The Antiquarian Bookstore: The Orphanage of Used Books

alex atkins bookshelf booksEach time you step into an antiquarian bookstore, you cannot help but feel as if you are stepping into an orphanage of used books. Each book seems to scoot their shiny spines ever so slightly toward the bookshelf’s edge, calling out to you, “Please open my covers, read me — take me home with you.” But, alas, there are far too many to review, to really consider — especially in a well-stocked used bookstore that contains more than 50,000 books, some orphaned recently, and some long ago. Of course, the lucky few forlorn books that make their way to the cashier’s counter, evoking the ambivalence of envy and hope from its fellow orphans, treasure the notion that soon they will find a new home, sitting next to new siblings, each with their own journeys, their own stories to tell.

But it is not only the book buyer that considers these books as orphans — so too does the bookseller. It is he or she that has initially brought the book into the antiquarian bookstore after careful consideration, cleaned it, priced it, and gently placed it in its proper place in a labyrinth of bookshelves. And sometimes that place becomes the book’s home for months, that eventually turn into years and decades. For the bookseller, that book becomes part of the bookstores family. Each time, the bookseller glances at its proud, shiny spine, he or she thinks, “Perhaps today, this book will find its rightful owner, someone who will read it and cherish it. And if not today, perhaps tomorrow.” A bookseller must experience some level of sadness when they say goodbye to an old friend; however that sadness must be mitigated by the joy that the book will be rediscovered and find a new life in a new home.

Recently a bookseller from Broadhursts Bookshop in Southport, England (founded in 1920), shared the story of such a an orphaned book. Joanne Ball, a part-time employee tweeted on November 17, 2018: “I have just sold a book that we have had in stock since May 1991. We always knew its day would come.” The book was a children’s biography of William the Conqueror purchased by an “older gentleman who was buying several books on the Norman Conquest of Britain for his grandson.” Soon the news of this book sale captured the interest and imagination of book lovers and booksellers around the globe. One author wrote: “The book held its breath. It had hoped so often, only to have that hope crushed. Hands lifted it from the shelf, wrapped it warmly in paper. As the door closed on its past life, the book heard the soft cheers of its selfmates.” Other booksellers shared stories of books that were orphaned for decades; one wrote: “We had a book called ‘The Larger Moths of Warwickshire’ in stock for ten years. I was quite sad when someone bought it.” The folks at Broadhursts Bookshop were overwhelmed by the response; they wrote: “Would never have guessed for even a moment that this Tweet would go viral — thank you all for your likes, retweets, comments & follows. We are incredibly overwhelmed, and so happy at how many book-lovers there are out there.”

Perhaps the sale of this orphan book is the book that launched a thousand book sales — one book lover posted the perfect challenge to bibliophiles everywhere: “You know when people go to dog shelters and say I want to take home the dog who has been here longest. I’m going to this in bookstores. “Can you point me to the book you’ve had here the longest?” That will be some random book collection!… I will liberate those books!” This endeavor to paraphrase Portia from The Merchant of Venice — it is twice blest: it blesseth the indie bookstore that sells and the book lover that buys. So if you love books, visit your local antiquarian or used bookstore and liberate those orphaned books and share your story with Bookshelf readers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: Weird Things Customers Say in Bookstores
Types of Book Readers
Signs at an Indie Bookstore: Why Not Try a Book?
Serendipitous Discoveries in Used Bookstores
How Indie Bookstores are Thriving
Bookstores are Full of Stories
Who Will Save Our Bookstores?
The Sections of a Bookstore

For further reading:

A Storyteller Can Remind Us that the Swallows Still Sing Around the Smokestacks

alex atkins bookshelf quotations“Fiction cannot recite the numbing numbers, but it can be that witness, that memory. A storyteller can attempt to tell the human tale, can make a galaxy out of the chaos, can point to the fact that some people survived even as most people died. And can remind us that the swallows still sing around the smokestacks.”

American author, Jane Yyatt Yolen (born 1939) has written more than 365 books in the fantasy, science fiction and children genres. Her best-known work is the historical fiction novella, The Devil’s Arithmetic (1988), about a 12-year-old Jewish girl, Hannah Stern, from New York who is travels back in time to Poland in 1942 to experience the Holocaust. Stern witnesses the horrors of the Holocaust firsthand while living at a work camp. Ultimately she understands the profound importance of learning about the past. The novella won the National Jewish Book Award in 1989, and the television film adaptation (1999) was nominated for a Nebula Award. Yolen was awarded the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement in 2009.

How Politics Ruined Thanksgiving and What You Can Do About It

alex atkins bookshelf cultureWhile mashed potatoes and gravy is a classic holiday combination, mixing family and politics is not. Add several rounds of wine, and you have a recipe for a heated political debate; it is only a matter of time when you will be dodging turkey legs and dinner rolls thrown across the table. Unfortunately, since the election of Donald Trump as President in 2016, families have allowed partisan politics to creep into their Thanksgiving feast. And what is the impact on this cherished annual tradition? Families with mixed political alliances spent between 20 to 50 minutes less time wolfing down turkey and all the fixings at the table, according to a 2016 study by Keith Chen, a behavioral economist at the UCLA, and Ryne Rohla, a Ph.D. student in economics at Washington State University. The researchers found that Republicans left earlier than Democrats, while some Democrats were more likely to skip dinner altogether. The effect increased significantly in areas with heavy political advertising that evoked fear and anger. Sadly, Americans pay a heavy social and personal price for this political divide — losing 73.6 million person-hours of precious family time each year; time that is lost forever.

So what is it about political discourse discussing turkeys in Washington over turkey that causes so much anxiety and acrimony? Suzanne Vegges-White, chair of Northern Illinois University’s Counseling, Adult and Higher Education Department, notes that the root problem is the expectation that all family members are on one side. She elaborates: “In terms of professional football, for instance, whether we pull for the Los Angeles Rams or the Chicago Bears, many of us are going to be loyal even when our team has a losing season and when they are playing an ‘arch rival,’ we become highly energized and invested in the game’s outcome. With politics, we also align ourselves with a particular side and we lose our ability to perceive the competition/political rival through a clear and balanced perspective. We care more about ‘our side’ winning than about learning about the other side’s standpoints.” What magnifies the rancor is that unlike support for a football team, support for a particular party and its platforms has real world impacts on a people — economic, legislative, mental and physical well-being, etc. Vegges-White continues: “We all need to experience a sense of belonging with others and when we feel that our families do not understand or agree with our perspective, it can be emotionally distressing. We may try even harder to convince family members to share our own beliefs than we would with acquaintances or strangers with whom we do not expect to have frequent or close interactions.”

Graham Hall, a linguistics professor at Northumbria University in Newcastle, U.K., who wrote “How to talk about politics with your family” for The Conversation, observed “Maybe it boils down to the idea that we can choose our friends but not our family, and perhaps we tend to choose our friends because of shared values. We can also ‘drop’ friends in a way which we can’t with family.” Mediator Kenneth Cloke, author of Politics, Dialogue and the Evolution of Democracy : How to Discuss Race, Abortion, Immigration, Gun Control, Climate Change, Same Sex Marriage and Other Hot Topics, notes that what makes politics so divisive is that it segregates people into right and wrong: [That’s] a form of domination. That is, one side being right and the other side being wrong and there isn’t any perceived option that would allow people to discover what is right in both people’s perspective and what is wrong… We have slipped into a way of talking about politics and conducting politics that is unnecessarily divisive. So, if you think about what politics actually is, you can define it as consisting of two separate and entirely different things. The first is just a form of social problem-solving. If it’s just social problem-solving, it’s not much conflict. And the conflict there is constructive and useful.”

So how should family members talk about politics at Thanksgiving? A number of experts and organizations have come up with some best practices for keeping the peace at Thanksgiving dinner:

Engage in one-on-one conversations rather than group discussions.

Find something in common with someone who holds different political views. Try to understand their point of view and initially respond with a distillation of their ideas.

Criticize the ideas and not the family member. That is to say, criticize the legislative issues, policies, or actions.

Avoid asking “gotcha” questions that evoke arguments rather than discussions.

Keep a sense of humor about certain topics. Making fun of politicians or policies is less threatening than severe criticism.

Focus on the values that family members have in common and discuss how a politician or policy does or does not support those values.

Avoid assigning negative motives or labels to categorize the other side (terms like “racist,” “socialist,” etc.)

Stay calm: don’t raise your voice or get flustered.

Steer conversation to happy or positive topics when the conversation is headed toward acrimony.

Everyone responds to alcohol differently. Since alcohol lowers inhibitions, for some people, it brings out the worst. Avoid political conversations with individuals who tend to be argumentative and belligerent after a few drinks.

The goal of a discussion is not necessarily to change a person’s mind. Liberals and conservatives mostly fail when they try to persuade their opponents because simply proclaiming your position passionately and questioning the motives and morality of ideological opponents is counterproductive. Research by Stanford sociologist Robb Willer and social psychologist Matthew Feinberg found that the best way to change an opponent’s mind is if you appeal to their deeply-held values, evoking empathy and commonality.

So share this post and promote the intention of Thanksgiving: giving thanks for all the good things in life.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: Best Thanksgiving Movies
Top Thanksgiving Myths
Best Books About Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving Lite
Best Poems for Thanksgiving Day
Funny Thanksgiving Jokes

For further reading:

The Wisdom of Bill Moyers

alex atkins bookshelf wisdomBill Moyers (born 1934) is a respected journalist and political commentator. He served President Lyndon Johnson as White House Press Secretary in the 1960s. After his work at the White House, he produced many award-winning documentaries and news journal programs for PBS, including Bill Moyers Journal; The Power of Myth; The Secret Government: The Constitution in Crisis; In Search of the Constitution; A World of Ideas; Now with Bill Moyers; Faith and Reason; and Moyers on America. Moyer has received many awards: more than 30 Emmy Awards, the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism, a lifetime Peabody Award, induction into the Television Hall of Fame, and the 2006 Lifetime Emmy Award. In bestowing the last award, the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences noted: “Bill Moyers has devoted his lifetime to the exploration of the major issues and ideas of our time and our country, giving television viewers an informed perspective on political and societal concerns.” His observations and commentaries are as relevant today, particularly in a Trumpian world, as they were a decade ago (and earlier):

“The corporate right and the political right declared class war on working people a quarter of a century ago and they’ve won. The rich are getting richer, which arguably wouldn’t matter if the rising tide lifted all boats. But the inequality gap is the widest it’s been since 1929; the middle class is besieged and the working poor are barely keeping their heads above water. The corporate and governing elites are helping themselves to the spoils of victory — politics, when all is said and done, comes down to who gets what and who pays for it — while the public is distracted by the media circus and news has been neutered or politicized for partisan purposes.”

“[The public is] distracted by the media circus and news has been neutered or politicized for partisan purposes. [Consider] the paradox of Rush Limbaugh, ensconced in a Palm Beach mansion massaging the resentments across the country of white-knuckled wage earners, who are barely making ends meet in no small part because of the corporate and ideological forces for whom Rush has been a hero… As Eric Alterman reports in his recent book [What Liberal Media? The Truth About Bias and the News, 2003]… part of the red-meat strategy is to attack mainstream media relentlessly, knowing that if the press is effectively intimidated, either by the accusation of liberal bias or by a reporter’s own mistaken belief in the charge’s validity, the institutions that conservatives revere — corporate America, the military, organized religion, and their own ideological bastions of influence — will be able to escape scrutiny and increase their influence over American public life with relatively no challenge.”

“There is no more important struggle for American democracy than ensuring a diverse, independent and free media. Free Press is at the heart of that struggle.”

“For the first time in our history, ideology and theology hold a monopoly of power in Washington.”

“What’s right and good doesn’t come naturally. You have to stand up and fight for it — as if the cause depends on you, because it does.”

“The printed page conveys information and commitment, and requires active involvement. Television conveys emotion and experience, and it’s very limited in what it can do logically. It’s an existential experience-there and then gone.”

“Television can stir emotions, but it doesn’t invite reflection as much as the printed page.”

“We see more and more of our Presidents and know less and less about what they do.”

“This is the first time in my 32 years in public broadcasting that PBS has ordered up programs for ideological instead of journalistic reasons.”

“There are honest journalists like there are honest politicians — they stay bought.”

“The printed page conveys information and commitment, and requires active involvement. Television conveys emotion and experience, and it’s very limited in what it can do logically. It’s an existential experience — there and then gone.”

“Secrecy is the freedom tyrants dream of.”

“I work for him despite his faults and he lets me work for him despite my deficiencies.”

“Hyperbole was to Lyndon Johnson what oxygen is to life.”

“Democracy may not prove in the long run to be as efficient as other forms of government, but it has one saving grace: it allows us to know and say that it isn’t.”

“Creativity is piercing the mundane to find the marvelous.”

“As a student I learned from wonderful teachers and ever since then I’ve thought everyone is a teacher.”

“Democracy belongs to those who exercise it.”

“We don’t care really about children as a society and television reflects that indifference to children as human beings.”

“Our very lives depend on the ethics of strangers, and most of us are always strangers to other people.”

“When I learn something new – and it happens every day – I feel a little more at home in this universe, a little more comfortable in the nest.”

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

For further reading: A Republic, If You Can Keep It
What is the Declaration of Independence Worth?
Is the United States a Democracy or Republic?

For further reading:

The Dalai Lama on Living in the Material World

alex atkins bookshelf quotations“Nowadays the world is becoming increasingly materialistic, and mankind is reaching toward the very zenith of external progress, driven by an insatiable desire for power and vast possessions. Yet by this vain striving for perfection in a world where everything is relative, they wander even further away from inward peace and happiness of the mind.”

From My Tibet (1995) by the 14th Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibetan people. During his spiritual and political career, the Dalai Lama has earned numerous honorary doctorates and awards, including the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989. In a global poll conducted by Harris Interactive in 2013, the Dalai Lama was considered the most popular world leader (he tied with former U.S. President Barack Obama).

What is the Most Rejected Book of All Time?

alex atkins bookshelf books“Tis a lesson you should heed, try, try again. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” When American educator Thomas Palmer wrote that in the Teacher’s Manual (1840), he was encouraging schoolchildren to finish their homework. But that same adage is perfectly true for aspiring writers who will receive their share of rejections slips from publishers and agents. Some of the greatest writers have received rejection slips: D. H. Lawrence, Herman Melville, Vladimir Nabokov, George Orwell, Marcel Proust, Kurt Vonnegut — to name just a few.

Of course, this discussion invites the question: what is the most rejected book of all time? Technically, that would be a book that has never been published — and there are thousands of those. But let’s limit the question to a book that was eventually published. According to the folks at LitHub, the author that holds the records for receiving the most rejections for a book is American science fiction writer Richard Samuel “Dick” Wimmer for Irish Wine (the first part of the Irish Wine Trilogy). He was 28 years old when he wrote it, but it took more than 25 years — and 162 rejections — until it was finally published in 1989 (by then, Wimmer was 53 years old).

In second place is Chicken Soup for the Soul by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen. Canfield’s manuscript received 144 rejections from publishers. Of course, the book became a phenomenal best-seller and launched a very lucrative brand and franchise. Dig this: the Chicken Soup books have sold more than 130 million copies. Responding to the sea of rejections he received, Canfield wrote: “If we had given up after 100 publishers, I likely would not be where I am now. I encourage you to reject rejection. If someone says no, just say ‘next!'”

Not far behind is Robert Pirsig’s classic Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. That philosophical work received 121 rejections. Fortunately for Pirsig, he persevered, and the book went on to become a bestseller and cult classic, selling millions of copies. Who says success isn’t the best revenge?

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: Famous Authors Who Were Rejected by Publishers
Could Jane Austen Find a Publisher for Her Work Today?
Daily Rituals of Writers: William Faulkner
Daily Rituals of Writers: Isaac Asimov
What Would Famous Authors Order at Starbucks
The Daily Word Quotas of Famous Authors
Random Fascinating Facts About Authors
Words Invented by Famous Authors

For further reading:

Signs at an Indie Bookstore: Why Not Try a Book?

alex atkins bookshelf booksIndie bookstores are owned by some of the most passionate bibliophiles you will ever meet. They love books and are thrilled if you come in and just take a look around to see their treasures. What makes some of these indie bookstores so unique is not just about how they display their books, but by the clever signs they place around the bookshelves — to encourage you to read or to promote literacy. Recently, I found this sign, entitled “Why Not Try a Book?” which makes a compelling case for why printed books are better than e-books. You be the judge.

Why Not Try a Book?

Infinite battery life

Page always loads

DRM free

Never loses your data

Immune to viruses

Compatible with all hands and eyes

Vibration and drop resistant

What else can we add to this list? Leave your suggestion in the comments.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: Weird Things Customers Say in Bookstores
Types of Book Readers


%d bloggers like this: