Bookish Tuesday, Non-Fiction

Nonfiction Book Club

After going through a bit of book club withdrawal over the evolution and loss of my former book club, I decided to start a new one at the bookstore with a focus strictly on works of nonfiction. Tonight is the sixth meeting and I can hardly believe it’s already been around that long! As nonfiction reviews seem to be the ones that are most followed from this blog, I figured I’d share with you the books that we’ve read and will be reading through the end of the year!

The very first meeting of the nonfiction book club, review can be found here.
Our second meeting – this one was met with some mixed reviews, most thought it tried a bit too hard to be the next Devil in the White City. Review can be found here.
Packing for Mars re-introduced me to Mary Roach and did, ultimately, inspire me to finish Stiff and Bonk after starting them for my other book club a few years ago. Overall, we found it enjoyable, but a bit too long – none of us were as curious as Mary was. Review can be found here.
This book really changed how I think about death – it also helped me handle my grief regarding the death of my grandmother. Overall, we liked it, but wish Caitlin had explored some death cultures and practices that differed more from her own. Review can be found here.
The Stowaway had us all talking about the 1920s and polar exploration, but ultimately we found it wanting – not much time was actually spend discussing or staying on Antarctica. Short read, but better suited to a long-form essay in a publication like the Atlantic instead of an actual book. Review can be found here.
Word by Word will be discussed by the group tonight! I just finished it (not even an hour ago) and I can’t wait to see what everyone thinks. Review for this one will be up on Sunday.
The Rise and Fall of Dinosaurs comes to the book club highly recommended by a former coworker and wonderful friends. We’re collectively excited to read it and I can’t wait to start it tomorrow! It’s one of my longest nonfiction science/history books yet – we’ll see how I do – hopefully I’ll finish it on time!
The Soul of an Octopus is one of my husband’s favorite books of the last few years and when I pitched it to the group, they seemed interested as well. Another one that I’m very excited to read.
Another former staff member and friend has recommended The Poison Squad to the group – the members of the book club seem most interested in science, history, and true crime and as this incorporates them all, I hope it’ll be a hit!

Any Recommendations?

While our list for the rest of the year is set (we won’t be meeting in December), we’re always looking for new and exciting titles to read. If you have any recommendations, please let me know! In order to keep costs down, we only read paperbacks released in the US, but if a book is available in hardcover only right now, we can always keep it on our list for consideration later! And if you’re in the greater Philadelphia area looking for a book club to join, stop by the Towne Book Center & Wine Bar, 220 Plaza Drive, Suite B3, Collegeville PA 19426 on any of the upcoming meeting dates to join us!

Bookish Tuesday

5 Recent Book Stores Visited

I love visiting all sorts of bookstores and below are just a few that I’ve visited since the start of the year.

Strand Book Store

Each and every time I visit New York, I make a point to stop by the Strand Book Store. A New York City institution, it is one of the largest independent bookstores in the country. My coworker Mary, who came to BookExpo with me on Thursday, had never been, so we took a short field trip away from the Javits Center to visit the 18 miles of shelves of books. While we always browse the books, we usually wind up walking away with non-book items as we don’t get our typical bookseller discount outside of the store we work at.
Strand Book Store, 828 Broadway at 12th Street, New York, NY 10003 –

Oblong Books

In March I was invited to attend a book buyers retreat in Rhinebeck NY and while I was driving up, I kept thinking of how familiar the name of the town sounded. And it’s a small town, how could I have heard of it? It’s Lucy Knisley & Alyssa Mastromonaco‘s hometown! The store is awesome, and they happily let me pre-order/reserve 4 of Lucy’s books and Alyssa’s for their events and they had them personalized and sent to me! I now scour their website and emails for upcoming events to have books signed and shipped!
Oblong Books, 6422 Montgomery Street, Rhinebeck, NY 12572 –

Whistlestop Bookshop

My hometown has a bookshop! And it’s nearly as old as I am. And I didn’t discover it until last year. I blame my parents. I LOVE Whistlestop, though I may be slightly bias. There’s a bookstore cat (!!!!) named Mulan, it’s delightfully rustic and loved, the owner does every transaction without a computer, and his Agatha Christie is unrivaled – he has just about every title she wrote, something I’ve only seen at much larger shops in the UK. If you’re ever in the middle of Pennsylvania and want to talk mysteries with a knowledgeable bookstore owner, Whistlestop’s your shop!
Whistlestop Bookshop, 129 W High Street, Carlisle, PA 17013 –

Watermill Bookshop

On our recent road trip through Scotland, I made my husband stop at countless bookstores, but I was most excited for Watermill. Owned by Monty Python alum Michael Palin, I had intended to pick up both his book, and Eric Idle’s. Unfortunately, while the shop is idyllic, it seems a bit stuck on the outside of the internet world. The inventory isn’t listed online, you cannot search for a title, and when you ask via the web multiple times for a title to be ready for you to pick up, well, no one looks at it. It’s a cute shop, but could use an online customer service presence.
Aberfeldy Watermill Bookshop & Cafe, Aberfeldy Scotland, UK – www.

Reads & Company Bookshop

I work at the TOWNE BOOK CENTER in Collegeville, PA and live in Phoenixville, PA and the two towns are right next to each other. Reads & Company is a brand new bookstore that opened within walking distance of my house. While it’s exciting to have a hometown bookstore, it’s challenging to have one so close by. While we indies are known for supporting each other, sometimes it starts to feel a little close for comfort. Reads feels like a gallery space more than a bookstore, and I look forward to stopping by periodically once it feels more settled into the space.
Reads & Company Bookshop, 234 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, PA 19460 –

Bookish Tuesday

Summer Reading Recommendations!

One of my favorite parts about working at a book store is recommending books. One of the most rewarding parts, is when people tell me how much they love said books and then we get to fangirl/boy over them together! Below are some that I’ve picked for those two biggest reading seasons, summer and the winter holidays.

Summer 2019

At the store, everyone picks three summer titles, and they must be paperbacks (so people can enjoy more of them!) Mine are as follows:

Medium Raw is probably one of my all time favorite nonfiction books – and as it’s been a year since we, the people of the world lost our dear Tony, it felt like a good time to remind people of his brilliance. While many have commented in the store that Kitchen Confidential would be the “normal” pick, Medium Raw is my favorite of all of his books.
City of Dark Magic is probably my favorite fiction books – the perfect escape for a quick and light-ish summer read with a little bit of history, magic, and… smut.
And last but not least, The Lost Queen is my newest obsession, and the book I’m currently reading. It’s a sweeping historical novel set in Arthurian-era Scotland. After my recent trip to the country, it seems to be all I want to read about!

Previous Summer Picks

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, A Discovery of Witches, The Bookshop on the Corner, Good Omens & A Court of Thorns and Roses

Bookish Tuesday

Books That Made Me Laugh

As spring approaches, I look forward to books that bring not only a smile to my face, but a laugh as well. Below are some of my favorite books that genuinely made me laugh out loud.

1. Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

As the anniversary of his death approaches, I think long and hard about Robin Williams – he who laughs loudest and longest is usually in the most pain. Tony made me laugh, and I will forever be grateful for that.


2. Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh

I laughed so hard I was crying. Though my laughter here has been tampered a bit by the fact that Allie Brosh has rarely been seen either in public or online for 5 1/2 years now and her second book is indefinitely postponed. Allie, wherever you are, I hope you’re okay.

Hyperbole and a Half

3. Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson

I didn’t realize the mental health theme here until I started writing these descriptions. One way of combating depression, which each author thus far has always been transparent in discussing, is humor.

Let's Pretend This Never Happened

4. Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? by Alyssa Mastromonaco

After recently finishing her disappointing follow up, I wanted to remind myself why I love Alyssa so much. She truly is a most relatable woman.

Who Thought This Was a Good Idea

5. Ninety-Nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret by Craig Brown

Princess Margaret was a very unique character and while her life was clearly sad, the way she handled being the Queen’s little sister offers a great deal of humor.

Princess Margaret2

Bookish Tuesday

My Favorite Celebrity Memoirs

I alternate back and forth between loving and hating celebrities memoirs. The hate, from the fact that they often are approached by a publisher to write a book, or their agents have very little difficulty finding a buyer for a proposed memoir. Whereas the rest of us aspiring writers have to grind our teeth writing query letter after query letter. The love side, comes from the content. They offer a mostly safe palate cleanser read, best read between heavier books from which one needs to recover. So here are my top choices, in no particular order:

1. Always Look on the Bright Side of Life by Eric Idle

While full of more name dropping than I typically care to endure, it’s been a long time since I’ve laughed so hard at a book. I loved Always Look on the Bright Side of Life and will read anything and everything now that Eric Idle chooses to write.

Always Look On the Bright Side of Life (2)

2. As You Wish by Cary Elwes

I’ve loved The Princess Bride for most of my life and when my coworker told me how wonderful As You Wish is, and I discovered the audiobook is narrated by almost the whole cast, I was completely hooked.

As You Wish-1

3. Girl Logic by Iliza Shlesinger

Part memoir, part self-help, Iliza’s book is both helpful and humorous. I love everything she does and, along with Lucy Knisley, I feel like she’s my big sister author.


4. Medium Raw by Anthony Bourdain

More a collection of essays, and not quite a fair assessment of celebrity memoir as it was Tony’s writing that made him famous in the first place, I will love and defend this man for the rest of my life.


5. Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling

When I was first introduced to her on screen, Mindy annoyed me. I think it was mostly her speech patterns on The Office. But I loved The Mindy Project and my sister raved about her books so I figured I’d give them a shot. She really is an inspiring person and role model.


Bookish Tuesday

Moving… with 1,000 Books

I have always been a collector of books, but a few years ago, when I started working at an independent bookstore, I was introduced to these magical things called…

Advanced Reader Copies (ARCs)!

For those unfamiliar with the concept (and I was before attending my first BookCon shortly before starting my job at the bookstore, they are paperback copies of books that are to be released in the next 1 to 9 months pre-bound by the book’s publisher for distribution to booksellers, librarians, and in today’s world, book bloggers and Instagram influencers. While some bloggers blog to get these coveted free books, I am lucky enough to be inundated with them at work. I’m a book blogger to help me keep track of everything I have read.

But now, gentle readers, my husband and I are moving into our first house. Yay! A house! I thought this would automatically mean more room for more books, dream come true, right? Wrong. The house we fell in love with is lacking one major thing that I wanted – a wall that I could easily convert into faux built in bookcases to achieve my dream of a Belle-esque library, complete with sliding ladder to reach the higher shelves.


The lifelong dream of three year old me is not to be. At least not yet. I still hold out hope. But now, what do I do with my

1,000+ books?

Aside from taking all the extra book boxes from work (which are, of course, perfect for transporting books), what do I do? I’ve already donated some 300 books to various organizations, schools, and charities, my shelves are all double stuffed, and I’m going to have to get rid of one of them due to lack of space… I thought moving from apartment to house would mean more space, but I digress.

While Unf*ck Your Habitat has been a helpful guide in paring down other things and establishing productive cleaning habits, I don’t want to forgo bringing home lots of books! So while I pack and donate those books I no longer have room for and can bear to be parted from, I shall continue to brainstorm ways to avoid bringing more home… three weeks to go!

Bookish Tuesday

Books to Finally Finish This Year

Now that I am finally in the mood to read fiction again there are a few books that I’ve made decent progress with in the last two years that I will hopefully now finally finish! 

1. Beartown by Fredrik Backman

Reason #1 for wanting to read it: It is a story about ice hockey! No one has written a decent fictional ice hockey story that is still in print – I spent years searching. #2, the world has been raving about Backman for a few years now and I’ve very much wanted to give him a read.
Book format: Advanced Reader Copy
Length of time since started book: 2 years.

Beartown (2).jpg

2. Nevernight by Jay Kristoff

I bought the hardcover for this book right when it came out as I was hoping for a good book to break my Sarah J. Maas hangover.
Book format: 1st Edition Hardcover
Length of time since started book: 2.5 years


3. The Half-Drowned King by Linnea Hartsuyker

A tale of Viking adventure? That came out right as I was really starting to hit my stride with my own Viking adventure that I’ve been working on now for 6 years? Sign me up!
Book Format: Advanced Reader Copy
Length of Time Since Started Book: 1.75 years


4. Jackaby by William Ritter

Touted as a combination of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Sherlock Holmes, I was enthralled immediately – a case of I put it down on day and couldn’t remember where when I was ready to pick it back up.
Book Format: Paperback
Length of Time Since Started Book: 3 years


5. And After the Fire by Lauren Belfer

On of my first ARCs, a mix of historical fiction and contemporary, And After the Fire is the dual narrative of two Jewish women tied together by a piece of music by J. S. Bach. The author is local to the area and the writing is beautiful – I took it on a trip and misplaced it upon my return and upon it’s rediscovery, I didn’t feel like reading fiction anymore.
Book Format: Advanced Reader Copy
Length of Time Since Started Book: 3 years

and after the fire

Bookish Tuesday

The Age Old Debate: Book vs. Movie

is the question all book lovers are asked, “Well, which was better? The book or the movie?” And every good book lover knows that the correct answer, 99% of the time, is “The book, of course!” But sometimes, we book lovers must admit that the filmmakers did something well and the movie, is in fact, quite good. Below are some of each – my favorite films and television adaptations, as well as a few that completely missed the mark.

In Extremis & A Private War

While they are not directly related, the film A Private War is based on a Vanity Fair article, “Marie Colvin’s Private War,” their near simultaneous release dates and identical subjects make them inexorably linked. In Extremis is my favorite book of the year, and continues my great love of war correspondent books. Rosamund Pike plays Marie Colvin in A Private War and she does an absolutely tremendous job – Oscar worthy in my opinion. I give both book & film two very enthusiastic thumbs up!

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

When I first sat down to watch the film adaptation of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, I was so excited – a, it’s practically a Downton Abbey reunion, b, I was super curious about how they were going to adapt the letters into a cohesive narrative, and c, I wanted to see Guernsey. The cast captured the characters almost exactly as I imagined them and it was wonderful. However, on that fateful first watching, I ranted about how the filmmakers changed parts of the story. Which, as a filmmaker, I know you kind of have to when the source material doesn’t give a clear cut narrative structure for drama and tension. So now, I must think of them as two entirely separate entities, and, in that manner, I enjoy them both tremendously.

The Magicians

I was very excited about The Magicians television adaptation, and, well. I hated it. Quentin, oh my Quentin, you are perfectly cast. And Alice, I adore you. But WHY OH WHY DO WE NEED NEW CHARACTERS? And why does Julia have to have such a large role? It’s well done, I give the show runners credit for that. But I feel like the changes made were not wholly necessary. It captured the spirit for the most part, but when you have a cast of characters who are fairly apathetic by nature, it is hard to feel invested in a show. In the books, you can always hold out hope that they’re different in your head and create your own head-cannon.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

This is a tricky one – a true purist will tell you that the book is always best, followed by the original adaptation, then the remake. Which, technically, the American version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo could be considered a remake… but it is far superior to the Swedish adaptation, in style, plot, and depiction of Lisbeth. In my humble opinion of course, but as it is one of my husband’s all time favorite movies, I might be a touch bias.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Some movies are just so bad they’re good. I love The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy film because it’s just so bad. It’s not even a guilty pleasure, it’s just a really good bad movie. It’s funny and enjoyable and, so long as you don’t think too hard about it, a fairly accurate depiction of the book!

Bookish Tuesday

How to Publish… Advice from Your Local Indie Bookstore

At least once a week, someone will walk through the doors of the bookstore, or send us an email, asking us to have an event with them or carry their books because they’re now published! And they’re so excited. And then we ask who their publisher is. And they say Createspace. And we say, sorry, but no.

Getting Published

Those who love to read often enjoy writing. And when they read their favorite author’s works, they often think to themselves, I can do that. I’ve got a book in me. And then they sit down, and they crank out of draft, and are faced with a decision – how do they get their draft in the hands of readers. Three main options exist.

Option 1: Traditional Publishing

Traditional publishing means that you send your manuscript out to agents in the hope that one will represent you, in a similar manner to those who are looking to get into the film business. Not sure how to find an agent? Check out The Writer’s Market, an annual publication that spells out the steps needed to get your book from draft to bookstore shelves. If you want to see your book on the shelves of a chain bookstore, Barnes & Noble in the US, Chapters Indigo in Canada, Waterstones in the UK, etc. Traditional publishing is the way to go. In the US, if you are traditionally published, it means that your book is distributed by one of the big publishing houses, Penguin Random House, Harper Collins, Hachette, Houghton Mifflin, Macmillan, Simon & Schuster or Scholastic. There are a few others that stores work with, but these are the big ones.

Perks of going the traditional route – cost to you – minimal. The publishing house, once they accept your manuscript, you work with their editors, their graphic designers design your cover, the format your manuscript for printing, they promote your book, they make sure that their sales team knows your book is coming, and they in turn inform booksellers about how cool you are/your book is MONTHS before it even hits their shelves so that they can help spread the word that your book is coming.

Option 2: Small Presses

These are the indies of the publishing world and are often distributed by big printer and US nationwide distributor, Ingram. Small and university presses offer some of the same benefits as the larger publishing houses, such as editors, but often don’t have the same resources in house that the houses do. The print runs are going to be smaller, your book may go out of print more quickly, and it might not get any promotional assistance from the publisher. Upside here – if you go into an indie bookstore and ask them to carry it, they probably will. They’ve probably worked with the publisher, or at least Ingram, before. In this instance, you are more likely to see your book on an indie store shelf than a chain store shelf. However, if you want your book to be a major success if it’s published by a small press, you need to be prepared to do a lot of promotional legwork yourself.

A note about small presses and books being carried in a bookstore: Ask what their terms are with bookstores. Most independent bookstores are looking at the 45+% discount they receive from major publishing houses and the 42% they get from Ingram. And they want your book to be returnable to the distributor if it doesn’t sell off their shelves in a predetermined amount of time (most stores it’s anywhere from 12 to 24 months). Familiarize yourself with the term “consignment” and what that means to a local bookstore.

Option 3: Self-Publishing

This should be your last choice if your end goal is to have your book sitting on a bookstore shelf. If you want to publish only e-books, sure. Go for it. Self-publishing, by definition means you did it yourself. You may have conscripted friends into proofreading, or hired an editor, graphic designer, etc. but you fronted the costs. Once you agonize over whether or not your book is ready, you have to make a decision about who you want to print it.

You may entertain the following idea: Oh! Amazon does printing! I’ll publish it through their in house press, Createspace! If you ever want your book in an independent bookstore, DO NOT DO THIS. Indies have been suffering for YEARS because of Amazon’s book selling business practices. Indies will not bring your book in from Createspace because doing so directly lines the pocket of our biggest competitor.

If you insist on doing your own publishing AND having your book carried in traditional book stores, search out other options that aren’t owned by their biggest competitor. You can try Lulu, or one of the other options for self-publishing that exist out there – a basic internet search should help turn up a few options.

• • •

Note from the Sarah: I’m the manager and adult book buyer for a sizable independent bookstore. I get asked to explain the differences between publishing options on a regular basis and have found that the vast majority of those who are self-published didn’t want to put the time and effort into query letters and attempting to be published traditionally. Most of the time, their books are not of the same caliber as those that come in from the major publishing houses. I firmly believe that self-publishing should be a last resort if you want to see your book on the shelves of a bookstore.

Bookish Tuesday

Favorite Pages in My Book Journal

So I’ve decided to mix it up a bit in order to keep myself accountable for regular posts and moved Bookish Friday to Tuesday and made it, therefore, Bookish Tuesday! My book journal is pretty epic. As an avid reader, I’ve collected many book journals over the years and have now create my own, based on my favorite topics from all the previous book journals I’ve had. The Table of Contents for the current incarnation is a separate page located here under Bookish Lists, Reviews & How-To’s.

Books That Made Me Cry

The best books are the ones that make you feel. And while most of us don’t love to be brought to tears of sadness in our every day lives, some of the best books as the ones that made use shed many tears. Highlights include: The Nightingale, The Montmaray Journals, and most other WWII novels among others.

Signed Books I’ve Read

I love to go meet authors and hear their stories about how their books came to be. The best part is when I’ve read the book before meeting the author and already love it, but I also love being intrigued by an author and then reading their book and loving it! I’ve decided to include the book pictures below, but for my favorite author encounters, they can be found here and here.

Literary Crushes & Book Boyfriends

Yes, I’m happily married. Yes, I still get excited about a great fictional man. Favorites include: Rhys in A Court of Mist & Fury by Sarah J. Maas, Henry in Royally Matched by Emma Chase, and Hideo in Warcross by Marie Lu