Bookish tourist: Dragonfly Books

3 words: delighted, blissful, satiated
On our recent trip to my home state of Iowa, the Dear Man and I seriously touristed it up.
The aim of the trip: canoeing the Upper Iowa River. 
And that was pure delight. The Dear Man squired me around in a canoe while I ate snacks (and occasionally paddled). This was our 4th river, and it was the bluffiest of the bunch.
93 degrees and Iowa-humid? We got this.
And then there was All The Other Stuff.
This included a bookstore visit. (Of course it did.)
We stopped by Dragonfly Books in beautiful downtown Decorah. It’s a new-ish bookstore, and it’s super cute. 
I liked all the things: their displays, their selection, their layout. 
And I bought this book, by Stephen King, which has been on my TBR forever. 
So excited!
 And we stopped by a stone cottage built by a Revolutionary War veteran, and there was a darling Little Free Library installed by a Girl Scout!

Well done, sister Scout!
And we visited my college campus (Go, Norse!) and I showed the Dear Man all the important places, like the path where my friends and I impersonated the Dead Poets Society guys in our duffel coats.
And Mabe’s Pizza: we ate there. 

(I can’t imagine who ate that tiny corner piece of pizza 
on my side of the table, before the photo was even taken.)
And Dunnings Spring: we walked there. 

And there were trolls, because: Norwegians. 


And there was a cave tour and rhubarb pie and a hidden military cemetery and a drive-in and an old fort and a roadside stand and ice cream at the Whippy Dip.
We seriously get around.

So, my fellow book lovers… What are your bookish travel plans this summer?

That time the authors roamed the Earth

BEA was crawling with authors, and they were gracious toward us mortals.
It was fantastic.
At BEA, there are 3 types of author experiences:
Observation: Listening to author interviews & panel discussions
Interaction (organized): Book signings
Interaction (random): Encountering an author in the wild

The first two are super common. The third happens through pure serendipity.

Dude, I got the trifecta. 
Here’s how it went down…
Author panel: Women of Fiction (Robyn Carr, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Gayle Forman)
I’m completely convinced that the best way to experience BEA is to become some amazing person’s wingman. I got to hang out with Katie of Words for Worms (that lady knows the books) and Marisa of The Daily Dosage (that lady knows the publishers)*, and one of them had this event on her radar.

So Robyn Carr and Susan Elizabeth Phillips are my two favorite romance authors. Actually, they might be the only romance writers I really read. Anyway, they had the Big Names on this panel.

And of course, they were warm and witty and altogether lovely. And Robyn Carr gave one of the finest definitions I’ve heard of the difference between women’s fiction and romance: 
Romance is about finding perfect love. Women’s fiction is about a woman finding herself.

I really like that.

And then Robyn Carr signed books and talked with us, and I’m pretty sure I overshared.

Here’s me and Robyn Carr. (I’m the overexcited nutjob. Anyone else think she looks scared? I have that effect.)

Author interview: Amor Towles

Sometimes, when authors are interviewed, they tell secrets. 

Such as this: In his new book A Gentleman in Moscow, Amor Towles completely invented the scene in which the electrical grid is powered up in segments throughout the city. (I totally can’t wait to read this book, and only partly because it takes place in a luxury hotel. But mostly because Rules of Civility rocked my world.)

Interaction (organized)
Book signings 

This can be scary, my friends. 

Authors. I know they’re people just like us, but seriously: scary. 

I tend to either be dumbstruck or I ramble. There’s never any normal.

So, thank you, authors of BEA 2016, for your kind forbearance.

My favorite book signing experience was when Jane Hamilton — such a gracious and lovely human! — signed a copy of The Excellent Lombards. I adore her books, and I like her every bit as much. Since she is a remarkably nice person, we had a normal human conversation (though it lasted too long for her assistant, who started hustling the line along. Sorry, Katie! I’m still feeling bad about that.) Years ago, Jane Hamilton had spoken at the library where I worked, and we were reminiscing, I was gushing, it was maybe a little weird on my part.

Interaction (random)
Encountering an author in the wild

So here we’ve got the wild card: the random author encounter in an unexpected place.

And it happened only because I am the world’s worst navigator. (On Day 1 of BEA, anyone else get on a bus heading in the wrong direction, resulting in a 70-minute detour? Yeah, I didn’t think so. Not to brag or anything, but I’m seriously talented at getting myself lost.)

So heading home, heavy laden with books, I was concerned that I was gonna repeat that snafu.
I was meandering around in search of the bus stop, when a man asked if I needed some help.

We ended up walking to the El station, which was nearer than I’d realized. I asked him what brought him to BEA, and he said he was a journalist.
We talked books.

Then he said something that made me realize he was also an author, and I asked his name.

Charles Finch.

I had been directionally rescued by a bestselling, award-winning mystery author. 

I did a mild freak-out, then calmed down and requested photographic evidence of this episode (because that’s normal behavior; see “authors freak me out,” above).
He was most kind.  
So here’s what we all can learn from this experience:
  1. At BEA, not only are there authors all over the exhibit floor, but they’re also unleashed on the wider world to wander at will. You May Encounter Them In The Wild.
  2. Charles Finch: not only an excellent writer, but also a thoroughly nice human being
  3. The random author encounter: pure serendipity
So I know when we think of BEA, we think: books. 

But I gotta say: it’s all about the people. 

The book bloggers who are now friends in real life, the librarians who swapped stories and tips, the authors who withstood the onslaught of our nervous admiration, and back again to the bloggers and librarians who understand exactly what we mean when we say, “I met [famous author person] and it was amazing, even though I made a complete fool of myself. I think I’m gonna go hide somewhere now.”

We’re right there with ya.

*and also Julie of JulzReads, but I think she was off on one of her marathon autographing sprees that made us all marvel

That time I carried my weight in books

The BEA recaps rage on…
Today we’re talking about the books.
Oh my land, people. The BOOKS!
Here are photos of my haul, at various stages of the event.
(Moment of silence, as we gaze upon their splendor…)
Partway through Day 1

Day 3, Hour 1
End of Day 3

So yeah… that last photo, of the Day 3 books. Uffda, people. I hauled those puppies ¾ of a mile to the El station, which required a peanut M&M purchase en route to stave off crankiness in this here pack mule. It was not pretty. 
But I did it. 
My thoughts during any given day of BEA:
Morning: Look at all these free galleys!   [snarfs them up like candy]
Noon: Thank goodness I get to set down these book bags while I eat, because this ain’t good.  
Afternoon: What was I thinking?

But I kept seeing books that I knew my colleagues would be interested to read, and I really didn’t want to let them down. I was a woman on a mission of bookish mercy, doggone it.

And then there were the books I was aching to read, like these…

So, yeah. I was like a one-woman library, stumbling down the road from McCormick Place with my usual grace (I have no grace), very thankful for all the beautiful books. 


Side note: Thank goodness for eGalleys. They Weigh Nothing

(NetGalley: you guys make my world a more beautiful thing.)

That time I met the bloggers

Book Expo. OMG. 
At least 3 times a day, I had Bliss Moments. That’s how good it was. 
Here’s why:

Book bloggers and librarians and all the other book people are some of the loveliest people in the world. They’re my tribe. And I got to hang out in their midst for Three Whole Days. 
So much fun! Daily Dosage, JulzReads, Words for Worms, Unruly Reader
Most exciting: got to meet — In The Real World — book bloggers whose work I adore.
These ladies are smart & funny & generous of spirit. 
I can’t imagine BEA without ’em.
Big shoutout to…
Katie of Words for Worms
Marisa of The Daily Dosage
Julie of JulzReads
Florinda of The 3 R’s Blog 
You made Book Expo the best! 

Y’all also made my TBR grow to massive proportions. (Not sure how I feel about that…)*

We got to tramp around the miles of McCormick Place together & talk books & give each other reading suggestions & laugh a lot. 

And then they wrote amazing wrap-up posts like this (Katie, we’re looking at you!) and this (Julie: so doggone organized, it’s freaking me out!) and this (Marisa, who fully captured the joy of the shared BEA experience).

OK, so this is just Part 1 of “why BEA was so doggone amazing.” Stay tuned for more.

*just kidding — I’m all about the mammoth TBR

Karma at the Little Free Library

So there I am, walking along to warm up for a run, and guys! Little Free Library!
Right here in my very own town.
And it’s hella cute.
So I stopped and peeked in there to see what-all they had.
It was actually a decent mix of fiction and nonfiction, stuff for grown-ups and stuff for kids.
So now it’s become kind of a ritual. As I’m warming up, I swing by and peek into the Little Free Library.
So then, on a recent day off, I decided to dash down there to add a book to the Little Free collection. I placed the book in the Library, and was closing the door when I saw it: a book I wanted to read.
A book that hadn’t been there 7 hours earlier when I took a look before my run.
 Reader, I borrowed that book.
Proud new borrower here, of Shabby Chic by Rachel Ashwell.
I’ll be perusing it while sipping tea. (Total lie. I don’t drink tea.)

I’ll peruse it while belting down some super-charged black coffee.

Bookish Tourist: Unabridged Bookstore

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Oh my land. This place is a little bit of heaven, plunked down in the middle of an old city block in Chicago. 
It’s been here for years (since 1980), and of course I’m only just now getting the memo.
Magnificent librarian Leah White mentioned this bookstore during a presentation about marketing books, and the way she described it, I had to make a nearly immediate pilgrimage.
The Dear Man and I braved cold weather and inhospitable city streets (thank goodness he’s a marvel at parallel parking), and it was so worth the effort. 

Here’s why:
The way they promote books is utterly intoxicatingly.
Three steps in the door, and I got snared by a display of children’s books, each with a captivating shelf talker underneath its face-out cover. I lingered for 5 minutes, even though I’m not a frequent reader of children’s books. I was totally enraptured by the allure of that display.

Then it got even more intense: a display of previous nonfiction bestsellers, oodles of shelf talkers in the fiction area, a display of their top 35 favorites of 2015 (each book with a shelf talker), and scattered shelf talkers throughout every area of the store. 
I kept cooing. 

And we lingered a really long time.

I kept exclaiming over every marvelous notation by a bookseller.
So, yeah. Book bliss. 
As the man said…

In which I visit the NYPL and get scolded

On my friends’ and my recent New York ladies’ night out (times 3, plus days), we visited the New York Public Library because we had a librarian in our midst. 

And two recovering English majors. 

It wasn’t a hard sell.

We were greeted by the lions.

Here’s Patience. 

Or maybe it’s Fortitude.

Then we went inside and I got verklempt upon reading this statement.

And we scouted around until we found the famous reading room. 

And I took lots of photos.

…including photos of the glamorous ceiling. 

Then I tried to take a photo of their other lovely reading room — the one you can’t photograph* (yeah, that one) — and I got all library-cop-scolded and halted in my tracks.  

Yes, people, I had the full NYPL experience.

I got Bookmanned.

So then I scuttled outside in abject shame. 

But Patience (or Fortitude) didn’t harbor hard feelings.

*I swear I didn’t know. I did the thing people do and completely missed the sign.

Bookshops of the Netherlands

So here we go. Bookstores! 
A bookstore in Amsterdam that sells cookbooks. And nothing but cookbooks. 
And an invitingly lit bookstore in Utrecht on a drizzly day. 

 And (not a bookstore, but I wanted to include three pictures) …one of the world’s most perfect sandwiches.

Libraries of the Netherlands, Book 2

More Netherlands, more libraries!
Partway through our
visit to the Netherlands, my
friend and I took a day trip to Utrecht.

My friend’s destination: Centraal Museum. She’s an artist, so she knows museums, and she couldn’t say enough good things about this one. If we’re lucky, maybe she’ll write about it in the Comments. 

My destination: Het Utrechts Archief. City archives, baby. 
The archivists were kind and helpful and (mercifully) English-speaking, and they helped me find my Dutch ancestors in the 1830 and 1840 records, where we learned the names of the streets where they lived. (At this point, I was so wiggly I could barely stay in my seat.)
Then I hiked to that area of town and strolled those very streets and had a super-geek bliss-out attack of massive proportions. (I’ve not yet fully recovered.)

And there was a windmill in their neighborhood, which only caused further glee. 

Then: back to Amsterdam, where we visited elegant old canal houses that contained libraries of their own. 

 And the sort of book we all can identify with…

And then we hurled ourselves back onto an airplane and read books on the way home. 

The End.*

*unless I decide to post photos of bookshops

Libraries of the Netherlands, Book 1

Within my first 10 minutes in Europe, I was presented with a library. And I knew I was gonna like that place even more than I’d expected.  
Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam has a cute little branch of the public library of Amsterdam.
Upon discovering it, I was completely jet-lagged and completely delighted.
Then, a couple of days later, my friend and I visited the Openbare Bibliotheek Amsterdam (the actual public library), which is one of the most charming libraries I’ve ever seen. 
They’ve got it goin’ on.
Here’s the children’s department…

 And the magazine section…


And the café… 


And an out-of-control librarian from the States straightening their beautifully-lit shelves.