I sat in a chair in one of my favorite spots in the middle of Barnes & Noble in Gulfport on Friday, 1-31-20.
It was 5:15 p.m. and I was in the area of the bookstore that has two brown hardwood chairs and a small black table between them. The seating arrangement is in front of the Personal Growth section and just steps away from the cafe.
I had a copy of “Agency,” William Gibson’s new novel, and was intending to read the first five pages until I sensed a person walking toward me.
I looked up and saw a 40ish blonde woman in casual attire carrying a basket that had eight books and I assumed she was going to sit in the other chair, place the basket on the table and browse through the books.
Instead, she stood in front of me and tried to panhandle me.
She asked if I would give her $12 to help her pay for the books in the basket. She said she works at the Applebee’s down the road and if I gave her the money, she would reimburse me if I saw her at her place of work.
I told her I had no money and that if you have the time, you can read for free in the store. I do that all the time, though I’ve never read an entire book in Barnes & Noble. I believe a seller would have me arrested for a breach of etiquette.
After I declined to give the woman $12, I never saw her again, although 15 minutes later, I noticed she had left her basket on a display table across from where I was sitting. I took a picture of the basket, which had about half the books I saw earlier, and I have the photo as the featured image for this post.
I was unable to get past the first two pages of Gibson’s novel because the woman had distracted me.
I considered telling a seller about my experience, but I left the store without saying anything to anyone, though I texted my wife and daughter about what happened.
Maybe the next time I’m in the store, I will tell a seller about the panhandler.
Now, I would like to hear from you. How would you have dealt with the incident? Would you have reported it and how would you have done that?
OK. This is my first 2020 post about books, but I’m going back to the 2019 holiday shopping season to show you six of the best signatures in the Barnes & Noble signed editions launched before Black Friday.
One week before Christmas, I was in Barnes & Noble in Gulfport browsing through signed editions and judging the quality of the penmanship. Bad signatures were easy to find and I documented six of the worst in my Dec. 13, 2019 post. Please read it after this article.
In my in-depth study, which I completed because of my ample retirement downtime, I came up with a ratio of bad to good signatures and my unproven calculation was 6 to 1.
You know, when it’s that one-sided, it’s unfair to expect book lovers to purchase a memoir or a novel in which the author scribble-scrabbled their name. If the signature is illegible, give me at least a 60% discount and then I might think about buying the signed edition.
So now it’s time to move on to what I liked. I found good places to hide from the sellers at Barnes & Noble to take pictures of six of the best 2019 B & N signed editions and at home, I went to the B & N website for snips of the book covers. I’m hoping I broke no laws during the entire process.
In the poetry section at the store, I noticed the name Atticus and figured he must be a Greek scholar or a Roman scholar before I looked at his latest book, “The Truth About Magic,” and saw it was a signed copy.
I realized Atticus is a 21st-century man and it’s impossible that he is a contemporary of Sophocles, who died in 406/5 BC without leaving us any inscribed manuscripts for our perusal and pleasure.
Attticus is a Canadian Instagrammer who has written three books of poems and the Globe and Mail published an interesting profile about him in 2017, saying he “has kept his identity under wraps, even as his poet persona has exploded.”
Atticus merch may never be under wraps. At his website, you can shop for Atticus clothing, Atticus prints, Atticus accessories and Atticus wine. His books are also available, and while you’re visiting the site, you can check out his podcast.
I’m getting off the track. I’m supposed to write words about his signature, so here I go: Sure, it’s abstract, but abstract art is beautiful and his autograph is exceptional signature art. Holly Black, a gallerist who consults Christie’s, might say the signature has the spirit of the early Renaissance, when “a signature was the perfect way to differentiate your talent from that of lesser peers.”
That’s not Flea as in Fleabag.
That’s Flea as in the bassist the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and the signature appears in his atypical rock memoir, “Acid for the Children.”
Can he not write cursive? I don’t know, but I like the doo-hickey under his name. It’s artful, original and relatable. You know, if he can do that and get money for it, I can do that, too, but my scratchy symbol will be free, just like this blog.
Gaffigan is a comedy writer and producer and the wife of comedian Jim Gaffigan and they are the parents of five children.
Her signature appears in her memoir, “When Life Gives You Pears,” which Publishers Weekly describes as “a surprisingly hilarious story about surviving a brain tumor.”
I admire her for writing her story and I also admire her handwriting. Her signature will help sell copies, not that I need a signed one for me to read “When Life Gives You Pears.”
I’m sorry the letters above the signature impeded this fine example of photojournalism. The angular nature of the autograph made it a daunting challenge for me.
Koehler is a children’s author and librarian who lives in Salt Lake City, and her signature is in “The Little Snowplow Wishes for Snow,” which she created with illustrator Jake Parker. The book is a sequel to their 2015 best-seller, “The Little Snowplow.”
In South Mississippi, many people wish for snow this time of year, though I’m not one of them, and we have no snowplows of any size. We have air conditioners and ours is running at 72 degrees as I write this.
Pat and Jen
Pat and Jen are best known as YouTube sensations because of PopularMMOs, their Minecraft-inspired channel.
They also have two graphic novels and their latest is “PopularMMOs Presents Enter the Mine,” for ages 8 to 12.
My 8-year-old grandson might understand this stuff. I don’t.
I appreciate the signatures, their Christmas colors and Jen’s J flair.
Barber is an actress and 1980s and ’90s children remember her from the sitcom “Full House.” Her most recent TV show is the “Full House spinoff, “Fuller House” on Netflix.
I love that Barber wrote her signature in blue because that is my favorite color and I’ll give her a pass for the way she wrote her last name. I like the way she wrote her first and the little symbol she put above it, though I can’t tell if the mark is a butterfly, a flower or a butterfly flower.
You can get the book now at the B & N site for 50% off, which is $13.50. Heck, the autograph alone would be worth more than $13.50 to me.
In my Dec. 13 post about the six of the worst signed editions, I gave clues but I didn’t reveal the identity of the writers and their books. Now it’s time to do that. You’ll see the clues and the terrible signatures if you missed them the first time and the book covers will be the reveal.
Get back, JoJo
Sprinting for the scissors
10,000 hours ofpractice andthis is the result
Name sounds like album
What do you think about the 2019 Barnes & Noble signed editions? You’re welcome to comment on any of them, not just the 12 that I wrote about.
A couple of years before I retired from the newspaper, I wrote a blog called Desk Life and it was published on the paper’s website.
The Barnes & Noble signed editions on tables and shelves in the stores and on the B & N site at Christmas time were among my favorite subjects to write about.
I would go to my Barnes & Noble in Gulfport starting on Black Friday, the first day the editions were available, and take pictures of the signatures of famous authors, determine which were the best and the worst and then write a post.
A signature can be a deal maker or a deal breaker if I’m interested in buying one of the signed editions. In 2015, I looked forward to getting “Dear Mr. You” by the actress Mary-Louise Parker until I saw the utterly lazy way she signed her unique memoir. It was a deal breaker, though getting the Audible edition was worthwhile because Parker is the narrator of her stories.
I’ve tried to find my Desk Life posts in the archives of the newspaper in the hopes of sharing them, but the dreaded 404 has apparently vaporized all the posts, making me wonder why I put in all the time and effort to write them.
I have no plans to 404 myself and the You Can Learn From Books blog, especially the post you might be reading now.
This post is about the 2019 B & N signed editions, on sale before Black Friday, and I recently used my modus operandi: Going to the store in Gulfport, browsing through six of the books and judging the quality of the penmanship.
All six are deal breakers that may have the worst signatures in the entire catalog of the 2019 B & N signed editions. I submit the evidence with these pictures and jokey clues for the readers. Can you ID the writers?
Get back, JoJo
Sprinting for the scissors
10,000 hours ofpractice andthis is the result
Name sounds like album
I welcome your guesses and will reveal the identity of the writers and the book titles in a followup post, which will feature six of the best signatures in 2019 B&N signed editions.
I have a new library card, my first in about 25 years.
Three weeks ago, I went to the library on 25th Avenue in downtown Gulfport to get the card because I plan to read library books for at least a year.
This might help me save money and stop my 50-year addiction to buying books, which began in the summer of ’69 with Kroch’s & Brentano’s Bookstore on Wabash Avenue in Chicago.
I was 17 years old, a month or two from my senior year at Notre Dame High School in Biloxi, and I’ve been on a print-spending spree ever since then.
At our home in Gulfport, my books are everywhere. The bookcase just inside the front door. The bookcase in the back of the house. Books in crates in the bedroom. Books in crates in the attic. Books in cabinets in the laundry room. Books in crates in the shed. Books on my Kindle app. Books on my Audible app.
Perhaps a year from now, I’ll get a library receipt similar to the one in the picture below.
When it comes to stopping my book-buying addiction, I’ve allowed for some exceptions.
If I receive an Amazon or Barnes and Noble gift card, I will use it on books because, otherwise, the card might be wasted on other things I don’t really want.
I’m keeping my Audible account and staying with the Book of the Month Club. That’s it. If I see a book for 25 cents in a thrift store, I might get it.
I hope and pray I can resist the urge to use my own cash or credit card to buy a book the next time I go to my B&N in Gulfport or browse for good deals at Amazon, eBay or Dollar Tree.
I borrowed “Every Frenchman Has One” by Olivia de Havilland to kick off my year in reading library books and it was an entertaining choice.
I finished it in 10 days and returned it to the book drop behind the library on Sunday night, 12-1-19.
“Every Frenchman Has One” is a collection of essays and it’s brisk, quirky, witty and classy.
De Havilland, the two-time Oscar-winning actress who played Melanie Hamilton in the 1939 film classic “Gone with the Wind,” moved from California to France after she met French magazine editor Pierre Galante in 1953 and they married in 1955.
The book, originally published in 1961 and reissued in 2016, is de Havilland’s spirited takes on adjusting to the French way of life and I believe she has adjusted quite well.
De Havilland is 103 years old and has lived in Paris for nearly 65 years.
The book is a short hardbound copy, a little more than 140 pages, and it closes with a 2016 interview with de Havilland. The longest essay is about 11 pages and when you’ve finished one of her vignettes, you can’t wait for the next.
She uses French phrases, though I didn’t borrow the book for an education in a new language. I’ll never understand it, just like the wealthy and retired New Orleans Garden District woman who invited friends to her house to learn the language from a teacher.
Five minutes into the first lesson, the rich woman, who is in her early 70s and has a fine Scarlett O’Hara-like accent, told the teacher, “We have no idea what you’re saying, darling.”
Class was dismissed, never to meet again.
One more “Gone with the Wind” reference before I go. Wade, my 8-year-old New Orleans Northshore grandson, got his first library card last month in Madisonville and that spurred me to get a new one.
“Gone with the Wind” is based on the Margaret Mitchell novel, and one of the characters in the book not in the film is Wade Hampton Hamilton, Scarlett’s first child and Melanie’s nephew.
I wonder if my Wade knows about this. I also wonder if my Wade will ever borrow the Olivia de Havilland book from his library. He will probably wait 60 years to borrow it. Right now, he’s a “Wings of Fire” and “Harry Potter” reader.
Maybe next week I’ll go back to the Gulfport library to look at more books worth checking out unless a title in my library at home catches my attention.
Do you buy books? Do you go to the library? Do you do both?
I welcome your answers and would like to publish them later this month or in January.
Maybe I should become a full-time reviewer of children’s books, because in my brief time doing this blog, my praise for “Most Valuable Puppy” represents the second time I have written about a work that is for kids.
“Most Valuable Puppy” is about children pet-sitting an energetic dog, and though it’s fiction, it’s relatable.
I imagine a child would never get tired of their mother, father, grandmother or grandfather reading this happy story to them and pointing to the illustrations because “Most Valuable Puppy” is cute, sweet and funny.
It’s an engaging combination of entertainment and education, and perhaps the book’s biggest benefit is that it’s a vocabulary builder.
The word “kimchi” appears in the book and I bet kids would love to learn what it means and play with the pronunciation of it.
I’m sure the story would also make children curious about San Francisco, where the book takes place, and the breed of the star of “Most Valuable Puppy,” a Jack Russell named Bouncer.
I imagine boys and girls asking, “What is this Fran Sancisco? Who is Russell Jack? Can we get a Russell Jack to play with all the time?”
I thoroughly enjoyed reading “Most Valuable Puppy” on 8-13-19 and I’m no kid. Heck, I’m almost 68 years old and the preferred age range for the book is 6 to 8.
Many thanks, too, to North Star Editions/Jolly Fish Press and NetGalley for an advance digital copy of “Most Valuable Puppy.”
I’m looking forward to seeing the print edition in my favorite bookstores.
Be careful if you do a Google Search for “Most Valuable Puppy” because you might stumble on such distractions as stories about expensive dog breeds and links to the children’s book “MVP: Most Valuable Puppy” by Mike Greenberg of ESPN and his wife, Stacy.
“Most Valuable Puppy” was published on 9-1-19 and is in Kim and Hanakata’s Doggy Daycare series, which includes “Blue Ribbon Pup,” “Dog Sled Star” and “Library Buddy.” All four books were published on the same day.
I’ll refrain from giving you a five-sentence summation of “Most Valuable Puppy.” If that’s what you want, go to Goodreads, Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
Just find the book and experience the joy of sharing it with your children.
I’ve written this before and I’m writing it again: One of the delights of my newspaper retirement since March 2017 is that I can go anywhere anytime as long as it’s OK with Patty, my wife.
I don’t have to ask a newsroom manager for vacation day approval. I don’t have to fill out a vacation day form that will be triplicated.
I just go. So on 10-18-19, I drove from our home in Gulfport, Miss., to Uptown New Orleans to attend the Lee Harvey Oswald birthday party at the Le Bon Temps Roule neighborhood bar on Magazine Street while Patty stayed home to watch her beloved Ohio State Buckeyes play Friday night football.
After I parked my car two blocks away and walked to the 24-hour bar, I noticed one of the establishment’s signs and I’m sure it was a reference to a drink and not a slain president.
Author Judyth Baker, who was Oswald’s girlfriend, was among the special guests.
I set the over-under on attendance at 80, symbolic for the occasion, and I never did see an official count.
If I had taken an informal poll, my guess is that most of the people in attendance would have said they don’t believe Oswald assassinated President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963, in Dallas. I believe Oswald did it, though I enjoy reading conspiracy-theory books about the JFK assassination because they present deep research, page-turning prose and provocative views of one of the most haunting events in American history.
The writers might be right. You never know, you know.
Oswald made it to his 24th birthday, and then a little more than a month later, Jack Ruby shot and killed him on Nov. 24, 1963, the Sunday after the assassination.
“Welcome to Lee’s birthday party. He would have been 80,” Millegan said before the cake was cut and the balloons were released. “This is beautiful. People coming out for Lee’s party. He was from New Orleans, born and bred, and I’m glad to see New Orleans embrace him.
“He did not kill the president.”
I learned that TrineDay excels at publishing such books as “Dr. Mary’s Monkey,” “David Ferrie” and “Me & Lee” and that an authors signing would be at the Barnes and Noble in Metairie on Saturday, 10-19-19.
“Dr. Mary’s Monkey” and “David Ferrie” have really long subtitles.
Edward T. Haslam wrote “Dr. Mary’s Monkey: How the Unsolved Murder of a Doctor, a Secret Laboratory in New Orleans and Cancer-Causing Monkey Viruses Are Linked to Lee Harvey Oswald, the JFK Assassination and Emerging Global Epidemics.”
Baker wrote “David Ferrie: Mafia Pilot, Participant in Anti-Castro Bioweapon Plot, Friend of Lee Harvey Oswald and Key to the JFK Assassination” and “Me & Lee: How I Came to Know, Love and Lose Lee Harvey Oswald.”
I also learned that the party site was one of Oswald’s favorite bars and that he lived nearby in a place on Magazine. The bar is in the 4400 block of Magazine and nola.com published a story in March 2019 that Oswald lived in the 4900 block from May 1963 to September 1963.
I stayed at the party for about an hour and left after nearly everyone sang “Happy Birthday” and a little old man, probably younger than me, added to the celebratory mood with the proclamation that “we need a new Lee Circle.”
I got a piece of cake, one yellow balloon and a reproduction of a “Fair Play for Cuba” flyer and brought all three home, where I put “Dr. Mary’s Monkey” and “David Ferrie” on my never-ending wish list of books I want to read.
While I was at the party, I kept myself from thinking I was a Yankee among Confederates.
Instead, I went with my new mantra: Don’t judge. Just be.
I never saw this coming: My first review for my new blog is about a children’s picture book.
I’m reviewing “I See Sea Food: Sea Creatures That Look Like Food” by Jenna Grodzicki because I gave myself an obligation. I received an e-edition advance review copy of “I See Sea Food” in August for my laptop and I felt shortly after publication time arrived, I must write about the book.
The ARC, as the hip book bloggers say, isn’t the only reason I’m writing about “I See Sea Food.” I thoroughly enjoyed the book and I recommend it. I gave it 5 stars on Goodreads and 5 is the highest you can go at Goodreads.
The book is a long-overdue reminder that education can be playful. I mean, it’s been 55 years since I advanced from a Catholic elementary school near the shore in Biloxi, Miss., to a Catholic high school on the bayou in Biloxi, where the high school was grades 7 to 12.
While reading “I See Seafood,” I smiled at the amazing images and Grodzicki’s practical and magical way with words.
This got my attention: “Can you find PANCAKES and PIZZA CRUSTS in the ocean? The answer might surprise you!”
Hey, you had me at “PIZZA CRUSTS.”
The learning experience included a “SEA FOOD OR ME FOOD?” photo quiz that I failed. Maybe I’ll give myself a second chance and get it right next time.
The glossary is also a challenge. I would have no idea how to spell some of the words in an oral exam. Parapodia. Tubercles. Photosynthesis. I’m stumped.
The fish in “I See Sea Food” aren’t the ones I know, such as mullet, catfish, cobia and snapper. They are exotic and fun to look at, and their names are most unusual. I’m not giving you the names. You have to read the book.
I’m happy I took the time to install the application I needed to read the book. I can’t wait to see it in print and come across more children’s books as entertaining as this. It’s a gateway for adults going back to the wonder of children’s books.
What’s most important is that children, the target audience, will love “I See Sea Food.” I know a 4-year-old girl and an 8-year-old boy who might get copies for Christmas.
Grodzicki’s acknowledgments include Prosanta Chakrabarty, associate professor and curator of ichthyology at LSU, which is 135 miles west of my house in Gulfport. Miss.
Ichthyology is devoted to the study of fish Chakrabarty’s Twitter handle is @PREAUX_FISH, where I saw his TED talk, Luke Skywalker’s giant fish and a visual joke about “how whales evolved.”
Man, entertaining and educational, just like “I See Sea Food.”
The photo acknowledgments include Getty Images, Shutterstock, iStock, Flickr, the LSU Museum of Natural Science and the SEFSC Pascagoula Laboratory, which is part of the Southeast Fisheries Science Center and is just 40 miles east of my house.
The print edition of “I See Sea Food,” published Oct. 1, is 32 pages and seems pricey at $27.99. If you don’t like the price, the Kindle edition is available for $9.99.
Oooh, oooh. I have what might be a better idea.
Check your library. I always forget about my downtown library that is next to my church and I live only 2 miles from both.
I’ve learned a lot from books and my favorite writers, who include Eve Babitz, Joan Didion, Tim Ferriss, Malcolm Gladwell, Pete Hamill, Christopher Hitchens, Nick Hornby, Leslie Jamison, Jack Kerouac, Stephen King, Michael Lewis, Norman Mailer, Ed Sanders, William Styron, Gay Talese, Amber Tamblyn, Hunter S. Thompson, James Thurber, Calvin Trillin, Lynne Truss, Rob Walker and Tom Wolfe.
I will use this blog to post book reviews and share with you what I learned from each book, and I will also write about book signings, book bloggers, book podcasts and book stores.