Monday, January 11, 2010

the heart is an unemployed reader

Last Monday, I was laid off from my wonderful job at the bookstore.

My reading as of late has been fairly sporadic, but while filing for unemployment, job hunting, and just generally trying to accept fate, I've been thoroughly enjoying Street Gange, Michael Davis's well-researched, entertaining, and enlightening history of Sesame Street. Davis had spoken to our (former) marketing director about a month ago, and Penguin was nice enough to send over some copies for our perusal. I hope he still makes a stop in town. I'd love to meet him and hear what he has to say about this terrific little history of children's television and, in some ways, the growth of public television into a relevant force in the lives of everyday television watchers.

Before that, I had continued on my Shelf Discovery Reading Challenge quest by reading the excellent (and surprisingly relevant) Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene. I will say that the day I was let go, I had been espousing the joys of this book to my general manager and book manager, each seeming to be on opposite ends of opinion with the book. More on that soon.

I also recently read Kristin Cashore's phenomenal Graceling, a medieval tale set in a land of kingdoms where some people are born with inherent talents, or graces. Known as Gracelings, these people live in exulted, but often ostracized distance from the normal people. Katsa, graced with a talent for killing, is used by her uncle, King Randa, as no more than a menacing thug, performing acts of violence out of intimidation or vengeance. A mystery, an unlikely romance, an adventure story, this novel really has almost something for every reader. I found myself reading slower and slower, as if to savor every word. Speaking of Kristin Cashore...

In a post-firing haze this weekend, I found myself perusing the pickings at a local Waldenbooks that is going out of business. I have grown up to respect larger, infinitely better-stocked bookstore chains likes Barnes & Noble, only second to wonderful idiosyncratic independent bookstores, but I admit, there will always be a soft spot in my heart for Waldenbooks. Before the big stores came to my suburban area, there was B Dalton in one mall and a Waldens in the other, and if you wanted to buy a book - and I often, very often, did - you went to one of those bookstores in one of those malls.

The selection was fairly limited, and the layouts were uninspired, wretched mazes. Kids books were relegated to the very back shelves, usually with dismal inventory. Wanted specific volumes of a series you were reading? Tough. You took what you could get. The Bethel Park Public Library was where I would go for specific things - they had a kids' section that my heart aches for to this day - but Waldens was for stuff that you hadn't picked up yet.

This past Saturday, while my two friends browsed the leftovers of the adult books, I made a beeline to the kids' section and was richly rewarded. New release books were 50% off, and bargain books were 40% off their sticker price (for YA books, that's usually $3.99). I found, among other things:

- Kristin Cashore's follow-up to Graceling, Fire.

- Scott Westerfield's latest, the WWII-era steampunk Leviathan.

- David Levithan's The Realm of Possibility.

- Evolution, Me & Other Freaks of Nature by Robin Brande

- Jeanne Birdsall's The Penderwicks of Gardam Street

- The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer

- Rebecca Stead's first novel First Light - I loved When You Reach Me, so I can't wait to pick this one up

- Maureen's favorite Marcus Zusak's I Am the Messenger

I got most of these for almost nothing, which is quite nice, I suppose. Still, I am sorry to see Waldenbooks go. That mall now houses a Barnes & Noble, so I suppose the reading happy children of the South Hills area will still have a place to buy their books. So all is not lost...

But if they close the Borders down the street, I will probably cry. The last half of my high school years was spent in the same nightly routine - we'd go to Borders, kill as much time as possible, then go to the Eat'n'Park down the street for coffee, cigarettes, and occasionally food. Sometimes we would go to the E'n'P first, go to Borders, then back to the restaurant. Oh, the rituals of teenagers with nowhere better to be on any given night.


Marie said...

I'm so sorry about your job. I hope something turns up soon. An your high school days sound like mine.

Erica B said...

emily! i was just about to email you and then realized it's your (former) work address. I'm so SO sorry to hear this. keep me posted as to where you end up, and please email me if you need any grown-up perennial books to keep you busy while you're looking for a new job.