Thursday, October 23, 2014

Review: First Impressions by Charlie Lovett

If you're a follower of many bloggers, talkers, and reviewers in the bibliosphere, you've probably already heard about Charlie Lovett's new book, First Impressions.   I too received a copy of Lovett's latest foray into bibliomysteries.

It's good.

Ok, now that's out of the way ... I was a "Decide to read a book, finish it no matter what" reader for much of my life.  If I chose poorly, it was an act of contrition to the bibliogods to finish that crappy book.  But, I was beginning to feel like Life's Too Short for that kind of strict observance.  I started asking around what other readers did.  Some read to page 100, which seemed like a lot.  I was surprised how many were like me -- finish it no matter what.  Those who would drop a stinker didn't follow any guidelines, which should have been obvious with those that lead that kind of bohemian, free-wheeling lifestyle.

I wasn't sure what to think until I heard Nancy Pearl's good advice (like so much of her advice), to subtract your age from 100, and that's the number of pages you should give a book.  As you age, and your reading time on earth shortens, and you become a better judge of literature, you don't have to be quite so full of grace for books that don't quite deserve to take up precious reading time.

So, for me, that means 66 pages.

By page 40, Fred got his answer:

Yes.  Yes it is a kissing book.

And by page 66 (actually well before page 66 ...), I was hooked.  But it was good I had had adopted that guidance to give First Impressions a fair shake -- the opening is cheesier than the pick up lines borne bravely by our protagonist.  (An aside: I had a lot of terrible First Impression puns I've spared you. You're welcome.)  Not that I'm cheesy-opposed -- I'm a big fan of the Aubrey-Mauturin series, but when it comes to romance, I prefer it given a bit more straight. 

Anyway, back to the task at hand, I found myself drawn in by Sophie Collingwood, a bibliophile in modern London who inherits an amazing library and far more trouble than she ever wanted.  A curious bibliophile through and through, I was fascinated to tag along with her for a fun story, intertwined with a story about Jane Austen.  I'm no Jane-ite, so I'm definitely not the best one to tell you how accurate/ fulfilling/ uhhh..... Janey(?) that part of the story was, which I know is why many readers will pick this one up.  To be honest, I found myself frequently wanting to skip ahead to the modern side of the tale.  Not so much because the Jane side of the story was not interesting, but that I identified much more closely with Sophie and her side of the tale.  

In the end, it was a good story I'd recommend especially to anglophile bibliophiles, and I deeply hope it's a dandy for the Jane Austen fans out there.  After all, it's probably been at least a week since the Jane-ites had a new book to read, which can be wayyyyy too long for you people.  Also in the plus column, I'd rank it highly on "bibliofactor".  The book stuff was meaty and not at all the simple McGuffin some authors try to foist off on us, rather the only setting in which this story could be told.  Very good stuff.

Anyway, don't forget you can find me all over the web: Twitter, Tumblr, and .... places.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

2014 Lincoln Public Libraries Book Sale

Hooray for books!  Hooray for libraries!!  And hooray for Lincoln, Nebraska.  I've missed you.  This annual autumn sale is one I grew up attending.  Every year (when Mom remembered) we'd go.  And over the years, I started remembering myself to ensure we got there to fill a couple grocery bags with treasures.  It's moved a couple times over the years, and I was looking forward to attending once more.

Ok, so it was a busy weekend, but I managed to slip over for the FINAL HOUR of the annual Lincoln Public Libraries book sale. Posted prices were a little higher than normal for FOL book sales in the region, but by Sunday afternoon it was "Fill a goodly sized box for $5!!"  I managed to nearly fill said goodly sized box, and gladly paid the $5 asked.  Lots of misc. from the "literary criticism" part of the world I love so much (author letters, essays, etc.) even some old bound editions of The Dial.

I only had about an hour, so I didn't get much through the fiction section ... requires to much browsing to find good candidates.  For me, nonfiction is a much higher ratio of serendipity and success.

The sale for 2014 was held at the "new" Lancaster Event Center in Lincoln, Nebraska.  I say "new" because it really isn't very new any more.  But it is to me, the Exile who has wandered far from home and has returned to his hometown for a sojourn, I think.  Not permanent.  I think.  Why?  Life's funny, that's why.  But books are constant.

Points of note for anyone in the future looking: plenty of free parking, there were concessions available for purchase on site, and things were pretty well organized and kept tidy ... at least in the final hour!  Which tells me it was probably kept pretty tidy and well organized all along.

One thing that wasn't posted was that it was fill a box for $5 Sunday afternoon.  In fact, I think they still had the Friday prices posted -- I guessed it was something along the lines of "fill a box," but waited until it was announced over the P.A. to really start loading up.  You make different choices when it's $1 or $2 per book than you do at "fill a box" time.  Right?

Monday, May 5, 2014

New Bibliomystery by Charlie Lovett coming

Charlie Lovett's second foray into bibliomysteries is coming this fall (October it sounds like).

Last year I really enjoyed The Bookman's Tale, which delves into Shakespeare, art, book collecting, and plenty of mystery and suspense.  And a little romance, but not too much.  I can be a bit like Fred Savage in The Princess Bride when it comes to the romance sections ... Not that I don't *like* kissing, I do!! It's just sometimes in mysteries it can feel awkward, or somehow the author felt it was obligatory and characters go through passionless motions, or many other unfortunate experiences mirrored in my own life now now that I'm dating again and ...  Wow, I am derailed. Anyway....

The Bookman's Tale was a good read, and includes a satisfying amount of biblio-ness (and art too!).  It's rooted around Shakespeare, which for me is honestly a strike against a bibliomystery (especially a new author!).  There have been lots of real mysteries surrounding Shakespeare and his works, and some really exceptional fictional ones too.  But, Bookman's Tale holds up which isn't surprising once I learned Lovett has a deep passion for rare books, and has spent time doing the necessary research to meet a bibliophile's critical eye.

It wasn't that books and the book world were merely the McGuffin to keep the plot plodding along, or that the main character's employment tangentially involved books -- so there's a few scenes in a library (or the moon for all it matters) -- NOT SO!  Peter Byerly (the main character) is a rare book dealer who has lost his wife ... with lots of flashing back to their early years together (which informs the mystery), which undoubtedly a devoted husband would do at such a time.  It was good, not sappy, and certainly not a story that just happens to include a book or two to tell the *real* story of a man and woman falling in love.  NOT HERE!  The bibliofactor is on the same level of importance as the characters and the setting, which is what I look for in bibliomysteries.  So, The Bookman's Tale is a recommended read from me if you haven't read it yet.  Then you can join me looking forward to First Impressions.

First Impressions, coming out this fall, will also delve into authorship, Jane Austen, and more old books.  And being rooted in Jane Austen, I bet there'll be some kissing and I'll like it.

From the publisher:

First Impressions: A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Love, and Jane Austen (Viking; October 16, 2014; 978-0-525-42724-7)

Book lover and Austen enthusiast Sophie Collingwood has recently taken a job at an antiquarian bookshop in London when two different customers request a copy of the same obscure book: the second edition of Little Book of Allegories by Richard Mansfield. Their queries draw Sophie into a mystery that will cast doubt on the true authorship of Pride and Prejudice—and ultimately threaten Sophie’s life.

In a dual narrative that alternates between Sophie’s quest to uncover the truth—while choosing between two suitors—and a young Jane Austen’s touching friendship with the aging cleric Richard Mansfield, Lovett weaves a romantic, suspenseful, and utterly compelling novel about love in all its forms and the joys of a life lived in books.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

From the Archives: Montana Bouquiniste

This post was never published, and that was a mistake.  And since I'm now planning to leave Montana, I thought I'd better post it while I was still here.  The Book Farm may come back once I get settled in Nebraska ... it was a lot of fun.  So, cast your minds back to December 2011 ----

The snow is piling up this beautifully today, which means the tea kettle has been gurgling away and I've been reading.  Time for a little break, and also a small realization.  I was going to share something with you, dear readers, at the end of the summer, but forgot, and now it's been months---  You know how it is.

I sold books here and there online several years ago, it's been a hard habit to break.  I've heard book selling gets into your blood, and I think it's true.

As a book lover in a far flung place without any bookstores, I get out to the garage sales, farm auctions, thrift stores, etc. when I can because that's where the books are.  Pickins ain't great, but every so often I find something surprising.  That's why we all do it-- Anything can be Anywhere.

I'd often find good books cheap -- not collectible stuff, or even books I want to add to my shelves, but books that deserved a better home than the burn barrel.  (We still burn garbage in Montana).  Like the stack of decent hardback Cormac McCarthy for a dime each.  I already have what I want of his, but these are books that need a home, and without a used bookshop in the area, there was nowhere to buy from, or take them.  Not really.

This summer I also bought a book by Alan Armstrong called Off in Zora, about packing up a VW bus and setting up with his dog (Jefe) and his buddy Tom on the side of the road and sell books all over New England, but further afield too.  Not just any books make it into the rolling bookshop.  Books he believed in.  Books they could talk about.  Books worth passing on.

This appealed to me deeply.  I also admit, I was jealous of all the good bookish talk along the way.  Being pretty new still in my remote Montana community I've not met a lot of bookish people, or have many good book-centric conversations.  That's how Armstrong sold books -- through conversation.
"I've learned from Tom that people need to be sold books.  It's a mistake to think that folks know what they want.  Most readers are willing to have their susceptibility tried and even stretched a little.  So we swell and puff like Falstaff to share enthusiasms and mind each other's business, or what's the passion for?  Real booksellers at work glow like musicians when they're making music."
And it works.  While reading Zora, I found myself with book in one hand and my phone in the other, buying obscure, unheard of books online from Armstrong's descriptions.  Just wonderful.  It also occurred to me, that if this method of selling books worked on me as a reader, perhaps I could make it work in person as a seller.

The problem is that I'm gainfully employed, and unable to sit at the side of a road somewhere, set up and wait for traffic.  Where I live, that could mean 5 cars all day.

So, The Book Farm was born. In northern Montana, we have a pretty short gardening season, and an even shorter term for our local farmer's market.  It doesn't open until mid- to late August and closes down at the first freeze, which is usually early October.  So, maybe 8 Friday mornings, from 7:30 AM until noon where farm wives and widows come to town with pickups and SUVs full of produce, jams, and bread.  I thought, this is where I could sell some books.

So, I slapped together a few wooden flats from scrap I had laying around from a few yard projects, and voila!  I put a couple shelves up in the garden shed to house my stock and hit the garage sales hard.  I only had a couple weeks, and had enough boxes to offer maybe 150 books.  As any veteran bookseller will tell you, the trouble isn't selling books, it's finding books to sell.

But, fortune favored the bold -- I started out with a little over 100 books that first Friday-- and every one of them I could vouch for in some way.  I tried to have something I could recommend to most readers, but I also wanted to be able to say -- there is no junk here.

That's enough for now... More to follow.  I need to get back to my book.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Bookworm ripples

We learned earlier this week on Book Patrol, the long-time bibliophile favorite painting known as The Bookworm by Carl Spitzweg is coming up for sale.  Maybe.  Apparently there are three versions of the painting by Spitzweg.  The one potentially coming up for sale is currently held by the Milwaukee Public Library.  They have *not* come out and said they were definitely selling, just that it was something they were considering.

I wondered if this one was the one that hung at Leary's Book Store in Philadelphia.  Leary's is remembered fondly and well by throngs of bibliophiles, and many remembrances can be found online.  It closed in 1968 after operating for "nearly 100 years" and the building was torn down.   The quotes are because no one is quite 100% sure when Leary's was founded, but their history as a book selling operation certainly goes back well over 100 years.

Leary's has a long history, and its archives are preserved at Temple University.  I had no experience at Leary's being born a decade after it closed, very, very far from Philadelphia, but sounds like a place I would have loved to visit.  500,000 books?  Road trip worthy!

1893, Leary, Stuart & Co.
So I dug into my question about the painting, remembering it from Leary's related ephemera.  A cursory search online revealed (to me, and maybe I'm wrong!!), that Leary's didn't actually own a copy of the painting, but rather appropriated the image.  They had a stained glass window created for the store interior, and incorporated the image as a huge sign on the exterior of the building.  The sign, when sold at auction was acquired by the Gale Research Company where it went to Detroit.  I wonder if its still there.  Or with whoever owns Gale Research now.

1902, Leary, Stuart & Co.
I know I can't afford the Milwaukee library painting's auction estimate of $400,000 (and I wouldn't be surprised if it went for more), but nearly anyone can afford cool Leary's ephemera from their good-ol-days featuring the work!  
1955 postcard featuring The Bookworm
hung from mezzanine
On an unrelated note, I hope this post didn't frighten anyone thinking I was long gone.  I won't get into gory details (this is a book collecting blog!), but shortly after the last post in Dec. 2012 my life exploded, what remained imploded, and then flipped upside down.  I've been rebuilding since, wandering in exile.  I'll be landing in Lincoln, Nebraska (my hometown) this July, and hope to get settled in quickly, and maybe even get to posting here again on occasion!  I'd like that.

The Bookworm sign on the exterior of Leary's in 1920.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Mystery of Cloomber - A Conan Doyle

It's *pouring* snow here in my little corner of Montana this morning.  Was only supposed to be a skiff of snow, but it's at least 4" of heavy stuff and still pouring down.  It's a good day to take a minute and find my next read.  Like many bibliophiles, I can't help but turn to British "classics" in winter.  I'm not sure what it is. Some sense of nostalgia for a place and time I've never experienced first-hand must have something to do with it.  No matter, I don't have to understand it to enjoy it.  Personally, it's not Dickens at Christmastime, but Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, and PG Wodehouse that usually accompany me before my winter's naps.  A recent find was this unknown to me book The Mystery of Cloomber.  I know nothing except a man (Santa?) is horrified by what he hears.  I also happen to know this copy was once in West Virginia.  
This copy includes a great book trade label from Bluefield Book & Stationery Company in Bluefield, West Virginia.  Like many book stores approaching the 20th Century, they also sold other goods, like cut glass, china, office equipment, stationery along with "All The Latest Books."  I also wonder if this book was in a subscription library of some kind with the contemporary numbered label in the upper corner.  Now, where did I put that list?

Monday, June 4, 2012

Happy 100th Loeb Classical Library!

The Loeb Classical Library has been around for 100 years this year.  You can read all about the history of this monumental series over at Wikipedia.  But even better, you can start reading the classics themselves thanks to a cool site that has streamlined digital access to these wonderful books.

Also, you can share your love of Loebs in a new-ish Flickr group for folks who love the series.

There is lots of amazing work going on all the time to preserve and share these ancient texts-- and more discoveries to be made!  Here is William Noel from the Walters Museum of Art in a recent TED Talk about revealing Archimedes.  PS, thanks TED people for getting a recording out shortly after it was actually made!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Ralph Ellison speaks.

I was catching up on some podcast listening this week, and heard the folks at Bookrageous talk about "one hit wonder" authors.  One of my favorites is Ralph Ellison.  A fascinating interview with Ralph Ellison has been digitized from the archives of my old work place, the Oklahoma Historical Society, and as of this writing has about 10 views. Thanks OHS for making this available to everyone to see.

You can browse Ralph Ellison's personal library on Library Thing's Legacy Library project.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

While you were out...

So, you understand I wasn't just sitting around all winter waiting for the blog to unfreeze, I was up to a few things, and now I can finally share.

I started using Tumblr for things that don't quite fit the format here.  The first is like the Exile Bibliophile blog but on tumblr, just like the blog only less wordy: Also, I should note completely different content than the blog.  Tumblr also makes it easy to run audio content, which is something I've wanted to do with Exile Bibliophile for a while -- a podcast.  I know it's very 2007 of me, but I can't help it.  If I ever get one "in the can" as they say in the "biz", I'll be the first to tell you so.

I also started a Tumblr dedicated to library ink stamps --, which has been surprisingly popular and features daily posts.   I've also started another dedicated entirely to errata slips -- this one is a little slower going, but is picking up steam.  The errata slip tumblr was created in response to a conversation on twitter and then it got out of hand.  You know how it is.

Of course, you can find me on Twitter:

Thursday, March 15, 2012


After battling Google over a snafu with 2-step verification, I'm back!  Egads.  I'll have a few old posts that never went up because of the lock-out, and updates too.

I have several updates in the hopper, but I'm hitting the road tomorrow for what will be a great time in Great Falls, Montana to be one of the speakers for their Festival of the Book series.  So, briefly, if you can catch me, please do at the Great Falls Public Library this Saturday at 2 pm.  They've also got some other good stuff lined up on other Saturdays, so check it all out.  More to follow.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Book Trade Labels spotted!

It's been a while since I've posted on book trade labels, but believe me, they are never far from my heart.  Over Thanksgiving, the Mrs. and I took a pleasant trip to visit friends and our old stomping grounds in Oklahoma.  Luckily for me I was able to  include nearly all the surviving used and indie bookshops in Oklahoma City-- and a new one!

I made quite a haul home in my suitcase, and had to ship a goodly sized box back to Montana as well.

One of the books I bought on an impulse was Barbara Hodgson's The Tattooed Map.  What initially caught my eye on the Clearance shelf at the new Half-Price Books in Edmond, OK was the Chronicle Books colophon on the spine-- these folks put out wonderful books.  Always worth a flip through at the very least.

What a surprise when I did. It was a constant flow of beautiful ephemera reproduced throughout.  Then, closer to the back, bookseller labels started popping up.  I include here only three of the six.  They came out a little blurry.  I think my scanner is just too much for my rickety desk and that's what's causing that.  They really are beautifully reproduced in the book.  I found myself running my fingers over things and surprised it wasn't pasted in.

Maps, books, and ephemera play an important role throughout the story, although it really isn't about that.  Newspaper clippings, receipts  business cards, fold out maps, are complimented with exact details (like library stamps on the backs of maps) and handwritten lists and notes throughout.

As a story, it didn't blow me away, but it's gotten better in my mind with a few days of perspective.  Hodgson has produced a few other books described as Illustrated Novels along similar principles, but this was my first.  Hodgson's more recent book, Trading In Memories, about being an ephemera hunter, has moved from my "Acquire On Sight" list to "Acquire Now" list.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Did you know I'm on Twitter? Do you follow me there?  I love Twitter.  I have a nice list of bibliofolk as well.  Check it out!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Exile Bibliophile the Tumblr Edition

I've started an Exile Bibliophile tumblr edition, in hopes to lay groundwork for a podcast.  So, I'll have fewer of the posts like the previous here, but even more bibliophilic content in general.  You can find it here:  The tumblr will NOT replace or likely displace any posts here.  It'll be business as usual on the blog, but even more goodies here:  So, check it out already!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

...out of the window

A gentle introduction to the gentle madness

This week, I have the pleasure of guest blogging over at GoneReading, a site for people who love books. I've especially enjoyed the series A Dude Reads Jane Austen. Also, GoneReading has a great store with bookish gifts and things and proceeds support libraries and literacy. Pretty great stuff.

So, here it is:

It’s interesting so many people love books, but so few people claim to be book collectors.  Is it because it sounds like claiming to be a breeder of polo ponies?  Perhaps.

I collect books.  I do not own a yacht.  I’m not embarrassed by either fact.  I even seek out others who collect books too, so maybe we can be friends.  (The Mrs. says I need people-friends too, not just book-friends.)  In my quest to find kindred collectors of books, I’ve found quite a few proto-collectors.  Proto-collectors are people who are very nearly collecting but can’t quite claim full book collector status for themselves.  They seem to be charmingly unaware how a quest has come upon them, consuming money, energy, and precious time-- but still they claim to not be book collectors.  I’m the first to admit, it’s hard to say when exuberant Bibliophilia become full-blown Bibliomania.  But the first step is certainly to admit there are stronger forces at work than the love of a tale well told.  

Not everyone who owns a lot of books is a book collector.  Granted.  I wear pants most days, and own many pairs, yet don’t think of myself as a pants connoisseur.  Book collectors are the same way.  A book collection has a purpose beyond accumulating, beyond, even, reading.  A book collection has a purpose.  What should the focus be?  That’s the beauty of it.  It can be anything.  Anything at all.  And though book collectors have been carefully forming collections for centuries, the most interesting book collections are yet to be formed.

Collections often focus on a particular author, a particular illustrator, publisher, series, a style of bookbinding, a particular subject (like books of made-up words, or pants-wearing polo ponies).  Not long ago a short article was circulating about a collector of books that use human blood in their production or signed in the stuff.  I was surprised at the variety of books that fit into the collection.  Another great way to see what’s new in collecting is to review the entries for the National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest sponsored by the ABAA (The Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America).  Nearly all of these entries demonstrate what amazing collections can be assembled on a college student’s budget.  

Another thing to do is get to know other collectors.  They may not be on your street, or at your 8-to-5, but there’s a big beautiful blogosphere pulsing with the thoughts and purchases of serious bibliophiles.  I have over 250 blogs in my RSS reader dedicated to bibliophilia, and I know I don’t follow everyone.  I’m constantly finding new ones.  And people find me through my own blog.  There are also several clubs, societies, and other organizations for book collectors, many of which can be found at the website of the Fellowship of American Bibliophilic Societies.  There may also be sites dedicated to your preferred objects of book love-- a great example is Collecting the Modern Library, a site dedicated to the Modern Library series of 1917-1970, compiled by collectors over many years and still growing.  I wish there were many more like it.

If you love books, you’ve likely heard booksellers bemoan the unliterate age of the e-panopticon we live in today.  Publishers are even worse.  The moaning has its merits, but the moaners are overreacting.  Historically, booksellers considered the end of books with the emergence of radio and television too.  The great thing about the internet is it has largely removed one of the biggest barriers of book lovers: geography.  Historically, book collecting has largely been a past-time for urbanites, but that is no longer true.  The internet has also caused what were once thought to be rare books into a wider market place to be outed as actually fairly common.  But books are finite, and I think we’re currently living in what will be “the good ol’ days” of book collecting.  A time we’ll look back on fondly when nearly everything was available and most of it cheap.

There is still frontiers to be explored and treasures to be found in book collecting.