“The Universe in a Nutshell” by Stephen Hawking (And Other Amazing Used Books at WSB)

Changing our name from Wellington Square Bookshop to “The Best Kept Secret in Chester County” seems logical to me, given that at least once per week I meet a local who strolls in for the first time, having had no idea we have existed for years. Upon meeting “first-timers”, I am excited to point out the used book collection in the back of the store. Where else can you find a thoroughly captivating, often best-selling book in hardback for $4.95?

Our used non-fiction, in particular, fascinates me. This esoteric and eclectic
collection represents topics as varied as World War II missions, parenting advice,
spiritual encouragement, coffee table books of dog photography, a travel guide
of Paris and instructions on the practice of yoga. The biography selection alone
encompasses such a wide variety of characters (Ayn Rand, Nancy Reagan, Mark
Twain, Ted Hughes) a reader could get lost for hours.

Recently, a used copy of Stephen Hawking’s The Universe in a Nutshell found
its way onto our shelves. Though familiar with and in awe of Stephen Hawking, I
did not think his subject matter was accessible for a non-science/non-math brain
like mine (think colors person in a numbers world). After all, Stephen Hawking
is a genius – an intellectual icon. I was unaware of his ability to synthesize
information in a clear and concise manner. In this book, Hawking aims to explain
some high level concepts to a more general audience; a nice way of saying he
tries really hard to “dumb it down”. I would say Hawking is somewhat successful.
Every page includes photographs or colorful illustrations creating a physics
picture book. Most striking is Hawking’s sense of humor. I often found myself
chuckling at his remarks, like a favorite uncle zinging one-liners at family dinners.

In all honesty, there are still large parts of this book that are just not getting
through to me, but I really enjoyed much of it. This is the kind of book I could
see myself going back to over the years and possibly making notes in as
understanding progresses.

The Universe in a Nutshell is just one of many books in our used science
collection. I find our used science books intriguing, but I may be even more
infatuated with the used history section where Stephen Greenblatt’s Pulitzer prize
winner, The Swerve: How the World Became Modern, resides alongside Flyboys,
Band of Brothers and other accounts of world history. Fans of Michael Lewis
will find The Big Short in the business section. I have my eye on Seabiscuit and
Betrayal, the story of Aldrich Ames, as well as a few other biographies.

Stop in and browse the used non-fiction. What you find may surprise and delight
you.

~ Donnna

Interview with Sadie Stein author of “Object Lessons: The Paris Review Presents the Art of the Short Story”

Today at 5:00pm on WCHE 1520am, Sam interviews Sadie Stein, author of Object Lessons: The Paris Review Presents the Art of the Short Story.

What does it take to write a great short story? In Object Lessons, twenty-one contemporary masters of the genre answer that question, sharing favorite stories from the pages of The Paris Review.

A laboratory for new fiction since its founding in 1953, The Paris Review has launched hundreds of careers while publishing some of the most inventive and best-loved stories of the last half century. This anthology – the first of its kind – is more than a treasury: it is an indispensable resource for writers, students and anyone else who wants to understand fiction from a writer’s point of view.

A repository of incredible fiction, Object Lessons includes contributions from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Daniel Alarcon, Donald Antrim, Lydia Davis, Dave Eggers, Mary Gaitskill, Aleksandar Hemon, Jonathan Lethem, Sam Lipsyte, Ben Marcus, Colum McCann, Lorrie Moore, Norman Rush, Mona Simpson and Ali Smith, among others.

Listen to Sam’s interview with Sadie on Podomatic or you can download the podcast on iTunes.

Open Mic Night Tonight!

Join us tonight from 7-10pm for a rocking good time. 

Come down to the Bookshop and sing a song, recite poetry, perform a reading or tell a spooky story.  Our audience loves it all!

This month we will have a panel of judges listening to the performance.  The person or group judged the best will will $50!

We have launched an open mic night page on Facebook.  Be sure to follow us for all the latest news.

What’s Cooking? – THe Barefoot Contessa Cookbook

Ok, so I’m a few minutes late getting this out but I have a great excuse, I was cooking up a storm for this awesome cookbook.  Ina Garten (aka The Barefoot Contessa) has created a book filled with delicious and easy to make recipes. 

So what did I make you ask?  For breakfast I made her homemade granola.  I am a huge fan of yogurt and granola and this one does not disappoint.  Filled with sweet oats, crunchy nuts and tons of dried fruit this granola recipe is easy and delicious.  The only thing I would probably change is to leave the chopped dried fruit in a separate container to add to the granola upon eating so that the oats do not get stale from the moisture in the fruit.  This recipe is so delicious I think I ate 1/3 of it before it cooled.  This makes a ton of granola so you can think of other ways to use it then just for yogurt.  A few suggestions are put some in plastic bags to share with your friends, I love to add a scoop of granola to pancake batter, sprinkle some over baked apples.  So many options!

Next up on the menu was the rosemary white bean soup.  Now that the weather has turned chilly (I’m from Florida so I’m down right freezing about now) it is time to break out the soup recipes.  This one was easy, nourishing and delicious.  The description appealed to me because Ina says “it always reminds me of Tuscany”.  Having been there a few years ago I wanted to relive the memories through the scent and taste of this soup and it did not disappoint.  Served with some rustic bread (see my post 2 weeks ago) and a simple salad this meal makes a great lunch or light dinner.

To round out the day I made Indonesian ginger chicken.  Ina claims that if she doesn’t have this on hand in her store that Lauren Bacall gets cranky.  This is one of the simplest and most delicious baked chicken recipes I have made.  Combine honey, soy sauce, garlic and fresh ginger in a bag along with your chicken and marinate over night (I can never plan that far ahead so it still worked marinating for 4 hours).  When you are ready to cook just pop it into the oven and you are done.  My whole family at it, no complaints!

There are so many other wonderful recipes in this book I cannot recommend it enough.  In addition to the simple recipes to create meals for your family it offers great suggestions for creating party platters if you are hosting an event. 

Stop by the Bookshop and pick up a copy today!

What’s New In the Bookshop – Fun & Games

If you are looking for fun games for the family stop buy and check out some of the great new items we just got in.

A Bookshop favorite is the new game by Melissa & Doug, Suspend.

A family game of tricky hangs and steady hands! Try this hanging balance game and you’ll be hooked! Suspend comes with 24 notched, rubber-tipped wire pieces to hang from a tabletop stand. Sound easy? Try adding another piece! Each time a bar is added, the balance shifts, the difficulty changes and the incredible midair sculpture transforms. Can you add all your game pieces without making it fall? This tricky game for 1-4 players is a test of steady nerves and steady hands.

Voted one of the best games for 2012

Our customer favorite Chat Pack has come out with a new and clever version called Chat Pack Extreme.

Greatest, oldest, weirdest, coldest… covering the gamut of extremes, this little box contains 156 cards, each one featuring a question guaranteed to get people of all ages talking and laughing. So, grab any card and let the extreme fun begin!

Men like to watch it; Women like to read it.

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The Mammoth Book of International Erotica edited by Maxim Jakubowski

By now most of our customers know our opinion on the “Fifty Shades of Grey” phenomenon.  If you’ve been living under a rock, check out our bathroom. 

Let me be clear, there is nothing wrong with the Erotica genre; I just want people to know that there is a much better selection out there and better written.

The Mammoth Book of International Erotica” edited by Maxim Jakubowski is a good start at those who want to explore the genre.  Aside from the hokey title- (Mammoth? Really?).  The anthology features the cream of sensual writing from some of the world’s most modern authors.  Taken from a wide variety of cultures, including China and Japan, Italy, Russia, and the United States, you can see how wide the spectrum is writing on sex, love, and sensuality can be.  Notable authors in the anthology are Elfriede Jelinek (won the Nobel Prize in Literature) and Stella Duffy (shortlisted for the Orange Prize for fiction). So they are not all hacks people.  

Many critics claim that the recent rise of erotic literature is a result of technological advances and changes to the way in which we read. These critics claim that, thanks to the advent of e-reading devices, readers no longer have to ask for the directions to the top floor “erotic” section in their bookshop. Instead they can download and consume their erotica anonymously, without anyone else knowing. Please.

These critics (and may I dare say male?) are still attempting to label erotic fiction as some kind of dirty habit, but I disagree. You only have to sit on a train or a bus and look around to see with your own eyes that the taboo of reading erotica is being rapidly eroded – if it, in fact, still exists at all. Copies of Fifty Shades and many other erotic novels are now being openly read in public, not out of any form of defiance, but because their readers clearly feel no sense of shame.

We haven’t had a book like Fifty Shades for quite some time that has made us all talk about the fact that women truly get turned on by words – in a way that many men do not (its fine- face it, men and women are different); and it’s precisely this emotional context that differentiates erotica from porn.

The resurgence of erotic novels (they always been out there) is a step forward- not a step back. As far as I’m concerned, the more we embrace and openly discuss our sexuality and sensuality, the better. Plus- it’s just fun. All I want is to give customers a little something extra, well written and more erotic to explore then the lazy, poorly written, S&M version of Twilight, Fifty Shades of Grey.

I admit, I like my Marie Claire just as much as my New York Times- and I like a little Erotica next to my Dostoyevsky.  Pick up a copy at the bookstore- I have it next to portable copies of the Constitution (everyone needs one of those too!)

Other notables:

Trashy Fun:

100 Strokes of the Brush before Bed by Melissa P. and Lawrence Venuti
The Happy Hooker by Xaviera Hollander
The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty (part of a trilogy) by Anne Rice (writing as A.N. Roquelaure)

Higher Brow Classics:

Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller

Lady Chatterley’s Lover By D.H. Lawrence

Eroticism: Death and Sensuality by George Bataille

Delta of Venus by Anais Nin

~ Ryann

Interview with Justin Torres author of “We The Animals”

Today at 5:00pm on WCHE 1520am, Sam interviews Justin Torres,  author of We The Animals.

Three brothers tear their way through childhood – smashing tomatoes all over each other, building kites from trash, hiding out when their parents do battle, tiptoeing around the house as their mother sleeps off her graveyard shift. Paps and Ma are from Brooklyn – he’s Puerto Rican, she’s white – and their love is a serious, dangerous thing that makes and unmakes a family many times.

Life in this family is fierce and absorbing, full of chaos and heartbreak and the euphoria of belonging completely to one another. From the intense familial unity felt by a child to the profound alienation he endures as he begins to see the world, this beautiful novel reinvents the coming-of-age story in a way that is sly and punch-in-the-stomach powerful.

Written in magical language with unforgettable images, this is a stunning exploration of the viscerally charged landscape of growing up, how deeply we are formed by our earliest bonds, and how we are ultimately propelled at escape velocity toward our futures.

We the Animals [is] the kind of sensitive, carefully wrought autobiographical first novel that may soon be extinct from the mainstream publishing world…An affecting story of love, loss and the irreversible trauma that a single event can bring to a family. ~The New York Times

A novel so honest, poetic, and tough that it makes you reexamine what it means to love and to hurt.~O, The Oprah Magazine

Justin Torres grew up in upstate New York. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, Tin House, Glimmer Train, and other publications. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, he is a recipient of the Rolón United States Artist Fellowship in Literature, and is now a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford. He has worked as a farmhand, a dog-walker, a creative writing teacher, and a bookseller.

Listen to Sam’s interview with Justin on Podomatic or you can download the podcast on iTunes.