Bird By Bird

Reading Anne Lamott's Bird By Bird, which I picked up from PBX in Neenah.

Reading Anne Lamott’s Bird By Bird, which I picked up from PBX in Neenah.

I stopped into Paperback Book Exchange in Neenah today to get my Shop Local Bookstore fix. The owner, Tina, set aside a book she’d recommended to me a few months ago: Anne Lamott‘s Bird By Bird.

This visit helped me realize that the best way to shop for books is in a small town at a small, local bookstore. Everyone knows Tina and enjoys sharing their stories. One woman who came in recognized me and said how much she enjoyed reading my blog. That was my first compliment from a “stranger!” Such a neat thing when someone, somewhere is out there reading my writing and enjoying themselves.

Thank you to all those awesome readers and bookstore owners who help other readers and writers!

Tina and I also discovered we love the same painting.

The painting A Young Girl Reading by Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1776) that I found at St. Vincent de Paul.

The painting A Young Girl Reading by Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1776) that I found at St. Vincent de Paul.

Her mother had always had a copy hung in their home and I’d discovered mine for $3 at a thrift store! How ironic? Two book lovers have the same taste in art.

Two Birds. One Painting.


Shop Small, Shop Local!

The Beatles items for sale at the Paperback Book Exchange.

The Beatles items for sale at the Paperback Book Exchange.

The Paperback Book Exchange in Neenah, a tucked away gem in a busy part of town, looks like your typical used book store. It’s walls are covered from door-to-door, floor-to-ceiling with thin, wooden shelves covered in hardcovers and, of course, paperbacks. Even the little hallway leading into the second room is covered in literature. But it’s the company of the literary personalities who run the shop that make it a unique experience.

“Like you, I like anything and everything books,” said store owner Tina Hoerauf after I introduced myself as the girl who runs the blog she’d been so kindly interacting with lately.

Paper tree decorations made out of old books!

Paper tree decorations made out of old books!

As I looked around at some of the details, I noticed hidden festive treasures adorned throughout, such as the Christmas trees made out of book pages and pen holders in the shape of coffee mugs decorated in books — all camouflaged against the backdrop of their brothers and sisters.

The two women who greeted me at the shop shared wide grins. It was one of those rare retail moments when you realize that you’re giving business to those who love what they do everyday.

That’s one of the best reasons to shop at your local, small bookstores; you get to put a face and personality to the character of the shop! The other woman working was there to ask if I needed help finding anything, which I appreciated because sometimes bookstores can seem like a maze when you first enter them. I mentioned how much I liked their Beatles items on the top shelf, which appeared more as decoration than as sale items, but Sarah instinctively grabbed me a ladder so I could get a better look.

“We’re very accommodating here!” Tina laughed.

Another reason to shop local and small are for the love of pets (People with cat allergies beware!). Annaboo is Tina’s adopted, white feline who sits on a comfy pillow at the corner of the purchasing counter with a sign that reads something along the lines of, “Please do not pet me, I am not feeling well today!” You see, Annaboo has cancer. She has her good days and bad days. But no matter how she feels, she’s always cheering people up while  sauntering around the shop with you or keeping you company while purchasing your armful of books. She was having a good day that Small Business Saturday and purred at the counter while I purchased my book. Learn more about Annaboo here.

Tina and I among our friends at the Paperback Book Exchange in Neenah, Wis.

Tina and I among our friends at the Paperback Book Exchange in Neenah, Wis.

The Paperback Book Exchange is the kind of bookstore where things are subtlety labeled so as not to take away from the beauty of the books, yet you seem to know exactly where you’re going just by scanning titles. So I ended up in one of the back corners by my personal favorite sections: Literary Fiction. I eventually found myself among the old hardcovers in which Classic authors like Jane Austen, Shakespeare, Virginia Woolf, Edgar Allen Poe, William Blake, etc. normally dwell.

That’s when I spotted Virginia Woolf’s 1937 edition of The Years. We all have  authors whom we collect and try to read over time as though their novels were written as a series (I have several authors I do this with), and Virginia Woolf just happens to be one of those authors for me. Being Small Business Saturday, the hardcover fiction novels were $1 off, so I purchased my thick hardback for only $4! I was in luck since I only had $5 on me. There were also some tasty cookies to nibble on and apple cider to drink while shopping. It was all laid out in red, green and gold decor near the front entrance to greet customers.

And yet another great thing about small, locally owned bookshops are the friendly regulars that make time to catch up between browsing endeavors. Whether they’re friends of the owner or a common acquaintance from regular visits, it’s always pleasant to hear chatter between friends when you’re among so many of them.

I recommend checking out the Paperback Book Exchange in Neenah when you get a chance! It is a treasure chest filled with  jewels for fellow bookworms.

Zombie Reads

For the last week I have been losing sleep and the only thing that knocks me out is a specific novel: Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. It’s like it is calling me from the shelf:

Wake up … wake up—read me …
(At least it wasn’t calling: “Let me in! Let me in!”)

Or rather quotes from the story keep surfacing and I can’t sleep with the story playing in my head. Just watching the movie wasn’t enough (because, let’s face it, the movies are completely different from the novel). So, last night, I gave in and started to read it for the FOURTH time. It’s the most I’ve read any book because, hey, I have a lot of unread books on my shelves. Finally I slept through the night for a full 8 hours after reading a few chapters. Before that it was 4 to 6 every morning, tossing and turning, blaming it on the storm or my cat or my job hunt.

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A 1943 Random House edition of "Wuthering Heights" purchased from Studio.

A 1943 Random House edition of “Wuthering Heights” purchased from Studio.

Last weekend when I was out celebrating the onset of summer, I stopped into one of my favorite stores on the Ave. It’s called Studio 213 LLC and they have about 8 or more rooms filled with different artist’s or collector’s items. The last room at the end of the long hallway is filled with old books and to my surprise I found a 1943 Random House edition of Wuthering Heights. I’ve been in this room several times (of course), but this time the title jumped out at me and I started squealing as I pulled it from the shelf. A stomachache arrived and everything. (Due to an adrenaline rush or maybe just pure excitement, these stomach issues happen every time I enter a bookstore. You can imagine my bathroom breaks when I worked in one.)

Wuthering Heights film 1992. Photo courtesy of

Wuthering Heights film 1992. Photo courtesy of

Not only was I thrilled to have finally gotten my hands on an old edition of the greatest novel/love story of all time (in my opinion), but this particular edition had my favorite cover art. It is an image that I’d discovered during an obsessive Google search shortly after I’d returned from my trip to England where I’d visited the Yorkshire Moors and Brontë Country. Wuthering Heights was the first of the 5 novels required for the English Department’s Study Abroad Program at UW-Oshkosh and I chose to read it first. My hands were shaking by the end of it and the addiction was official. But I read it again when I got home, just in case.

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Wuthering Heights film 2009. Photo courtesy of

Wuthering Heights film 2009. Photo courtesy of

If you live in the Fox Cities, check out Studio; if not for the old books then for the artwork. Who knows what treasures may be waiting for you!

Also, if you haven’t read Wuthering Heights, please do so. It may take time to get used to the old English language if you don’t regularly read it, but it’s worth it. You may not even know why you want to read it again after your first try, but I can guarantee you will pick it back up again to see what you missed.

If you can’t handle reading a book without watching the movie or vise versa, I would recommend PBS Masterpiece Classic’s 2009 version for emotional impact (and my personal favorite Heathcliff played by the dreamy Tom Hardy) and the 1992 version (starring the wonderful Ralph Fiennes as Healthcliff) for a closer adaptation to the novel, though both still stray quite a bit. I always heard that the 1930 movie version was the best, but I haven’t gotten my hands on a copy yet, nor have I seen the 2011 version, which starred the first black Heathcliff.

Now I have to ask: Is there anyone else who is haunted by their favorite stories in the middle of the night? Do you ever give in and read until you’re able to fall back asleep? Please share and help me to feel less of a crazy person!

Express Your Shelf

Today I stopped at The Book Store on Northland Avenue in Appleton where I discovered some ingenious new book covers.

Since the Nook’s and Kindle’s creation, owners have had creative protection case options for their eReaders to take them to the beach or on vacation without the fear of transportation damage. I know first hand what zero protection to a book can do for an avid reader like myself. Any where I go, I bring my beloved paperbacks with me in my purse and by the time I finish reading them, they have creased covers, torn pages, water stains, and minor dents.

Even though I do not own an eReader and probably never will, I found myself feeling jealous and resentful of all the “book” cover options for electronic book readers only. A part of me wished I didn’t love paper so much, while another part of me – my eyes – was thankful I still had will power. (Perhaps it was my lack of savoir faire when it comes to computer technology that has frightened me away from “upgrading” all this time.)

I have never come across anything like this offered for the more traditional bookworms. Some of the jackets at Barnes and Noble even had inspirational quotes in cursive font or a Victorian painting on their covers. Both of which are definitely my style and I would have paid the $20-some if I’d had the opportunity.

Well, today was the day my fears of being left behind were diminished when I came across The Book Store’s fake leather book covers for paperbacks! As an avid reader, who typically prefers soft covers over hard covers, I was thrilled to have discovered them. Not only were they geared toward the style of books I choose, but they were also my style decor. I selected the cover with the famous authors’ last names (as seen in the photographs). Isn’t she a beauty? There was even more than one size to choose from! For starters, I picked the smaller of the bunch, just to make sure it was the right change for me.

I found one good bookmark there as well. The quote describes my favorite way to start the day:

“Morning reflections. Savor the quiet moments.”

Shared with a hot cup of tea on a breezy, autumn day.