bookshelf's blog


Let's talk about poetry.


So poetry isn't for everyone.

It's our least-asked-for genre of books (right up there with graphic novels, which appeal to a certain demographic, but unfortunately don't garner enough attention or sales for us to carry too many in-stock. If you ever wonder why a certain selection in the shop is small or entirely absent, just know: It has a lot to do with the science of sales. Hence our small, but decently-curated section of poetry). So it's our least-shopped area in the store, but the people who do want poetry? The people who seek it out and purchase a selection or two? 

They are passionate about it.

I'm not sure poetry is something you can be ambivalent about. You either love it, or you hate it. I love it, though I'm no connoisseur. I recited Rudyard Kipling's poem "If" at my high school graduation ceremony, which looking back seems a little cliche, but I loved that poem then, and I still love it now. I discovered Mary Oliver a few years ago, and her words about my wild and precious life stuck with me long after seeing them on the page. I felt passion in my bones watching Robin Williams as English professor John Keating in Dead Poets Society: "We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. So medicine, law, business, engineering... these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love... these are what we stay alive for." (Seriously, who did not get chills watching this movie?)

All this really brings me to my main point: April is National Poetry Month, and more specifically, this Thursday, April 24 is Poem in Your Pocket Day.

Perhaps you've never heard of Poem in Your Pocket Day -- I hadn't, until a librarian friend of mine shared how she encourages students to embrace poetry through this one special day a year. The concept is simple: Carry around a favorite poem in your pocket on Thursday. Share it with the people you come across. Mail a poem to a friend. Add a poem to your email footer. Get the written word out there in the hands and minds of the people you know and love.

Here's how we at The Bookshelf plan to celebrate:

- Come to the shop and stick your favorite poem on the chalkboard in front of our register. Our staff will be taping up our favorite poems, but we want yours on the board too. Bring a poem to share with us. We want that chalkboard covered in your favorite poetry!

- Get a poem in your bag. Make a purchase on Thursday, and we'll stick one of our favorite poems in your bag at checkout. 

- Enjoy 10% off your purchase. Share a poem on the store chalkboard, and we'll give you 10% off your purchase. 

The world needs more poetry, I think. More imagination and more joy. We're going to do our part Thursday, and we're going to share it with you. 


Must read: Annie's March Book List.

I managed to tackle eight books this month, which may, in fact, be a personal record. And I found myself exploring all kinds of genres: middle reader, memoir, short story. I may have covered it all this month, and the good news for you? Most of them are well worth your time, too.  

Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart. I already devoted an entire blog post to my love for the first book in Trenton Lee Stewart's Mysterious Benedict Society, but it's worth mentioning again. So many middle readers come in looking for this series, and now I understand why. Parents, this would be such a fun book to read aloud with your young readers, and it's safe for them to read all by themselves, too. The books have a slight other-worldly feel to them, but they're not quite as intense as the Harry Potter series (of which I am an unabashed fan). Unlike a lot of middle reader's novels, I found this one completely readable as an adult; I bet you will too. 
One More Thing by B.J. Novak. A lot of customers shy away from short stories, and I get it. So often, short stories are done poorly, and many times, readers are looking for a world they can get swept away in; it's hard to experience that with a short story. But this month, I picked up B.J. Novak's new collection on whim -- I'd seen him on The Office, and I couldn't wait to see if his clever writing translated to the page. It did. It really did. I absolutely loved this book. I loved it so much, I bought a copy (!). One More Thing may not be for everyone; it's smart and a little snarky, but you can't deny Novak is talented. I'd recommend this one for any 20 or 30-something, though I think older readers might enjoy some of his offerings too. That's the beauty of a short story collection; you can skip over the stories that don't immediately catch you.
Glitter and Glue by Kelly Corrigan. Mother's Day is coming up, and I've got you covered. This memoir would make the perfect Mother's Day gift; I read my copy, then quickly shipped it off as part of a "Sisterhood of the Traveling Book" some friends and I have started this spring. Kelly Corrigan writes about her time spent as a nanny in Australia, where she was looking for adventure but instead discovered one major truth: She was becoming her mother. The story is funny and bittersweet; it had me laughing and tearing up. I've recommended this to friends and customers, and it's gotten positve reviews from all of the above. This one would be a fun book club pick for May. 

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty. I have no idea why I'm late to the train on this one. So many customers have recommended Liane Moriarty, but the cover just read "chick lit" to me, so I waited until I knew I needed something light and fluffy for a weekend. Here's the thing, though: Moriarty's book is a page-turner, and at times it's light and funny. But it's so much more than that. Chick lit sometimes gets a bad rap -- maybe deservedly so, sometimes -- but this? This is just a good book. Alice comes to one morning at the gym, only to discover she's experienced a nasty fall -- and she's lost ten years of her memory. She woke up thinking she was nearing 30, only to discover she's a few weeks out from her 40th birthday. I adored this book, in part because I, too, am approaching 30, and it's amazing to me how we grow and change as people in ten years. What Alice Forgot is funny, but thought-provoking; clever, and truth-telling.
The Meaning of Maggie by Megan Jean Sovern. This is the only book on my March reading list that has yet to be released to the public; The Meaning of Maggie comes out the first week in May, and I'll spend all summer recommending it to our middle readers. And you know what? I'll probably recommend it to some grown-up customers too. It's rare, I think, to find a middle reader book that an adult can relate to and enjoy (it's why The Mysterious Benedict Society is so special), but first-time novelist Megan Sovern has done an excellent job. Maggie reminds me so much of myself; when I closed the book, I felt like I was saying goodbye to an old friend. Eleven-year-old Maggie has big plans -- becoming President of the United States, for example -- but there are important things happening on her homefront. Her dad's in a wheelchair, and her sisters are driving her crazy. I don't the last time I've seen a book that has so accurately portrayed those awkward first years of middle school. I love this book.
The Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew Quick. I started my ARC of The Good Luck of Right Now way back last summer, and for some reason found it sitting dusty on my shelf this month. I was able to pick right back up where I started, and I'm glad. The story is a quirky one -- there's really no other way to explain it -- narrated by a nearly 40-year-old man who has spent most of his life caring for (and being cared for by) his mother. His mother had an unbridled passion for famous actor Richard Gere, so that's who the narrator begins directing his story to. The book is humorous and heartbreaking, filled with a cast of unique, charismatic characters. It's really a book about finding your family where you least expect it. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.
Waiting to Be Heard by Amanda Knox. Of all the books I've read this month, this is the one I'd recommend you get from the library (or from our sales rack, where a copy currently resides for 50% off!). It's not that the story isn't well-written -- in fact, Amanda Knox serves as a fairly competent narrator, and the subject matter is compelling. It's just not necessarily a book that absolutely needs to be on your shelves. Knox's story is one we've heard, especially if we've been watching The Today Show for years. I've followed along here and there, but it was far more interesting to finally get her whole story in her words. After reading, I've reached my own conclusions about Knox's account; I think you will too. 
Sisterhood Everlasting by Ann Brashares. How did I never read Sisterhood Everlasting? I grew up on The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series -- a great series for young adult (and adult!) readers -- but had never read the conclusion, never even knew it existed! But working in a bookstore does all kinds of magic, and last month, we did a lot of shelf-straightening, where I found this gem tucked away. If you're a fan of the sisterhood, you'll enjoy this final chapter -- and it won't matter if it's been years since you've read the others. It's charming and sweet, sad and realistic; the story picks up when the girls are approaching 30, and to see them as adults makes all kinds of bittersweet sense. Recommended, of course, for women like me who have long loved and known the sisterhood and the girls that make it up.
Book List
ISBN-13: 9780316003957
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 4/2008

ISBN-13: 9780385351836
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 days
Published: Knopf, 2/2014

ISBN-13: 9780345532831
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Ballantine Books, 2/2014

What Alice Forgot (Paperback)

ISBN-13: 9780425247440
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 days
Published: Berkley Trade, 4/2012

ISBN-13: 9781452110219
Availability: Coming Soon - Available for Pre-Order Now
Published: Chronicle Books, 6/2014

Waiting to Be Heard (Hardcover)

ISBN-13: 9780062217202
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Harper, 4/2013

ISBN-13: 9780385521239
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2/2012

ISBN-13: 9780062285539
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Harper, 2/2014

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