Tuesday, April 24, 2018

My Favorite NYC Bookstores

This coming Saturday is Independent Bookstore Day, and I realized I've never talked to you about the bookstores I love here in NYC.

So my favorite bookstore café, and probably my favorite bookstore in NYC full stop, is HousingWorks. Located in an alleyway basically (126 Crosby Street, between East Houston and Prince Streets in Soho), they do good by doing well. Part of a larger organization serving and advocating for HIV+ and homeless New Yorkers, the store is about the best used bookstore I've ever been in. It's huge; it's beautiful; it's well-organized and well-stocked. It almost always has what I'm looking for, or what I didn't know I was looking for. And I can always find a seat in its large café that also serves yummy coffee and treats. It's the perfect destination for bookish me-time.

A few steps away is McNally Jackson Books (52 Prince Street), an independent bookstore whose distinguishing feature is that it organizes its fiction by geographic region. So when you want the latest from Italy, or Japan, or Nigeria, you know just where to head. It's a bookstore for the truly bookish.

Head north a few blocks and you hit the Strand Bookstore (828 Broadways & 12th St.) a legendary landmark featuring new and used books in a multi-floor, semi-labrythine setting. Go early in the day and have the place to yourself.

And hey, there are lots of little bookstores tucked into the village here and there- and to be honest I haven't visited them all. I haven't made it to the new location of Idlewild Books, though it was one of my favorites when it was in the Flatiron district. And I haven't gone to some of the really tiny ones. But I keep them on my agenda.

So we're going to continue to head north and visit Rizzoli Books at 1133 Broadway and 25th Street. Rizzoli used to be located on 57th Street across from Carnegie Hall, but that gorgeous mansion was torn down and the store moved downtown to its present location in a magnificent space not far from Eataly. I love coming here. It's such a pleasure to browse the beautiful coffee-table books and foreign specialties, many of which Rizzoli also publishes.  I don't get here often but I never leave empty-handed.

In midtown proper my favorite bookstore is Kinokuniya (1073 6th Avenue near W42nd St.), the American flagship of the Japanese chain. I buy translated books here as well as manga and anime-related movies and merchandise. They also have a yummy Japanese-food cafe I've been known to nosh at.

Keep heading up Fifth Avenue and eventually you will get to Albertine (972 Fifth Avenue near E.78th St.), a French bookstore housed in the French Cultural Center and child of the French Embassy. It's in another gorgeous 2-floor space and I always leave with something wonderful. Downstairs is mainly fiction but climb the stairs for graphic novels, cookbooks, art books and all kinds of delights.

Out in the boroughs I have to admit I'm not as fluent as I could be with the bookstores. I love WORD Brooklyn in Greenpoint (and their Jersey City branch too). I'm excited about the new Kew & Willow Books in Kew Gardens, Queens, and of course Astoria Books in Astoria, Queens is adorable. But the only one I really make the trip out to visit is Greenlight Books in the Greenpoint neighborhood of Brooklyn, at 686 Fulton Street. (They have opened a second branch, on Flatbush Ave., that I have not visited.) Greenlight is probably my favorite bookstore besides HousingWorks. It's beautiful, well-lit, and the selection feels like it was curated just for me. It's irresistible.

And I love Little City Books of Hoboken, of course. Who wouldn't? It's adorable, well-stocked and the perfect neighborhood bookstore.

But I'll browse in any bookstore that's open and on my path. And we do have so many to choose from in this great city!

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

I've been through a few things lately. I read The Devoted, by Blair Hurley, coming out in August I believe and one I really enjoyed. It's a kind of coming-of-age book about a woman who's already an adult, who gets pulled into a relationship with her Buddhist teacher that is unhealthy on many levels, and is trying to break free.

I also read Good Neighbors, by Joanne Serling, about a woman whose high-strung frenemy has adopted a little Russian girl with unhappy results. The book has a very distinctive writing style which may be accomplishing some literary end but did not work for me as a reader.

Finally I finished The Last Black Unicorn and The Shape of Bones. So that's all good.

What am I reading now?

The Balcony, by Jane Delury, is a novel about an estate in France and the people who lived there over the years. Every chapter is about a different person, a different voice. I'm intrigued so far. I've read books like this before (especially thinking of Jenny Erpenbeck's masterful The Visitation) so I'm not exactly coming to the concept fresh. We'll see.

On the bedside table I'm into volume 4 of Osamu Tezuka's Buddha series and working my way through Mirror City, by Chitrita Banerji, about an Indian woman living in Bangladesh dealing with culture clashes and her mixed marriage (her husband is Muslim and she's Hindu). I like it a lot.

I haven't picked a new audiobook yet. Just not in the right
mood I guess. At the gym I'm reading Escape from Camp 14 by Blaine Harden, which is searing and difficult but important. This is about the only known escapee who was born inside one of North Korea's prison camps.

I still have Six Four floating around but some of the reading I'm doing is assignment stuff so I have to backburner it until I get some breathing room on the reading I have to do.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Blog-Appropriate Current Quilting Project

I may be in a reading slump, but I'm certainly not in a crafting one.

I finally found the book-quilt project I've been looking for. I've seen a lot- a lot- of book quilts where it's all spines, and those are fun to look at but from the perspective of doing it, piecing strips of fabric together in rows has always left me a little cold.

But I love foundation paper-piecing and the other day I found a pattern called Book Nerd that shows the covers with the pages open and decided to go for it.

I love the way it shows off fun fabric and gives me the opportunity to use up some "misfit" things that I haven't figured out how to use in blocks. And the pattern is simple enough that I can do it assembly-line style and knock out blocks relatively quickly.

It's also so versatile. You could use a variety of fabrics, like I'm doing, or do themes. There's a ton of comic book fabric out there; you could do a comic book quilt. Or you could pick fabrics that come from different places or show different locales and do a travel-book-quilt. Or a children's-book-quilt with some of the many many kids' prints like Eric Carle and Nancy Drew. The possibilities are endless!

What theme would you pick for your book quilt?

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

What's New on the Shelf?

Being in a bit of a reading slump hasn't stopped me from accumulating more books. No matter how slow my actual output my curiosity never rests.

The Joy Luck Club, by Amy Tan. I think I read this in college but I'm not sure. Anyway I want to read it now because soon I'll be going on my fifth trip to San Francisco and I love reading about the city I love to visit.

The Brothers, by Masha Gessen. This is about the Tsarnaev brothers and the Boston Marathon bombing of 2013. I have
my own experience of the bombing and I'm not sure what this book is going to tell me that I don't already know, but I respect Gessen's coverage of the Russian world and I'm interested to see what insights she can bring.

Anna, by Niccolo Ammaniti. I am not a big fan of post-apocalyptic dystopias but I can't resist Niccolo Ammaniti, so I had no choice but to pick up his latest to be translated into English.

The Break, by Katherena Vermette, is a melodrama set among a diverse community in Canada. It got my attention because I haven't seen many novels about indigenous Canadian people.

All of these are books I hope to get to sooner rather than later, but who knows, right? The only one I picked up intentionally was The Joy Luck Club; the rest were serendipitous finds on my many forays into the bookstores of NYC and northern New Jersey.

Monday, March 19, 2018

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

So I basically cleared the decks last week- finally finished The Luminaries, gave up on my carry-around read and started a new one, and made it to book 3 of Buddha. I haven't started a new book at the gym because I was only able to make it to the gym once last week and forgot to take a new book. This week I have to travel for work and won't be at the gym at all (although I may be able to work out in my hotel room) so no new gym book this week either.

I did get to have some nice bookstore-cafe time last Monday and started Hideo Yokoyama's very compelling crime novel Six Four. It's about a police media-relations specialist and former detective dealing with three things at once. First, a controversy is brewing at his station because his department is refusing to release the name of a woman involved in a fatal car crash, so Yokoyama is dealing with police department politics and the issue of freedom of information. Secondly, Mikami, our main character, has a daughter who has disappeared. And finally an old case is coming back around, a case of a kidnapped and murdered child. Mikami has a lot on his plate and the book is long and detailed.

Bedside I'm reading Daniel Galera's latest in English, The Shape of Bones. This one is about a group of friends who are avid climbers. I like that his books seem to frequently feature athletes. It adds an interesting dimension to his characters and I learn a lot. I'm not far enough in to say more and it's a short book I hope to finish this week.

In audioland I have about an hour left of Tiffany Haddish's memoir The Last Black Unicorn. Since starting it I've become aware of the controversies around it and while I enjoy the book I'm not sure how those are going to shape my feelings about it in the end. I have a lot of audiobooks on deck and haven't decided what to start next. I'm leaning towards Michelle McNamara's I'll Be Gone in the Dark but we'll see. And in the meantime maybe this is the book that will get me back to reviewing.

And like I said no new book at the gym, last week or this. I hope to be back in the swing soon.

Monday, March 12, 2018

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

I've been in a kind of miserable reading slump lately; I blogged about it then deleted the post, because I thought it sounded too whiny and bummed out. And that's not what I want to convey on my blog. But the fact remains. So here's what's been going on. I started and couldn't finish The Good Life Elsewhere, so I'm going to reshelve it for the future. I have a huge pile of books to sell, and I'm going to take some of them in today, then get a cup of coffee and have some "me time" at my favorite bookstore cafe, with a book of course. I don't know which one yet. Probably Six Four by Hideo Yokoyama but no promises.

Speaking of being bummed out, I lost my copy of Renoir: An Intimate Biography, with only about 60 pages to go, and I'm very bummed out about that. And I finished Jen Kirkman's I Know What I'm Doing and Other Lies I Tell Myself, which I found thoroughly delightful.

So here I am, it's Monday, and I'm still reading Eleanor Catton's The Luminaries and I expect to finish it this week and have a new bedside read to tell you about next Monday. I'm also close to finishing volume 2 of Osamu Tezuka's Buddha series of graphic novels/manga.

On the audio front, I am really enjoying Tiffany Haddish's The Last Black Unicorn. You should all go read that right away.

And I don't have any new gym reads right now and may just stick to magazines for a while. I feel like reading about San Francisco since I'm going there soon, so maybe I'll start that book I got there last year about the earthquake. Or something else. Who knows?

Monday, February 26, 2018

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

I finished up reading Alan Hollinghurst's latest, The Sparsholt Chronicles, and finished volume 1 (of 8) of Osamu Tezuka's graphic series Buddha. I ran out of other graphic nonfiction to read, so it's time to take on that particular behemoth. I don't know if I'm going to keep or discard the books after I'm done; I feel like it's something I may want to revisit, and it's a lot to collect, so we'll see.

I started Vladimir Lorchenkov's The Good Life Elsewhere, about a group of Moldovans who want to emigrate to Italy. I'm really just on page 5 so I can't say much else.

I'm over 600 pages into The Luminaries now, and it's still really really good. No wonder it won the Man Booker Prize. What a tangled web we weave...

In audioland I'm enjoying Jen Kirkman's I Know What I'm Doing and Other Lies I Tell Myself. I know I should be reading more serious books but sometimes I just like listening to women telling their stories. I'll probably finish it this week and then pick something new.

Finally I'm still reading Renoir: An Intimate Biography. I like it, and I'm learning a lot, but it does seem like the author is fighting really hard to convince us that her subject was a good guy. I get that standards were different in the nineteenth century but still. I also don't like the fat-phobia that creeps into her discussion of Renoir's wife Aline from time to time. But if you're interested in the subject of Renoir and his times it's well worth reading.

What are you reading?

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Audiobook Listening Habits

My favorite audiobook vendor, Libro.fm, recently had a blog post entitled 8 Top Audiobook Listening Activities and it got me thinking about what I like to do while listening to audiobooks.

Audiobooks are a big part of my reading life these days. I'm finding it harder to concentrate on print sometimes, and my eyesight has gotten a little worse necessitating glasses when I do read print. Of course nothing can replace actually curling up with a good book, but there are times when I'm busy moving around and can't sit still long enough to turn a page.


Most of my audiobook listening is nonfiction, because I feel like if my attention drifts for a moment or two, I can catch up, and writing style is a little less important to me when it comes to nonfiction. And most of my listening time is spent in transit- on the bus and walking around my neighborhood. On the subway I have to be aware of my surroundings and a lot of information can come in through the ears so it's harder to concentrate on a narrative.

I can't listen while crafting because if I don't pay attention to where those needles are going, I'm gonna get hurt. And at the gym, I listen to music and read print; I tried doing audiobooks at the gym and I just found that I need the rhythm of music to keep my body going.

I like to listen best while I'm just relaxing. When I have to spend a long time waiting, like in a holding room, sometimes the lighting is bad and it's hard to read, or sometimes I've already spent a long time with a print book and need a break. Earphones have the added benefit of discouraging conversation, so when I need a little introvert time, audiobooks come to the rescue.


So there.

Monday, February 12, 2018

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

So for reasons, for the last two weeks I've had an unusual amount of reading time. Let's just say sometimes when you work as a background actor, "working" can mean "waiting", and you can be waiting for a very long time indeed. Anyway I had basically a record amount of time to read. I finished Babel Tower almost right away; then I decided to just take the next random book off my shelf and read it. That happened to be Nancy Mitford's Love in a Cold Climate. I finished it. The next random book on the shelf was Skylark, by Dezso Kosztolanyi; it was an NYRB Classics I'd collected a while back (collecting is the right word for those books; I used to kind of just pick them up all the time). I read that too.  Both of them were a solid 3 stars.

I also finished Samantha Irby's We Are Never Meeting in Real Life and started and finished Aziz Ansari's Modern Romance. The Irby was definitely my favorite. The Ansari was more sociology than comedy, and although I enjoyed it and learned a lot, as a 40-something married woman I guess I'm not too worried about Tinder and the like. But it was fun.

So after all this binge-reading, what am I reading now? Well.

I'm taking a break from random books on the shelf and picked up my galley of Alan Hollinghurt's latest, The Sparsholt Affair, coming out next month. It's about a group of gay men and their families through the years, specifically about David Sparsholt, a golden boy of World War 2-era Oxford and his son Johnny. It's so beautifully written- you can always rely on Hollinghurst for a beautiful style. It's a pleasure to read.

I'm also taking a break from my graphic nonfiction and focusing solely on The Luminaries. I'm almost to the 500 (out of 800ish) page mark. It's great. It's about secrets and lies among gold-diggers and fortune-seekers of late 19th-century New Zealand.

(I actually finished all of my graphic nonfiction except for the 8-volume Buddha series, which I still intend to read this year.)

At the gym I'm still on Renoir: An Intimate Biography, by Barbara Ehrlich White, an excellent and highly readable bio of the famed Impressionist.

In audioland I'm between titles. I may start Jen Kirkman's I Know What I'm Doing---And Other Lies I Tell Myself. It would be the second memoir I've read recently by a woman with a title implicating herself as a liar, the other being Whitney Cummings' I'm Fine And Other Lies. Why do this? Anyway rant over. Or I may start Ben Greenman's Dig If You Will the Picture, about Prince. My pal Peter Berkrot is the narrator so there's that incentive. We'll see.

What about you? What are you reading this week? I'd love to know.

Monday, February 5, 2018

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Last week I finished Samantha Irby's We Are Never Meeting in Real Life, as well as A.S. Byatt's Babel Tower, which I didn't anticipate finishing for a while. But as it turned out all I needed was to sit around in holding for an afternoon without going to set.

So this week I've started a couple of new books. On the fiction front, I'm reading Nancy Mitford's Love in a Cold Climate, a kind of Downton Abbey-esque romance romp set in pre-WW2 Britain among the gentry.

I also started Aziz Ansari's Modern Romance for my audio book, which I'm enjoying. It's 80% sociology, 20% comedy and very entertaining when you listen to Ansari narrate it.

But the biggest thing for me is that I decided to participate in a readalong of Don Quixote, hosted by Nancy of the blog Bookfoolery and Ryan of the blog Wordsmithonia. They're calling it Tilting at Windmills, which is appropriate! I have tried to read Don Quixote before and faltered after about 150 pages. That is the first week's portion so I'll have to do better.

And that's pretty much it! Hope you're having a great week and I'd love to know what you're reading.