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As part of our mission to promote authors, the joy of reading, and to better understand the craft of writing, we’ve paired with the The Norwich Bookstore in Norwich, Vermont to present an ongoing series entitled “3 Questions”.  In it, we pose three questions to authors with upcoming visits to the bookstore.  Their responses are posted on The Book Jam during the days leading up to their engagement.  Our hope is that this exchange will offer insight into their work and will encourage readers to attend these special author events and read their books.

This post we feature Tracey Campbell Pearson, author of Elephant’s Story and other picture books such as Bob and Myrtle. Ms. Pearson studied at Syracuse University and the Parsons School of Design in NYC. She has lived in Cleveland, New York City and Connecticut, among other places, but now makes her home in Vermont.

Ms. Pearson will appear at the Norwich Public Library between 1 and 3 pm on Saturday, February 8th as part of a Second Saturdays, a new collaboration between the library and the Norwich Bookstore to highlight great books for children.  Saturday’s event will offer fun Valentine’s Day related art projects and an introduction to her latest book Elephant’s Story. 

Reservations are not needed this time.  Just stop by to meet Ms. Pearson and make some Valentines crafts.  Call 802-649-1114 or email info@norwichbookstore.com with any questions or to reserve your book.  AGAIN – this event is at the LIBRARY.

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1.What three books have helped shape you into the author you are today, and why?

1.  The Beast and Monsieur Racine by Tomi Ungerer. This is the book that made me want to make picture books. Tomi pushes the envelope with his humor while leaving us with the kind and gentle Monsieur Racine. A perfect balance of salty and sweet. I was introduced to Tomi’s work while I was studying with Maurice Sendak in NYC in the ’70′s.
2.  Fish for Supper by MB Goffstein takes the picture book down to it’s simplest form but can still be read again and again. A lovely book.
3.  Any collection of *Mother Goose poems. I have many.  I Saw Esau by Iona and Peter Opie with Maurice Sendak‘s illustrations is a favorite.  * I can go on forever about how children need their Mother Goose!!

2.What author (living or dead) would you most like to have a cup of coffee with and why?

Mr. Edward Lear.  Why?  Well…He answers the question himself below…

How pleasant to know Mr. Lear

How pleasant to know Mr. Lear,
Who has written such volumes of stuff.
Some think him ill-tempered and queer,
But a few find him pleasant enough.

His mind is concrete and fastidious,
His nose is remarkably big;
His visage is more or less hideous,
His beard it resembles a wig.

He has ears, and two eyes, and ten fingers,
(Leastways if you reckon two thumbs);
He used to be one of the singers,
But now he is one of the dumbs.

He sits in a beautiful parlour,
With hundreds of books on the wall;
He drinks a great deal of marsala,
But never gets tipsy at all.

He has many friends, laymen and clerical,
Old Foss is the name of his cat;
His body is perfectly spherical,
He weareth a runcible hat.

When he walks in waterproof white,
The children run after him so!
Calling out, “He’s gone out in his night-
Gown, that crazy old Englishman, oh!”

He weeps by the side of the ocean,
He weeps on the top of the hill;
He purchases pancakes and lotion,
And chocolate shrimps from the mill.

He reads, but he does not speak, Spanish,
He cannot abide ginger beer;
Ere the days of his pilgrimage vanish,
How pleasant to know Mr. Lear!

3. What books are currently on your bedside table?
I have book “piles” on my bedside table. I just started The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton. It’s delicious.   It’s a big book to travel with so on my most recent trip I packed a Donna Leon mystery and Alice Munro’s short stories.
You didn’t ask about the books “under my bed”. This is where I keep a pile of heavy art books.  No room on the “bedside table” but plenty of room on the “bedside floor”.  My sister just sent me a Sendak book for my birthday. It is lovely.

It has been a bizarre winter here in Vermont.  Classic, picture-perfect snow storms, with lots of great powder for our famous ski slopes, have been followed by sleet, freezing rain, and March-like weather with thawing and balmy days.  And then it snows all over again.  And then it drops far below zero. So this means that we have been making sure we ski or snow shoe while the opportunity exists; and, we have been reading a lot of good fiction by our respective wood stoves and fireplaces to keep warm.  As Mark Twain said, “If you don’t like the weather in New England, just wait five minutes.” Good thing it’s always the perfect weather for reading.

Two recommended books from our most recent reading are reviewed below.  And, because we have been reading so many good books lately, and we never know what you all are in the mood to read, we put in a bonus pick or two.

9781476729084The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion (2013) – Just in time for Valentine’s Day comes this review for Simsion’s international bestsellerThe Rosie Project. I loved this crisply smart romantic comedy that takes you into the world of socially challenged Don Tillman, a 39-year-old geneticist looking for love in all of the wrong ways. It doesn’t help that he has designed a 16-page questionnaire to help him find the perfect partner, that he “speed date” eliminates those who answer incorrectly, and that probably no one would meet his criteria.  When he meets Rosie, a sharp, beautiful “barmaid” 10 years his junior, he doesn’t know quite what to make of how he feels and of the ensuing series of unplanned, wacky events.  This is sort of a “When Harry Met Sally” story with a Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime narrator. Throw in a DNA matching side plot and you have yourself a love story with a little science on the side.

And for those TEDx fans, when you’re finished with the book, make sure to check out Simsion’s talk. As a former physicist and IT guy, he comes to writing screenplays and novels later in life. As you will learn, however, all of this experience contributed greatly to the crafting of The Rosie Project. ~Lisa Cadow

Radiance of Tomorrow by Ishmael Beah (2014) – This is Mr. Beah’s first novel, but not his first published work.  His acclaimed memoir A Long Way Gone, about his life as a child soldier in Sierra Leone, soared to the top of bestseller lists, becoming an instant classic that “everyone in the world should read” (The Washington Post).  So with that build up, our thoughts on his fiction.  Yes, Radiance of Tomorrow is set in Africa.  And yes, the other Lisa and I seem to pick books with this setting often.  But unlike many novels with African settings that focus on life during a civil war or leading up to a war, this novel looks at what happens AFTER a civil war, with insight and grace.

In Radiance of Tomorrow, Mr. Beah explores what happens when people return to their villages when fighting is over.  Yes, it was a bit depressing to read his descriptions of what foreigners do when they arrive post-war to “help”.  Yes, when I assumed most of this novel was based in the reality of the author’s own experiences in Sierra Leone, it was even more disturbing.  But, trust me please; somehow, this book is also up-lifting.  Perhaps because the characters – the children, the elders, the mothers and fathers - are superbly memorable, the hope they carry with them is inspiring, and the prose is well-crafted. ~ Lisa Christie

Some other books worth mentioning from our 2014 wood stove reading

Thrillers/mysteries

The Purity of Vengeance by Jussi Adler-Olsen (2013)- The latest Department Q novel shows how the misfit threesome stuck in the bowels of the Copenhagen Police Department have become an effective cold-case solving unit, and a worthy (and unique) family. ~ Lisa Christie

Myths

Mythology by Edith Hamilton (1942) – I have been inspired to re-read this by an amazing Greek unit from my son’s fifth grade English and Social Studies classes. What a great gift to me!  I am loving spending some time with Perseus, Medusa, Hercules, Theseus, and the Gods. ~ Lisa Christie (with Lisa Cadow seconding the staying power and fun of this book)

As part of our mission to promote authors, the joy of reading, and to better understand the craft of writing, we’ve paired with the The Norwich Bookstore in Norwich, Vermont to present an ongoing series entitled “3 Questions”.  In it, we pose three questions to authors with upcoming visits to the bookstore.  Their responses are posted on The Book Jam during the days leading up to their engagement.  Our hope is that this exchange will offer insight into their work and will encourage readers to attend these special author events and read their books.

n dawidoff

Since we were just given the last minute opportunity to feature an exciting author, we are inserting a bonus post this month featuring Nicholas Dawidoff, author of Collision Low Crossers: A Year inside the Turbulent World of NFL Football, among other works.  (This book was extremely well reviewed by  for the New York Times last month.)  Mr. Dawidoff also writes for The New Yorker and has been a Guggenheim, Civitella Ranieri and Anschutz distinguished fellow.  He lives with his wife and son in Brooklyn.

Mr. Dawidoff will appear at the Norwich Bookstore at 7 pm on Wednesday, January 22nd to discuss Collision Low Crossers.  As part of his research, for an entire year he lived with the New York Jets, from early-morning quarterback meetings to edgy late-night conversations. He had a security code, a locker, and a desk in the scouting department.  As a special treat during his Norwich Bookstore visit, Mr. Dawidoff will be joined by Tom Powers, his friend and mentor, who will interview him on the process of investigative reporting for this book and how he was able to gain access to the Jets.

Reservations are recommended. Call 802-649-1114 or email info@norwichbookstore.com to reserve your seat.

1.What three books have helped shape you into the author you are today, and why?

Most of every NFL game is “played” during the week in private team facilities where coaches create and then teach the game plan to their players. These game plans are complex and remain forever secret outside the team, so the essence of the sport is inaccessible to those who watch it.  Furthermore, the game as played live is so fast that the nuances are difficult to follow.  That players wear masks is one of many more features of the sport that has created a distancing effect.  Football is now the single most popular entertainment in America, and yet those who watch it don’t really see it.  These are also among the reasons that football, in contrast to the more intimate sport of baseball, has always been a challenging subject for writers.  By all but living with an NFL team, I hoped to bring people who liked football–and people who might–closer to this big, mysterious public spectacle.

As I just wrote in the latest of the weekly New Yorker essays about football that I’ve been contributing to the magazine leading up to the Super Bowl, the most insightful books about the game are not really football books per se.

  • A football team has many familial elements (surrogate) and so Ian Frazier’s wonderful study of America through the prism of his own forebears, Family, was often on my mind as I wrote.
  • Planning a football game is an immersive, time-consuming, often-frustrating creative act, and the book that most captures the experiences of those game-planning NFL coaches I knew as they sought to build something they considered tactically beautiful was James Lord’s account of having his likeness painted by one of the world’s great artists–A Giacometti Portrait.
  • Finally, John Williams’ vivid study of buffalo hunters on the Kansas and Colorado prairies, Butcher’s Crossingis a classic American novel that captures many qualities of football from the earned intuition necessary to master an arduous and risky landscape to the book’s penetrating reflections on the nature of profound failure.
  • When I began my project, the consensus would be that the best football book ever written was George Plimpton’s Paper Lion, which came out fifty years ago.  Paper Lion remains a timeless book because it teems with portraits of interesting people who are placed in tension-filled and often very funny moments of narrative conflict.    

Samuel Johnson by Joshua Reynolds.jpg2.What author (living or dead) would you most like to have a cup of coffee with and why?

So many!  Who wouldn’t want to pun with Shakespeare (and once and for all prove that he alone did it all?!)  Who wouldn’t want to share, well, tea, with Virginia Woolf (and tell her, in the most deferential way, that all was not lost, she’d soon mean so much to many readers, perhaps especially women like my own mother.)  Coffee in a thermos aboard a river raft with Twain? (Tom Sawyer remains among my favorite books.)  Coffee (with a little snort of bourbon splashed in) with Faulkner?  How to decide? Okay! I choose Samuel Johnson in an eighteenth century London coffeehouse. Not only was he the greatest non-fiction prose writer of his time, he remains (because of Boswell’s Life of Johnson) literature’s peerless conversationalist. And there’s even slim possibility that this most humane of writers would enjoy it.  As he said, “If a man does not make new acquaintances as he advances through life, he will soon find himself alone.

3. What books are currently on your bedside table?

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Confession time: Neither of the Book Jam’s Lisas usually reads self-help books, or makes a big deal out of New Year’s Resolutions. Yes, we think about them and make promises to do better, but lists and perfectly executed plans are not our norm.  However, when we started the Book Jam we did vow to try to read books that we would not normally pick up on our own in order to reach as many readers as possible.  And, as we thought about posts for the 2014, and specifically a New Year’s themed post, we picked up a few books from a genre we rarely visit (or at least not since we quit dating) — the self-help genre.  Honestly, they helped.  How?  Well, both caused us to think a bit differently about conflicts and concerns in our life, and they provided a bit of comfort in that we could relate to aspects of each of our chosen author’s lives. Here are our two recommendations.

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown, PhD and LMSW (2010) – We first heard of Ms. Brown because of a TED talk.  Then she seemed to be everywhere – on multiple NPR interviews, in magazines, books in friends’ homes.  So we picked up this book of hers and read.  In it, she takes her research studying difficult emotions such as shame, fear, vulnerability from her career at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, and adds insights from her own “mid-life unraveling”. (This is her term for the more typically named mid-life crisis.)  She defines the unraveling as a time when you are “challenged by the universe to let go of who you think you are supposed to be and embrace who you are“.  Her conclusions from this research and work?  Well, we would sum it as follows — that courage, compassion and connection are gifts that only work when exercised.  In this book, she shows both how this exercise is possible, and how it changes those who practice these gifts.

The Soul of Money by Lynne Twist (2010) – A great entry into thinking about how you interact with money and how it interacts with your life. And, since money is everywhere and determines so many things in one’s life – job, food purchases, type of home, type of neighborhood one’s home is in – thinking about how you approach and relate to money seems important.  Using anecdotes from her work as a fundraiser for large non-profit organizations and her personal life, she shows how one’s thoughts about money filter one’s interactions with the world.  Groundbreaking?  Probably not, but we found it useful as she caused us to think about money — a topic we honestly find uncomfortable discussing during out best moments.  She also has us thinking about our own work and how we value it. Stay tuned for any ways this thinking affects our future reading choices.

Disclosure: We did not read these books straight through, but instead picked them up a bit at a time over the past few months.  For us, this felt like the right way to approach these authors.  We mention this only to give you “permission” to dabble, rather than immerse yourself in self-help genre, in case you too usually avoid this genre.  And, we promise our next post will delve into the power of fiction.

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Unknown-2There’s STILL time to find a great gift for those hard-to-gift-people on your list.  Remember – size does not matter, substance does, and books are the perfect fit for anyone. You don’t even have to ship them because you can simply gift them to an iPad.

Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanza, and a Joyous New Year to all. We truly look forward to sharing more recommendations in 2014. We wish you a great year’s end full of good books and fun with friends and family. Thank you for being a part of The Book Jam in 2013 – 2014 promises to be a year full of fabulous paragraphs and plots.

But before you finish up your wrapping, wait! – here are just a few more ideas before Santa heads out with his sleigh…

For non fiction readers

This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett (November 2013) - We love essay collections, and this one by Ms. Patchett is truly superb. And it’s not simply about happy marriages, but about life’s trials and the wisdom that comes with age. Patchett’s writing is clear, funny, insightful and causes you to think a bit differently for a time about owning a bookstore, divorce, friendship, censorship, and life in South Carolina. We truly think this would make a thoughtful gift for mature readers on your list. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

For fiction lovers

Sycamore Row by John Grisham (October 2013) – When I saw this novel on a “best books of 2013″ list – a list that also included Donna Tartt and other authors whose novels tend not to become blockbuster movies, I decided to give it a read.  I am so very glad that I did!  Mr. Grisham is a master at plot and suspense.  And, since I am a fan of the movie A Time To Kill, spending time with Jake Brigance years after the trial from that first book, felt like a mini-reunion.  My recommendation?  Get this for anyone you know loves to read, but for whom you don’t know what types of books they like.  But, please use this next bit of advice, and before you gift Sycamore Row to someone else, read it yourself and enjoy the treasured gift of time with a page-turning story.  ~ Lisa Christie

For young adults or sports fans or adults who like young adult novels and/or sports books

 Foul Trouble by John Feinstein (November 2013) – This is another great young adult book from Mr. Feinstein.  This young adult outing is not one from his mystery series, but is about the corruption in college basketball.  He definitely has an ax to grind with the NCAA and some colleges, but with this book, he does so in a good story.  Reading it with your favorite sports fan or young adult could be a great way to engage in a conversation about abuse, trust and doing the right thing. ~ Lisa Christie

Poetry, or a great gift for anyone who needs a chuckle

God Got a Dog by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Marla Frazee (2013) – This collection is going to be a go-to gift for a while, especially for those people whose preferred reading genres are unknown.  Hilarious illustrations accompany amusing poems about God and what she/he does every day (e.g. take a desk job, make dinner, ponder advice from Buddha). ~ Lisa Christie and Lisa Cadow

Luckily for anyone still looking for great books to give to friends and family this holiday season, our 2013 holiday gift themed Pages in the Pubs continued in Hardwick, Vermont on December 3rd.

Once again, our goals were to uncover great gifts for our readers, raise money for libraries (this time, Jeudevine Memorial Library), increase sales for superb independent bookstores (Galaxy Bookshop), and gather a community of book-lovers together, bringing business to a local restaurant (Claire’s). Once again, the list the presenters came up with is eclectic, and full of superb ideas for giving.

This post lists all 21 books that at least one of the four Hardwick presenters picked as a superb holiday gift. Each has a special six word review written by the presenter.  Their selections are linked to the Galaxy Bookshop’s web site where you can learn more about their picks and order your selections. Our Hardwick presenters included:

  • Jerry Schneider – Jerry was born and raised a few miles from “Winesburg”, Ohio and taught English a few years before heading to Montana. He is a children’s librarian/educator in schools. In summers does nature programs in libraries. He is working on a YA novel about a father, son, and baseball.
  • Lisa Sammet – Lisa is the Library Director at the Jeudevine Memorial Library in Hardwick. She’s been a librarian, youth librarian, English teacher, farmer, and Peace Corps volunteer. She also has been a professional storyteller performing in schools and libraries for over 30 years.
  • Linda Ramsdell  – Linda opened The Galaxy Bookshop in 1988 and has enjoyed opening boxes of books and putting them in the hands of readers ever since. Linda considers herself extraordinarily fortunate to have spent half of her life in a place where books, people, ideas and imagination meet.
  • Lisa Christie – Lisa is the co-founder/co-blogger for the Book Jam Blog.  In previous times, she was the founder and Executive Director of Everybody Wins! Vermont and USA, literacy programs that help children love books. She currently works as a non-profit consultant/independent bookseller.

Have fun looking at the selections. We truly hope you enjoy getting some holiday shopping accomplished from the comfort of your computer/iPad/cell-phone (you can download from the link), or from an in-person visit to your local independent bookstore. Enjoy!

MEMOIR FOR THOSE WHO LIKE TO LIVE VICARIOUSLY THROUGH OTHERS’ EXPERIENCES

End of Your Life Book Club, Will Schwalbe. Selected by Lisa S. – As mother dies, she and son read.

NON-FICTION/REFERENCE BOOK/POETRY: FOR PEOPLE WHO LIKE TO THINK AND CHAT WHILE SITTING BY THE WOOD STOVE

   

Maps by Aleksandra & Daniel Mizielinska. Selected by Lisa C. - The world unfolds through fun illustrations.

Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold in the 1936 Berlin Olympics by D. J. Brown. Selected by Linda – Gripping and inspiring window to a world and time.

50 Foods by Edward Behr. Selected by Linda – Opinionated culinary guide with fun illustrations.

 

ADULT FICTION: FOR A MAN WHO HAS ENOUGH TECH TOYS BUT NOT ENOUGH GOOD FICTION

Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson. Selected by Jerry - Classic glimpses of small town lives.

Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers. Selected by Lisa S. – Two friends. Iraq War. Poetic. Tragic.

Where I’m Calling From: Selected Stories by Raymond Carver. Selected by Jerry - Shows why Carver is the best!

ADULT FICTION: FOR A WOMAN WHO ONLY HAS TIME FOR THE BEST FICTION

  

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer.  Selected by Lisa S. - Follows friends from camp. They mature.                        

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert. Selected by Lisa C. - Not Eat Pray Love. Just great fiction.

Bitter Almonds by Cosse. Selected by Lisa C. – French woman tutors. Immigrant teaches. Sparse.

ADULT FICTION FOR ANYONE

  

11/22/63 by Stephen King. Selected by Jerry – Can Jake alter events around JFK?         

Transatlantic by Colum McCann. Selected by Linda - Spectacular storytelling, expansive scope, real and imagined.

Bad Monkey by Carl Hiaasen. Selected by Linda - Pure laugh out loud fun.

YOUNG ADULT FICTION: FOR TEENS & TWEENS AND THE ADULTS WHO LOVE THEM

 

The Ruby Red Trilogy by Kerstin Gier. Selected by Lisa S - Time Travel, Mystery, Adventure and romance.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio. Selected by Jerry - Can classmates get beyond extraordinary face?

BOOKS FOR YOUNGSTERS: THOSE BEYOND TONKA TRUCKS & TEA PARTIES, BUT NOT YET READY FOR TEEN TOPICS

 

Bo at Ballard Creek by Kirkpatrick Hill. Selected by Lisa C. – For Little House Fans. Gold Rush.

True Colors by Natalie Kinsey-Warnock. Selected by Linda - Heartwarming, historic, memorable characters & mystery.

PICTURE BOOKS: FOR FAMILIES TO READ TOGETHER DURING SNOW STORMS

 

The Christmas Wish by Lori Evert. Selected by Linda - Horses! Reindeer! Travel with Anja. Magical.           

Journey by Aaron Becker. Selected by Jerry - Red marker, imagination, & her spectacular journey!

Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site by Tom LichtenheldSelected by Lisa S. - For littles who love machines & need sleep!                    

The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt. Selected by Lisa C. - Crayons protest. Readers laugh. Great gift!

As part of our mission to promote authors, the joy of reading, and to better understand the craft of writing, we’ve paired with the The Norwich Bookstore in Norwich, Vermont to present an ongoing series entitled “3 Questions”.  In it, we pose three questions to authors with upcoming visits to the bookstore.  Their responses are posted on The Book Jam during the days leading up to their engagement.  Our hope is that this exchange will offer insight into their work and will encourage readers to attend these special author events and read their books.

Today we feature Ann Hood, the best-selling author of The Knitting Circle, The Red Thread, and Comfort, among other works.  She has been the recipient of a Best American Spiritual Writing Award, a Best American Food Writing Award, a Best American Travel Writing Award, the Paul Bowles Prize for Short Fiction, and two Pushcart Prizes. She lives in Providence, Rhode Island.

She will appear at the Norwich Bookstore at 7 pm on Wednesday, December 11th to discuss her new book – Knitting Yarns: Writers on Knitting.  In this book, twenty-seven writers tell stories about how knitting healed, challenged, or helped them to grow. For instance, Barbara Kingsolver describes sheering a sheep for yarn. Ann Patchett traces her life through her knitting. Reservations are recommended. Call 802-649-1114 to reserve your seat.

  

1.What three books have helped shape you into the author you are today, and why?

Marjorie Morningstar by Herman Wouk,  Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler, and What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver.

2.What author (living or dead) would you most like to have a cup of coffee with and why?

F. Scott Fitzgerald. Not only do I admire him as a writer, I think he would be an awful lot of fun.

 

3.What books are currently on your bedside table?

Aimee Bender’s new story collection, The Color Master, a South African  mystery called Random Violence by Jassy Mackenzie, and Elizabeth Strout’s The Burgess Boys.

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