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“Empathy Delivery Devices we call books…"

Submitted by lizabernard on Wed, 05/30/2018 - 6:21am

after the shot dropsNovels promote empathy, or so studies show. I recently read After the Shot Drops which allowed me, a 60-something white woman in Vermont, to explore the world of two black, urban, High School guys who are into basketball! Two best friends deal with a split when one starts attending a local private school and major athletic rival. Misunderstandings, loyalties, and bad choices have long-term consequences for these young men. Through the novel, I came to care about them and their concerns.

Empathy, a major factor in promoting civility, is sorely lacking at the moment, locally AND globally. We can learn from another’s perspective. It is important to disagree, we need to be heard, and we must exercise empathy to understand others. Books can help achieve this goal of civil discourse.

Young adult author, Gayle Foreman, referred to books as “Empathy Delivery Devices”  in her new book I Have Lost My Way and I borrowed the phrase. By reading books, lots of books - fiction and non-fiction, for kids and adults, printed and in audio format - I expand my world. ~ Liza 

(originally posted 5.17.18)


No Humans Needed

Submitted by lizabernard on Sat, 05/26/2018 - 8:18am

robotCan you imagine a bookstore run by robots? The first of 20 just opened in Beijing! You just register your real name using your WeChat account (like Facebook) and have your face scanned before entering. Because the store has access to all your purchasing information, it claims it can offer "precise and humanized" book suggestions. 

This is disturbing on so many levels. First is the loss of privacy that comes with this digital age. Because I research books for many of our customers, my search history indicates a very confused consumer at best!

Next is the isolation that is encouraged by removing people from even simple retail transactions. Our society is so fragmented that sometimes a cheerful greeting can brighten an entire day.

The robot store book selection is "limited to popular bestsellers that aren't regularly updated.” A big contrast to independent booksellers who spend hours and days reviewing forthcoming books. As we scan catalogs, we have our community in mind: Do we know someone who might be excited by this new author? Is there current interest in a book on making beaded jewelry? Hiking the AT? Cooking Thai food? Is there a gap in our selection of field guides? Are we weak on cozy mysteries? Do we need more young adult gothic fantasies? In other words, we work hard to curate our selection to fit our community.

If the 24/7 aspect of the store is attractive, on our website you can order a bestseller or peruse our staff picks and see what the Book Jam blog is recommending. And then stop by the store for a friendly welcome, free gift wrap, and perhaps a treat for your pup!

check I am not a robot. ~ Liza 

(originally posted 3.22.18)

#MeToo & Books...

Submitted by lizabernard on Sat, 05/26/2018 - 8:03am

#metoo by donnellyThe #MeToo movement has shined a spotlight on some dark corners of our culture including the publishing world. Several prominent authors have been accused of - and some have apologized for - sexual harassment and misconduct. Book contracts have been scrapped, finished copies have even been pulled and pulped! Awards have been renamed.

While I believe it is important to call out bad behavior that has been tolerated until now and put an end to it where possible, censoring books is not the solution. Some of these works may actually have come about because of a troubled world view held by the writer. Can we learn from them?

We have not pulled the books by Sherman Alexie - one of the authors who has expressed regret for past behavior - from our shelves. Our customers can decide if the message of his works is separate from the man himself. We will, however, not be inviting him to come and speak at the store!

How could we ever make judgment calls about the authors of all the books we carry? At best we would have incomplete information on most. Who knows how Jack London, Charles Dickens, Kenneth Graham, or Henrik Ibsen treated women? Ernest Hemingway was a womanizer; do we not stock For Whom the Bell Tolls? 

We can listen to and honor the truths of the women and men who have been wronged. We can make sure that we represent and celebrate writing from a diverse pool of authors from different genders, races, religions, nationalities, and perspectives.  That is our job and our pleasure. ~ Liza 

(originally posted 4.4.18)


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