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A neighborhood bookstore blog for Mt. Airy and beyond.
Updated: 6 min 34 sec ago

Jen’s Five Books of Issues Relevant to This Election Season

Tue, 2012-10-16 18:01
Voting Rights and Women’s Rights:
Blue Thread by Ruth Tenzer Feldman (Ooligan Press, $12.95)

The only work of fiction on the list, Blue Thread is one of the books for our upcoming Young Adult multi-author event on October 25, and it’s the story of two Jewish teenagers standing up for their rights across centuries of time. Oh, and the power of the printing press. This story of women’s suffrage doesn’t address the same issues raised by recent attempts to impose a sudden Voter ID law upon the state of Pennsylvania, but it does highlight what happens when women are arbitrarily refused a say over the paths of their own lives.

Separation of Church and State:
Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism by Susan Jacoby (Henry Holt, $18.00)

A fabulous and highly researched book of American history, Freethinkers pulls together the threads of history among nonreligious Americans. Among other things, it’s where I learned that in revolutionary times, Catholics and Evangelical Christians allied themselves with the secularists (and with other small religions) to prevent the establishment of religion in this country…and to ensure, through the Constitution, that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States”. Kind of ironic, no?

Marriage Equality:
My Two Moms by Zach Wahls (Penguin, $26.00)

I was initially wary of the attention given to 19-year-old Zach Wahls in his testimony for the legalization of same-sex marriage in Iowa -- suspecting that he gained extra status through being straight and white and an Eagle Scout -- but then I thoroughly enjoyed reading his book, which uses the specific values of the Boy Scouts to frame the story of his family and its corresponding lessons about family in general.

Outcasts United: An American Town, A Refugee Team, and One Woman's Quest to Make a Difference by Warren St. John (Spiegel & Grau, $15.00)

Place hundreds of war refugees from multiple countries in a small town in Georgia that wasn’t expecting them, and you get some…tension. One former refugee takes it upon herself to organize teenaged boys into soccer teams, helping deal with their sense of trauma and loss, with their complicated multinational dynamics, and with the (mostly) covert hostility of neighbors and local government, who do everything they can to prevent them from practicing and competing. And these are legal immigrants.

Twisting of Facts:
Lies My Teacher Told Me by James W. Loewen (Simon & Schuster, $16.00)

As someone who cares a lot about accuracy, I have taken special interest in learning about the ways history has been distorted in textbooks to fit ideals of patriotism, racism, jingoism, etc. (A friend who worked for a textbook company used to complain that every time Texas law changed what was allowed in their texts, the same changes were applied to all textbooks countrywide.) Like Freethinkers, this book taught me all sorts of things I’d never known about my own country. It’s now required reading in some high school classrooms.

Jennifer Sheffield, October 2012
Categories: Bookstore Blogs

Young Adult Author Profile: Elisa Ludwig

Fri, 2012-10-12 19:00
Please join us on Thursday, October 25, for an evening of new young adult literature! Four authors, three local and one formerly local, will be reading from and discussing their newest books. This interview with Elisa Ludwig, author of Pretty Crooked, is the second of four author profiles I'll be posting on the blog this month. Keep checking back!

For more details about the event, see our
website or the Facebook event page.

1) How would you describe your writing?
My writing definitely changes with the story's demands, but in the Pretty Crooked series it's lighthearted and quick-paced, with a very contemporary sensibility and just a touch of snark. Also, there's fashion. And some criminal activity. And smooching.

2) How does writing fit into your everyday life?
I am a fulltime freelance writer by trade, so I am literally writing something—whether it's copy for a client, a food feature for the Inquirer, or my latest YA manuscript—at most hours of the day. Thankfully, I have muscular fingers.

3) What authors and/or poets inspire you?
In the YA world, I love M.T. Anderson, Sarah Dessen, A.S. King, E. Lockhart, Frank Portman and (who doesn't?) John Green. I also read a lot of literary fiction and really enjoy Alice Munro, Jennifer Egan, Mary Gaitskill, Tessa Hadley, George Saunders and Jeffrey Eugenides. Oh gosh, the list could go on...

4) What part does the community of Philadelphia play in your life and your writing?
I grew up in Plymouth Meeting and am now a proud resident of East Falls. I've always been excited to support small businesses and the libraries of Philadelphia and being an author has given me a whole new opportunity to engage with them. None of my books so far actually take place in Philly—I've been waiting for the right story to set here, but there are a few percolating.

5) What is the last book you have read that you enjoyed? Tell our Big Blue Marble community a little about it.
I'm currently reading The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily Danforth, a debut contemporary YA about a lesbian girl coming of age in Montana in the late 1980s/early 1990s. It's beautifully written with vivid detail and the kind of gritty emotional realism that anyone who's ever been a teenager, gay or not, can relate to.

Elisa Ludwig studied writing at Vassar College and Temple University, but she wanted to be a writer long before all of that. Technically, it was when she started writing, editing and publishing The Elisa Bulletin which she printed out on a dot matrix printer and sold for ten cents a pop. She has been pick-pocketed twice, and once caught someone mid-pocket. Other than occasional jaywalking, she’s a law-abiding citizen. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband. PRETTY CROOKED is her first novel, and will be followed by PRETTY SLY in 2013, and PRETTY WANTED in 2014. You can visit her online at, and watch the book trailer here.
Categories: Bookstore Blogs

Young Adult Author Profile: K. M. Walton

Tue, 2012-10-09 19:00
Please join us on Thursday, October 25, for an evening of new young adult literature! Four authors, three local and one formerly local, will be reading from and discussing their newest books. This interview with K. M. Walton, author of Cracked, is the first of four author profiles I'll be posting on the blog this month. Keep checking back!

For more details about the event, see our
website or the Facebook event page.

1) How would you describe your writing?
In a word? Honest. In a lot of words? I try to write things so that my readers have access to the hearts of people otherwise overlooked.

2) How does writing fit into your everyday life?
I write full time, so it actually is my everyday life, and I love it.

3) What authors and/or poets inspire you?
Beth Kephart, A. S. King, John Green, J. K. Rowling, Lois Lowry, Judy Blume, Andrew Smith, Stephen Chbosky, Sherman Alexie.

4) What part does the community of Philadelphia play in your life and your writing?
Growing up in the Philadelphia suburbs, the great city of Philadelphia has always been a part of my life. I know how to navigate it, I love coming into town—it is, hands down, the best city on earth.

5) What is the last book you have read that you enjoyed? Tell our Big Blue Marble community a little about it.
SMALL DAMAGES by Beth Kephart is a gorgeously written book about a pregnant teen named Kenzie who is sent to Seville, Spain for a few months. Kephart’s writing is lush and poetic, enough so that while reading, I felt as if I were in Seville. It’s a story about choices and love, loss and hope, and it is a masterpiece.

K. M. Walton is the author of Cracked (Simon Pulse ~ Simon & Schuster 2012) and Empty (Simon Pulse ~ Simon & Schuster 1-1-2013) and the co-author of Teaching Numeracy: 9 Critical Habits to Ignite Mathematical Thinking (Corwin Press 2011 - lead author Margie Pearse) for mathematics teachers K - 8. As a former middle-school language-arts teacher she's passionate about education and ending peer bullying. She gives school presentations on the topic "The Power of Human Kindness." She lives in PA with her husband, two sons, cat, and turtle. Visit the author at or follow her on twitter @kmwalton1.
Categories: Bookstore Blogs

Janet's Five Selections of Hope through Music

Sun, 2012-09-30 22:47
Whether it's a toddler banging a spoon on an upturned metal pot, a symphony playing Mozart, a guy on the street playing harmonica for change, music provides the universal words of survival, hope, sometimes even inspiration and comfort and the possibility of joy. The following choices speak not only to the power of creating music but to honor the message of Playing for Change and the music that is inside all of us.

Let It Shine by Ashley Bryan (Altheneum Books, $16.99)
The words to three favorite spirituals are written out amid vibrant colors.

All Together Singing in the Kitchen by Nerissa and Katryna Nields
(Roost Books, $22.95)

This book celebrates family music making in all shapes and forms.

33 Revolutions per Minute by Dorian Lynskey (Harper Collins, $19.99)
Protest songs have seen us through the lowest and highest times in history, providing strength, encouragement and empowerment.

Neighborhood Sing-Along by Nina Crews (Greenwillow Books, $17.99)
This is a collection of playground songs adding musical elements to the dance of play.

Bob Dylan: Forever Young, edited by Robert Sullivan (LIFE, $17.99)
From Robert Zimmerman to Bob Dylan and beyond, Dylan accompanied many through a lifetime as so many of his songs became part of our world's history.

Perhaps we all might add a tune as we walk, pause to enjoy the street musicians, and stop once in a while to really listen and celebrate or even come into the store and sing along to the music waiting inside our books.

Janet Elfant, September 2012
Categories: Bookstore Blogs

Erica’s Five Hardcovers I Would Buy (If I Bought Hardcovers)

Thu, 2012-09-27 12:12
Just like there are cat people and dog people, there are paperback people and hardcover people. I could go on and on and enumerate the many ways in which these two species differ from one another but suffice it to say hardcover people smell. That is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers (McSweeney’s, $25.00)
I’ve never actually read any Eggers, and he’s got enough highly regarded fiction and non-fiction in print that there’s absolutely no excuse for my lackadaisical interest in his oeuvre. I am a fan of his brainchild McSweeney’s however, as a press, a literary magazine, and an internet tendency. Plus, this guy is a master of packaging, as the cover of his latest novel will attest. Frankly, that’s enough to sell me.

Release Date: September 4
NW by Zadie Smith (Penguin, $26.95)
I’m not sure if I’m calling Smith’s latest novel “NW” or “Northwest” in reference to the London neighborhood where her four protagonists live. I do know that ever since White Teeth, I’ve been eager for Smith to get back to London in way that she hasn’t quite since her astonishing debut. Maybe NW is the return trip I’ve been waiting for.

Release Date: September 11
This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz (Riverhead, $26.95)
Curious to see what Diaz’s second short story collection, and follow up to the Pulitzer Prize winning Oscar Wao, will look like. You will perhaps recall that the eponymous title character of Wao was haunted by a fuku, or curse. Hopefully Diaz has not succumbed to the fuku of the Pulitzer Prize winner by giving us a follow up that pales in comparison to the award-winning work.

Release Date: September 11
Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon (Harper Collins, $27.99)
I couldn’t really get into Chabon’s last novel The Yiddish Policeman’s Union. Maybe it’s because I know nothing about being a policeman, or speaking Yiddish for that matter. Telegraph Ave hits a little closer to home with its tale of Brokeland Records, an indie operation selling soon-to-be-obsolete-product staffed by quirky, often off-putting mouth-breathers who are the hallmark of an independent retail shopping experience. I know a little something about that.

Release Date: TODAY
Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling (Little Brown, $35.00)
So as Harry Potter fans aren’t we all, like, obligated to check this out? I should warn you there are no boy wizards in sight. Instead Rowling has given us a murder mystery set in a charming English hamlet full of secrets. I’m getting a definite Peyton Place vibe here, but that’s not going to stop me from referring to this book as Murder in Little Whinging.

Erica David, September 2012
Categories: Bookstore Blogs

Nif's Five Books That Make Micah (age 19m) Go "Moo!" (which means "More, more!")

Tue, 2012-09-25 10:00
Moo, Baa, La La La by Sandra Boynton (Simon & Schuster, $5.99)
OK, this one literally makes Micah go "Moo!" He has loved it since he was a baby. Now we say the rhymes, he provides animal noises. We all have it memorized. Fun!

Barnyard Dance by Sandra Boynton (Workman, $6.95)
Baby Micah loved this book. Toddler Micah claps, stomps, bows, and otherwise dances along to the swinging verses.

Machines at Work by Byron Barton (HarperCollins, $7.99)
Micah loves trucks. His feminist mothers love that some of the truck drivers are clearly female. This book is almost as mesmerizing as an actual construction site. I predict that he will own many Byron Barton books before he outgrows his fascination with all things vehicular.

Where Is the Green Sheep? by Mem Fox, illustrations by Judy Horacek (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $6.99)
This one is new to us. The rhymes are catchy, the pictures are lots of fun. I predict that we will memorize it without getting bored. This is high praise!

Everywhere Babies by Susan Meyers, pictures by Marla Frazee (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $6.95)
Most of the babies depicted are younger than Micah, but he loves looking at pictures of babies. The text is sweet, the pictures full of subtle messages about diverse families. The grownups in our house invariably become sentimental while reading the last pages.

Jennifer Woodfin, September 2012
Categories: Bookstore Blogs

Claudia's Barefoot list for September

Sun, 2012-09-23 21:51
September is the time to reminisce about the golden, sultry summer hours: ice cream, sun lotion, listening to the serenades of cicadas, walking barefoot on the beach...

Let's have one more summer moment and "Kick off your shoes and go Barefoot".

Barefoot Books celebrate art and story and touch the hearts and minds of children and adults. Be enchanted by the fables from the Islamic world, delve into the wisdom and compassion of Buddhist teaching through stories from India, China, Japan and Tibet. Find solace in the beautiful rendition of an age-old Hindu tale and follow the story Solomon told in Jerusalem:

The Wise Fool by Shahrukh Husain & Micha Archer (Barefoot Books, $19.99)

The Barefoot Book of Buddhist Tales, retold by Sherab Choedzin & Alexandra Kohn (Barefoot Books, $14.99)

The Story of Divaali, retold by Jatinder Verma (Barefoot Books, $16.99)

One City, Two Brothers by Chris Smith (Barefoot Books, $16.99)

The Barefoot Book of Princesses by Caitlin Matthews (Barefoot Books, $15.99)

Claudia Vesterby, September 2012
Categories: Bookstore Blogs

Cordelia's Five "Hanging on to Summer in September" Young Adult Fiction Reads

Fri, 2012-09-21 16:56
Can't let go of summer? Here are five coming of age books that all take place during the course of a life-altering summer.

The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen
(Speak, $9.99)

Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson
(Simon & Schuster, $16.99)

Mexican White Boy by Matt De La Peña
(Ember, $8.99)

Monsoon Summer by Mitali Perkins
(Laurel Leaf, $6.99)

Orchards by Holly Thompson
(Ember, $9.99)

Cordelia Jensen, September 2012
Categories: Bookstore Blogs

Nif's Recent Reads: Five Titles That Bear Absolutely No Relation to One Another Except That Nif Just Read Them, Plus Two Books That Nif Wants To Finish If She Ever Gets Time

Wed, 2012-08-29 09:00
Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon (Little, Brown, $24.99)
I picked it up because Rachel Simon and I both went to Bryn Mawr (at different times) and I was intrigued because it featured an interracial couple with disabilities. Moving and heartwarming.

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore (Penguin, $19.99)
I was excited to see a true sequel to Graceling, and it was very satisfying. Now I have to go back and read the companion novel, Fire. This series is sure to please fellow fans of young adult fantasy.

Extra Virginity by Tom Mueller (Norton, $25.95)
All about the corruption of the olive oil industry. The book made me eye the bottle on the shelf next to my stove with sad suspicion. Then I went out and bought a bottle of something much fresher and more tasty. Good food = good health!

The Fault In Our Stars by John Green (Penguin, $17.99)
Disclaimer: I am one of John Green's legion of YouTube fans. That said, of all the books I have read this year, this is the one I am most glad to have read. It's going to stay with me for a long time.
Hazel and Augustus are snarky nerds who meet at a support group for teens with cancer and fall in love. Incredibly life-affirming, and much funnier than you would expect. Sad too, of course, but deeply satisfying.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio (Random House, $15.99)
A boy with serious facial deformities leaves homeschooling for middle school. Brave kid. I really liked how the point of view shifted from the kid himself to the various people in his life. His presence was a test of character for the whole community. My coworker found me dissolved in tears at the end (in a good way). Lovely.

Two more books that Nif wants to finish if she ever gets time:

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain (Random House, $26.00)
Wow, the descriptions of the extroverts at the beginning frightened me. I'll pick up again when I've calmed down. Preferably when I can read it in a quiet room all by myself.

The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined by Steven Pinker (Viking, $40.00; paperback coming in September!)
I picked it up because I had just re-read The Language Instinct. (You know it's good when you keep your assigned reading from college and re-read it several times over the next 20 years.)
The argument is that humanity has been becoming less violent over time. I found the examples of just how violent and uncouth we as humans used to be both disgusting and compelling. Did you know that medieval etiquette manuals FOR ADULTS instructed folks not to blow their noses on the tablecloth or pee on the curtains? I believe Steven Pinker when he says that we've improved!
The text is dense, leavened slightly by lots of charts and graphs, which is why I put it down. But I do want to see it through to the end.

Jennifer Woodfin, August 2012
Categories: Bookstore Blogs


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