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Dear Book Customers, whom I gratefully serve,

Thank you for your appreciation of fine literature, or at least diet books and Playboy magazines. I feel that our common love of reading binds us in an invisible bond of friendship that will last a lifetime (mine or yours, whichever is shorter). Hurrah!

This letter is to thank you. Because I know that, as a lover of reading, you cherish books as much as I do. You would never set your coffee cup on our new arrivals table, leaving a nice brown ring on the face of a new hardcover (that must have been a movie renter passing by). Nor would you ever take art books or bibles out of their shrink wrap, leaving them without price tags and vulnerable to damage; the written word is too precious to you, surely. That’s why you always watch your children, too, and never let them rip, bend, throw, stick in their mouth, or remove pages or accessories from any book. Thank you, friend. Because of your unfailing efforts as a parent, our children’s section is the absolute most fun to maintain.

I also want you to know that I’m completely understanding of your never putting books back the same place you got them. After all, books are special and unlike all other things on this planet they don’t take up physical space and therefore don’t leave a visible gap where you removed them from. Also, you can’t be expected to master the complex organization method of shelving books. It’s not like we all learn the alphabet in school or anything! Besides, my associates and I are all psychically linked to each and every one of the tens of thousands of items in the store so, don’t worry, we’ll be able to find the item you misplaced the next time someone else is looking for it.

I hope you know how much I enjoy helping you to find the books you’re searching for, and maybe a few that you aren’t. You are so much fun with your incomplete titles and misremembered authors, I feel like I’m not only a bookseller but also a detective, the fulfillment of a childhood dream! It makes me endlessly happy to know that there are others like me, for whom movies and video games cannot replace reading a good book. My dear customers, this Thanksgiving I’m thankful for you!

~Mallory

A couple of nights ago I needed something new to read before bed, so I picked up an old favorite, Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia. Though it’s a young adult book, it is one of the most beautifully written stories that I’ve read, and the author’s mastery is further evident by the book’s brevity. I wanted to reread it for two reasons: to once again taste Paterson’s transporting descriptions and careful plot revelation, and to have a good cry. I wasn’t disappointed. As I read the last pages while eating a late lunch in my backyard today, I sobbed freely, with snot and tears and everything.

And that wasn’t my only cry time today. Earlier, on my drive into work, it was a country song on the radio that set me off. I’d never heard it before and the lyrics snuck up on me. Next thing I knew I had a lump in my throat, my eyes were welling up, and a sad rattling sigh escaped my lips. I had to turn off the radio mid song else completely lose my composure as I turned into the company parking lot. My relief from the song was short-lived though, as it played again on my drive home and this time I listened to the whole thing, and cried some more. I guess it was just meant to be one of those days, one for cleansing tears.

But all this crying made me wonder… why do we seek out art that dissolves us into salty puddles of emotion? Is it a way of preparing ourselves for the intense emotions that accompany tragedy? And why do we create art with the intent to draw out those emotions? I’m not quite sure, except that perhaps we need to remind ourselves that we can feel… simply that we can feel.

And isn’t it magical that a book, an inanimate object by all accounts, can bring us to tears? A song at least is being communicated by another person who conveys emotion with their tone, inflection, and sometimes even a crack in their voice. But a book only has words printed on a page, black and white symbols representing ideas passively and with room for interpretation. While some readers may not be swayed to tears by the same material as I, I really feel that is something to be in awe of that art can do that to us, that we as humans can relate to a fictional character enough that we are emotionally affected.

I’ll never forget my first memory of this experience, and it wasn’t my tears that fell but those of my first grade teacher, Mrs. Morinaga. She was reading aloud to the class a story about a boy in a dog sledding race (from some quick research, I think it was probably Dog Runner by Don H. Meredith). The boy needed the prize money for his family and against all odds he was actually leading. But just as he neared the finish line, his favorite dog died (her “heart burst,” I can remember that from the first grade). My teacher was sobbing, tears running in rivers down her face as she continued to read to us. I remember getting up and going to the back of the room to get her a paper towel (I was such a teacher’s pet). I remember the end of the story too, that as the boy mourned the loss of his dog and berated himself for pushing her too hard, his competitors caught up to him: one man in particular who was favored to win. The man, instead of going for the blue ribbon and the prize money, stopped and left his sled, picked up the body of the dog, and walked the boy across the finish line.

That’s why I want to be a writer. I want to weave a story that packs enough punch that a first grader will remember it for the rest of her life.

By the way, this is the song (don’t play unless you’ve got tissues handy):

I love to read, but isn’t there something so melancholy about sliding that finished book back onto the shelf where it will wait who-knows-how-long until you pick it up for another go? Solution: lend it to a friend! I have found that lending out a good book greatly increases my enjoyment of it. It’s also wonderful to be lent a “must read” by someone dear. The reading process is so quiet and internal, and I love that about it, but there is a richness added when you can share your reactions to that other world with someone who’s traveled there too. So here’s my current lending library status (though I’m sure I’m forgetting some that I have loaned out) along with brief reviews.

Books I’m Lending:

Alice I Have Been, by Melanie Benjamin (lent to my mom) – My favorite historical novel of the moment, this story left me spellbound. Alice Liddell sounds like such an extraordinary person and I had no idea that Lewis Carroll (real name Charles Dodgson) was a mathematics professor at Oxford. I am now re-reading Lewis Carroll’s complete works to see if I can take away anything new.

The Girl Who Fell from the Sky, by Heidi W. Durrow (lent to my mom) – A fascinating novel about racial identity and stereotyping. The main character, Rachel, is the daughter of an African-American G.I. and a Danish woman. When a family tragedy lands her back in the States with her black grandmother, she finds herself being defined by unfamiliar prejudices and struggles to be “black enough.”

The Shadow of the Wind and The Angel’s Game, both by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (lent to Ginny) – I can’t praise these two novels highly enough, especially with their literature-loving characters. In The Shadow of the Wind, the main character is a bookseller’s son, and in The Angel’s Game the main character is an author, and though it came after Shadow it takes place years before when bookseller is a young man. And, of course, both feature the mysterious Cemetery of Forgotten Books.

The Help, by Kathryn Stockett (lent to Kimmee) – I couldn’t put this one down and will probably re-read it as soon as I get it back. Set in Mississippi in the 1960s, the diverse and spunky cast of women shines light not only on the race issues of the time, but also on conflicts regarding gender roles, social classes, and generational expectations.

Books I’m Borrowing:

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, by Katherine Howe (lent by Ginny) – I just got this one on Friday and started it at breakfast this morning.

The Phantom of the Opera, by Gaston Leroux (lent by Kimmee) – I have had this one on loan for about a year now and still not cracked the cover. Shame on me. I was fortunate enough to see the musical last year and wanted to read the book, but I guess not bad enough.

Beginnings, Middles, and Ends, by Nancy Kress (lent by Phyllis) – This is a fantastic book on writing and I would highly recommend it to any writer. Confession: I have my own copy now (different edition) but still need to locate my borrowed copy, which is in a box in my basement somewhere since I moved last year. Sorry Phyllis, I promise it will be returned soon!

This video made me very happy. It makes me want to go be all rebellious in the name of literacy.

Mallory Battista’s Blog

Notes from an aspiring author, artist, and occasional gluten-free cook.

Storytelling isn’t just a thing to do, it is a way of seeing the world.

I am a storyteller. I live as though I am a hero on a quest and I strive to treat every person that crosses my path as the main character of an equally complex and exciting story. I find joy when their paths overlap with mine, and though some encounters are fleeting and others last a lifetime, I see the importance of each one to the continuation of Life's plot. I am grateful for the adversity that is set before me, as it makes me a more well-rounded character and adds challenge and excitement to my journey. And I always, ALWAYS have faith in happy endings.

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