Friday, July 30, 2010

The Cut!

As mentioned in a previous post, my husband, daughter and I are moving up to Maine temporarily until PhDs and jobs get sorted out. While I'd love to take my entire library, I'm limiting myself to 25 books.


No hardcovers (galleys of current/upcoming hardcovers don't count!)
No more than 3 books that have less than 250 pages (I have to make them last!)

So, what made the cut?

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
Displaced Persons by Ghita Schwartz
Serious Men by Manu Joseph
Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks
Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barberry
Father of the Rain by Lily King
Zulu by Caryl Ferey
Best American Short Stories 2008 edited by Salman Rushdie
America, America by Ethan Canin
A Kind of Intimacy by Jenn Ashworth
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell
Middlemarch by George Eliot
Blind Descent by James Tabor
The Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
Old Filth by Jane Gardam
Granta New Fiction Issue 106
Home by Marilynne Robinson
Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante
Invisible by Paul Auster
Bone China by Roma Tearne
The Most Beautiful Book in the World by Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt
The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer
The Gone Away World by Nick Harkaway
Collected Stories by Wallace Stegner
Lit by Mary Karr

Emily Russo Murtagh

A Smashing Mash-up...

And now a moment of fun and fluff for your Friday enjoyment!

I have become a little tired and weary all the classic book/monster mashups. But Jane Austen's Fight Club takes it to a whole new level. This isn't a real book or movie, but if you want to read about Jane Austen heroines kicking butt you will just have to pick up a copy of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

Click on either of the pictures below to watch the clip.
I hope you laugh out loud as much as I did!

Have a great weekend!


The Odyssey Bookshop's Dog Days of Summer Gift Card Special!

The Odyssey Bookshop's

Dog Days of Summer
Gift Card Special!

Sunday, August 1 -- Saturday, August 14

$125 gift cards available for just $100 -- that's 20% off!
(limited quantity)

Save big on summer reading and win free store bonuses!
(selected number of purchased gift certificates will include coupons for a variety of special prizes.)

  • Give it to a friend
  • Save it for the holidays
  • Buy all your last minute beach reads now!
Remember this sale ends Saturday, August 14th.

To purchase, call us at 413-534-7307, (800) 540-7307, order online at:, or simply stop by!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

I never met a bookstore I didn't love!

This past Monday's shelf awareness featured a quotation from author Kate Morton, The House at Riverton, The Forgotten Garden:

"I have never met a bookstore that I didn't love. And I've met a lot. I can't seem to help myself. It's a habit, an obsession, a life's work. Drop me anywhere and it's like a homing device starts blinking in my brain.... Every bookstore is different, just like the people who own them, and yet there are threads that tie them together. The books for one thing. All those covers. All those blurbs. The dim nooks and corners where shelves meet. The spines, lined up, row upon row, covers turned face out every so often, calling you to come a little closer. I always feel, if I could just stand quietly enough, I might actually hear the faint whispering of thousands of stories jostling together on the shelves, waiting to be chosen."
--Author Kate Morton, speaking at the Australian Booksellers Association's annual conference (via the Australian).

I most certainly agree with Ms. Morton's statement, although I was deprived of the independent bookstore experience until college. My sophomore year I went to Oxford, Mississippi for a speech and debate tournament and was introduced to Square books. The experience singularly changed my outlook on how a community and a bookstore can benefit and prosper from one another.

Yesterday the Huffington Post compiled a list of "the most amazing bookstores in the world." It was a very impressive list that made me all to aware that I haven't traveled nearly enough!

Every independent bookstore that I visit has an endearing quality, and usually after I visit has become a new favorite. What have been some of your favorite bookstores?




Monday, July 26, 2010

Odyssey on WAMC Roundtable

Last week WAMC hosted the Odyssey's Joan Grenier, and Emily Crowe to talk about books.

Together Joan and Emily talked about 10 books in under 20 minutes. (Less than two minutes per book). I'm not sure how they do it, but I will say some of the books whose virtues they extolled are listed below.

What is Left the Daughter
Howard Norman
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
(Signed copies available for a limited time).
See our previous blog post about this gorgeous novel here .

The Tower, the Zoo, and the Tortoise
Julia Stuart
Random House

The Spice Necklace: My Adventures in Caribbean Cooking, Eating, and Island Life

Ann Vanderhoof
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

The Elephant Keeper
Christopher Nicholson

Murder in the High Himalaya
John Green
Public Affairs
(Signed copies available for a limited time).

Put 'Em Up!
Sherri Brooks Vinton
Storey Publishing
(We are doing an event on Friday, August 13 at 7 p.m.)

Eating Local: The Cookbook Inspired by America's Farmers

Sur La Table
Andrews McMeel Publishing
(Featuring a local farm in Granby, MA!)
See our previous blog post about this wonderful cookbook here.

The Town That Food Saved: How One Community Found Vitality in Local Food
Ben Hewitt
Rodale Press

The Quickening
Michelle Hoover
Other Press
(Signed copies available for a limited time).

To listen the the full interview, click here.




Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Sunday Question

(Yes, I'm posting The Sunday Question on a Saturday. But it's Saturday evening, only a few short hours until Sunday. This will give everyone a jump on formulating their answer. I like it.)

What one book has been most influential your life?

When I posed this question to staff and sundry this week, most people didn't have to think twice. Everyone seemed to have their answer at the ready, as if the influential books in question permeated their consciousnesses, were as accessible as their addresses. I guess there's an analogy there. I certainly feel as if I do live in my most influential book, and it lives in me.

Mine is Jane Eyre. The first book I read other than horsey books. I was ten, and didn't even know how to pronounce "Bronte," never mind "Eyre." It was the mystery of it that hooked me, the fact that I didn't understand above half of it, had to look up words on every page. Yet the characters seemed alive to me, they seemed like real people who'd lived in the world. I loved the way Jane spoke to me, her Reader, as if she'd been waiting for me to tell her story to. It made me want to read every book in the world, and to write characters that fired a Reader's imagination as Jane did.

Emily Crowe's is Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle In Time. "Meg Murry was a quirky, smart, math-loving girl, and for the first time I realized that girls like me could be heroines."

John says that reading Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment helped him to finally quit smoking.

(An aside: for anyone looking for similar inspiration, there's a character in Justin Cronin's The Passage, who smokes so creepily and pervasively -- she's the fat, smoking lady in everyone's dreams -- that just thinking about her would put one off smoking as well.)

Marika's most influential book was Patricia Wrede's Dealing With Dragons, which her mother would read aloud while Marika and her brother drew their own illustrations.

Nieves was inspired by Anne of Green Gables. "Why not use my imagination to its full extent?"

And Jennika, now on board to assist Joan with Local First, says her most influential read was Alex Kotlowitz's There Are No Children Here -- a non-fiction portrayal of the lives of two young brothers and their impoverished family in Chicago's Henry Horner projects. The book inspired her to get involved in the effort to make affordable, decent housing available to all families.

We're not all pleasure-seeking escapists, just wanting to loll around in our imaginations. Well, I am, but someone has to be.

Tell us the book that has influenced you the most.


P.S. -- Thanks, Nieves, for letting us know who we write like! I'm happy enough to know I write like James Joyce (although I think it's highly unlikely). But I'm a little envious that you write like H.P. Lovecraft, one of my all time fave creepy New England writers.

Reading, writing and having some fun!

When I am reading a novel I can't help but wonder what the author's process of writing looks like. How do they go about putting down thoughts into words. What makes the final cut, and what gets left behind. Furthermore I often wonder how do I choice of books reflect one's choice of word usage, both in spoken and written language? I suppose as a product of creative writing workshops, where one could see the direct reflection of the influence of the book one was reading in their writing, I might be just a little more conscious of this than others.

I discovered this fun website ( short for "I write like." This site analyzes your writing (how closely I do not know) and then tells you whose writing style your own resembles.
Here is a run down of what happened when I posted blog posts from various staff members.

Based on a previous blog post I wrote, it told me my writing is like H.P. Lovecraft. I dig it!

I write like
H. P. Lovecraft

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Emily Crowe writes like Jonathan Swift... quick witted, satirical, great hair... okay I see the connection!

I write like
Johathan Swift

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Both Emily Russo-Murtaugh and Chrysler write like James Joyce. Hmmm... well great minds and all that.
I write like
James Joyce

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Marika, according to a blog post it "analyzed" writes like Edgar Allan Poe.

I write like
Edgar Allan Poe

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

There are younger writers that you can be matched up to but for some reason the Odyssey staff are all old, dead men writers. Rest assured, other than our desire to not have large birds flying around the store, we really have not much else in common.

Check it out and see for yourself who you might be matched up with!



Thursday, July 22, 2010

Did Literary Agent, Andrew Wylie, Make a Deal with the Devil?

I doubt I'll be the first (or last) independent bookseller to comment on the New York Times Article that announced literary agent Andrew Wylie was launching his own publishing company, Odyssey Editions. Odyssey (not to be confused with the marvelous independent bookstore where I work) will produce e-book editions of some of the backlist titles by authors they represent. These authors include Saul Bellow, John Updike, and Philip Roth.

As I read through the piece, which revealed Wylie's frustration with the low royalty percentages the large publishers are offering authors these days, I found myself nodding along and saying, "Ok...sure, fair enough," UNTIL I came to the kicker. Wylie is selling these e-books exclusively to for the Kindle edition.

Hand, please meet forehead.

Are you kidding me?

My morning shower, which is usually peaceful, suddenly became fraught with hostility. "Really, Andrew Wylie, really?" I said as I rubbed my skin raw with the washcloth.

You see, it's not just the exclusivity part that bothers me. Generally speaking, at least in the book world, if a title is offered exclusively through an independent bookstore, a chain, or an online retailer, at least it's available to the general public. It may be less convenient or frustrating, but if a reader wants to obtain it, he or she can! That, despite my personal views on e-retailers and big discount stores, is the most important thing.

For example: as a bookseller, was I jealous that Dan Brown was only signing copies of The Lost Symbol for his hometown bookstore? Heck yes! Water Street Books must have made a killing, but at least readers who wanted a copy could obtain it. It also helped out a wonderful independent bookstore.

Also, self published authors often sell their books through only a select few bookstores. Again, not always convenient, but it's available to any reader that wants it.

What really gets my blood boiling here is that by Wylie choosing Amazon exclusively, he is excluding so many readers. Those who chose to buy the Sony E-Reader, or the Nook, or any other device can't obtain an e-version of any of his books without having to buy another over-priced gadget. One can argue that that reader could simply buy the print version (and I hope he would), but what if it's out-of-print? Are we headed toward a future where many backlist titles are only available as e-editions? I simply don't know.

This veers off the path a little bit, but I'm also curious to know how many of Wylie's clients are published by Macmillan. Macmillan had the guts to fight for their authors and demand that Amazon price e-books fairly. Amazon's juvenile response was to remove the buy buttons from all Macmillan titles.

So, I have to ask myself why Andrew Wylie, who I'm sure is a true lover of books and readers, would make such an unfair deal?

I know I probably haven't even begun to scratch the surface of what is sure a much more complex situation, so I welcome any comments, questions, or further discussion!

Emily Russo Murtagh

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Moving Day is Upon Me

It breaks my heart, but it's official. My husband and I are leaving western Massachusetts. Steve is nearly done with his PhD and due to various circumstances that I won't bore you with here, we have to move. So, it's off to coastal Maine for the Fall to live with my folks where I'll spend my days taking care of and reading to my 3 1/2 month old daughter, Molly, and watching the leaves turn those beautiful shades of orange and red that New England falls are so famous for. That's not so terrible, right?

Sadly, what is terrible is that most of our belongings are going to go into storage and I have to:

a) get rid of books I know I'll never read. (I've never given away a book before. This is all new to me. I'm scared.)


b) I can only take 25 books with me to Maine.

This is a terrifying prospect for me. What if I choose the wrong books? What if I bring Laurie Sheck's A Monster's Note, but what I really want to read that week is the 2007 edition of Best American Short Stories and I packed it away?! No, I really do want to read A Monster's Note, so that won't happen, but you know what I mean. This is really my version of "If I Was Stranded on a Desert Island." So, dear reader, if you were forced to chose only a few books out of at least a thousand you know you wanted to read, what would you bring? How would you decide? I'll take any advice.

Emily Russo Murtagh

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

WAMC Round Table selections

Here is one of the books that Odyssey booksellers will be talking about on WAMC's Round Table book discussion this morning. You can catch it live at 90.3 FM around 10:07 am or listen to the recording through their website.

Tom Nicholson's The Elephant Keeper was a quiet debut in hardcover last year, published to critical acclaim both here and in the UK, and I’m hoping that in paperback it will find the wider audience it deserves. The novel opens in England in 1766, where a ship docks with a live cargo, including a pair of young elephants, that barely survived the voyage. When a wealthy estate owner purchases the elephants, a young stable hand named Tom Page gets the opportunity of a lifetime. He nurses both elephants back from the brink of death, and in doing so, he forms a lasting bond with them. Tom eventually is able to train and communicate with Jenny and Timothy, as the elephants are named. However, when the estate owner loses his fortune, the fate of Tom & the elephants becomes a harsh one, as the 18th century is not a particularly kind time for animals of any kind, much less exotic ones. Heartbreak follows heartbreak for Tom and the elephants, but the reader gets some heartwarming moments, too. This book is a lovingly imagined portrait of a man who discovers that lasting friendships are not defined by species, and it is full of tenderness, empathy, and compassion. It’s an absolutely engaging read, though I should warn that sensitive readers will discover within themselves an inclination towards violence for those characters who exact cruelties on these magnificent creatures.

~Emily Crowe

Monday, July 19, 2010

What I read on my summer vacation, part IV

Here are two more books forthcoming this fall in hardcover.  Steve Martin is still the most intelligent person in show business I can think of, and it shows in his fiction.  And any season with a new Bill Bryson book is a great book season, in my opinion.  Wish I could say we had booked both of these authors for the Odyssey, but alas, it would be untrue.  

 Object of Beauty by Steve Martin.  Despite my reluctance to admire yet another celebrity writer, Martin impressed me with his first novel, Shop Girl, and he continues to do so with this book.  He introduces us to Lacey, a compelling but morally ambiguous young woman who becomes a mover & shaker in the Manhattan art world of the late 20th Century.  The reader ends up getting a crash course in both contemporary art history and consumerism, with sneak peaks into the rarefied worlds of Sotheby’s, uptown art galleries, and the moneyed international clientele who can patronize both. I, for one, found this book very hard to put down. 


 Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson.  Bryson takes his own home, a mid-nineteenth century rectory in Norfolk, England, as the jumping-off point for investigating every possible angle of domestic history. We get the expected lessons in architecture, furniture and horticulture, as well as the more unusual, such as the brilliant teamwork skills of rats, or the strategic importance of nutmeg in empire-building, or even how “teeth” were mysteriously listed as a leading cause of death in London in 1758. Bryson’s trademark humor and wry social commentary are certainly present, but what stands out most here is his ability to trace intriguing connections between seemingly unrelated facts.  In short, I found it endlessly fascinating. 

~Emily Crowe

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Sunday Question

If you were created by an author and came from a book into the real world, from which book would you originate?

This inventive and thought-provoking question comes courtesy of Marika. Which is a good thing, as I've been too distracted by the stupefying yet gorgeous heat, finishing up the final (ha!) draft my own book, and going to Polish picnics to think properly.

It's a particularly interesting question because it forces you to think not of which author you would choose to write you, but out of which author's head you would have been most likely, naturally, to spring.

Marika's simple and unequivocal answer to her own question is that she would be from a Chris Ridell book.

Nieves says: "If I were a character from a Novel, I would be a Chris Ridell drawing, from an Elizabeth Gaskell novel, and I have to concur that I would have the soul of an Oscar Wilde character with G.K. Chesterton sensibilities. Basically a combination of ridiculous and rational!"

Diane says she would want to be from a Harlan Ellison novel, because then she could be a science fiction character and do cool things.

My Sparky is a Larry David creation. Or maybe he and Larry David were separated at birth.

I am shilly-shallying, as usual. I think I'd be a combo of a Charlotte Bronte heroine, a minor character in an Oscar Wilde play (Lady Bracknell or the Duchess of Berwick), silly and profound at the same time. But I was raised in Suzanne Strempek Shea-land, among the maddening, funny, and irrepressibly stubborn Yankee Polish Catholics she renders so well. I'll never completely erase or escape it, even supposing I wanted to.

How about you? Let us know from which author's head you would spring.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

What I read on my summer vacation, part III

Tinkers by Paul Harding. The quiet story of an old man’s deathbed reminiscences of youth and a time gone by is eclipsed by the enormous reach of its beautiful prose. I’ve rarely read a novel where each paragraph, each sentence, was so exquisitely crafted. Pick this book up and see exactly why Harding won this year's Pulitzer Prize.

Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa. This quietly intimate book introduces us to two indelible characters: a brilliant mathematician whose short term memory lasts only 80 minutes and the perceptive young housekeeper who cares for him daily. While he might not remember her from day to day, or even from morning to afternoon, he finds succor in the unfailing order and beauty of numbers and mathematic proofs. I found this to be a thoroughly engaging book, poised at the rare intersection of mathematics and literature.

Case of the Missing Servant by Tarquin Hall. Assassination attempts, self-righteous con men, and interfering mothers are no match for Vish Puri, India’s Most Private Investigator and one of Delhi’s few unbribable men. This first book in a promising new series is so evocative of place that you’ll swear you can taste the paapri chaat, but the brutal descriptions of India’s poor raise this cozy mystery’s class consciousness a few notches above the norm. An absolutely vibrant read.

~Emily Crowe

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

July Author Appearances

The Odyssey has been on a small hiatus from author events. Repainting, putting down new carpet, and reorganization of the first floor has been hectic enough without hosting authors and their new books. Thankfully, for the most part, all of the renovations are finished.

Author events start up again, beginning tonight with local author Kevin O'Hara, for his book Lucky Irish Lad!

Frank O'Hara, Wednesday, July 14, 2010 at 7 p.m.

July is a fairly exciting month. O'Hara is followed by five more powerhouses of authors that are sure to enthuse a range of literary die-hards to fans! Here is the way the rest of the month shapes up:

July 15, 7 p.m. (Thursday):

Jonathan Green, author of Murder in the High Himalaya.

This promises to be a punch in the gut event. Green tells the true story of a group of climbers who witness the murder of a Tibetan nun, but rather than report it they do nothing so that they can continue on their climb up Everest. Green, a trained journalist, pulls from research, and first person accounts to put together the story of her murder.

July 16, 7 p.m. (Friday):

Howard Norman, What is left the Daughter.

Speaking of punches to the gut, Howard Norman will be visiting us this Friday, and several people on staff are pretty excited about his latest book. For me personally, What is Left the Daughter, was one of the best books I have read in 2010. It is a quiet novel, written as a letter from a estranged father to his daughter, explaining his turbulent life in a straightforward, non-apologetic manner.

July 23, 7 p.m. (Friday):

Vendela Vida, The Lovers.

Vendela Vida of The Believer, and 826 Valencia fame will be coming the Odyssey for her latest novel The Lovers. This book is about a widow who moves to Turkey and the various experiences that she encounters there. Kirkus review said of it "An elegant consideration of how death and distance tightens human connections-- a big theme that Vida addresses with sure-footedness and charm."

July 28, 7 p.m. (Wednesday):

Dori Ostermiller, Outside the Ordinary World.

This novel is a story about the bonds of mothers and daughters, and explores the theme of infidelity. Slyvia, the heroine of this book always swore she would not become her mother, and yet one day she finds that she is going along the same path that her faithless mother Elaine, once chose. Outside the Ordinary World has been chosen as an Indie Next List Notable Book for August 2010.

July 29, 7 p.m. (Friday):

Jon Clinch, Kings of the Earth.

Jon Clinch is no stranger to the Odyssey, he has been her before for his first novel Finn, which was chosen for the first editions club. Publisher's Weekly calls Clinch's latest "a quiet storm of a novel... In Clinch™s multilayered, pastoral second novel (after Finn), a death among three elderly, illiterate brothers living together on an upstate New York farm raises suspicions and accusations in the surrounding community."

Don't be a stranger! Use the excuse to come here some great authors read to visit us and see the renovations!