In Memory of Gayle Hancock Childress
by Sarah Larson
“Good friends, good books, and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.”
― Mark Twain
Gayle Hancock Childress knew both “good friends and good books” in her 85 years of living. Mark Twain who is credited with this quote was a favorite and Gayle often enjoyed hearing Marvin Cole a storytelling friend, impersonate Twain.
Gayle was foremost a story teller. She loved to tell and listen to stories with the Asheville Storytelling Circle most of all and so that love of story naturally brought her and me, as next door neighbors, to Malaprop’s on Tuesday nights to the book club led by Mary Park Ford. Our first meeting was for the discussion of Islam: A Short History, by Karen Armstrong and we were hooked not just by the book but the quality of the discussion and the wonderful women who shared their enjoyment of reading. This relationship continued and was nurtured by Saturday Retreats in members’ homes where books were discussed in the morning and afternoon interrupted by a meal brought by the members. The highlight for Gayle was the weekend retreats at Lake Logan. “Over the Top” was one of her favorite expressions and she used it often describing members of the group and these marathon discussion weekends. From Friday to Sunday we lived books with a film thrown in on Saturday night.
Gayle’s gift to the group was enormous. Sitting quietly she would take it all in then delight everyone with a comment that gave a new perspective, a witty dash of humor, or a depth of insight that opened our eyes. Leaving this life on Monday, December 3 of this year, she will be missed but remembered for her gift of friendship and her love of books.
Finding Light in a Time of Darkness
by Linda Barrett Knopp
One of my favorite young adult series is The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper, which I often think about this time of year, when the light wanes and each day is a bit darker. Soon, though, we’ll move through the winter solstice to the season of light and then towards spring, when the dark wanes, when each day is a bit lighter. I look at my calendar. Solstice is less than two weeks away!
As I get older, I like this time of year less, though I make an effort to bring different rituals into my life to make it warmer, easier. I make soups, I bake bread, I walk in the woods, light candles in church, go to yoga classes during the transition from sunset to darkness. But, as always, my greatest comfort is reading.
I bookend my day with reading—poetry and non-fiction in the morning, pleasure-reading before bed. Reading is my way of meditating. When my mind spins off on some anxious trajectory, I bring it back to the page, to the word. Even the act of holding a book, of turning the pages and marking my progress with a familiar linen bookmark relaxes me on a very deep level.
I can remember the moment I learned to read. I was in kindergarten and looked up at an orange circle and understood that the letters on top of the circle, “orange” referred to the color. I had a quiet epiphany, not as dramatic as Patti Duke’s Helen Keller when she understood the sign for water, but that moment changed my life.
I didn’t own many books when I was young—we borrowed books from the library—but I always had the books I needed. When I received my first library card at the bookmobile—another moment I remember vividly—my life opened up, my imagination set afire by the many books the librarian brought for me each week when she drove the bookmobile to our neighborhood.
If the world began with the word, for me it endures because of it. I am surrounded by words at my work. What a fortunate life to be a bookseller, to know that many of the books that pass through my hands have the potential to change someone’s life—to be a necessary distraction from pain during illness, to teach a foreign language, to provoke thought on a current event, to explore history. In the midst of this holiday season we are seeing yet again that books are a very popular gift, still.
Last night I attended a reading by the editor and some poets included in the new poetry anthology, Poems of Devotion. The poets of this anthology are spiritual seekers, moved by the mystery, sometimes wrestling with their faith. I purchased the anthology after the readings and have spent some time with these poems this morning. I believe I’ve found another ritual for the coming days—a dip into this poetry book as I drink my morning coffee.
The following poem by Wendell Berry is one of the first poems I opened up to, and it seems very appropriate for this time of year.
“To Know the Dark”
To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.
To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight,
And find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,
And is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.
Some of our Current Favorites
Get inspired with poets and poetry! This year bring us another welcomed edition of Rumi's verse in translation by Daniel Ladinsky. I never cease to be taken in and be more at peace than after I read Rumi or Hafiz. Purity of Desire is a just that ...pure.
Mischief of the Mistletoe: A Pink Carnation Christmas is an absolutely delightful novel reminiscent of Jane Austen in style, wit, and pleasure. Jane's even a character! Jane, her friend Arabella, and the aptly nicknamed hero "Turnip" confront French aristocrats, international spies, and some deadly Christmas pudding in this literary romp. The perfect holiday read.
-Linda Barrett Knopp
May We Be Forgiven is a darkly comic novel of twenty-first-century domestic life and the possibility of personal transformation. A.M. Homes’ imagination and storytelling skill is astounding. My pick for best book of the year!
The Snow Child is a lovely and magical book. The story is based on an old Russian folk tale but the author adds many details and dimensions that allow your imagination to take over. The descriptions of the Alaskan landscape are gorgeous. Perfect for a great winter read!
Are sandwiches the perfect food? Yes! Hot and cold, sweet and savory, wraps or buns, even a whole chapter on dessert sandwiches. The gorgeous photos and delicious recipes Vegan Sandwiches Save The Day will inspire you to get cooking.
Internationally renowned writer and award winner J.M. Coetzee will astonish you with a fantastical depiction of himself in The Lives of Animals. Using the voice of novelist Elizabeth Costello to discuss "crime of stupefying magnitude," Coetzee will unsettle you with this troublesome text.
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making is one of the most lovely books I have ever read. This is a clever and engaging tale, written in an original and refreshing style. A completely beautiful book, perfect for anyone in your life who loves enchantment and adventure!
The First Four Notes by Matthew Guerrieri.
Looking for a read this season that is decidedly *not* in the holiday spirit? Justin Cronin's The Passage is an epic tale of survival midst a government experiment gone wrong! Chills and thrills abound, as Cronin gives us a terrifying new take on an old monster. Read the first page - I dare you not to be hooked.
Seraphina is a beautifully written, sophisticated fantasy novel for young adults. The medieval setting is richly detailed and the story of Seraphina (half-human, half dragon in a world where that is an abomination) snowballs from an atmospheric beginning into thrilling action and intrigue, with just a touch of romance!
Make reading Cheryl Strayed's tiny beautiful things your New Year's resolution. Under the moniker of "Dear Sugar" she offers advice on loving, living, grieving, changing, writing, and being human that is both raw and warm. It's like sitting down with a good friend who is brutally honest and absolutely loving.
Incognito by David Eagleman is a book that will take you through the many layers of the unconscious and show you how the brain is far more decieving than you might think. If you like to read about your brain, this is a great read!
Tiny Homes is a great book for people who want to design and build (or help to build) their own tiny home, for people with a small and cluttered home who need ideas about using space more efficiently, for people with any size of home who might like to build a garden cottage or guest cottage or ... for anyone interested in thinking about "green" design and living more lightly on the earth.
My holiday hand sell this year is The Book of Symbols. This is one of the most beautiful and fascinating books I have ever owned! Every page reveals a picture and essay about a universal human archetype. This book is a source of infinite inspiration! I MUST HAVE for any artist or writer. Makes a GREAT GIFT!
Fingerprints of You is a wonderful YA novel from debut author Kristen-Paige Madonia! I couldn't put it down, anxious to find out what happens to 17-year-old Lemon as she travels to find her absent father and seeks answers to some big questions. Lemon's voice is authentic and her journey is captivating. Great for ages 14 and up, as it does contain some mature themes.
Come see me for picture book recommendations too!!
Remember Me as a Time of Day - Emoke B'Racz
Author Birthday Celebration!
& Trey Carland
Memoirists Dorothy Foltz Gray & Georgann Spruce
Why I Love Working at the Registers
by Lauren Harr
The best part about standing at the Malaprop's counter, by far, is getting to talk about books and life with our customers. I could do it all day--and sometimes I do! The second best thing, though, is seeing what people buy, what they respond to, and what makes them laugh or shake their heads.
I love watching the delight and disgust that our finger tentacles produce. Or hearing someone laugh hysterically at the inappropriate magnets. This time of year, as everyone is desperately searching for the perfect fun stocking stuffer, I get to overhear "Oh, Egg Nog gum balls! Sam would LOVE Egg Nog gumballs" or "That Itty Bitty Rubber Chicken is the PERFECT gag gift."
Watching someone's eyes light up over a beautiful journal or paper lantern or our Michelle Obama First Lady of Fabulous shopping bag is fun, too. So, if you haven't been by this season, please come and see what we have and share a laugh and conversation with us, your amused booksellers!