Archive for December, 2008


Give Books!


This year, I made a “Holiday Resolution” (those New Year’s ones never stick, anyhow) to give books to everyone on my list.  In addition to my passionate love for books, there are many other good reasons for doing this, including the value they offer (hours, sometimes years of entertainment at a low price), their easy-to-wrap shape, and my desire to support my favorite independent bookstore. The best reason that I have heard for giving books as gifts, however, comes from the American Booksellers Association (ABA)’s Indie Bound program, which reminds us that “a scented candle never changed anyone’s life”.


I have come very close to accomplishing my resolution, but admit to one or two cheats in which I’ve given something in addition to a book, or could have given a book, but found something else that I knew would be perfect for that person.  “What could be more perfect than a book?” you might rightly ask, and I would have to admit to knowing a few people who, while they appreciate books, perhaps appreciate something else even more.  Maybe my next resolution should be about weeding the philistines out of my gift list (only kidding, sis!)


Through my shopping, I have had a lot of time to think about what books make good gifts.  If you still have some last minute shopping to do, I offer the following suggestions to help you match books to those left on your lists.  Some are new, and some are old favorites, but all should bring a smile to the right person’s face.


For Fiction Lovers:
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield – Moody mystery puts one in the mind of Jane Eyre and other gothic classics, and that’s hard to beat.
Downtown Owl by Chuck Klosterman – Tragic and hysterical look at small-town life in the Midwest.
What Was Lost by Catherine O’Flynn – The disappearance of a young girl and how it affects those around her, in ever-widening circles.


For Those Who Prefer True Tales:
Round Ireland with a Fridge by Tony Hawks – Join Hawks as he makes his journey ‘round the circumference of Ireland with (you guessed it) a small refrigerator, on a bet.  This hilarious story makes the reader glad that Hawks accepted the wager.
Hurry Down Sunshine by Michael Greenberg – A chronicle of his teenage daughter’s descent into manic depression.
The Hemingses of Monticello by Annette Gordon-Read – If you think you’ve read everything you need to know about Thomas Jefferson and his slave family, this epic will prove you wrong.


For Foodies:
Roast Chicken and Other Stories by Simon Hopkinson – Short essays and scrumptious recipes from London chef and food writer.
In Defense of Food, An Eater’s Manifesto by Michael Pollen – Goundbreaking and impassioned treatise on how we should eat, and why.
Sound Bites: Eating on Tour with Franz Ferdinand by Alex Kapranos – A humorous and insightful look at food highs (and lows) and life on the road from a rock star.


For Sports Fans:
Faithful: Two Diehard Boston Red Sox Fans Chronicle the Historic 2004 Season by Stewart O’Nan and Stephen King –  Definitive book on 2004 season, a real must-have for any Sox fan’s collection.
Game of Kings: A Year Among the Oddballs and Geniuses Who Make Up America’s Top High School Chess Team by Michael Weinreb – Called “the Friday Night Lights of chess” by Chuck Klosterman, this book follows the exploits of a championship team from Brooklyn, and lays bare the glory and curse of adolescent genius.


For the Pop Culture Vulture:
Bringing Home the Birkin by Michael Tonello – Chronicles Tonello’s strategy for beating Hermès at its own game, and acquiring all the Birkins he could sell; provides great vicarious shopping.
The Dead in Dixie series by Charlaine Harris – Starting with Dead Until Dark, the Sookie Stackhouse series on which the HBO series True Blood is based. Pure entertainment.


For the “Too Cool” Teen:
Ghost Girl by Tonya Hurley – Charlotte Usher chokes on a gummy bear and dies at school, but that doesn’t stop her in her quest to become popular.
Impossible by Nancy Werlin – A mystical romance based on Scarborough Fair that leaves indelible images in the reader’s mind.
Girl by Blake Nelson – A flawless glimpse into the real girls.
Sunrise over Fallujah by Walter Dean Myers – For the elusive male teen reader, this novel follows young adults as they serve in Iraq and contemplate the meaning of war.


For Children:
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo – The talented creator of Despereaux tells the story of a china rabbit’s journey into love; keep tissues nearby.  Good for kids ages 6-9, and for reading to kids younger than 6.
Bats in the Library by Brian Lies – Celebrating the ability of books to take us into an infinite array of other worlds, this picture books will charm readers aged 3-6.
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle and The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster are both classics that never grow old for the 9-12 year-olds in your life.


Happy Holidays!










Cornerstone Books Marks 3 Years in Salem

Today marks Cornerstone Books’ 3rd year anniversary as a business in downtown Salem.  As I sit here, I’m still a bit awestruck not only at what we’ve accomplished in three short years, but how much more work there still is to do.  I remember more than a few people telling us we were crazy to go into a business where it’s difficult to survive, much less thrive.  We were crazy all right, but I wouldn’t have missed a minute of it.

We set out to create a place in Salem where folks could go, not only to find their books, but a venue for community events, music, art, storytelling, and just plain socializing.  We were honored this year with Boston Magazine’s Best of Boston 2008 Award for Best Bookstore North of Boston, but the quote that I like to remember most is a little girl walking along with her parents saying as she pointed in Cornerstone’s window, “that’s my favorite store!”

So what’s happened since we opened in 2005? 

Well, for one, new year-round businesses have opened in the downtown.  Welcome again to A&J King Bakery, Rouge Cosmetics, New Civilitea, Chulamama (another Best of Boston 2008 winner), Aveda Spa, Spirits @ 300 Derby, Seed Stitch Fine Yarn , J. Mode Women’s Fashions, Rita’s Ice, Upper Crust Pizza, Gulu Gulu Café, Hex, Sacred Gear, and Crunchy Granola Baby.  I like to think that the City of Salem and neighboring communities are sitting up and taking notice.  When you see a downtown growing instead of shrinking these days, I think we can all take credit in making that happen.  It’s up to all of us (and not just the businesses themselves) to lock arms and continue to promote shopping local and independent as opposed to impersonal and corporate.

Since 2005, we’ve held dozens of author events, children’s storytimes, workshops, offsite book fairs, and music events.  We’ve hosted authors Julia Glass, Brian Lies, Jane Yolen, Kathleen Kent, Brunonia Barry, Nathaniel Philbrick, Kristy Kiernan, Joe Haldeman, Steve Almond, Christopher Castellani, Aviva Chomsky, Jenna Blum, Laurie Stolarz, Tish Cohen, Jennifer McMahon, Claire Messud, Amy MacKinnon, Eve LaPlante, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Dana Cameron and Peter Abrahams, and this only scratches the surface.

We’ve continued and hopefully carried forward our trend of bringing books, reading and writing out into the community, not only to places like The Salem Athenaeum and The House of the Seven Gables, but to our local schools.  We’re honored to have been able to promote book fairs in schools and venues like the Harry Potter Convention, The Salem Academy, Brooksby Village, The Saltonstall School, Hamilton Hall, Salem State College, the Marblehead Arts, Shirat Hayam of the North Shore, St. Joseph’s School, and even the Essex Agricultural High School in Hathorne.  My own hope is that we can continue to serve the local schools in this way and even promote our young writers, from Kindergarten all the way through College by giving them a venue for their work.

To that end, we’ve been coordinating with The Chamber of Commerce to bring a yearly literary festival to Salem.  We successfully held our first festival, “Literally Salem,” with 18 events over 2 days in September of 2008 and the next festival is scheduled for March of 2009, at its regular yearly time.  And while the first festival was a great start, we hope to bring more and better events each year.  My own pet project, as I alluded to before, is to publish a yearly “Salem’s Best Writing” as part of this festival.  The contest would be open to all Salem students, from Kindergarten through College, and the winners would be published in a yearly volume, made available at the festival.  If are interested in helping us coordinate with the schools to help make this happen, please contact me before finishing this sentence!

So while I take this moment to sit and take a look back at the past three years, there’s not much time to reflect.  We’ve got a lot to do, and more mountains to climb.  In three more years, I am guessing I will think I was as crazy as I was when we started all this, and will not have wanted to miss one minute.

Gilbert Pili