THIS EVENING: Carping on

This evening we’re very much looking forward to welcoming Andrew Reeves to Skylark, where he’ll be discussing his book, OVERRUN: DISPATCHES FROM THE ASIAN CARP CRISIS, a brilliant synthesis of intelligent investigative writing and experiential journalism about one of North America’s most voraciously invasive species.

Overrun_cover_hi-res.jpg

Politicians, ecologists, and government wildlife officials are fighting a desperate rearguard action to halt the onward reach of Asian Carp, four troublesome fish now within a handful of miles from entering Lake Michigan. From aquaculture farms in Arkansas to the bayous of Louisiana; from marshlands in Indiana to labs in Minnesota; and from the Illinois River to the streets of Chicago where the last line of defense has been laid to keep Asian carp from reaching the Great Lakes, Overrun takes us on a firsthand journey into the heart of a crisis. Along the way, environmental journalist Andrew Reeves discovers that saving the Great Lakes is only half the challenge. The other is a radical scientific and political shift to rethink how we can bring back our degraded and ignored rivers and waterways and reconsider how we create equilibrium in a shrinking world.

With writing that is both urgent and wildly entertaining, Andrew Reeves traces the carp’s explosive spread throughout North America from an unknown import meant to tackle invasive water weeds to a continental scourge that bulldozes through everything in its path.

Andrew Reeves_copyright Courtney Walker.jpg

Tonight! Unbound Poetry!

What’s better than reading a book of wonderful poetry? Hearing the poets who wrote that wonderful poetry read it themselves.

This evening at 6:00, come and listen to Gabe Fried, Poetry Director of the Unbound Book Festival, introduce the six poets who will be reading their work at this year’s book festival on April 20. He will talk a little about each poet and offer some examples of their work. An acclaimed poet himself, Gabe is also a professor in the English Department at the University of Missouri, and he knows of what he speaks. If you’ve ever heard him talk about poetry, you will know it will be an illuminating and entertaining talk.

While we’re on the subject, Unbound have announced one more poet they’ve just added to next month’s roster - Aaron Coleman. Aaron is the author of Threat Come Close (Four Way Books, 2018) and his chapbook, St. Trigger, was selected by Adrian Matejka for the 2015 Button Poetry Prize. A Fulbright Scholar and Cave Canem Fellow, Aaron’s poems have appeared in journals including Boston Review, Callaloo, and New York Times Magazine. Winner of the American Literary Translators Association’s Jansen Fellowship, the Tupelo Quarterly Poetry Contest, and The Cincinnati Review Schiff Award, Aaron is currently studying 20th-century poetry of the African Diaspora in the Americas in Washington University Saint Louis Comparative Literature PhD program.

Photo Credit: Katherine Simone Reynolds

Photo Credit: Katherine Simone Reynolds

Louder Than A Bomb!

Screen Shot 2019-03-10 at 9.42.29 PM.png

Louder than a Bomb is the largest youth poetry slam competition in the world. Based out of Chicago and birthed by Young Chicago Authors, Louder than a Bomb has expanded to over a dozen cities since 2001.

The Mid-Missouri chapter includes 7 high school teams from Columbia, Jefferson City and Mexico, who have gathered to build bridges across our communities with words, verse, and conversation.

Their 2nd season kicks off with the first preliminary bout at 6PM on Tuesday, March 12th, 2019, and Skylark is very proud to be hosting the event. This will be the first of four rounds (the second is Tuesday, March 19th, also at Skylark) and the final of this year’s competition will take place on the campus of Stephens College on Saturday, April 20, as part of the Unbound Book Festival.

Poetry is gonna change the world, ya'll. Come get your soul shook and stand witness as the next generation of leaders take center stage!!

Book Review - SOUNDS LIKE TITANIC, by Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman

titanic.jpg

Travis read this new memoir recently, and has this to say about it:

One of the fabulous perks of being a bookseller is the opportunity to read advance copies of books. As soon as Sounds Like Titanic arrived in our advance copy stack, I knew I had to read it. I mean come on, the story of playing a silent violin while music blares from a CD player is a must read.

The first several chapters are dedicated to laying out this premise -- how she landed the gig and what led up to it. But when you delve more into the story a number of other intricacies and insights are revealed. After all, Hindman began playing in the “fake” orchestra in college so there is invariably a coming of age understory (what she calls “life in the body”) that focuses on gender and the perceptions of women and girls in the United States. But it is perhaps Hindman’s area of study at university that is the most interesting.

With the halfway point of this memoir falling around 2001, the tale cannot be complete without a discussion of 9/11. And Hindman’s area of study in Middle Eastern study sets her at the forefront of what could be a hot commodity as a journalist but what she finds is interesting, leading her to instead continue playing her silent violin and selling her eggs.

A fully humorous, enjoyable read -- Hindman masterfully weaves a story so odd, endearing and with such topical range that it seems Sounds Like Titanic should be fiction and not non-fiction.

We of course have several copies so come on in and grab a copy!

Another Top Ten - from Faramola

Faramola's Top 10.jpg

I have come to realize that the worst question you could ask any bibliophile is what their favorite book is, or what their top 10 favorite books are? If you do, you will just be met with a blank stare and a sassy response in which you will be told that asking what someone’s favorite books are is equivalent to asking who their favorite child is. Personally I think that picking your favorite books might be harder than deciding on your favorite offspring, but that’s just me (besides the fact that both will drain your bank account, books will never cry, scream, wail or give you any sort of attitude). Therefore, you can imagine the difficulty I had when trying to decide on the top ten books that I think you should read before you die. There was a lot of huffing, pacing, and some good old human suffering while I was putting together this list, and while you can’t see the blood, sweat, and tears on this list, trust me, they are there. So without further ado…

“Inkheart” by Cornelia Funke was my introduction to young adult fantasy fiction, and it helped me to value the beauty of books and the way in which they provide a platform for the most fantastical of stories to be told. So while my friends were obsessing over the Harry Potter series, I was obsessing over the Inkheart series.

“A Little Princess” by Frances Hodgson Burnett is a novel that I will never forget, despite the years that have passed since I cracked it open. Just looking back, I cannot help but smile a little bit. As a young girl, or a little princess myself, this was a book that helped me to appreciate the literary world of classical novelists such as Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte.

“The Color Purple” by Alice Walker. I am sure that I am not the only one that has this on their list. While reading this book, I experienced anger, pain, love, and triumph. While some of these emotions are incredibly uncomfortable, Alice Walker had this beautiful way of making me embrace these feelings. This book made me appreciate both the good times and the hard times in life.

“Americanah” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was a book that I absolutely loved not only because of the story itself, but the way in which it was told. It was so beautiful because it told the relatable struggles of living in a new country as an immigrant, and the ebbs and flow of love that one experiences along the way.

Books such as “Just Mercy”, “A Long Way Gone”, and “Little Bee” are all incredibly special because they each tell the story of endurance in a world of injustice and tragedy. “Three Cups of Tea” is a story of bravery and selflessness, and in different ways, “The Art of Racing in the Rain” and “A People’s History of the United States” grant a unique perspective, whether that's looking at the history of our country differently, or the viewing the world through the eyes of a dog.

These are all books that have been unforgettable in the way in which the stories were told, and have had a profound effect on the way in which I have come to view the world around me. In some way or another, they have become landmarks for my life, different checkpoints of my own maturity, and so I have come to associate different times of my life with these books. Everybody has their Top 10 Books that have had an irreversible effect upon themselves as individuals. These books are special because while reading them I was not a reader from the outside looking in, but it was I who was enduring, I who was experiencing, and I who experienced every single written word to the core.

It's World Read Aloud Day!

From Carrie…

My computer informed me that today is World Read Aloud Day (WRAD). Founded by LitWorld in 2010, WRAD shares all sorts of fun statistics about how reading out loud helps develop everything from literacy to empathy to financial security. The numbers are pretty clear; reading in any form is good.

Even though I knew this, I felt myself nodding as I clicked through the pages. Mmmmm books. Yay books! I might have even gazed fondly at one of my many to be read stacks.

Then I looked through the doorway. On our table is one last holiday gift. It has rested, unopened as my family waits for a good full day together. Life is busy, with school events, competitions, work, and well, life. Thankfully, none of us feels particularly rushed. We know what it in package.

Shocker . . . it is a book.

But, it isn’t just a book.

Every year we get a read aloud book. Something I have chosen carefully to please the whole crew. Even before we had kids, I used to read to my husband. Then, I read piles and piles of picture books and chapter books to the kids. But this one-book-a-year choice is special. We gather in the living room, with proper blanket supplies and hot tea. We open the gift and dive in.

When the tradition started, I thought we would read a chapter, perhaps two a night. My mistake was starting with Harry Potter. Let’s just say I lost my voice many times in the years we worked through that series. Rowling is a master at propelling her audience forward.

Another favorite was TumTum & Nutmeg, by Emily Bearn. It was adorable and sweet, but with purpose. Katherine Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan was a quick read, and it was the type that required lots of tissues. I never did get to finish Douglass Adam’s Complete Hitchhikers Guide to the Universe. Opening a bookshop required some extra time, and my now teen kiddos decided to take matters into their own hands. Lesson learned, I picked out something shorter this year, something to bring us back to the couch together. We are all taking comfort in the promise the package holds.

Perhaps my computer was telling me that tonight is the night. I can’t wait.

Perhaps my computer was telling me that Skylark Bookshop could help pass on our tradition.

Join us for True/Love on February 2 (that's this Saturday) and get a free ticket to Ragtag Cinema!

We love the True/False Film Festival, and are eagerly awaiting the next edition of the event, which takes place from February 28 to March 3. Downtown will be packed with happy film-lovers - we’re hoping they may pop in to see us, and buy a book, too.

We’re proud to be supporting the incredible things that True/False does for our community by participating in the inaugural True/Love fundraiser, which takes place downtown this Saturday, February 2. We will be contributing 10% of sales that day to True/False to enable it to continue with its mission.

Here’s the good bit: anybody who purchases more than $20.00 of goods from participating retailers will receive a free ticket to Ragtag Cinema (provided it’s redeemed within 10 days of purchase.)

You can read more about the event, with a complete list of participating stores, here.

Screen Shot 2019-01-30 at 12.38.37 PM.png

Blind Date with a Book!

heartbook.jpg

Looking for a Valentine’s Day date or gift? Forget Tinder or roses; Skylark has you covered.

We are proud to introduce: Blind Date with a Book!

Here’s how it works: Between February 1 and Valentine’s Day, visit the shop to “meet” specially wrapped books.  Check out each book’s first line—its “pickup line”—that will be written on its wrapping paper, in order to determine whether you (or the recipient of your gift) and a book make a perfect match.  You’ll also be able to tell whether a book is fiction or nonfiction.

Questions…?

  • I’m in a monogamous relationship with my soulmate; neither of us needs a Blind Date with a Book.  Yes, you do!  Giving your partner a mystery book, or trying one out yourself, will add unpredictability and surprise to your relationship! 

  • I’m getting to know someone special; I’m not sure as to whether they’d like receiving a book instead of chocolate.  What better way to figure out if they’re worth your time? If they don’t read, they’re not your type, right? [See also: very rude quote from John Waters on this subject]

  • I loathe Valentine’s Day; it’s an overly pumped-up day that is loaded with commercialism.  You, my friend, especially need a Blind Date with a Book.  Shun that sappy pressure, and go home to curl up with a good book. ­­

  • I don’t like spending much money on dates; I really can’t afford to fork over a lot for a blind date.  That’s cool; we respect your wallet and the fact that you’ll be taking a risk. All our Blind Date books are heavily discounted.  

We’ll look forward to hearing about how your blind date goes!

Buy Your Audiobooks From Skylark!

We have a lot of conversations with our customers about books of all kinds - including audiobooks. They are becoming increasingly popular as busy people have begun to listen to books while they walk the dog, take their children to school, cook dinner, and so on. (This may also have something to do with the fact that the news on the radio is becoming harder to listen to, but what do we know?)

Anyway - we’re very pleased to announce that our customers can now purchase their audiobooks through Skylark! Thanks to our newly minted partnership with the very excellent company Libro.fm, you can now buy audiobooks online - so you can play them on your usual device - only now each book you purchase will benefit Skylark, and not line the pockets of a certain online gazillionaire.

Libro.fm offers over 100,000 audiobooks, including New York Times bestsellers. If you sign up for a monthly membership, which means you get one heavily discounted audiobook per month, you’ll get your first month absolutely free. (And, if you haven’t tried an audiobook before, but perhaps you’re, um, audio-curious, then this is a perfect, risk-free way to try it out.)

Click here for a list of all the perks of membership. It’s awesome.

Screen Shot 2019-01-20 at 2.03.16 PM.png

It’s incredibly easy to do. You can either come into the shop and we’ll help you get signed up, or you can click here and follow the super-easy instructions. You’ll get an email confirming everything, then you download the free app, and can start choosing your audiobooks! You can either choose your audiobooks a la carte or do a monthly membership (which is far cheaper.) The site also has excellent bookseller recommendations from people just like us, some interesting curated lists if you’re not sure what to listen to, and all sorts of other cool things. Plus, books purchased through Libro.fm are DRM-free, which means you can listen on multiple devices.

Also, you can give audiobooks as gifts - and you can even give subscriptions, too.

Here’s the link again. Happy listening!

The Customer Is Always... Wonderful

Marsha’s Reading Recommendations

Marsha’s Reading Recommendations

A note from Carrie:

When Alex and I began discussing opening Skylark Bookshop, I immediately began craving the community I knew would develop. My previous bookstore experience nostalgia is firmly rooted in people - the people I worked with and the customers I developed relationships with. The quick friendship that Alex and I formed showed me that Skylark would most certainly satisfy that craving.

What I did not expect was for the relationships to settle so quickly. Within our first weeks, the Skylark crew felt like home. And just as quickly, we had familiar faces at our shelves . . . “regulars.” Bonding over books, talking about everything from life to the escape from it, the relationship with our regulars carries a special magic.

To start the New Year, we wanted to find a way to honor these special people, and came up with the idea of asking them to curate our “gallery shelves” with some of their favorite titles. We are kicking off our customer adoration with Marsha, known for her beautiful heart, open mind, and quick turning pages. Marsha is a former English teacher with a passion for reading and sharing the resulting lessons learned. Her passion extends to daily life, with a bouncy step and ultra-cozy huggage.

We asked Marsha to come up with a list of ten titles she wants to share with the Skylark world (see above). She dug in with enthusiasm and returned with ten impactful books. These books are proudly displayed on our Gallery wall, just as you come in the door. We invite you to come in and pick up her titles, read the backs of the unfamiliar to see what tugs at your soul, or see some familiar covers (Charlotte’s Web) and remember how they impacted you in your own formative years. If one calls to you, make it your purchase of the day and we will pass on to Marsha that her books found a new friend.

Beside these titles, you will also see a selection we pulled together for Marsha (see below). These are recommendations based on her list. If you feel a connection to her choices, this is an opportunity for you to see a few more options. This is also an example of the recommendation work we do on a daily basis. It is one of our favorite things, to pull obvious “if you liked that you will love this” books - alongside “this sounds like a stretch, but try this” titles.

Thank you all for being a part of our Skylark Bookshop community. And thank you, Marsha . . . for being wonderful.

And a few titles that we’re recommending for Marsha

And a few titles that we’re recommending for Marsha

 

Introducing... Skylark's Unbound Book Club!

Most of you probably know that the Unbound Book Festival is coming to Columbia in April this year. We’re excited - we can’t wait to meet the wonderful authors who are coming this year.

The Keynote address by George Saunders is on April 19th, a perfect way to spend your Friday evening. Saturday the 20th will be a flurry of activity, with the remaining authors in conversation in various locations on the Stephens College Campus. The lineup is making us drool.

The collection of festival titles on the shelves in the window stage area of the shop is growing as each author is announced.  It is going to get crowded up there (in the best “read as many of these as you can before you hear the authors speak in person” sort of way)!

But . . .  we don’t really feel like waiting until April to get Columbia talking about these great books, so Skylark is launching a Wednesday Evening Unbound Book Discussion Series (WEUBDS? OK maybe not). For eight Wednesdays leading up to the Festival, our staff will lead book club style discussions on a selection of eight Unbound Book Festival titles. There is something for everyone at Unbound, and we hope our selection of titles provides the same breadth.

Of course, we hope that participants purchase their books at our shop in preparation for the discussions, but that is not a requirement. Those who do will enjoy our Skylark Book club discount of 10%. Simply leave your name and contact information at the front counter when you purchase any of the eight titles to reserve your spot and we will send you a reminder a few days before the appropriate discussion.

We’ll be announcing a full line-up of the books shortly, but wanted to let you know that we’ll be starting with the astonishing, Booker Prize-winning novel by George Saunders, Lincoln in the Bardo. We’ll be discussing the book on Wednesday, February 20, at 6:00 p.m. See you there?

(And while we’re on the topic of Mr. Saunders, don’t forget that FREE TICKETS to his keynote address in the Missouri Theatre will be available online tomorrow morning, Thursday January 17, at 7:00 a.m. Snag yours early - they go fast! The link to tickets will be posted on the festival website tomorrow.)

bardo.jpg

Are You a Local Writer? Would you Like to Read at Skylark?

Screen Shot 2018-11-03 at 7.19.18 PM.png

We had so much fun on our inaugural Local Author Night that we can’t wait to do it all again on Thursday, February 21! As before, we’ll have a mixture of readings and interactive Q and A with our chosen writers.

If you would like to participate, please drop us a line to mail@skylarkbookshop.com. If we don’t already stock your book, please tell us a little bit about the title that you will be reading from.

We’ll announce the participants as soon as we have filled all the spots - but in the meantime, mark your calendars for another great evening to enjoy some of our local writing talents!

Dear Diary...

journals.jpg

Do you keep a journal? Beth has some thoughts about the practice…

As we transition into the new year, I have noticed people deciding to keep a journal:  A gratitude journal, a bullet journal, a reading bullet journal, a daily diary - the list goes on.  These resolutions make me a little nervous, because I always feel as though writing in a journal is one of those things that I should do but actually don’t really want to do.

I have limited--and fairly unsuccessful--experience in keeping a diary or a journal.  In third grade I received a small leather-bound, one-year diary.  While I did lock the diary to hold my secrets close, I merely hid the key right under the diary itself, storing both in the original gift box.  And the drudgery of daily writing ("Tonight we ate some chicken, mashed potatoes, and peas for dinner.") turned me off. 

In adolescence, armed with a battered dark-blue spiral notebook, I tried again, scrawling angsty tirades.  Later on, I also chronicled some fears during the long process of a medical diagnosis, in yet another spiral notebook.

But the journals we carry at the shop are intriguing enough that I might consider writing in one.  Physically beautiful, they excite me about documenting some of my thoughts.  The starkly elegant Blackwing notebooks provoke no feelings of stress; their soft white, grey, and black covers are wonderfully tactile and allow for any possibilities.  "Among Trees: A Guided Journal for Forest Bathing," containing beautiful color images, invites me to communicate in words my already existing love of trees.  Pages for excursion logs ask open-ended prompts such as "changes I noticed in my body during the walk." 

As someone with synesthesia, I am also interested in "My Life in Color." Beautiful blank, colored pages are interspersed with thought-provoking questions, designed to draw out creativity and self-reflection.  For example, "Shakespeare called jealousy "the green-eyed monster.' What makes you feel envious, and how do you bolster your self-esteem against it?"  

I still don’t plan to even keep a Goodreads account to rigidly document my reading habits.  But these gorgeous alternatives do tempt me to write in a journal again. 

Columbia Writers' Guild Quarterly Reading on January 9!

CWGlogoj.jpg

One of the reasons why it’s so much fun to work in an independent bookshop in Columbia is that we have an incredibly vibrant community of writers living and working in our town. If you haven’t done so yet, come by and check out the Local Authors section at the shop. You’ll be astonished at the range and quality of the work that our local writers produce. And if you attended our first Local Author Night back in November, you’ll have heard some of that work for yourself.

Skylark is committed to supporting our local writers, and so we’re very pleased to host a session of the Columbia Writers’ Guild Quarterly Reading Series on Wednesday, January 9 at 6:00 p.m. Come and listen to new work by the following authors:

Aaron Fox, Children’s Author, member of the Tom Bradley morning radio show. He will be releasing a children's book about Truman the Tiger this spring. His first children's book, The Secret Life of Sloan the Sloth came out last March.

Melinda Hemmelgarn, Poet/Activist, registered dietitian, host of Food Sleuth Radio, which airs Thursday evenings at 5:00 p.m. on KOPN. Her poetry has been published in Interpretations. She writes poetry to create empathy for the human condition and promote social and environmental justice.  

Rexanna Ipock-Brown, Novelist, author of fiction and non-fiction.  Her first novel is a paranormal romance that includes a hybrid witch/wolf, smoking hot shifters and vampires, swoon-worthy love scenes, naughty language and a dash of violence to spice things up.  When she is not writing about Rosemary, her friends and family, she runs a successful psychic service which gives her plenty of ideas.

Stephen Paul Sayers, Novelist, is a college professor and bestselling author of supernatural thriller and horror fiction.  His first two novels, A Taker of Morrows and Soul Dweller, were published in 2018 by Hydra Publications, his short fiction has appeared in Unfading Daydream and Well Versed.

Steve Wiegenstein, Novelist, author of three novels set in nineteenth-century Missouri: Slant of Light, This Old World, and The Language of Trees. Slant of Light was the runner-up for the Langum Prize in American Historical Fiction for 2012, and The Language of Trees received the 2018 Walter Williams Major Work Award from the Missouri Writers Guild. A selection from Slant of Light is forthcoming in The Literature of the Ozarks from the University of Arkansas Press next month. 

New Year, New Books...? Another Top Ten.

Happy 2019 to everyone! If one of your new year’s resolutions was to read more (and if it wasn’t, well, perhaps you need to consider some of your life choices) then to help you decide what titles you might choose, we’re pleased to present another installment of our Top Ten series. This time, Travis shares with us his all-time favorite reads…

“My list does not have a particular order and instead is a simple ramble through the bookstore. There are so many books that could have made this list (namely Albert Camus, Cormac McCarthy and David Foster Wallace) but I took the list to mean all books, not simply fiction or nonfiction. So I spent some time looking at different sections in the shop, some of these are (or were) wildly popular and some are not. Ultimately these are all books that in some way greatly influenced me as a person. Enjoy!

dharma bums.jpg

Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac

There is much to be said of Kerouac (he was far from a perfect being) but he greatly influenced me as a teenager and into my twenties. I read most of his works in those years but two always stood out above the rest -- The Dharma Bums and Big Sur. Both weave tales through forest and mountains but it was Dharma Bums that was more akin to my inner dialogue. Filled with existential musings and odes to nature it is a novel of questions and probing for some truth somewhere. His writing on nature and hiking (especially Chapter 33) are among the best and his restless spirit remains relatable across the human experience. As with nearly all Kerouac's writing this restlessness pervades throughout, urging you as the reader to adventure beyond into unknown places in search of something -- anything-- beyond the bleak suburban lifestyle. It is because of this restlessness combined with philosophy, Buddhist thought and wonderfully poetic prose that I chose Dharma Bums for this list.

Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of The World by Haruki Murakami

Always drawn to the bizarre, sometimes nonsensical (why must everything have an explanation?), I loved this book for its reeling weirdness. This was my first Murakami read and still my favorite. There is really no one like him and his book synopsis read like some strange Seven Degrees of pop culture or something but in Hard-Boiled there is a truly compelling detective story. I think what impressed me most about this book was that it could even exist in the first place. Some of the plot points come from such unexpected angles that it is entirely nonsensical or imaginative (depending on your take) and forces you as a reader to simply accept this world and read on. When looking at all the pieces from afar it doesn't seem like it could work. But it does. Murakami is the only who could make this so.

Collected Stories Bruno Schulz

Bruno Schulz. What can be said of him? Yes he was influenced by Kafka but to me his stories remain entirely different and more subtly strange. There is an ethereal quality, certainly what we now call magical realism, relevant in these stories but it was not only the strangeness I enjoyed. The writing is completely exceptional. There are some paragraphs in the Cinnamon Shops and the short piece Autumn that I had to reread a number of times because I was so taken in by the musicality of prose that I completely lost the narrative. Perhaps this simply reveals that I'm a geek for well written word. Well probably, but I'm not the only one. A number of my writer friends had this happen as well. Schulz is a writer that deserves more acclaim than he receives.

Red by Terry Tempest Williams

A passionate book on the American Southwest's enduring, hidden beauty. Terry's observations are tender, timeless in their study of a place whose very scarcity and rawness reveal unique ecosystems that depend one upon the other. Her love for this place is told as if the flowering cactus itself, graceful and resilient in the face of human adversity. The rarity of this prose make Red, in my opinion, the quintessential read for contemporary nature lovers and any reader that values nature and poetic prose.

The Soul of A Tree by George Nakashima

I stumbled upon this book several years ago while looking into books about woodworking. I picked up a copy at my local library and was instantly immersed in the story of George. The book does not really look like what it is, which is something of a memoir. The cover appears as though you will be taught the skills of a man at the top of his craft. But this is not the case. George speaks of himself and his past before allowing the reader along on his many walks through his backyard forest. His respect for the trees and woodworking is addictive and falls somewhere between spiritualist and naturalist. It reminds me that everything made of wood has a story - what is it and where will it take us?

V for Vendetta by Alan Moore

This book finds itself in an odd place sandwiched between The Soul of A Tree and Turtle Island, two quiet, pensive books. Alan Moore's V For Vendetta is neither quiet nor pensive but instead violent and vengeful. I discovered V one year before the movie was released, specifically because I was searching for anarchist literature - especially ones with undertones of revolution and particularly where the elite and powerful were put in their rightful place. At the time I was reading a lot of philosophy, primarily Russian Anarchists, and so with Anarchy on my mind I opened this fantastic graphic novel. What followed was eye-opening, perhaps as much to me as reading Albert Camus several years earlier, and it gave me as much fodder for revolution as it did for questioning it. While this is a graphic novel, the story and writing is Alan Moore at his strongest and reads very much like something Camus would have written. It is dense with symbology and philosophy which really makes you think about government and revolution. Should it remain restrictive and stagnant or should the people bring forth a violent uprising?

Turtle Island Gary Snyder

Without intention, Snyder is also the principle protagonist in Kerouac's Dharma Bums, so perhaps it is little surprise that he makes my list with a work of his own. Snyder's poetry carries with it a solace that nature will continue to heal our soul. Yet there is also an urgency that we must protect and take care of nature for when the time comes, it will heal us or embrace us. But it is our task as humans to do so.

Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson

I don't remember how I found this book but it was probably by searching for unconventional books. And yet this is an epic poem, one of the most ancient ways of written story-telling. It is only an unconventional book because epic poems are rare in contemporary literature. I found it unconventional because each line is so succinct and pointed and dare I say, perfect? But not only is the word choice fantastic, the love story is poignant and beautiful. If there ever was a poetic novel, this is it.

Attack of the Deranged Mutant Killer Snow Goons by Bill Watterson

I still have my childhood copy of this book. The cover is half torn from the spine and it looks as well-read as it is. Can you really say that any Calvin and Hobbes compilation is better than another? I don't think so, but to me this is the most memorable and meaningful. The story of the Snow Goons throughout his edition is so imaginative and spirited that it fed into my own imagination allowing me to appreciate that whatever age I am, the innocence and liveliness of allowing the mind to imagine and wander and question is so important.

Just Ride by Grant Petersen

A must read for any cyclist, especially the outliers who are not drawn to the bicycle as a sport, but as a form of transportation or exploration. Grant's views present a philosophy that not everything is as it seems. He takes aim at the bicycle industry for making bikes tailored to racers and not to the everyday rider but at the same time reminds us that riding a bike is just as fun when we were children. Why take that fun away?

A Skylark Thank You - From Becky

Our final blog post before Christmas, and it comes from our senior bookseller, Becky. She has something she’d like to share with you all. Merry Christmas!

Becky reading (rather blurrily) the Polar Express to a roomful of kids in pajamas on Saturday night.

Becky reading (rather blurrily) the Polar Express to a roomful of kids in pajamas on Saturday night.

Everyone always feels slightly sorry for me at Christmas time because I have worked retail for so long. I will admit that retail Christmas is an extreme in the work world. It is a beast that has its own rules. The fatigue and overwhelm that a retail worker feels is akin to a bad cold.

I have three children, so that tends to make it a little harder. They have their own copious set of spirited activities to attend, and my presence is essentially required at each one. Scheduling becomes a challenge.

Usually I just buck up and deal with the holiday intensity in a way that only a mom who works retail can. I put my head down and get the task done that is directly in front of me. I don't even have a minute to look around and appreciate what's going on.

But this year feels a little different. This year I left my big box job and found a wonderful little gem called Skylark Bookshop. I have seen the delight in each of your faces as you walk through the door. I know that feeling, because I had the same one.

The customers who visit Skylark are not just fulfilling their shopping needs, they are actually ENJOYING the experience. What a difference from those who come in already mad that they have to be there. It's a stark change for me.

What a joyful, lovely place we have made. If you have been in, you know.

So, thank you. From a veteran retail worker who kinda forgot that the holidays are also supposed to be about magic. You've reminded me.

Polar Express Story Time!

We are definitely feeling the holiday spirit here at Skylark!

If you haven’t been in lately, the shop has been pretty much packed from the moment we open our doors each morning to when we close. We’re so thrilled to be part of so many people’s holiday shopping plans, and we’re very grateful to every single person who’s come through the doors in the past few weeks.

(Because, well, books are always pretty fabulous presents, you know.)

Anyway, next Saturday, December 21, we’re going to get even more in the Christmas spirit by hosting a Polar Express party!

polar express.jpg

We’ll be reading Chris Van Allsburg’s classic, drinking cocoa, eating cookies, and doing some fun craft activities. Come in your pajamas and board the Polar Express! The fun starts at 7:00 p.m.

This event is completely free for anyone to attend, but we’d appreciate it if you would let us know (super quick email to mail@skylarkbookshop.com will do) if you’re planning to attend so we can get in sufficient supplies. (That magic cocoa doesn’t just appear out of nowhere, you know.) Hope to see you there!

Top Ten.

When we received the rather lovely (and rather huge) 1000 Books To Read Before You Die by James Mustich, we began talking about our favorite books - and whether they were in this book. Carrie asked all of us to make a list of our ten favorite books of all time.

I know. Totally unreasonable.

Anyway, we all did it, because it’s Carrie, and we love her. We all moaned and huffed and puffed (some more than others, ahem) and pretty much agreed it was an impossible task. Beth writes about how she made her choices below:

Beth Top Ten.jpg

“When Carrie asked for our top ten books, I initially overthought the task.  However, once I began jotting down some titles that have influenced me, I realized that I easily could arrange them chronologically to represent different parts of my life.

As a shy and skinny child with jutting buck teeth, I was a precocious reader with books as my refuge.  Stories such as Grimms Fairy Tales and Jane Eyre sparked my life-long love of fiction.  My best friend and I trudged many times to and from the public library, lugging armfuls of titles each way.

In college I declared philosophy as my major, thrilled to be examining the writings of great thinkers, such as Plato’s Republic.  I then worked for several years at The Art Institute of Chicago while enrolled in art classes, where I explored my creativity with The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.  During that time I resided a few blocks away from an independent bookstore, where I purchased and was influenced by Art Spiegelman’s Maus and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.    

My own kids are now young adults in college and graduate school, but I can’t remember being a parent of young sons without recalling the significance that the Harry Potter series played in our family’s life.  Not only did our sons reread each volume multiple times, my husband and I also cherished these books.  We delayed devouring each title until we were sick in bed with a bad cold or the flu, therefore rewarding ourselves with some fun while struggling through illnesses. 

Finally, several more recent nonfiction titles have shaped how I think about the world:  Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation, Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, and Ta-Nehisi Coates’s We Were Eight Years in Power.  All three titles remind me of my aspects of privilege and have taught me to strive to be a conscientious thinker. 

Books have always constituted a large portion of my life story.  What are some titles that should be included in yours?”

If You're Looking for Holiday Gifts, Might We Suggest...?

Buying a book for someone else should be an intensely pleasurable act - after all, what better gift can there be than a whole world, neatly packaged between covers, to give to another? But we recognize that sometimes it can also be fraught with problems, because choosing a book for someone else is such a personal thing. We know this, because sometimes our lovely customers share these worries with us. Some of these concerns are relatively simple - perhaps the person won’t like the book, or they’ve read it before (nb: books can always be exchanged!). Others are decidedly more thorny. What does the choice of book say about the giver? What does the choice of book say about the recipient? What does the choice of book say about the giver’s opinion of the recipient? Or vice versa. And so on.

The good news is that it doesn’t have to be that hard. Our booksellers are always ready to suggest suitable titles for gifts, based on as much or as little information as you have available. And we also offer two wonderful gift ideas designed specifically to solve this problem.

Our Subscription Package allows you to gift books (you choose whether hard cover or paperback) once a month - for either 3, 6 , or 12 months. Each month a gift-wrapped book, chosen by Skylark staff specially for your reader, will be delivered to their door - wherever they are in the country.

Subscription books about to go out in the mail to lucky readers…

Subscription books about to go out in the mail to lucky readers…

The brilliant thing about these subscriptions (if we do say so ourselves) is that each recipient fills out an online questionnaire, telling us their likes and dislikes, which allows us to choose, quite precisely, appropriate titles for them. What could be better than getting a new book, chosen especially for you, in the mail every month? You can read more about the subscription program here. And yes, this gift would work just as well for young readers as for adults.

An alternative option would be to give someone the gift of a Skylark Reading Spa. This is a truly luxurious treat for the book lover in your life… some time in the store, with a slice of cake (or a doughnut) and cash to spend on books, together with one-on-one advice from a bookseller about what books to choose. Read more about that here.

Feel free to call the shop at (573) 777 6990 or email us at mail@skylarkbookshop.com for more information about either of these packages.

This Thursday - A NATION FORGED BY CRISIS

Nation Forged by Crisis.jpg

This Thursday, Skylark is proud to host the launch party of a new book that has been garnering a lot of interest nationwide and which was recently named as the Best History Book of 2018 by WORLD magazine: A NATION FORGED BY CRISIS, by MU historian Jay Sexton.

In the book, Sexton contends that our national narrative is not one of halting yet inevitable progress, but of repeated disruptions brought about by shifts in the international system. Sexton shows that the American Revolution was a consequence of the increasing integration of the British and American economies; that a necessary precondition for the Civil War was the absence, for the first time in decades, of foreign threats; and that we cannot understand the New Deal without examining the role of European immigrants and their offspring in transforming the Democratic Party.

A necessary corrective to conventional narratives of American history, A NATION FORGED BY CRISIS argues that we can only prepare for our unpredictable future by first acknowledging the contingencies of our collective past.

This will be a fascinating discussion you won’t want to miss! (Food and drink will be provided, courtesy of the Kinder Institute for Constitutional Democracy.) The event begins at 6:30 and the program will begin at 7:00. Books, of course, will be available for purchase and signing by the author.

Jay Sexton is the Kinder Institute Chair in Constitutional Democracy at the University of Missouri and emeritus fellow at Corpus Christi College, Oxford University. The author of The Monroe Doctrine and Debtor Diplomacy, Sexton lives in Columbia, Missouri.