Norwich Bookstore is a locally owned and independent bookstore in the heart of Norwich, since 1994. It offers creative note cards and gift wraps; traditional and unique toys and games; and other treasures; special attention to special orders; frequent author readings and book signings.
Penny forwarded me a piece from the New York Times, “Why You Should Start Binge-Reading Right Now” by Ben Dolnick that I found both unsettling and comforting.
I have been concerned with my recent inability to “settle” with a book, but now understand that it has more to do with not carving out time to read than the array of writing in front of me. Ten minutes - or even a half hour - before bed is not enough time to get into the flow of a narrative.
After an evening’s power outage, Dolnick rediscovered the pleasures of reading for a longer stretch:“...in book after book, if you do push on through one chapter break, and then on through the chapter break after that, something amazing happens. Subplots that would once have been murky to the point of incomprehensibility (what was the deal with that dead sea captain again?) step into the light. Little jokes and echoes, separated by dozens or even hundreds of pages, come rustling out of the text forest.”
My ideal vacation is to settle in with a bag of books in a peaceful spot - in the summer by a lake or even on the back porch, in the winter in a cozy chair by the woodstove. And yes, binge-reading. My promise to myself is an hour of uninterrupted reading every day - a mini-vacation from daily tasks. Time to shut off the computer and open that book! - Liza
PS I encourage you to seek out the entire article - I cannot link it here because of the paper’s paywall.
At the end of May, Penny and I were honored by Vital Communities at the Heroes and Leaders Dinner. It was a humbling and exciting evening. There were a dozen of us in the spotlight, including farmers, business executives, coaches, and performing artists from all corners of the Upper Valley.
We were being recognized for the role the Norwich Bookstore plays in our community and for the individual contributions we each offer to try to repay your support.
The event was a grand reminder of the vibrancy of region, how strong and diverse the fabric truly is. We feel fortunate to be part of it and thankful to Vital Communities for creatively weaving the disparate threads from 69 towns in two states together with their various programs and services.
The keynote speaker, Jenny Levy, explained that Vital Communities grew out of what we can think of as the Rabbi Hillel category of leaders. He was a first-century Jewish scholar who posed the question, “If not you, then who? If not now, when?”
Both Vital Communities and the Norwich Bookstore are celebrating 25 years! I wonder what the next 25 look like. Who are the heroes and leaders of the future? - Liza
Last week, we had the honor and pleasure of hosting fifth graders from the Ottauquechee School. They are studying diversity in children’s literature and took a field trip to the store to pick out books for their library.
I gave a short presentation on how we select books for the store using the “Mirrors and Windows” concept: Does the book reflect back to readers a setting or situation that they can relate to? Does the book expose readers to a different world so they might better understand others?
I talked about how diversity or a current issue is sometimes the main topic of a book. Other times, diversity topics serve as more casual plot lines. For example, in Mascot, the main character is adjusting to his new life following a car accident. He was a basketball star and now gets around in a wheelchair. In contrast, in A Snicker of Magic, one of the main characters uses a wheelchair and the reader doesn't even know this for seven pages after he is introduced. It just is.
Then the students set out to find books that met their criteria. For me, it was like a fast-paced quiz show. Do you have historical fiction with Muslim, Buddhist, or Hindi characters? (Homeless Bird) Books about real women heroes? (lots!) Graphic novels about disabilities? (El Deafo) One boy was pleased that I recommended The London Eye Mystery, which is solved by a child whose “brain works differently.”
The kids were great! I had fun watching them discover picture books, graphic novels, biographies, and fiction chapter books. A wonderful way to start my day! - Liza
Lately, the bookstore has been receiving many calls with no one at the other end of the line. Have you tried to reach us and not gotten through?
At first we chalked it up to the notoriously bad local cell service. We figured that someone dialed and then lost signal - we’ve all had that happen…
Then we thought it might be robocalls which have increased exponentially. If you don’t pick up by the third ring they disconnect. If we do answer, a voice commands, “Don't hang up, this is an important call,” yada yada yada…
But it might be our phone system. We do not have caller ID so we can’t see who is calling. (I do have caller ID at home and got a call from “ILLEGAL SCAM” last week - at least they were honest!)
Please let us know if you've had trouble reaching the bookstore by phone. We don't want you to think we're ignoring you! - Liza
PS While I am writing about phones, I have a request: If you give us your cell phone to call about a special order and you see a notification from the store on your caller ID, please check your message. Some folks just hit "call back." There are nine of us on staff and chances of reaching the specific bookseller who called you are slim.
We applaud the efforts of Marion Cross students to rid the waste stream of plastic and paper bags! The new town ordinance goes into effect September 1st.
Few people ask for bags at the bookstore now, so it will not be a big change for us but the regulations will require some adjustments.
Beginning this week, a “Take a Bag, Leave a Bag” basket will be available with reusable tote bags. If you forget to bring a tote or perhaps get caught in a surprise rain shower you can take one from the bucket.
We will also set up a “10¢ Conscience Jar” for those who do request a bag. Starting in September, we will be required to charge a dime for a paper bag, so this is a way to get us all prepared. The bookstore will donate the funds collected in the Conscience Jar to a local literacy program.
Other communities around the globe have cut back on or eliminated single-use packaging and we are happy to join them. - Liza
We are usually really good at predicting when a book will be back in stock or a special order will arrive, but the best laid plans….
Last week, I was the disappointed customer! I had ordered a Lonely Planet Guide to Thailand for my daughter’s 25th birthday present. (Yes, the “bookstore baby” is 25 and yes, she is planning a trip to Thailand!) Rachel was visiting for the weekend and the book was supposed to arrive on Friday. I would wrap it up and she could bring it home with her on Sunday.
But, alas, two cartons from one of the warehouses were not delivered. So I - and a few dozen others - had to wait for our books.
We have become so used to instant gratification. Where did my long-range planning go? When did taking a day - a whole 24 hours - to respond to a message become something to apologize for? Note to self: slow down and be patient!
The good news is that Rachel’s trip isn’t until the fall so there’s plenty of time to mail her book. I have decided to view this as an opportunity to include a chocolate treat in the package when I send it... - Liza
A good mix of authors and their books are important ingredients for events at the Norwich Bookstore. So are the homemade cookies!
We are fortunate to have several booksellers who are also great bakers who decided a while back that store-bought did not make the grade. So they take turns making cookies to serve at our readings.
Last week, after thoroughly enjoying Emily Bernard's presentation on her new book, Black is the Body: Stories from My Grandmother's Time, My Mother's Time, and Mine, everyone was raving about the batch Carin baked and many asked for the recipe so here it is - with her notes:
Dorie Greenspan's 3-Ingredient Almond Crackle Cookies
1 large egg
1.5 C sliced almonds
(sometimes I add a little vanilla and a pinch of salt, making them technically 5-ingredient cookies)
Whisk sugar and egg together thoroughly. Add almonds. Mix. Drop by soup spoonful on parchment covered cookie sheet. (Dough tends to separate as it waits...just mix it back up.) Tap down with fork to flatten somewhat.
Bake at 325 for 20 minutes, or until nicely browned. Turn sheet halfway through. Cool on racks.
Come for the writers and the words, enjoy the treats while you're here! - Liza
Spring means events! We don’t schedule many for January and February. We've learned the hard way about having to cancel for snow, ice, and flu... So we spent the first part of the year planning and plotting what is turning out to be an amazing lineup of authors here in the store and around the Upper Valley.
We get calls and emails from publicists and authors, we reach out to others, and aim for a balance of fiction and non-fiction; serious and humorous; and everything in between! We have a full schedule for April, May and June. In July we partner with the Meetinghouse Readings in Canaan and in August we bring books to the Strafford Town House Forums. Perennial favorites Archer Mayor and Tomie dePaola are already booked for the fall!
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Hope you can join us for these author appearances. ~ Liza
The days are getting noticeably longer and the coming of spring marks the beginning of a busy event season! Having learned the hard way that scheduling author visits during the winter is risky, we spent these quiet indoor months planning and learning about forthcoming books.
As a bookseller, I discover new writers and titles by reviewing catalogs, reading advance copies, and meeting with book publisher representatives. I am excited by many new books in the works! There is an amazing book by Robert MacFarlane about the world below our feet coming in June. Poet Ocean Vuong's luscious debut novel will also be available then. Louise Penny’s next Gamache mystery will be here at the end of August. I could go on… We have created a new feature on our website to spotlight a few titles for preorder - although any book can be requested so you are sure to get an early copy.
Since not everyone has access to the publishers' plans months in advance, I am curious about how you find your next great read. To that end, I invite you to browse our staff picks - on the wall when you enter the store or on our website. There are a number of local blogs including the wonderful Book Jam written by Norwich readers Lisa Christie and Lisa Cadow. We recently learned about the thoughtful reviews on Bookmarks posted by Michael Epstein, a retired physician who lives in Brownsville, VT. Our local libraries are great sources of material to mine for reading pleasure! The IndieNext list (also displayed in the store) gathers new book recommendations from booksellers across the country. Of course you may get your reading “assignments” from book clubs or Osher classes.
The Valley News broke the story so we can now share our excitement about Allie Levy’s plans to open Still North Books in part of the former Dartmouth Bookstore space!
Penny and I met Allie, a Dartmouth graduate, last fall and were immediately impressed with her energy and vision. Still North will be a hybrid bookstore/bar/cafe and complement Left Bank Books in Hanover and what we have here in Norwich.
Independent bookselling can be a collaborative business and we are pleased that there will once again be a store in downtown Hanover. The Norwich Bookstore will continue to serve the Upper Valley with events in the store and around the region.
Anytime a bookstore opens it's cause for celebration! - Liza