Books, glorious books!

As the sunlit hours grow shorter, the appeal of curling up on the couch under a quilt with a good book and the a (dvd) fire roaring grows.  This weekend, an overdue book led me on an adventure that satisfied all my bookworm needs.

I headed downtown for the first time in weeks to return Homer and Langley (a great book about humanity, hoarding, and brotherhood, based on a true story) to the Boston Public Library.  The BPL is host to some great free events and interesting exhibits, so I dropped off my book and wandered around.  And that’s when I saw it; a sign bearing two of the greatest words in the English language:

Book Sale!

Eureka!  I found my way to the basement of the McKim building where I landed in my own sort of paradise – a room full of library cast-offs and used books, all going for a buck or two (for hardcovers).

I found thrillers, travel books, an advance copy of a novel about what would happen if Jesus ran for President, stacks of identical books that were clearly book-club fodder once upon a time, and a collection of Dickens’ books that was missing all my favorites but was sitting next to a copy of “The Little Peppers and How They Grew,” which made me happy.

I ended up with an eclectic collection for a mere $7 – a Girl Scout Handbook from 1958 (Hey Mom, I can make a yarn doll with it!), a book about the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary, “Other Statues of Boston” (which, to be honest, I purchased because I loved the extremely strict stickers on the front which decree that it is NOT TO BE TAKEN FROM THIS ROOM, but it’s actually really interesting,) a short self-exploration/ chick-lit novel, and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, which I’ve always intended to read.  It also falls into a class of book that I think should only be purchased used, a class that includes Atlas Shrugged (save your money…), and On the Road (this book deserves to travel before it lands on your shelf).

This amazing event happen every two months, on the first Saturday from 10-4 in the BPL Central Library’s McKim Building.  The dates for 2011 have already been posted:

  • February 5
  • April 2
  • June 4
  • August 6
  • October 1
  • December 3

Look for me there – now that I know about this event, there’s no way I’m missing another one!

PS:  If you’re a die-hard, you can even volunteer at the event by emailing

The Power of Paper

My latest edition of Glamour arrived in the mail yesterday, and I have spent most of the afternoon curled up on the couch, reading about holiday hairstyles, how to ask for a raise, and tips for stellar homemade tomato sauce.  I’ve folded down page corners, ripped out the excessive perfume ads, and skipped over the makeup tips (because really, who has time?).

I could have googled everything I wanted to know that’s within these pages or I could have read it weeks in advance on Glamour‘s website, but I didn’t because there is something special about holding that paper in your hands, something that you can’t accomplish on this glowing screen.

Having paper to hold onto – whether it’s a newspaper, letter, book, or magazine – feels so much more substantial and meaningful than anything electronic reading devices.  There are no batteries that can die, no need for internet connectivity, no corners to fold and pages to tear.  With a great book, I can pass it on to a friend immediately without worrying about file compatibility.  I can stick it in my purse, use it as a doorstop, wrap it and give it away for Christmas.  Can you do that with a complicated URL?  I don’t think so.

I also hold fast to the belief that printed articles are better researched and better written (ironic, I know, to be making this point online).  People are more accountable for their words when they are on paper instead of just online, and while I appreciate the various content of online newspapers (like the Huffington Post), it just doesn’t have the same level of credibility in my book.

Not everyone can afford these paper versions of culture, and I’m glad ideas are reaching a wider audience through advancements in technology.  But at the end of the day, I will keep buying my good old paperbacks, preferring bookmarks to power buttons and page turns to clicks.

(And for the record, I follow this rule myself and have kept a written journal for the last 19 years, so even my daily thoughts aren’t just in cyberspace.)


One of the things I love about our current apartment is the small community around us.  We live right off the T and everything is within walking distance, including the local library exactly one block away.

In my “funemployment,” there are some key things I am trying to accomplish.  In addition to getting a job, I want to use my time to volunteer, exercise, and learn new songs on my guitar.  I also wanted to get a library card.

So today, I set out to do just that.

I strode up the steps, threw open the big doors, walked to the front desk, and happily announced “Hi!  I’d like to get a library card, please.”

The man at the desk stared at me.  Stared at me.  Stared at me some more.

And then he laughed.

This was even before he looked at my ridiculous last name, and before he saw that I had brought my lease with me to prove my address (I couldn’t find anything else!).

In the end, he gave me a card, but I don’t really get what was so funny about it.  I guess maybe he doesn’t see many people my age who still get excited about the prospect of a new card and all the possibilities it allows.  Can I really be the only young woman who still cares about a new number and a new collection of books to explore?

I have to admit, the last time I got a card to the local library (across the street from Mount Holyoke) I used the card more often to pry open locked doors than I did to check out books, but that was mostly because it was only open about 16 hours a week and I was in class for the majority of them.

Even as I remain mystified about his stares and laughter, I am excited to have taken one more step to be a part of this community.  Plus, more free books!  Win win win.

Dinner in Warsaw

Of all the things I love in the word, free events that feature books are near the top of the list.  (Right below random musical scenes acted out in public, which is pretty much the pinnacle of my possible happiness.)

My friends and family always call me out for noticing little details that others pass by.  Like the fact that they painted all the electrical boxes at Downtown Crossing one afternoon.  Or the name of the song that the bells at Macy’s peel out at 9:00 every morning.  Or the extreme joy I show when I find out that the Shaw’s down the street is FINALLY making loaves of Portuguese sweet bread.

One such thing I noticed was that the Boston Book Festival was happening today.  I attended the first BBF last year on a soggy October day with a smallish crowd that was mostly focused on the writing process.  This year, the event organizers put a lot more energy into publicizing the event and getting all sorts of authors, publishers, and people to attend.  The area was teeming with pedestrians, though I’m sure it didn’t hurt that President Obama was stumping for Deval Patrick down the street at Hynes.

Of the two sessions I attended, I was most intrigued by the one about “Home and Away,” which featured Bill Bryson and Tony Hiss, and was moderated by Robin Young.  I chose to attend this lecture because Bryson’s books always make me laugh out loud and yearn to pack up my backpack and my passport, often at the same exact time.  I feel like he sees the world the way I do, but he says it much much hilariously than I can.

Tony Hiss, however, affected me even more.  Though his slide show was an example of a “before” in a visual aid class, I was riveted by his presentation on “deep travel.” He says that we will use our brains more and get more out of life if, in every scenario, we look around and imagine that we are not in our local coffee shop, but instead in Warsaw.  If you were in another city, you would be noticing the papers people around you are reading.  The astonishing variety of sweeteners one can put in one’s coffee.  The speed of the cars passing by.  The smells!  The taste of that particular coffee, even if it’s your third one of the day.

I loved this, because it is exactly how I try to live my life.  I’ve been in Boston for almost 18 months now and I still strive to learn something new about the city every day.  I want to be the one seeing where that path ends, what new store is moving into that empty building, which flowers are in bloom this week.  I love being the first to notice that down the street, Brian has put up bright orange lights for Halloween, or that our new curtains exactly match the picture frame in our library. Right now, I’m sitting here, wondering who is getting married or why else the church bells would be ringing at this hour.

At the same time, exploring my own city makes me long for others.  I want to be back in a land of accents, of foreign money, of roads where I can’t pronounce the street names, nevermind know where they end.  I want to order “the best beer on tap,” and not always have it be a Sam Adams.  To forage for my breakfast, hop on the next train, and see what the people there have to say for themselves.

But in the meantime, I’m off to find dinner in my own personal “Warsaw.” Pożegnanie!