Of reading and buying and other things

This past week has been busy. I’ve been pounding away at the keyboard, adding a new opening section to Dagger of Elanna, one I think better serves the overall story arc. I’ve been looking over edits, not only for my own work but for someone else as well. I’ve had meetings and other “normal life” distractions. So, when it came time to blog this morning, I worried I might not find anything to write about. Wrong! The problem turned into narrowing it down.

Okay, let’s get the important part out of the way first. If Hell hasn’t frozen over, it is definitely experiencing a cold wave. After all, the Cubs AND the Indians are in the World Series. What other explanation can there be?

The first item to catch my attention this morning was yet another “study” — and I use that term loosely — supposedly confirming that boys don’t read as much and don’t comprehend as well as their female counterparts. This particular study was done by Keith Topping, a professor at the University of Dundee. What set my B-S meter off where this study is concerned was the method of collecting data.

The studies drew on data from a computer system used in schools across Britain to test the progress of pupils’ reading. First, a pupil reads a book either at school or at home. Next, the pupil takes a computerised quiz of five, 10 or 20 questions depending on the length of the book. Then the pupil and teacher receive immediate computerised feedback from the Accelerated Reader programme, with reports detailing the books read, the number of words read and the book’s reading level – along with the child’s level of comprehension, as indicated by the percentage of correct answers in the quiz.

Now, there is so much wrong here that I’m not sure where to begin. We don’t know if these books were assigned by the school or if they were books chosen by the students and approved of by the school, etc. My guess is they were books assigned by the school. Then there is the fact that this sounds like it is nothing more than standardized testing. My guess is these questions were multiple choice or true-false questions. I don’t know about you, but I did lousy on those sorts of tests. There are studies out there showing the problems with that sort of test. Add in that you aren’t giving the student a chance to explain their answer or expound upon it.

Studies like this are pet peeves of mine. I had to fight to get my son to read after his third grade teacher turned him — and other boys in his class, as well as a few girls — off of reading by using it as punishment. She purposely chose books for them to read that she knew they wouldn’t enjoy. Why? I have my guesses and they aren’t fit to print in this blog. But by her own words, she did it to punish them. Her reasoning? They had been reading things she hadn’t approved of.

As I said, it took me more than a year to get him interested in reading again. I’ve described the process here before. Basically, one of the youth librarians at our local library — a wonderful woman who also worked at one of the local schools — turned him on to manga after asking him what he enjoyed. Imagine that. She wanted to know what interested him. Now he is an avid reader. He reads fast, retains what he reads and he enjoys it. But, like me, give him a multiple choice test over what he read and he will freeze. It isn’t because he didn’t read and digest what was in the book. It’s because his brain doesn’t work that way.

Instead of taking shortcuts and using second and third-hand data, the researcher would have a better chance of proving his point if he had conducted the tests himself. If he had used a mix of computerized and discussion questions. But no. It was easier to do it this way. I suspect it also fit his narrative better but that’s just me. Oh, and it might help to ask the boys what they want to read instead of handing them a “classic” or something similar.

The next piece that caught my attention centers on Barnes & Noble. Leonard Riggio is once again in charge of the bookseller. In an article published by the New Yorker, Riggio makes several comments that left me shaking my head. According to the article, Riggio wanted to scale back the size of the stores years ago. But, because things were going well then, it didn’t happen. Now, the company is left with these huge stores at a time when smaller, much smaller, locally owned bookstores are returning to the marketplace.

Then there is his comment about what the real difference is between the smaller stores and B&N. According to the New Yorker, “The only thing that he believes distinguishes new-generation independent bookstores from Barnes & Noble is better food and drink, which is something he hopes to capture in the new concept stores. Those stores will have Scandinavian-looking cafés with fully licensed bars, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner.”


Sorry, but no. The real difference between the smaller stores and B&N comes down to two things. First, stock. The smaller stores are BOOK stores. The customer knows the moment they walk into a smaller, locally owned store or chain that the emphasis is going to be books and magazine. You know, stuff you can read. They don’t have to wade through displays and aisles filled with knick-knacks and toys and puzzles and who knows what else before they get to the books. The second difference is the staff. In the smaller stores, the staff usually knows the stock better, they have a passion for books and — gasp — they will order something for the customer if it isn’t in stock. I finally gave up trying to order anything from B&N because I got tired of having to educate them that there are books out there that weren’t on their shelves.

As for the cafe and being able to buy a drink — or three — as well as full meals? Sorry, while it is nice to grab a cup of coffee while shopping, I don’t go there to eat. From a merchant’s point of view, there are going to have to be safeguards put up to make sure those who buy liquor don’t go wandering the store. Those same safeguards have to be in place to make sure the liquor doesn’t go outside the shop. The easiest way to do that will be to make sure nothing leaves the cafe and that sort of defeats the purpose. How often do you see someone at B&N buy their coffee or tea and then go wandering through the rest of the store?

The New Yorker hits the proverbial nail on the head with this, “Riggio may be missing the bigger lesson of independent bookstores and the intangible experience of shopping there. The independent bookstores that have proved successful are uniquely suited to the community they’re in.” Unless and until B&N recognizes this, it will continue to struggle. As long as it continues to use a system where what sells in major markets determines what is on the shelves and for how long in other markets across the nation, he fails to get the “uniquely suited for the community they’re in” aspect.

Finally, there was this:

“The No. 1 consideration of where someone will shop is how close it is to where they are,” he said. “It has nothing to do with pedigree or branding. If there’s no bookstore close to them, they’re more likely to buy online. If there’s one close, they’re more likely to buy if it’s a block away.” His target market is the same as other book retailers: young, educated customers, and women with small children.

First, not only no, but NO. Price is often the defining determination on where a customer will buy a book. Indie bookstores have come to understand that they have to do something to get customers through the door. They do this in a number of ways. Part of it is location. Foot traffic is important. Part is ambiance. Part is staff. A lot of it comes down to this — once the customer is in the door, they make him feel important and welcome.

As for the target market, what? What about those who are older and have disposable income and time to read? Those customers are the ones more likely to buy a physical book than an e-book. They have more time to go to the bookstore and browse and, duh, make impulse buys than a mother with kids in tow.

And folks wonder why I have little faith that B&N will survive long term.

What are your thoughts?

And now for the mandatory promo bit.

Witchfire Burning (Eerie Side of the Tracks Book 1) is now available for purchase.

Long before the Others made their existence known to the world, Mossy Creek was their haven. Being from the wrong side of the tracks meant you weren’t what the rest of the world considered “normal”.

Normal was all Quinn O’Donnell wanted from life. Growing up on the “wrong side of the tracks”, she had been the only normal in the family. The moment she was old enough, she left and began life as far from her Texas hometown as possible. Now she has a job she enjoys and a daughter she loves more than life itself. Their life is normal, REALLY normal, until her daughter starts calling forth fire and wind.

Quinn knows they must go back so her mother can help five-year-old Ali learn how to control her new talents. But in Mossy Creek nothing is ever simple. Quinn’s mother has gone missing. Secrets from Quinn’s past start coming back to haunt her.

And the family home is more than a little sentient.

Can Quinn keep everyone — particularly Ali — safe? And will she ever get back her illusion of normalcy?

Witchfire Burning is the start of a new series. However, it takes place in the same town as Slay Bells Ring and some of the same characters are present in both. Both have a little bit of mystery and a little bit of romance. Witchfire adds in an urban fantasy note as well. While it wasn’t a book I had planned when I sat down at the beginning of they year to figure out my publication schedule, it’s one that decided it needed to be written and I had a blast doing it. I hope you guys all enjoy reading about Quinn and company as much as I enjoyed writing about them. Also, for those who prefer print versions, it should be available in approximately two weeks. I’ll make an announcement when that version is ready.

Also, Skeletons in the Closet, a novella in the same series as Witchfire, will go live on Amazon later today, fingers crossed.


  1. I was asked to do a beta read and copy edit of Witchfire Burning, something that must be done in two separate stages as the focus is entirely different. Tried to do both and the story grabbed me, which is excellent for a beta read, but causes one to miss small typos and other minor imperfections as you anticipate what’s going to happen next to the characters you’ve come to care about.
    So, I missed a bunch of stuff that I understand was caught and fixed at a slightly later date. So anyone with an earlier first release copy don’t blame the author, it’s all my fault. And if you download a fresh copy, which I believe Amazon lets you do, you will have the correct version.
    And next time I will read the damn book, put it away for a time, then do the copy edit.

    1. Bought it a week ago; already read it once. There’s still a few misspellings, at least one instance of using his where her is the correct one. None of them matter beyond the fact it’s a good read.

      1. The new version hasn’t been uploaded yet. It will be in the morning. I was out of pocket all day today and couldn’t do it.

          1. Thanks! And, btw, the updated versions have been uploaded and should be available for redownload. At least I hope so, I haven’t checked to make sure yet.

    2. Uncle Lar, you did a great job. Most of the stuff was very minor and, remember, you weren’t the only one who missed it. I really appreciate your help and the encouragement.

  2. your comment about this “The studies drew on data from a computer system used in schools across Britain. . .” brought up a line from an old book. something along the lines of “what’s the matter, they run out of unopened crates in the basement of the British Museum?”

  3. I DESPISE the Accelerated Reading Program. If you aren’t familiar, students test at the beginning of the year and are assigned a range they are allowed to read and test in. For example, the Dragonnette’s range is from 5.9 to 7.2 (End of 5th grade to early 7th grade) Books are assigned a level based on vocabulary.

    Yes, vocabulary, not content, subject matter, or anything else. “Flowers in the Attic” is considered an early 6th grade book. “Twilight” is a level 4.9 (end of 4th grade). I’m not sure I want my child reading either of those in 5th grade. For fun, go to http://www.arbookfind.com and start typing in titles.

    In addition to level, a book is assigned points depending on how long it is. Kids read the books, take a test, and are given a prorated number of points depending on how they do on the test (must score at least 60% to earn points). Students are told they must earn a certain number of points each semester.

    I started the year by telling my daughter’s teacher that I don’t give a rat’s ass about AR reading, that she will read whatever she wants to read, regardless of level, and unless she’s singing the Star Spangled Banner when she is supposed to be reading, I don’t want to hear about it. The AR program has done more to kill student interest in reading since the publication of The Great Gatsby.

    /rant over/

    /for now/

    1. Saw your comment on my way to my circ desk, that is not how AR is supposed to work. NOT. not not. No idea so good a “educator” cannot mess it up (not a teacher, an educator, some REMF, as my daddy the master Sargent would have said) kids should read what they want to and figure out for themselves if they can understand it. Sometimes I tell my students “one to improve your reading, two for yourself” AR is a tool. You can use a screwdriver as a hammer but it does not work very well. please see my comment below and now I really must go and help my first graders. I won’t be able to get back until later.

    2. Ours went through that.They were careful to take into consideration the age, That’s why a concerned teacher warned us to be careful of what they read outside of class, not because it wasn’t measured, but it could have led to books with concepts they were not ready to grasp. She didn’t name titles, but I thought back to some of the books I read when I shouldn’t, and got her drift.

      That’s how I came to write books for the kids. They were too young for some books on their reading level, so I wrote them that were “safe” reads.

      My biggest gripe is that it limits what they can read. We had already made a deal with ours that if we went into a store and they saw a book they wanted to read and it wasn’t “bad,” we would buy it for them. We has also introduced them to the library. That gave them access to good books to read. And think that played a large part in them looking at reading as something they could enjoy doing and not as a chore that must be done.

    3. I was lucky, we somehow dodged The Great Gatsby, though other English classes weren’t so lucky. We did get clobbered with some depressing Canadian Literature (pardon the redundancy) in the form of the works of Gabrielle Roy, though.

        1. Sounds familiar. One summer, every single one of the books on my son’s reading list dealt with either drug abuse, depression, teen pregnancy, physical abuse and more. Not a one of them sounded interesting or enjoyable. When asked why such a depressing list, the English teacher told me that the librarians, teachers and — wait for it — business professionals the state used to build the list thought these were topics my elementary school-aged son should be reading about. And then they wondered why kids didn’t read anything on the list during their vacation.

    4. Question assumptions about learning and teaching.

      About reading – a data point: we have 5 children. 2 in college, 2 older, one 12 years old. 4 got into college, three into Great Books programs (all reading, all the time), the other is a magna cum laude grad with a double major in theater and music (the Black Sheep. We love her anyway.).

      I mention this not to brag (well, not primarily) but because none of our kids ever took a reading class. They learned to read at the ages, in order, of 4, 8, 14, 8 and 12. The key point: they never took a class in reading, and, in fact, never took a class or did homework of any kind until they wanted to – around age 13 or 14, they’d sign up for classes at the local community college – because they wanted to – and do the homework, because they wanted to learn.

      We, their parents, did not pressure them. What we did do is model behavior – we read books aloud, talk about ideas over dinner, and reinforced the idea that it is their duty to make something of their lives, and we would back them up whatever they chose to do, but they needed to do it themselves. And, like children from all cultures across all of history, they stepped up. School makes sure they never get the chance to step up. They can’t even choose their own books, or what questions to ask about them – how are they going to ever choose their own lives and ask the questions that need asking?

      School is a little flesh-colored band-aid on the sucking chest wound of a dying culture. If the culture were healthy, you wouldn’t need it; when the culture needs EMTs and surgery, all school does is allow us to pretend we are doing *something*.

      Do not focus on the deck chairs. Focus on the iceberg.

    5. Yeah. This. I asked a nephew for his opinion of one of my YAs, asked him to read the first chapter and tell me what he thought. He thought it was interesting, but since it wasn’t in the program, he didn’t want to spend his reading time on it. So he went off and played a computer game. It’s more, they must read, therefore they don’t want to read.

    6. We had a variation when we lived in Queensland; the books were tested based off a student’s vocabulary and understanding of the reading matter, similarly subject matter and content differed. I was okay with it, and the kids got points they could use to purchase small rewards if they did well – things like colorful pencils, erasers, candy, stickers, small toys (The points system was an incentive used by the teacher; there were normal grading scores.) I’ll observe it had variable results, because some children weren’t into reading at all, some had language barrier difficulties, and all the range between ‘loved reading’ and ‘ugh, books.’ But they tried.

      On the other hand, none of the titles you mention were used as part of classwork – the books used for the exercises were part of a set specially made for the purpose.

      The school my son is in now has a different thing of ‘earning and saving up/trade in certificates with points’; but rawr they have Common Core.

    7. I remember when my son was going through all that. One of the books on his summer reading list included a very graphic attempted rape scene without any foreshadowing. We were on vacation at my aunt’s house in Ohio when he came out to ask me about it. I was not happy and the school knew about it as soon as we got home.

  4. Okay… This is, as they say, my wheelhouse, so my apologies for the length of my response. As an elementary school librarian, working for a School System that I Dare Not Name, I think you may be overly critical of AR. While you can assign books to be read and tested on, AR is supposed to encourage students to practice reading, pretty much whatever they want to read. Self-selected reading material. Reading is a skill, and like any other skill, to get good at it you need instruction and practice. The average reading instruction does not spend much time allowing students to actually read (surprise!) or if they read, they read the same thing over and over again. (Which would bore me to tears–did bore me to tears, actually.) my students come to my library for something different. It may come as no surprise that my students decode pretty well, but often don’t really understand.

    That being said, AR allows students to read the book, take a quick quiz on it, and determine if they understood the book. The students at my school love it. They get to read, they get to use a computer, they get praised, or fussed at, depending, for reading. The students get to do something they like to do, and we can call it instructional. Win, win situation.

    Boys and reading. Sigh. My young male students like nonfiction. My young female students prefer narrative. Most teachers are female. They don’t spend a lot of time with nonfiction. They don’t enjoy it and they have a hard time teaching it. I, although a female, read like a boy, so I notice the issue, because I am constantly working with my teachers. They design book report forms, for instance that cannot be used for nonfiction. Sigh.

    So, I think that if we had more of the right kind of books and we taught more about the kinds of books boys enjoy, our boys would read more.

    And now my lunch break is up and I have to go read a book about Paul Bunyan to a first grade class and try to help the understand not only Paul, but something of his historical background. Also we have aPTA meeting tonight and I have to put together a display of cool math and science books to encourage the parents and teachers to read more non-fiction.

    1. And if their choices are closer to Henry Fords “They can get any color they want as long as it’s black?” That’s the problem. Small school systems have smaller libraries. When we came along, book mobiles from the regional library supplemented available titles, but those seem to have gone away.

      Restrict titles to what a kid does not like, and that kid is never going to see reading as something to be done for pleasure. Then people scratch their heads and wonder why people don’t read books as much as they once did.

      1. I resemble that remark 🙂 as I am in a very small school with a budget that is tiny, tiny and getting smaller. I do a lot of grant applications, (thank you Laura Bush Foundation) and Donors Choose (sort of like Go Fund Me for teachers). I have a pretty good collection, if small, but it is a struggle. So even if my collection is smaller than the big schools it is
        not “only black” to use your metaphor. You have to make it work.

      2. I checked a few books out of the school library in the second grade. A few more in a different library in the fifth grade. Other than that, I used the base library, public library, or bought my own books.

        The school libraries were mostly filled with “books to use to complete class assignments” and someone’s idea of what kids *ought* to want to read, which was appeared to be utterly different from the things kids might *want* to read, which meant most of them sat on the shelves in pristing dust jackets. Maybe they got books cheap in bundles from some vendor.

        1. Ours inherited the library of a defunct high school and had several mergers courtesy of integration. They still updated the books before our class went to high school. They picked representatives from each class to look at a catalog and make recommendations. That was similar to what we did with the book mobile, in which a number of students were chosen to select books for the class, with each student having a turn before the end of the year.

    2. I spent a couple of years working at a school system as well (tech, so I spent a lot of time chatting up the librarians, you learn a lot when you’re in the background). Something I discovered was the topic matter. The books the 5th grade boys read the most: Nancy Drew. It puzzled all the librarians, until I pointed out that whenever she and her friends ran up against a REAL problem, they called in their boys. The boys got to be the cavalry. It was a bit of a theme I noticed. The boys gravitated to the older books, not the newer books. Then in high school they tended to skip the YA section entirely and go straight to adult books if you could get them to read anything but comic books at all. I looked through the high school book selection and 70% of it was targeted at girls. Real-world books. Romances. Moody vampire stories where the girls are heroes and the boys are at best stupid, at worst creepy and abusive, etc.

      1. It’s a perennial problem. Beverly Cleary got into writing because when she was working in a school library in the 1950s, she noticed that most of the books were targeted towards girls. So she wrote Henry Huggins into being, and the rest of the neighborhood followed.

    3. So what happens if you’re in third or fourth grade, and you’ve already read Lord of the Rings, a good chunk of Agatha Christie, Larousse’s Mythology with the Robert Graves foreword, a few Shakespeare plays and parental college textbooks, and most of the rest of the school library?

      I mean, would a kid actually have to keep records of that kind of stuff, in order to get credit for it? It often took me longer to write book reports than it took me to read the shorter books, and I was a pretty fast writer. It’s not like you can leave a library with a stack shorter than five or ten books, right, and that only lasts you a day or so. Do they really make kids list hundreds and thousands of books a year? It seems cruel.

      1. Not sure if the one I went through was a similar model or not, but we had a required number of points you had to earn, and unless you were going for a win (which was dumb, you’d waste reading time and lose to the guys who were cheating anyways) there was no point in doing the work to enter “extra” books.

        I only remember that because I’d routinely pick which books I entered by what was the fastest way to get the points done, and get that junk out of the way. 😀

      2. I never did master the “book report” thing.

        There was apparently some secret format the teachers would never tell; “what the book was about” was apparently not enough. Everything had to be laboriously penned in cursive, and then they’d either throw them in the trash (yes, it happened enough times) or mark them “D” or “C”.

        Hey, if they wouldn’t tell me what they wanted, I wasn’t going to waste my time. I think I made it to the seventh grade before I quit doing them, which infuriated the teachers, who were already annoyed that I was reading in class instead of sitting at attention staring at the wall. I had a number of books stolen over the years; they called it “confiscation.”

    4. You’ve got my sympathy.

      My folks never got rid of any books– unless it was giving them to someone who prized them more– so I was able to page through a bunch of college textbooks, stuff that had looked interesting from the library sale, stuff my dad’s grandmother had used in her school or that had been bought because someone thought she’d like it….

      I never thought about it, but yeah: all the book reports WERE for “stories,” not “books.” I was too busy being too bored to do a report where the high drama of the story was Suzy going after a ball, or something. Good Lord have mercy, Color Kittens had more drama than their “Starter Books.”
      Green as cat’s eyes.
      Green as grass.
      By streams of water,
      Green as glass.

      1. We had a great-uncle’s 1930’s college textbook on poetry. The thing is a brick, about as thick as a Webster’s dictionary, and printed on very thin paper. It has a good selection of pretty much every reasonably famous English or American poet, all the way up to Amy Lowell and Spoon River Anthology. I didn’t get into that one until 6th or 7th grade, mostly because it was put up with the “don’t touch it” books until then. (And it was dark brown and ominous, so I was kind of afraid of it. I had a thing about certain bookbindings looking scary to me, when I was a little kid. I got over it.)

        But yeah, in grade school I read the Golden Encyclopedia, the Time Life history series, and a bunch of college textbooks about children’s lit (Mom) and American history (Dad). I got into Shakespeare because E.L. Konigsberg had a book with kids doing Macbeth stuff, and I also read a book for kids about Shakespeare plots retold for kids. So I figured that Dad’s tiny little chapbook of The Tempest must be suitable for kids, and got a rather rude awakening. (Didn’t stop me reading it, of course. Just woke me up to the fact that I was going to have to work at it.)

        Somewhere we have the lists of books we filled out for the Summer Reading Program at the library, where we would get paid stickers or something if we filled out a sheet. My brothers and I of course got super competitive, and I think I ended up reading about 300 books before Mom got sick of it.

          1. But anyway, that was just writing down the title and author for each book you read, with room for about twenty books per sheet. They didn’t have to be library books or first-time reads, but you couldn’t repeat books and you had to read the whole thing. The children’s librarian would just look at your sheet to make sure you’d written down the required info, and then give you back your sheet with a checkmark on it, along with your sticker pay.

            Yeah, it doesn’t take much pay to make little kids competitive. But they were very nice stickers, and you got to pick whichever one you wanted. I usually picked something with a horse or a unicorn, IIRC.

            1. Our district has online summer reading programs. I tried my best for the kids, but when they went to Grandma’s for five weeks, I had no clue what they were reading. Didn’t matter; they’d made their quota. They also had the summer reading program for adults; in two and a half months, I logged 70 books. In my defense, I have a toddler and must be in the same room as him, but not necessarily paying close attention to him as he plays. Books work for that.

  5. Summer after 5th grade (I was 10), next-door neighbor, who was a high school English teacher, handed me a copy of The Hunchback of Notre Dame…. which I devoured over the next week. It was, perhaps, a bit over my head, but to my mind that was much more interesting than my supposed age-level reading (most of which bored me silly).

    No accounting for taste, at any age.

    1. By the time I was ten, I had read all sixty-some of Zane Grey’s western novels, which were a bit over my head at that age, too. But we were living on a homestead in the middle of Alaska, and didn’t have access to a public library (I don’t remember there being a library at our local school, even). So I was totally dependent on whatever books we were given, or what my mother was able to buy for me (not much — we didn’t have a lot of money). So I read what was available.

      I still haven’t read The Hunchback of Notre Dame….

        1. OK, so it’s too early for *drops voice to whisper* Christmas Music. But I’ve never thought of Quasimodo in quite the same way . . .

      1. My question is, who in the ever-loving world at Disney read that book and thought, “This will make a great kids’ movie!”

        Everybody dies except the poet, the goat, and the social-climber jerk of a constable. Everybody. Boiling lead is involved.

        1. I think it started as a dare. Probably along the lines of “Dude, can we find anything LESS appropriate for children-aimed musicals than Hans Christian slit-your-wrists Anderson?”

  6. Would I be correct in guessing that the owner of Barnes and Noble is not, himself, a reader? (I have come to love Amazon — I can find what I want, when I want it, and usually at a good price. And I can do it without driving an hour to get to town!)

    1. I don’t know if it is that or if he is like so many in publishing who simply refuse to admit buying patterns and habits have changed.

  7. I wonder if I whine too much about where Skeletons in the Closet is that I’ll get some interesting visitors. 😉

          1. Hey! I’ve finished reading it. Why haven’t you finished reading it? 👿

            1. Cause I responded while drinking my morning tea, then I had to actually work a bit — and they tossed in an earthquake and fire drill when I wasn’t looking, so today has been hectic. I do have it on my iPod for later reading. I prefer to savor the good ones!

  8. We had these color-coded by difficulty cards/pamphlets/laminated things (SRA maybe). By sixth grade I’d read them all. My reading teacher let me sit at my desk and read whatever I wanted. I remember Watership Down in particular.

    My first books were a series of Peter Rabbit-esque books in which the animals were the (severely anthropomorphized) characters and the farmer’s son was the only person who showed up. I thought they were the Burgess Bird Books, but Google says not. I had read all 20 or so of them by second grade.

    Being the youngest, my family had quite a collection of books by the time I started reading. Hardy Boys, Tom Swift Jr (grandparents had Tom Swift Sr), Tarzan, Tom Corbet – Space Cadet (loved those). I still haven’t read the Barsoom books.

    1. Were those the books that cribbed heavily from the Brer Rabbit stories? I remember those too.

      Watership Down was my favorite book ever when I was eight years old. Seriously.

      1. For a while I was in love with _Tailchaser’s Song_. Yes, it is about cats. No, it is not really for kids. Or for the claustrophobic.

        1. Oh, it’s absolutely for kids. Of the mindset where The Nightmare Before Christmas is met with, “Finally, someone gets me!” (Loved that book too. And original-style fairy tales.)

    2. My mother gave me Thuvia, Maid of Mars, when I was 12. We lived in the north of Thailand, and she brought it up from Bangkok. It got me off horse books, and I got all the rest of the Barsoom books. Then Carson of Venus. Then Tarzan.

      Then the Air Force dumped all its science fiction books on the missionary school I attended. Enter Heinlein.

      1. I was really lucky. My parents were both avid readers and nothing in the home library was off-limits. So I was able, at home, to read whatever I wanted. If I came across something I didn’t understand or had questions about, we would sit down and discuss it. That’s why I get so livid when I see teachers using reading as punishment. It should be a way to learn and to escape. Reading is fuel for our minds and our imaginations. To make it anything else is criminal, imo.

            1. I could read pretty well by the time I was eight – and that summer, I went through my parents’ bookshelves, systematically sampling every book there was. I dropped the boring ones after a couple of chapters, but if they were interesting, I read all the way through. Some of my dad’s anthropological textbooks were pretty interesting – I learned all about the Piltdown man (yeah, that textbook was really out of date.) Good thing that the first chapters of Lady Chatterley’s Lover were pretty boring, else I might have really learned a little more than was suitable. But – everything on the shelves…

      2. The local base library had a substantial science fiction section, along with engineering and history. One day I went in, and several large bookcases of SF were gone; about a four-foot shelf of them remained. I wandered over to the engineering section, and they were all *gone*.

        I went up to the desk and asked what happened. She said the books were all either “old” or they “weren’t checked out enough.”

        I asked where they went. She said they were “discarded.” I had a momentary vision of a huge book sale, or even free books. Further questioning revealed “they went into the dumpster.”

        Eventually, the empty shelves were filled with the usual mix of romances, travel books, and cookbooks the civilian libraries had.

        It was then that I really started to hate librarians.

        1. It isn’t always the librarians who make that decision. But I know what you mean. Fortunately for us, when our library culls books, unless they are in really terrible condition, they go into the book nook for sale or are set aside for the annual book sale.

    3. I remember those. My teachers hated me when it came to the cards because I went through them much faster than I was supposed to and then they had to figure out what to do with me for the rest of the school year. Most let me go to the library and check out any book I wanted. I few tried to get me to reread the SRA cards. That did NOT go over well. VBEG

      1. My teacher had the next few grade levels of SRA cards, so I did those too. And then the teacher let me just read. Extra trip to the library, yay! 🙂

        They were pretty fun, overall, but they were so short you went through them like candy.

  9. I agree with your assessment on B&N. I gave up on them awhile ago. Last time I was in one of their stores it seemed more like they were actively trying to get me to NOT buy anything than to actually sell me something.

    1. It has been years since I’ve been able to go into the local B&N and find a member of the staff who was knowledgeable of the stock and who could actually make a recommendation along the lines of “if you liked X, you might like Y.”

      1. When my grandfather passed away in 1959 my grandmother had to find a job. She applied at what was then the largest bookstore in Baltimore. The owner invited her up to his office and they spent the next two and a half hours talking about books. He then offered her a job. When she pointed out that she didn’t know how to run a cash register he replied “I can teach you to run a cash register. I can’t teach you to know and love books.”

  10. and women with small children.

    My bullshit flag is flying high on this one– I have yet to find ANYWHERE that is set up to deal with ANYBODY who is walking in with small children that isn’t aimed at having large numbers of kids around. (children’s dentists, some kids clothing stores….)

    They probably mean either “multiple (woman with one pre-after-school-activity age child that is with her), probably on her way home from picking up the kid at day-care and on the way to pick up dinner.”
    Which means that they have a kids’ section with some expensive books, common use toys and a BUNCH of expensive “educational” toys for sale.
    Not a bad demographic for profit– moms will spend way more than they can reasonably afford if you can make them feel guilty, and small kids are very easy to manipulate into helping you make their mom feel guilty.

    1. I know. I had the same reaction. Especially when I started thinking about how the stores have taken out much of the seating area throughout the store where you used to be able to simple sit and read. And how many mothers want to go into an overpriced store with their kids and no place to safely park them for a bit while they do play, etc.?

  11. Price is often the defining determination on where a customer will buy a book.
    Talking of that, Larry Correia, the ILOH, is doing a book bomb for yet another writer that I’ve never heard of. I’ve had a lot of good luck in the past with just buying the book bomb book – it’s a strategy that has introduced me to a bunch of authors I now like – but this one gets a pass.


    Because the author is a Tor published writer and hence the book is $9.99 for the ebook (and $7.75 for the MMPB). I’m simply not paying that much for a book from an author I’ve never heard of, even if it is recommended by someone I mostly trust to provide good recommendations

      1. There are cases where that is the case. But it is rare and almost certainly does not apply to $9.99 ebooks. It may apply to $0.99 ebooks on the other hand

    1. I hear you. I don’t care how highly recommended the book is, if it is a new author — or at least new to me — and the e-book costs more than the print, I will not buy the e-book. I also won’t pay $10 or more for an e-book by most authors I do know. So why in the world would I pay it for one I don’t know?

  12. How often do you see someone at B&N buy their coffee or tea and then go wandering through the rest of the store?

    The wife and I used to do this all the time. We quit going to the local B&N when they took out the comfy chairs where you could preview the merchandise.

    1. I know. I would do the same thing. Then they started putting as many chairs and tables in the cafe as they could fit, without caring it if meant no one could sit comfortably or have even a semi-private conversation. And heaven forbid that you might try to rearrange the tables and chairs any.

    2. As someone who worked in a bookstore (Borders, RIP), I bet the reason they took them out is because they got sick of having to deep-clean them. Seriously gross stories about those.

  13. The Boy’s Club library had the entire Tom Swift and Tom Swift, Jr series, as well as all of the Oz books, and lots of other fun stuff. So one summer where I was out of the house I wasn’t outside playing nearly as much as my mother thought.

    I got measles and mumps in two different school years but within the same calendar year. Measles was lots of Twain, some books I had checked out from the public library before getting sick, and some nonfiction my aunt loaned me. When I got the mumps I had not just been to the library and had read everything in the house at least once. Mom was telling a neighbor that I was out of stuff to read, and the neighbor offered to lend us some books while I was sick. All of the Horatio Hornblower books, and lots of Kipling.

    Best sick year ever. 🙂

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