How many of you miss lollygagging in Barnes and Noble?

It’s been seven weeks since I went shopping at my Barnes and Noble at Crossroads in Gulfport, Miss.

It was a Friday night and I bought a copy of Mojo Magazine’s Collectors Series: Bob Dylan 1941-1973 Revisited.

Now I’m stuck at home with the Barnes and Noble blues because of the store’s temporary closure.

Almost two months without a trip from my home. Damn Covid quarantine and self-isolation.

I miss my daily Barnes and Noble visits. The store’s Facebook page says “you can still get your books with curbside pickup through our buy online pick up in store option on bn.com, or by giving us a call at the store.”

And window displays have a similar message.

You know, I have no enthusiasm for the curb. I prefer being inside the store.

I miss lollygagging.

I miss the browsing.

I miss seeing the new book titles.

I miss seeing the new issues of magazines.

I miss the music.

I miss using Shazam to ID songs.

I miss the banter between sellers.

I miss the buzz of the cafe.

I miss the homeless.

I miss the chairs.

I missing sitting in one.

I miss the regulars.

I miss my friends.

I miss the conversations.

What about you?

Image credits: All photos by John E. Bialas, with filters from Snapseed app

A woman tries to panhandle a reader in Barnes & Noble

A basket of books in Barnes & Noble in Gulfport, Miss.

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?

6 of the best signatures in 2019 B & N signed editions

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.


Atticus

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.”


Flea

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.


Jeannie Gaffigan

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.”


Lora Koehler

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.


Andrea Barber

This is the prettiest of the six signatures featured in this post and it appears inside Barber’s memoir, “Full Circle: From Hollywood to Real Life and Back Again.”

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 of practice and this is the result


MAD-oh


Barry bad


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.

I will appreciate your replies.

6 of the worst signatures in 2019 B & N signed editions

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 of practice and this is the result


MAD-oh


Barry bad


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.

First post for my new blog about books

This is the first post on my new books blog.

I’m just getting the new blog going, so stay tuned for more. Subscribe below to get notified when I post new updates.

The inspiration for the blog’s name comes from a scene in the 1964 Beatles film “A Hard Day’s Night.”

The scene involves an exchange between Paul’s grandfather, played by actor Wilfred Brambell, and Ringo Starr, played by Ringo.

I found the exchange on IMDB and I’m sharing part of it here.


Grandfather: Would you look at him? Sittin’ there with his hooter scrapin’ away at that book!

Ringo: Well, what’s the matter with that?

Grandfather: Have you no natural resources of your own? Have they even robbed you of that?

Ringo: You can learn from books!

You can go to YouTube to watch a clip of the scene.


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.

Image credit: YouTube screen grab

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