of a young girl, and the language evolves as the narrator grows more educated. Nancy based these books loosely on stories she heard from her Grandmother as a child, so they really have a great personal feel to them. The book not in the trilogy is The Water and the Blood. It's set during WWII in the Eastern Texas Bible belt, and it starts off with the main character swigging moonshine with her friends while attempting to burn down a church!

A couple well-written books by a swell lady who is as passionate about books and literacy as we are, they're definitely worth checking out.


Monday, February 16, 2009

A Slew of Lincoln Books

With Abraham Lincoln's bicentennial birthday being celebrated this year, there is a plethora of new writings springing up from a seemingly-unending well. But within this new Lincoln genre a very important demographic is not being addressed: the younger readers. Luckily though, I stumbled upon one book by James Swanson called Chasing Lincoln's Killer. This entertaining and historically-accurate story retells the events leading up to and the event of President Lincoln's assassination. In addition to the same old account of the president's death, Chasing Lincoln's Killer follows John Wilkes Boothe and his main accomplices into Virginia for the twelve day manhunt that ensued.

James Swanson's young-readers version of this important historical event is not only a fast-paced, well written book, IT HAS PICTURES!


P.S. For an excellent Lincoln comic, visit

Friday, February 13, 2009

Just Finished Scat

Scat by Carl Hiassen

An awsome story about evil science teachers, endangered wildcats, and mysterious escapades through the Florida Everglades! Scat follows Nick and Marta on their quest to find out what REALLY happened the day their teacher disappeared into the swamp.- Whitney

I had a good time reading this, too - Laura

Monday, February 9, 2009

Think Boise First

Bruce and I went to a Think Boise First meeting last Tuesday and spoke to many local independent businesses. The more I read about it, the more I think that this is a key componet to helping us in our current economic climate. I found out about this study at the conference I attended in Salt Lake City last week and the results are astounding."The first of its kind in the nation, the San Francisco Retail Diversity Study was prepared by the specialized research firm Civic Economics (, examining four retail segments in-depth: books, sporting goods, toys and gifts and limited service dining.Among the study’s key findings:A slight shift in consumer purchasing behavior -- diverting just 10% of purchases from national chain stores to locally owned businesses – would, each year, create 1,300 new jobs and yield nearly $200 million in incremental economic activity."

Monday, February 2, 2009

Just Met Terry Tempest Williams

Hello all,

I want you to discover a book called Finding Beauty in a Broken World by Terry Tempest Williams. I listened to her speak at a booksellers conference on Thursday and was completely blown away by her wonderful use of language. This book has climbed to the top of my reading list and I can't wait to get back to it. Even better she is as gracious as anyone can hope. Take a look at her latest work - Laura